I've always wanted to try doing some historical based costumes and I loved Ekaterina's role in the Le Chevalier D’eon plot. I dislike wimpy female characters. So, I really liked how despite her husband's abuse, she went to the French knights to try to thwart the conspiracy he was involved in. Although I’m usually attracted to fancy costumes and there are more elaborate designs in the series, Ekaterina’s disguise outfit was the costume I most wanted to make from this anime.
Since the series is set in the mid-1700s and Ekaterina is basically a fictionalized version of Catherine the Great, I did some research about the clothes of the period. I tried to incorporate some of the information while still retaining the design from the anime, which is not very historically accurate. I made nearly everything worn for this costume from scratch, including the 18th Century undergarments and the tricorne hat. It was a learning experience since it was my first time constructing a corset and hoops. It was also the first time I’d made a hat from scratch. I estimate that the costume took a total of 120-140 hours of work, including mockups and remakes.
I originally started this project in January, intending to enter it in the historical masquerade at Costume Con in May. It ended up getting postponed due to fitting issues with the outer garments and I finally finished it in September for NYAF, where I did a walk-on and won Marty Gear’s Judge’s Award.
Construction notes, mostly copied from what I gave the craftsmanship judges at NYAF…
Chemise: The chemise was made using Simplicity 3635. I flat felled all the seams, which is a seam finish appropriate to the period. Although linen would have been the historically accurate material for a chemise, I opted to use a cotton blend since I thought it would be more comfortable. The chemise has ruffles along the neckline and closes with ribbon drawstrings at the neck and elbows.
Corset: The corset was also made from Simplicity 3635. The pattern seemed somewhat short from my mockup so I lengthened it a bit. For the corset, I used silk shantung with canvas interfacing and leftover chemise fabric for the lining. Rather than using featherweight boning as the pattern called for, I cut up nearly 30 huge plastic cable ties to use for boning. There are 82 pieces of various sizes sewn into the channels of the corset. I made my own bias out of a contrasting color of silk shantung and since there were so many curves in the corset edges, I stitched all of the binding on by hand. From my research, I found that metal grommets weren’t used yet in stays from that period so I stitched the eyelets by hand. Also, corsets of the period closed with parallel lines of lacing rather than crisscrossing laces so the eyelets in the back are spaced to reflect that.
Panniers:.I drafted my own pattern for pocket hoops based on the instructions and sketches I found at http://www.marquise.de/en/1700/howto/frauen/paniers.shtml The instructions were somewhat vague so it took some adjustment to get the pattern right. Constructing the panniers themselves also took some trial and error with materials. I first tried some of the fabric left from my chemise but found that the stretch in the fabric would cause the panniers to distort after the hoops were inserted. Next, I made a pair with some soft white linen left from an earlier project since it was a period appropriate fabric but I thought they swayed too much since the material was so soft. In the end, I bought a stiffer cotton to use for the final pair. Each pannier is shaped by 3 pieces of steel boning which are sewn into the casings with plastic ends. The panniers are attached to a band that ties around the waist and have a slit left open in the top so that they can be used as pockets. The insides are finished with a combination of French seams and satin stitching.
Jacket: Since I had purchased expensive wool for this project, I went through a couple of mockups and several rounds of alterations before making the real jacket. The jacket was actually altered from a men’s pattern, Butterick 3648, because it was the only pattern I could find that had both a standing collar and large lapels. The pattern was originally double breasted so I changed it to be single breasted and redrew the lapels to get the right shape. I scaled down the standing collar and took in the bodice a bit. I found it difficult to raise my arms due to the tall sleeve cap so I altered the cap to be shorter and wider. I also added a cuff piece of my own. The peplum and overskirt portions were created by pleating and draping muslin over the panniers on my dress form.
In my research, I came across a real riding habit jacket of the period which was described as being made of wool with velvet facings for the cuffs and collar and a lining of silk taffeta. This influenced my choice of materials a bit. I knew I wanted to use wool as the main fabric but I thought that velvet would be too heavy as a facing for the lightweight wool I’d selected. Instead, I used silk shantung for the facings and fully lined the remainder of the jacket with taffeta.
Since the buttonholes would be somewhat visible, I opted to stitch them by hand rather than doing them by machine for a more historical look. I used scraps of wool to cover buttons to match the coat and sewed all the black braid into place by hand.
Shirt: The shirt was one I’d made a few years ago, using Folkwear’s Poet’s Shirt pattern. Although their pattern was based on a shirt from the early 1800s, I found in my research that shirt making methods were still similar to those used in the 1700s. I made a new piece to simulate a cravat. It wraps over the collar of the shirt and closes in the back with snaps. The shirt itself is finished with flat felled seams as appropriate for the period.
Petticoat: The black petticoat or skirt is based on a pattern in the Janet Arnold book “Patterns of Fashion 1: 1660-1860.” From the book and some additional research I did, I found that petticoats of the 1700s would be made from rectangular panels of fabric sewn together and pleated into waistbands. The bottom would usually be hemmed straight across and a little bit of material would be cut out of the front at the waist so that the hem would be even when worn over panniers. Slits would be left open in a side seam to allow access to pockets in the panniers.
I first tried to follow the pattern in the book but the sizing seemed to be off; it came out much too large at the waistline and I had to take it in twice and cut out about two whole panels worth of material! It also did not work well with my panniers. To get an even hem, I had to cut much more deeply into the front than indicated, which caused the pleats to hang a bit oddly in the center front. After I made my jacket, I also decided that my petticoat seemed too stiff in comparison; I had originally used a very fine cotton twill to try to keep fabric costs down after the expensive wool for the jacket.
So, I bought black wool gabardine to match the jacket and remade the petticoat. Considering what I learned from making the first, I reduced the number of panels and how much the pleats overlapped since the first petticoat had been so huge. I sewed the panels together, leaving an 8” slit in the seams at each side to access the pockets. I pleated the fabric and added the waistband. Instead of cutting from the top this time, I put my panniers and petticoat on my dressform and marked a level hem so I could trim away excess fabric at the bottom. I then hemmed the petticoat by hand.
Hat: This was my first time making a hat from scratch and I used the tricorne pattern included in Butterick 3072. I fused buckram to the wool cashmere pieces using Heat N Bond. Some of the sewing was done by machine but the buckram made the pieces very stiff and difficult to turn; I had to handsew a large portion of the hat, some of it with curved needles. The inside of the hat is lined and there is a circle of millinery wire encased in the edge of the brim to help shape the hat.
Veil: For the veil, I cut a circle of silk chiffon and finished it with a hand rolled hem.
Wig: I purchased a wavy blonde wig and trimmed bangs into it. I curled the bangs and two longer pieces of hair at the sides using tiny curlers, a hair dryer, and hairspray. I pulled the remaining hair back with an elastic and added the hairbow over the elastic.
Hair bow: Looking closely at reference pictures, the bow is supposed to be a slightly different shade from the jacket so I used silk shantung rather than leftover wool. I made separate pieces for the main part of the bow, knot, and tails. The whole bow is attached to a loop with snaps that can be buttoned over the ponytail in the wig.
Mask: I purchased a plain white mask from a Halloween costume shop and cut larger rounder eyeholes into it before painting it with gray acrylic paint. Then, I sewed gray ribbons to the holes at both sides to replace the elastic tie.
Marty Gear's Judge's Award in the NY Anime Festival 2009 masquerade