It’s been a couple months since I did one of these posts. I’ve now created a number of cosplays and documented two of them… If you’re interested in becoming Sansa Stark or Margaery Tyrell I encourage you to check out those posts.
Today I’m going to talk about my very first sewing experience. You guessed it, my first sewing experience was a Victorian dress. Ok, you probably didn’t guess it…because who decides to learn how to sew on a complex Victorian-era gown? Me apparently. A friend challenged me to be his Clara ‘The Barmaid’, from The Snowmen Christmas Special. I took on the challenge and I rocked it
Side note about my craziness: When your first project is as large and daunting as a full Victorian dress, everything else you try seems much easier.
I started by exploring the internet and looking for others who had made this dress. The cosplay community was extremely helpful to someone who didn’t really know what they were doing.
First I picked a pattern. I used Simplicity 2851 and made some simple changes.
The next thing I needed to do was find fabric. The base of the skirt was brown and slightly textured. It was quite light and a little stretchy. Perfect for the look I wanted. The red was heavier and more structured. There were a number of different red tones throughout the single fabric, which gave it the perfect look. Perfect, except that there were annoying strips of black lace along the entire length of the fabric. I spent hours removing this. There was also parallel strips of the same red fabric sewed on. I kept these stripes; it was a nice addition to the dress. The fabric wasn’t pretty and elegant, it looked worn. It sounds like a bad thing but I really appreciated it. I’ve seen people make this dress like a Victorian ball gown. They forget that this is Clara’s barmaid dress and it should look like it would fit in at a tavern in Victorian London.
I started with the skirt (I was more afraid of tackling the corset). I followed the skirt pattern exactly, then added two layers of 5 inch ruffles. Clara’s dress has some added red in the skirt so I added some red lace to the bottom of each ruffle. I also included a detailed strip of the red fabric from the rest of the dress along the top of the first ruffle. A special extra touch. The ruffle fabric was gathered to create a more textured and accordion look.
I next created the apron front and was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was! The pattern needed to be much longer than the original, as Clara’s falls down close to her knees. But everything else was unchanged. The bustle in the back proved a bit more difficult. In the pattern the bustle is attached though a series of snaps and then tied by strings to the rest of the skirt. I was happy with how it turned out, but if I were to make this dress again I would probably try for a better bustle.
And with that the skirt was done. I completely love the skirt of this dress. It makes me feel like I’m living in another decade. I wish I could wear it all the time.
The top of this dress required a couple of adjustments. Clara’s neckline squarer than the initial pattern. I corrected this easily on the pattern. I also made the sleeves shorter as Clara’s are only 3/4 length.
Now for cutting and assembling. There were eight pieces to each layer. The corset consists of the red outer layer, a layer of black interfacing and then a final layer of the red fabric on the inside. It was boned using metal strapping strips I received from a friend. The pieces were cut and sewed into the front and back of the corset to add some shape. I broke more sewing needles than I could count sewing these in. The corset does up in the back with a zipper. A couple of snaps were present to keep the zipper hidden. The next step was attaching the sleeves and ensuring they are the same length (this proved more difficult that you may think).
I finished the top by hand-sewing on some details. Clara’s dress opens from the front. As this was unrealistic when creating the corset piece I hand-sewed buttons down the front of the dress for effect. I then added some red trim detailing along the edges. This included the top and bottom of the corset and the end of the sleeves.
The patten instructed to sew the top and bottom of the dress together. I decided against this. This would make getting into the dress far more difficult. I instead attached a number of snaps to the top and bottom to keep the dress together. In the end, it ended up staying snuggly seated.
I completed the outfit with a red scarf. I wish I knew how to knit but instead found a perfect alternative at a local store. I also wore a pair of black nylons and my brown lace up boots.
I struggled with my Clara hair. Hers is far longer than mine and if I were to recreate this look now I would probably use some extensions. I curled my hair and pulled it up the best I could.
Which brings me to my final note: this dress is for sale! I have since moved on to bigger and better cosplays and this dress will simply no longer being worn. If you are interested or have any questions please contact me. Please check out the listing on our Etsy page.
I hope you find this tutorial useful and you create your own Clara Oswald.
Let me know in the comments if you have any additional questions.
– Justine Alyssa