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A reception dress, Journal les Demoiselles, 1894.

After the long reign of the crinoline and bustle had ended, it was once again the turn of the sleeves to take centre stage. So after finishing my 1890’s skirt, it was time to turn to the evening bodice.

During this period, sleeves received all the inspiration possible from their enormous counterparts in the 1830s! And it did not take them very long to grow. What had been sedate in 1892 became quite top-heavy in 1894! The long-sleeved (and very full around the bicep) leg-o-mutton and gigot sleeves abounded! But the shorter evening dresses did not get neglected. Rather large “balloon” sleeves adorned many an upper-arm.

By about 1896 the sleeves had reached their maximum size, quite dwarfing the head, and then began to rapidly collapse. However, the size of the sleeves at their height does gives some reason for the similarly timed advent of big hair and big hats, as they were needed to bring some balance to the outfit.

Bodices for evening wear were often made in two contrasting or complementary colours that matched the skirt. Decorations, such as lace or ribbon, but also ornaments (like flowers) or trim in the contrasting fabric, were also routinely used.

An evening bodice, silk and velvet, c. 1893-6, from Museum of London. This is the same bodice patterned in Janet Arnold’s book.

Pattern

I used the pattern of an 1893-6 evening dress in Janet Arnold’s book, Patterns of Fashion 2. The bodice of this garment uses a silk bodice base, boned, over which is overlaid turquoise velvet. Then striped silk is mounted over the top of the velvet. I did mine slightly differently to this.

I decided to simplify my bodice and do the whole base in ivory taffeta and overlay the mint-green satin over the top.

I did a mock up of the bodice first, in order to make any fitting adjustments.

The pattern, with adjustments made from the mock-up.

The sleeve pattern pieces, with a slight enlargement.

I used ivory polyester taffeta, flatlined with white cotton broadcloth. The bodice was overlaid with mint-green duchess satin and then trimmed with glass pearl beads. The bustline was finished with some fine bridal tulle.

Construction Steps

Step 1: Beginning with the ivory taffeta under bodice, I flatlined all the panels. The back panels were sewn to the lining (right sides together) on the centre back seam, and then turned right sides out and treated as one layer. (The bodice will be laced at the centre back seam, hence the finishing on the centre back seams.)

The back panels, seamed to the lining on the centre back seam and turned the right way. This bodice opens at the centre back.

Once all the panels were flatlined, I sewed them together.

The back and side-back panels are sewn together.

The front and side front panels, sewn together. The darts are yet to be sewn in.

Once the bodice was sewn together, I did a fitting in order to properly fit the darts in the front panel. The shoulder seams were also sewn at this point.

The bodice was boned on every seam, including the darts. I used some twill tape for the casings and sewed it to seam allowance so that the stitching did not show through to the right side. The top edge of the boning casing was turned over before sewing to prevent the bone poking out.

The boning channels, using twill tape sewn to each seam allowance. On the right is the folded over edge of the boning casing.

Step 2: The sleeve is made up of a sleeve lining, a sleeve outer, and an over sleeve. The ivory taffeta outer sleeve was sewn together. As seen from the pattern piece above, one side of the sleeve seam is gathered to fit the other side of the sleeve seam. The bottom edge is gathered to fit the lining piece, and the sleeve head will also be gathered to fit the sleeve.

The ivory taffeta sleeve sewn together. The sleeve seam (shown on the right) is gathered on only one edge. The bottom edge (shown at the bottom) is also gathered to fit the sleeve lining.

The sleeve lining was made up.

The sleeve lining is sewn together. The sleeve seam is shown to the right. The gathered edge will form the sleeve head. The bottom edge is not gathered.

The sleeve lining and the outer sleeve were put together.

The sleeve lining is attached to the outer sleeve along the bottom edge.

In order to help the sleeves retain their “puff”, I inserted a crescent of stiff tulle. The tulle was folded over on the flat edge and then cut in a curve to form a crescent. The cut, curved edge was gathered.

The stiff tulle crescent, gathered along one edge.

This crescent was then put in between the two layers of sleeve. Janet Arnold’s original dress appears to have had no sleeve supports, however it was common in this era of large puffs to have some sort of support for the sleeve head.

Then the sleeve was sewn into the armhole.

The sleeve is inserted into the armhole. You can see the layers of the sleeve in the seam.

I used bias binding to bind the sleeve seam, as the tulle can get rather itchy if left to poke into your armpit!

