Navy Floral Dress and Thoughts on the Fit and Flare

Navy Floral Fit and Flare Dress

Oh, the fit and the flare. This silhouette, probably more than any other, has dominated fashion for several years.

Having spent so much time researching and sewing historical costumes, I’ve realized that every decade has an easily recognizable silhouette.

Historically, women’s fashion has represented something about the ideals of its time, and not just beauty ideals but social, political, or artistic.

In the 1920s it was the unrestricted, boyish figure of the modern woman:


In the early 1800s, after the French Revolution, fashion shifted from rococo madness to Greek classicism:


In the 1940s shoulders got bolder and skirts shorter reflecting the influence of war on fashion:


In the 1830s it was… uh, whatever the hell this is…?


Anyway, fifty years from now, how will we look back and define early 2000s style? My vote is the fit and flare.


(these examples are all from ModCloth, they even have a whole section dedicated to F&F)

This style has been lauded as universally flattering and classically feminine. There’s something appealing about the contrast between slim and full shapes. But I think it’s the vintage revival movement that has played a major role in the F&F popularity.

And the style is not restricted to dresses. Sometimes you see it reversed with the oversized, loose shirt paired with skinny jeans or leggings.

It’s certainly a style I keep coming back to over and over again.

The fit and flare is a relatively easy shape to sew. If you can get the bodice to fit then you don’t have to worry about the hips because the skirt is so full. The simple shape is perfect to showcase a fun fabric (Dolly Clackett comes to mind) and there’s nothing like wearing a cute dress to make you feel pretty.

With all that said, let’s move on to this dress in particular:

Navy Floral Fit and Flare Dress

It began with Simplicity 1419 (which I used for this dress) but I made several changes. The floral cotton lawn was too sheer on its own so I fully lined it in navy voile. Each fabric came from different – now defunct – local fabric stores. Double sad.

Navy Floral Fit and Flare Dress

Rather than pleating the skirt, I gathered it and spaced the gathers out so there are four “gathered groups” collected under the bodice darts.

Navy Floral Fit and Flare Dress

I hemmed the lining normally but I bound the hem of the outer fabric in bias tape. I had justenough of this red tape left which closely matched the red in the flowers.

Navy Floral Fit and Flare Dress

I had a navy colored invisible zipper but it was too short so instead of driving five minutes to the store and buying a new zipper like a normal person, I made a keyhole-esque part at the top center back and added a hook and eye to keep it closed.

Navy Floral Fit and Flare Dress

Lastly, I raised the waistline by an inch (something I also did on my last version). This wasn’t a fit issue, purely aesthetic. For some reason I like the look of the ever-so-slightly raised waist on a dress like this.

Oh, and no pockets. ‘Cause I’m laaaaazzzzyyyyyy.

Navy Floral Fit and Flare Dress


So, do you agree with my thoughts on the fit and flare? Is there another style right now that you think deserves the top spot for “2k10s most popular silhouette”? Do you wear/sew F&F dresses?

1880s Bustle Dress Costume

1880s Bustle Dress

This might be my most elaborate costume make to date. And I finished it justintime for my event at an art museum where these photos were taken (so ignore the buses and cars in the background).

To summarize, I’m wearing a cotton chemise under this Victorian corset, a steel lobster-tail bustle with ruffled petticoat, an underskirt, overskirt, bodice, bonnet, along with silk stockings and costume lace-up boots.

1880s Bustle Dress

Also, my mother-in-law was kind enough to let me borrow this vintage crochet handbag to house all my anachronistic necessities. Thanks MIL!

That’s quite a lot to talk about so to make this post easier on my I’m going to use the Historical Sew Monthly format for this outfit.

1880s Bustle Dress

The Challenge: After my last outing with the DFW Costumers Guild in November, my friend Susanna thought it would be a good idea to come back again for a Victorian themed event in February. “Sure,” I said, “that would be fun.” Next thing I knew she was ordering patterns and I had a new deadline to sew half a dozen pieces for a brand new costume in a little less than 2 months.

1880s Bustle Dress
(my friend Susanna and I)

Material: For the underlayers: cotton muslin. For the dress: gray with orange pinstripe wool – I thought it was wool but it’s actually a rayon poly blend and it’s too late now to fix it, silk velvet for the trim, cotton muslin for lining. For the bonnet: buckram and wire, leftover blue silk from my Regency bonnet, silk velvet, poly satin ribbon.

1880s Bustle Dress

Pattern:  Truly Victorian everything: bustle, petticoat, underskirt, overskirt, bodice. And a Lynn McMaster’s pattern for the bonnet.

However, I heavily altered my bodice to resemble this extant dress by shortening the hem, narrowing the sleeves, and creating a buttoned vest effect in front and changing the lapels. The skirts are mostly just like the patterns except I added big velvet chunks on one side of the underskirt mimicking the extant gown.

1880s Bustle Dress

Year: about 1888.

Notions: metal buttons, feathers for the bonnet, steel boning for the dress and the bustle.

My inspiration dress had gigantic buttons on it. These bronze buttons were the closest thing I could find that would match the style although they aren’t as large.

1880s Bustle Dress

How historically accurate is it? Well, the materials aren’t entirely accurate but I did so much hand sewing on this thing: buttonholes! Hooks and eyes! All that velvet!

I give it 3 out of 5 Typhoid Fevers…

Hours to complete: All of them. All the hours. Ok, really, I worked on this whole get-up for around a couple hours every day for three weeks. Nearing the end, I was feeling burnt out and my interiors look quite sloppy. I wanted to be finished with this monster.

First worn: Last week at the Caillebotte exhibit at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, TX with the DFW Costumers Guild.

