Monday, May 11, 2015

A Cuppa Tea: Titanic Era Costuming from the "Big Three"

A few years ago, in order to sew a decent Titanic-Era or Downton Abbey costume, one had to go to indie-pattern companies like Sense and Sensibility or Hint of History for patterns. Don't get me wrong, I love those companies a ton and a good portion of my pattern cabinet is devoted to their patterns. However, for the sewist who doesn't frequent such websites and only shops for mainstream patterns from the "Big Three" (Simplicity, McCalls, and Butterick), there weren't many pickings at all. For the past couple of years, pretty much the only thing on the market was this reprinted Simplicity pattern:


Which isn't terrible, if you wanted to do some alterations to make it look better than the pictured dresses. But for the more avid costumier, it wasn't enough and people gave up on the idea of the "Big Three" ever coming out with a good costume pattern for the Titanic Era. 

Finally, however, Simplicity and Butterick came around (McCalls, well, I have no hope for them coming out with any good costume patterns whatsoever). Let's take a look. 


Simplicity seems to have made attempts to ameliorate its previous folly by introducing another costume pattern that looks like it's meant to be from Downton Abbey. The materials chosen for the cover dresses are quite costume-y and don't look very authentic at all. It says that there's a "corset" pattern- I'm assuming that's what's peeking out from the neckline? I'd be interested to see what the pattern pieces look like for that. In any case, it's a much nicer option than the cookie-cutter Titanic costume pattern above, and with a few adjustments and the proper fabric choice, it could look very nice. 

Burda Patterns, which is affiliated with Simplicity, has one very nice pattern that is worth mentioning. 


It has a lovely asymmetrical look, which was enormously popular at the time. This is a bit more advanced and would require a more patient sewist to sew. Burda patterns are a little harder to find in stores, but JoAnn's usually keeps at least one of each pattern number in stock, so you should be able to find it without having to order online. 

Butterick seems to be putting out a lot of lovely reprints and Nancy-Ferris Thee patterns that are far nicer than either of the two Simplicity patterns. The first of these is B6190, which has three different views: 






Again, the fabric color choices may not be the best (I'm thinking of the lace), but it really is a lovely pattern. Especially the gold dress. I hope to secure this pattern shortly. The multi-layered skirt options, the empire-waisted, foldover bodice, and the train are all wonderful options to have.

Next up is is B6093:



Not so wild about the lace on the second option, but the lines of the pattern are really great. It's more of a everyday pattern, as opposed to the last three patterns, so if you wanted something less frilly and not for a tea party, this is the pattern I'd recommend. The single or double overlay skirt, plus the different collars and sleeve options, make this a good pattern to have in your library. 

Finally, B6108, another "everyday" pattern: 



This one's a suit, which is really nice for people aiming for the Titanic-Era "street fashion". I like the idea of plaid and wool, one could make it quite nice. Not too wild about the idea of a bib instead of an actual shirtwaist, but that's probably just due to the designer wanting to focus on the blazer and skirt set. 

I'm very much looking forward to acquiring some of these patterns and using them for costumes of my own. It would be interesting to see if they release any other patterns suitable for the Titanic-Era. 

Did you have a favorite? Comment! 

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