Step 3: The over sleeve functions almost more as a collar, as it is attached to the neckline and hangs down over the sleeve.

It was basically a straight strip of material, with a rolled hem on one edge. The raw edge was then pleated to fit between the balance marks at the front of the bodice and the centre back. The over sleeve piece is angled to form a point where it meets the centre back.

The over sleeve is sewn in at the neckline. The back of the over sleeve is angled to meet the centre back at a point, shown on the right side of the photo. (The neckline casing is already sewn in this photo.)

The front corner of the over sleeve (which would hang awkwardly free) is pulled under the front of the arm and held under the armpit with some tacking stitches.

The one irritating thing I have found with this bodice is that the over sleeve does not hang straight. This is because I sewed it too low at the front of the bodice neckline.

Step 4: In the original example, the over bodice was a straight strip of material, which was mounted on the bodice to angle slightly around the body to sit fairly flat. A small tuck was taken at the bottom of the centre front to allow for the sharp angle of the waistline. However, when I tried this method of fitting the over bodice, I found that my corseted shape was not sloped enough to make it work. That is, my waist was not small enough in relation to my bust.

This meant that I had to take a large tuck under the arms to take in the fullness of the material. I also altered the type of tuck I did at the centre front in order that the fabric sat flatter on the body. (Once I looked at the original photos online – highly zoomed in – I felt better about it all, as their tucks did not look fantastically neat either!) In addition to this, because I had already sewn the sleeve in, I had to fold under the raw edge around the arm scythe and hand sew it down.

The over bodice is being handsewn down. The over sleeves are pushed up to show where the over bodice reaches to. The tucks under the arms can be seen and have been handsewn down. (The front corner of the over sleeve has not been tacked under the arm as yet, and that is why they can be pushed as they are.)

The back view of the over bodice.

Note: If I had of been sensible, I would have mounted the over bodice before I did the sleeves! However, I was struggling to figure out how to do this step while fitting myself, so I moved on with the sleeves instead. So I think this step would fit better as Step 2 and save a lot of grumbling later on! (As you might be able to tell, this was the point where I wanted to throw the bodice in the bin!)

Step 5: A casing was sewn to the top, around the neckline, with a drawstring to tighten it at the centre back. This prevents the weight of the sleeves pulling the bodice off the shoulder.

The neckline casing, pinned ready to sew. It will then be turned to the inside and handsewn down.

The bottom edge of the bodice was bound with bias binding (as this bodice was worn tucked in to show the waistband of the skirt).

Hand sewn eyelets were put in the centre back, with lacing to tie up the bodice. This was a fairly common way of fastening bodices closed during this era. The original dress used hooks and eyes, which is the other main way used for fastening.

Step 6: Pearl beads were sewn around the over bodice edges, around the bottom of the oversleeve, and hung in two strings over the bust. A total of 933 pearl beads hand sewn onto this bodice. A square-ish piece of fine netting was gathered up in three lines and hand sewn down at the centre front to form a soft cloud-like strip.

The pearl beads and the fine netting are sewn on.

And here is the whole ballgown all finished!

The front view

The side view

The side view shows how the over sleeve is positioned too low at the front.

The back view

My chemise does show slightly at the centre back, but as I am hoping to redo this chemise I was not concerned. Overall, I am pretty pleased with this gown. I had been worried that the sleeves would be too large, but I think a large hairstyle does help to balance the sleeves. It is a nice gown to dance in as well!

Related Posts

Making an 1890s Ballgown: Skirt

Making an Early 1870s Gown: Evening Bodice

Sources and Relevant Links

Image Source: A reception dress, Journal des Demoiselles, 1894, from Pinterest.

Image Source: An evening bodice, c. 1893-6, from Museum of London.

Patterns of Fashion 2: Englishwomen’s dresses and their construction, by Janet Arnold – buy on Amazon

Details of the Bronze and Pink 1893 Gown – by The Quintessential Clothes Pen (Read another costumers journey in making a gown inspired by Janet Arnold’s pattern.)

1893 Evening Gown – by Rhiann Houlihan: Costumier (Another costumers reproduction of this gown.)

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An evening gown, c. 1894, original source unknown.

The late Victorian period falls in the middle of a period of time retrospectively called belle époque. This period – from 1871 to 1914 – was characterised primarily by a period of international peace and economic stability in the Western world. As a consequence the arts flourished during this time, which had an impact on the fashions of the populace. It became possible for even the middle class women to dress quite richly, with lace and flounces. The gowns of the period became quite ornate with multiple trimmings of various sorts.

