If you have any awareness of the musical theater scene you’ve probably heard of Hamilton. It’s the newest storm to hit Broadway with a record 16 Tony award nominations this year. I really enjoy the soundtrack and it definitely deserves a listen if you’ve never heard it. But regardless, what really caught my attention was the costumes. Hamilton is set in the late 18th century and the costume designers seem to have really tried to keep historical accuracy regarding the clothes worn by the cast. My attention was instantly captured by the three Schuyler sisters (Angelica, Eliza and Peggy) and resolved to put such a dress on my mile long to do list.
Amazingly the costume designer gave a full interview regarding the inspiration for these dresses, along with the sketches the dresses are based on shortly after this decision. Since this never happens I took it as a sign and began compiling research on 18th century clothing, planning to make at least one dress for myself. About the same time I also opened my commissions again on a small local cosplay site. The second message I got was a duo asking for two of the three dresses and to contact them if I knew of a third girl who wanted to cosplay. I took it as fate, accepted the commission and began work.
This first post is a compilation of all my research
From my research I identified items I would need;
A pair of stays (equivalent of a corset)- These produce the conical shape that was the aim of 18th century women, they also have the added benefit of giving a lot of support to the back and bust. I will make a pair that lace in front and back with straps that tie at the front. Tutorials: Part 1 and Part 2
Pockets– these are a necessary, but often lacking, part of any girls clothing. However as we intended to wear these dresses to comic-con we would need to keep phones, purses, tickets and possibly small merchandise on us. In the 18th century pockets were worn under the petticoat and skirt and were tied round the waist with a ribbon. This is good because I can make them as deep as I need and they won’t show!
A bum roll/pad– another necessary part of an 18th century woman’s wardrobe as it was fashionable to have a small waist and large hips because it was a sign of fertility. I could make panniers however these are impractical for conventions and it appears the actresses only wear bum-rolls. These are simply sausages of fabric stuffed and tied round the upper hip and so will be simple to make.
Petticoat (at least one each)- 18th century petticoats (and skirts) require at least a 3 meter hem circumference, which is then pleated onto a waistband. Petticoats have two waistbands- one holding the back section and one the front, this way they tie separately and you can access the pockets, but no one else can! Tutorials: Part 1 and Part 2
Skirt– This is very similar to the petticoat in fabric consumption, though is often found on one waistband rather than two. I need to find a way to access the pockets without showing the petticoat if I put all the skirt on one waistband.
Bodice– there was a great lack of evidence regarding bodices, though there was a lot about robes? I can tell from pictures that it is likely the stage dresses are two pieces, even if some people do join the skirt and bodice. I don’t want to join the skirt to the bodice because I want to be able to adjust the pieces, and I don’t want to have to think about hemming the skirt with the shape of the bodice in mind. The bodice will lace in the back and will be lightly boned on the lining layer. Here’s how to make the pattern. Here are the individual how to posts for Angelica, Eliza and Peggy
Over-dress (for Angelica’s gown)- this is known as a zone gown or robe a la turque, I will use the pattern for the back bodice and draft the front pieces on my mannequin. This will close in front and hide the back lacing on the bodice.
You’ll notice the omission of the shift this is because as the original garments were worn on stage they didn’t have shifts and so I’ve taken the decision to follow this (also because it means less trying to match necklines)
Realising that so many items equated to a lot of fabric I began searching for that, this search was so involved that I’m dedicating a whole other post to it! The main problem with trying to exactly recreate a dress is needing to match the colour exactly. I’ve made a post explaining where I got everything I needed for this project that can be found here.
I’ve also compiled a pinterest board containing all the images I used to inspire or inform me. Some are of the Schuyler sisters and some are just 18th century items.