Here are a more details on one aspect of my genderbend joker cosplay – the stomacher. I made it from two dupioni silk pillowcases (pictured here) I bought at a thrift store for less than 2 euros. It has all sorts of fabulous texture – can you guess what stitching technique I used???
Here’s a closer look:
…If you said smocking, then you’re right. This is English smocking – the stitching you usually see on prim little girls’ dresses. It’s not usually crazy like this.
I was inspired by experimental smocking work in the book,, The Art of Manipulating Fabric, by Colette Wolff (page 137, if you have the book).
Before I started smocking, I ironed random wrinkles into the fabric.
Then I sewed pleating lines (the black threads in the above picture) by hand. Each line of stitching is 1″ apart. It’s important to make sure that the individual stitches line up vertically so that when you pull them tight, you get pleats – rather than random gathers.
I sewed the stitches 1/2 ” apart, which forms 1/4″ deep pleats. However, for this project I didn’t need the pleats to be exactly even. So, I only measured and marked the stitch length for the first few rows.
After that I sewed free hand, trying to approximately line up the stitches vertically. Since the fabric was distorted by the wrinkles ironed in at the beginning, it was impossible to be exact anyways.
I have a backing piece cut in the shape of the stomacher. It’s made of the same orange silk and stiffened with two layers of medium-weight fusible interfacing.
My smocking piece started out about four times as wide as the finished project. I gathered it to fit on the backing piece. Then I put right sides together and sewed the sides and bottom together.
Later I changed my mind and unpicked the bottom edges so the raw edges were showing there too. You can see the difference in the following two pictures.
I turned the stomacher right side out and stitched the top edge to the backing by hand, hiding the stitches in the fold.
Next, it was time to smock. I haven’t ever smocked before, but I followed instructions in Colette Wolff’s book. I mostly used the outline stitch – the straight lines – and the honeycomb stitch – the diamonds.
I confess after I stitched the first line of smocking, I panicked because it looked bad. Luckily, I slept on it before ripping it out.
Idecided to make several lines before I judged the effect. Once I had more in place, it looked better. In fact, the more I did, the better it looked.
The bows are made of scraps from the skirt. I had to use the selvage edge because these were literally the only scraps of green fabric I had left. It’s not ideal – you can see the holes along the selvage edges. Unfortunately, I can’t do much about it.
I put fray check on the edges that are not selvages. You can see that it has slightly discolored the edges – not a problem on this particular costume!
FYI: selvages are woven so that they don’t unravel. They don’t need fray check to stay intact.
Here’s a back view of the stomacher. I got a little make up on it – that’s the white discoloration at the top.
You can see some stitches with the smocking thread on the back. This is because I stitched through all layers so that they would stay together.
Back in the 18th century, women pinned their stomacher on everyday using straight pins. I tried this, poked myself three times – hard – and decided I needed 21st century closures.
So I sewed one side down by hand and added eyes to the other side. The purple dress has corresponding hooks.
The smocking took a long time – about 15 hours. Neverthless, my aim with the stomacher was to make it look decadent as possible, just like Marie Antoinette’s clothes were. That’s why I added bows over the smocking.
It’s meant to be like, “Who cares if my peasants worked on this forever, I want bows!!!”
Do you think this turned out decadent enough?? Is there anything you would add?
If you have any questions about how I made this – please ask in the comments. And If you’re wondering about how I made other parts of the dress, then stay tuned. I’ll continue posting details on how I made this in the next few days.
Stumbled onto this project for the first time? Get caught up!
See the design here; About the shift; Making the corset here and here; About the hip padding; A free downloadable pattern for my hip pads here. About the petticoats; More pictures in the costume at Comic Con Germany