The skirts of the 1890s had recently fallen from the heights of the final bustle period that ended with the 1880s. The fullness of the skirts remained at the back, with the fabric cut in a sort of semi-circle, but it was closely and smoothly fitted at the waist. The skirts became slightly simpler, with less drapery and adornments than the previous decade, which created a tall and elegant silhouette.

But now that the skirts had resumed more sensible dimensions, it was the sleeves turn to increase astronomically! More on that later…

Fan skirt with matching bodice, silk and velvet, c. 1893-6, from Museum of London.

Pattern

I used the pattern in Janet Arnold’s book, Patterns of Fashion 2. I have had my eye on this pattern for a while – indeed, I had even bought all the material and supplies for it about 5 years ago! The actual skirt that Janet Arnold patterned is in the Museum of London and is pictured on the right.

The main alteration I made was to omit the train, as this dress was intended for dancing. I also left off the padded hem.

I used a mint-green duchess satin, with ivory taffeta for the contrasting waistband. The skirt was flatlined with white cotton broadcloth.

Construction Steps

Step 1: Cut out the pieces and flatline them.

The back panel, using the white lining as a pattern. Note that the back panel had to be pieced in order to make it big enough at the centre back seam.

The back panel piece is quite large and so joins were made in order to make it big enough. Any joins need to be made on the straight grain.

The front panel, flatlined with white cotton.

When I flatline, I usually iron the lining and the outer layer together A LOT, whilst pinning all over. Then I sew 1cm from the raw edges on the side seams. I also sew 1cm from the raw edge around the waistline and I leave the bottom edge pinned. (I deal with this edge later when hemming.)

Step 2: The panels were sewn together. The centre back seam was left open for 12 inches to form a placket.

Step 3: The pocket was sewn and the placket piece prepared.

The pocket and the placket flap, cut out.

The pocket was sewn between the placket piece and the left back panel. A short piece of twill tape was used to anchor the weight of the pocket to the waistband.

The pocket is sewn in, with the placket on the left and the inside of the skirt showing.

The pocket opening seen from the right side.

Step 4: The original skirt was gathered at the centre back, but my duchess satin was too thick to gather into such a small space. Instead I decided to make deep pleats to draw in the fullness. At the same time as the pleating, I also did the darts, as this required a fitting to do it accurately.

Then a very thin “waistband” or binding was attached to the top edge.

The waistband from the inside. The inner waistband measures 1/2 inch in width, and the ivory waistband is hand stitched on top. On the left you can see the CB pleats and the stitched dart.

The ivory waistband, cut on the bias, was mounted on top of this and handsewn down. The centre front of the waistband has a triangular dart in it to give it a V-shape.

The ivory waistband is mounted on top and handsewn down.

Step 5: The skirt was hemmed with a deep hem facing (9 inches, in white broadcloth) as well as a “brush braid”.

The hem facing, shown pinned and ready to handsew. The brush braid has already been sewn to the facing, but is held flat with pins.

I have noticed recently that my skirt hems take a real beating when I wear them. (On one of my skirts it took only 2 outdoor outings for a hemline hole to appear.) Historically, a brush braid was used to preserve the part of the hem which wears the most, which is the bottom edge. I have struggled to find much information on brush braids and how they were attached, so I invented my own way.

I decided to use a stiff polyester twill tape, which was sewn to the hem facing after the facing was attached to the dress (this way the stitching does not show on the outside). The brush braid overhangs the hem by 1/8 inch. This means that the braid is the part that drags on the ground the most, and it can be easily replaced when it is worn out.

Step 6: Hooks and eyes were used as fasteners at the centre back. An ivory taffeta rose was made to cover the centre back closure.

A 8-inch strip of fabric was folded in half and gathered along the raw edge. (The other raw edges were tucked under.) The gathered strip was then rolled up to form a rose, and stitched on to the waistband.

The rose is gathered and ready to roll up. The finished width was 1 and 1/2 inches.

The centre back pleats and the taffeta rose.

I really love the late Victorian and early Edwardian skirts. They are so slimming (for my figure at least) and elegant, and I would love to wear them everyday!

The front view

The back view

My gored petticoat goes perfectly underneath this style of skirt. I also wear my 1880’s corset underneath it as well. Look out for the next post in this series; making the bodice.

