Before I begin I would just like to let it be known that all of the photography on this post was done by the awesome Krakowski Photography and my makeup was done by SpecialFX MUA Ron George.
What can I say, I just simply adore Halloween. It is my favorite day of the year and I begin planning for it long before I perhaps should. But ever since I was little I didn’t like the cheap polyester costumes sold in the pop-up Halloween shops. Those costumes never fit correctly, they are over priced, and frankly not very creative. It seemed silly to me to spend $40+ on a costume made of fabric which could be bought for 5 cents per yard and sewn with little care when I could spend the same amount of money and make an authentic costume that not only made a statement at any party, but would also survive to see the next Halloween.
It was my Aunt who really sparked my love for historical costumes. She introduced me to a world of stays, corsets, bustles, crinoline, and petticoats. From there I have been a tad obsessed with wanting to recreate these garments.
Last year I, sort of reluctantly, began watching the television show “Salem“. While I was not too thrilled with the story per se, I was enchanted by the costumes. They are rather historically inaccurate but beautiful to look at! And so I was inspired to make this costume: The Burned Witch.
I used Simplicity pattern 4092 for this dress. I made the mistake of cutting the pattern in size 12 (if I remember correctly) and I found that it was entirely too big for me. I often forget that Simplicity patterns seem to run large; which is fine for loose fitting clothing but not for dresses that are meant to be form fitting. This turned out to create a lot more work for myself because I had to keep refitting my bodice which in turn changed my gathers and pleats on the outer skirt.
I have a bit of a bad history with the sleeves on sewing patterns. They tend to be far too small for me making it impossible for me to move. Frankly, I got tired of fighting with them to get the right fit so I stopped using the sleeves on patterns all together. Sadly, it does take a bit away from this dress but I simply didn’t have the heart to try to fight it. Maybe if I use this pattern again I will give the sleeves a go.
I did dislike the blatant historical inaccuracies of this pattern too. First off, can we stop putting zippers on the back of historical dresses?? The zipper was not invented until the 20th century! And so, like most people whom reviewed this pattern, I too nixed the zipper in favor of some grommets and lacing up the back. This is a choice I later regretted because I could not get in nor out of the dress by myself.
I also did not like that the stomacher was attached to the bodice. Historically, that would have been a separate piece all its own which would be pinned to your stays. This was something I learned shortly after making the dress because I noticed that my dress did not “lay” the same way as in movies or on the mannequins of historically kept costumes in museums. Once I realized this, I felt a bit cheated by Simplicity because if the stomacher was not attached it would have made fitting this gown much easier.
Yes, I do realize that this pattern is more so marketed towards people seeking a Halloween costume, not a historically accurate piece. However, I am a bit annoyed that it seems pattern makers put little to no effort into making their costumes remotely accurate. That being said, this gown is actually under re-construction.
The beading, which was all done by hand, on the stomacher of the bodice has been removed. The stomacher has been detached from the bodice. And the bodice has had the grommets removed and is now sewn closed up the back. The back of this dress is in fact my favorite part of the dress and I found the lacing in back distracting as well as completely inaccurate for the time period which this dress is meant to be from.
As of right now, I am working on making the stomacher it’s own separate piece which will attach to a stay (corset) just as it would have done in the 18th century. I will then be adding invisible lacing to the front of the bodice to work both as decoration as well as the closure keeping the gown shut. Once this is all complete I will set up another photoshoot to show you all the final results.
Personally, I do not like the pannier which the pattern provided. No one likes wearing a cage around their body (especially if you have to drive somewhere!) so I discarded the pannier and made myself a bumroll. Sadly, the spirit of Halloween destroyed my bumroll and I had to throw it out right after shooting these photos. I will be making a new bumroll to go with the revamped version of this dress. Also, at the time of making (and wearing) this dress I did not own a stay which created the 18th century silhouette, and so I wore a tight fitting corset under the dress. Now that I am armed with better information about how dresses of this period were made and worn, I have resolved myself to making a stay.
This will be my first time making a corset or stay and I admit I am both excited and nervous! I have gotten tickets to a sewing expo this weekend so that I can obtain some steel boning. This is yet another project I will post for you all to see!
Thanks to this dress, I not only have some very unique photographs of a concept I thought was only possible in my dreams but I also have a much deeper understanding for the clothing of this era. I look forward to finishing the re-construction of this dress not only in hopes to show that I have learned the errors of my ways, but also I hope that I am able to showcase this lovely cut velvet fabric in a better light.
All in all, this pattern was not too difficult to follow. It could definitely use some modification, but it is a wonderful introduction to the world of historical costuming without having to battle a bustle or gather 20 yards of fabric onto a fitted bodice with a full circular cage beneath your skirt. Also, the underskirt makes for a rather cute maxi skirt if you add pockets to the side slits. I have now made two skirts with this pattern because of the . . .well. . .simplicity of it.
This is not the last you will see of this dress. Like a phoenix bursting into flames, the burned witch dress will rise from the ashes as a fresh new creation.