Total cost: Ugh, the not-actually-wool alone cost about $100. Velvet was $32… all together this thing was at least $250. Le sigh. I can’t complain. I did decide on my own to pursue this hobby…

The only thing I don’t like about this dress is that the white lining peeks out from behind the vest panel and inside the sleeves. I didn’t think about that possibility as I was sewing, I should have used the self-fabric instead. Oh, and I should really redraft the collar because it didn’t quite work out the way I had envisioned and on the day of the event I had to sew it closed. While wearing it. Can you imagine a needle that close to your neck!?

1880s Bustle Dress

Even though I am incredibly proud of myself for completing this costume I am quite happy to be done with it. I’m ready for a few months of normal, modern garment sewing. I miss finishing a project in a day!

Simplicity 1587

Simplicty 1587

This is my best attempt at a 1940s look. My hair didn’t want to cooperate and curl properly, and the closest thing I have to a hat is this fascinator-headband-thing, but over all it ain’t bad.

I haven’t historically been interested in 40s fashion but I think this dress my be changing my mind…

Simplicity 1587

The Pattern: One of Simplicity’s 1940s retro patterns which I’ve had in my stash for a long time.

Simplicty 1587

The Fabric: A black on beige polka dot rayon challis from Joann Fabrics. Rayon always makes me think of the 40s.

Simplicty 1587

The Changes: Not much at all, just adjusting the size in the hips.

The Results: I do like the dress but I have a few complaints. It’s too big in the bodice (especially in the back) but at the same time there’s not much ease in the sleeve.

And since the sleeve cap is so tall and narrow, whenever I move my arms the fabric pulls across my upper chest (I think the model on the envelope is experiencing the same problem).

Simplicty 1587

Also, the gathers seem rather minimal. There’s hardly any on the bust seam line at all. It almost looks like I just sewed that seam sloppily instead of having intentional gathers. Why did I even bother sewing all those stitches??

Simplicty 1587

But mainly I don’t love how all the neat seam lines get lost in the polka dots. I think that would happen with almost any print, though.

Simplicty 1587

I enjoyed the ruching on the sleeves and the fit of the waist yoke and the swishy skirt but I doubt I’d make this pattern again. I have a few other 40s patterns, though, that I would like to try out if I find the right fabric for them.

Late 1780s Robe en Chemise Costume

1780s Chemise a la reine

When I tell people I like making historical costumes they always ask me, “Where are you going to wear that?” Well, guess what? I finally wore a costume to an event! I went to Dallas for the DFW Costumer’s Guild‘s annual Georgian Picnic. It’s a gathering of costuming enthusiasts where we dress up in 18th-century through Regency era clothes, eat, play games, socialize, and generally have a fun time.

22918496420_25d49b55c0_k(from Festive Attyre’s Flickr album)

Here’s everyone at the picnic arranged in a general timeline – earlier styles on the left, later on the right. I’m right in the middle.

Normally autumn weather in Texas is mild but this year the day turned out to be quite chilly. Unfortunately the costume I chose to make and wear was more of a summer dress: the soft, breezy, classic white Robe en Chemise (or chemise dress or chemise a la reine).


A quick history lesson: when the French public first saw this portrait of Marie Antoinette by Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun in the early 1780s it caused quite a scandal. People thought she was in her underwear because the fluffy white dress resembled a chemise (hence the name “the queen’s chemise”).

But the style caught on — with variations of course. The earliest incarnations consisted of long rectangles of cotton muslin gathered on drawstrings and tied with a sash or ribbon belt. Later they often had fixed gathers into a waistband, long slim sleeves, a structured back bodice, and sometimes they were made in other fabrics like silk or stripes.


The chemise dress was transitional style between the time of the extreme rococo dresses earlier in the century and the sleek, columnar dresses post-French revolution.

If you’d like to see some examples check out my Pinterest board.

My Dress:

1780s Chemise a la reine

I used the Robe en Chemise pattern from Laughing Moon Mercantile.

The fabric is some cheap cotton I bought from Fabric Wholesale Direct. It’s certainly not the best quality but it is light, loosely woven, and semi-sheer.

I made the version with the full gathers in front and back, low neckline, long sleeves, and no train. I added double ruffles at the neckline for maximum floofiness.

It is mostly machine sewn with the exception of hand blind hems on the sleeves and skirt, and rolled hems on the ruffles.

I bought some taffeta from Pure Silks that I ripped it into 6in wide strips and sewed a sash that’s about 5 yards long.

Under layers:

Underneath the dress I’m wearing two 18th century style white muslin petticoats (like the middle one I’m wearing here).

1780s Chemise a la reine

Below that are my 18th-century strapless stays and my regency era chemise.


I made a short, coral bead necklace — a popular accessory in the late 18th/early 19th century.

1780s Chemise a la reine

I also have on ivory silk stockings and these American Duchess shoes with buckles.

1780s Chemise a la reine

I had decorated a cheap straw hat to go with the outfit, but I don’t love it. It’s too heavy and limp to keep its shape and because of the windy weather, the feathers kept falling out even though I had stitched down both them and the matching blue sash. I ditched it for most of the picnic.

Hair and make-up:

1780s Chemise a la reine

I bought a wonderful cosmetic “starter set” from Litttle Bits on Etsy. They recreate actual cosmetic recipes from the era.

For hair, I attempted to do a “hedgehog” style which is basically an 18th-century white girl afro. I slept in foam rollers to curl my hair, then teased the hell out of it. I used the Litttle Bits pomatum and powder to add texture and lighten the color, pinned my hair up in back a bit, and doused my whole head in enough hairspray to light a house on fire.

1780s Chemise a la reine

It’s not as big as I would like. For once my hair is actually a little too long to do a historical hairstyle properly.

Well, this post is long enough so I’ll wrap it up. Thanks to all the DFWCG people who were so nice and welcoming to me. I had a great time and I’m already looking forward to future events.