Related Posts

Making a Gored Petticoat

Making a Victorian Fan Skirt

Making a Victorian Corset

Sources and Relevant Links

Image Source: 1894 Belle Epoque gown, from flickr

Image Source: Fan skirt, silk and velvet, c. 1893-6, from Museum of London.

Patterns of Fashion 2: Englishwomen’s dresses and their construction, by Janet Arnold – buy on Amazon

Tutorial: How to sew flatlining, by Dreamstress

A picture of an 1860s gown, the hem-facing and remnants of the brush braid – from Pinterest

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A cage crinoline, with metal and cane supports, held together with cotton tape, c. 1865, from LACMA.

One of the costumes that has been on my list for the past year has been a mid-19th century ball gown. I have an “Alice in Wonderland” Ball coming up, and – since Lewis Carroll published this novel in the year 1865 – it seemed a perfect event to make it for.

Throughout the 1840s and 1850s, the skirts had been gradually increasing in size with the use of multiple petticoats, often stiffened with horsehair or cording. When the crinoline was patented in 1856, it reduced the necessity for many layers of heavy petticoats, as the hoop did everything that petticoats could not! It also allowed the dress to increase in size much more easily, as all that was needed was a wider hoop.

By the mid-1860s the hoop began to change shape from the conical fashion of the 1850s to an elliptical shape, where the skirts began to stand out more at the back of the dress. Towards the end of the 1860s the skirts began to be draped to the back to accentuate the rump, in preparation for the first bustle period that came in the early 1870s.

Not all the powers of ridicule, nor the remonstrances of affection have been able to beat down that inflated absurdity, called Crinoline! It is a living institution, which nothing seemingly can crush or compress.

“The Despotism of Dress” (1862),

quoted in Corsets and Crinolines, by Norah Waugh

Whether the rebukes were in the name of “ridicule” or “affection”, I can see why women kept wearing crinolines! They are so much fun!

Pattern

I used a pattern from Truly Victorian, which was their 1865 Elliptical Cage Crinoline (TV 103). There was also a useful pattern in Jean Hunnisett’s book, Period Costumes for Stage and Screen, that provided extra information.

I really wanted to make a red crinoline, but in the end (in the name of saving costs) I dug into my stash and found some pink supplies that I could use. I used pink poly-cotton material, with polyester bias binding for the horizontal channels and pink polyester twill tape for the vertical supports and the waistband. I used white flat steel for the boning.

Construction

I have not detailed all the construction steps here, as the Truly Victorian pattern has great instructions. Instead I have given a brief overview.

Step 1: Sewing the bag together.

The bag is sewn up, ready to be folded lengthwise in half.

Step 2: The bag folded in half, with four horizontal boning channels sewn.

The boning channels are sewn in the bag, leaving a gap for the boning to be inserted.

Step 3: The half moon piece is sewn and then quilted.

The half moon shape is sewn and machine quilted for strength.

Then the vertical supports are attached with the waistband.

The vertical supports have been sewn to the crescent and the waistband attached as well.

Step 4: The two centre front vertical supports are sewn to the waistband so that they can slide along it.

The vertical supports at the front are attached to the waistband with a loop so it can move along.

The vertical supports should all be marked as to where the horizontal boning channels will intersect. Once all the vertical supports are attached to the waist and attached at the bag, then the boning can be cut and inserted into the channels. Once again, the boning channels need to be marked as to where they will intersect with the vertical supports. The TV pattern instructions go into great step-by-step detail as to measurements for this part.

Step 5: Inserting the boning and attaching the boning channels.

The boning channels are being attached with pins at the moment.

Step 6: In order to support the back of the bustle, I stuffed a crescent pillow with wadding and sat it underneath the quilted half moon piece on the crinoline. This was suggested in Jean Hunnisett’s pattern and it made a huge difference in the stability of the hoop.

This crescent shaped pillow is stuffed HARD with wadding and then sewn to the waistband very sturdily.

Step 7: Try it on, and – once you are happy with how it sits – the boning channels can be handsewn to the vertical supports.

I am really pleased with how it turned out!

All finished! The hoop is not as balanced on my dummy as it is on me, which reinforces the need for a fitting before the final fixing of the horizontal and vertical supports.

My next post will involve making the petticoat. – coming soon!

Related Posts

A Victorian Bustle

Making a Victorian Corset

Sources and Relevant Links

Image Source: A cage crinoline, c. 1865, from Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

Corsets and Crinolines, by Norah Waugh – buy on Amazon

TV 103 – 1865 Elliptical Cage Crinoline, by Truly Victorian Sewing Patterns

Period Costumes for Stage and Screen: Patterns for Women’s Dress, 1800-1909, by Jean Hunnisett – buy on Amazon

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A man’s linen shirt, c. 1775-1800, from Victoria and Albert Museum.

I have made 18th century and Regency shirts before, for my husband and sons, but for a while I have wanted to make one entirely by hand. When my husband said that his current shirt was too short in length, I took the opportunity to make a new one.

One thing I have noticed as I sew more historical garments is that, whilst sewing with a sewing machine is lovely to do, sometimes you can discover new things by hand sewing those garments that were hand sewn during the era that they were worn.

In particular, men’s shirts, with their triangular and square gussets and the centre frill at the front opening, can be a bit tricky to sew with modern sewing machine methods. I found it much easier to flat fell those gusset seams while hand sewing than I did when I machine sewed them. In addition, roll hemming the front neckline and attaching the (already gathered and hemmed) frill with a whipstitch was a lot easier than figuring out what to do with those gathered raw edges on the inside.

Pattern

I relied heavily on the 1769 instructions of Garsault, reproduced by La Couturière Parisienne. These instructions contain a very useful “translation” for all of those terms and measurements given in the original version that are not easily adaptable to modern understandings.

I also used the pattern for shirts given in Elizabeth Friendship’s book, Pattern Cutting for Men’s Costume. She had some great tips on how to calculate the sizes of different panel pieces relative to the body measurements, and also things like the placement of sleeves.

I used white linen fabric, that was 150cm wide (selvedge to selvedge).

Construction Steps

Step One: Cut out the body of the shirt. I used a 240 cm (length) of material and cut it to be 80 cm wide. I folded the fabric half widthways (the fold-line being where the shoulders would be) and shifted the fold so it was slightly longer (1-2 inches) at the back. Then I cut a slit along the fold (for the neck) and a slit down the centre front (for the opening).

The shirt has been slit along the top fold (from pin-to-pin, which you can see at the top), and the centre front has been slit and a rolled hem done to the raw edges. (The pins at the side of the shirt indicate where the sleeves will come down to.)

The centre front slit was hemmed using a rolled hem.

Step Two: Cut out the sleeves. I had material left over from the shirt body (70 cm wide and 240 cm long). I cut the sleeves to be 70 cm x 60 cm. (Sleeves are 60 cm long and can be 70 or 80 cm wide.)

The bottom edge of the sleeves (70 cm edge) was gathered with stroke stitches. For some great instructions on stroke gathers, see Sharon Burnston’s article.

The top edge of the sleeve has two rows of running stitch, sewn parallel to the raw edge. This will be pulled up to gather the edge into stroke gathers.

Once the running stitches are completed, they are pulled up to form tiny pleats. I pressed each pleat with the back of my fingernails so they sat nicely, and then sewed them with a whipstitch to the cuffs of the garment. The other end of the cuff is then folded over the raw gathered edges and whipstitched in the same way to the other side of the stroke gathers.

The edge of the cuff is folded over and then whipstitched to the stroke gathers.

In the same way, the top edge of the sleeves (other 70 cm edge) was gathered and then attached to the shoulders of the garment. (The other side of the stroke gathers will be whipstitched to the shoulder binder later on.)

Both ends of the sleeve have been gathered and attached to the cuff and shoulders.

Step Three: The gusset is then sewn in place. I fold my square gusset into a triangle and iron it. Then I place it next to the sleeve so that the two open sides face the sleeve and the body of the garment. (This helps me not to get confused!) Once all the seams are sewn, they are flat-felled.

The gusset is sewn in and the side seam sewn. The seams are then flat-felled.

The shoulder binder is a strip of material that is a few inches wide. The raw edges of the binder are folded under and then it is sewn along the seam line at the head of the sleeve. It is positioned to cover the raw edge on the shoulder and reaches down to the point of the gusset. (When stitching the section of the sleeve with stroke gathers, a small whipstitch is used, in the same way the cuffs were completed.)

The shoulder binder is pinned ready to whipstitch to the other side of the stroke gathers.

Step Four: Along the neckline, the triangular gussets are sewn in. The neckline edge is then gathered with stroke gathers, as before (although these gathers are much looser than those in the sleeves). The collar is then sewn on in the same manner as the cuffs were.

Step Five: The frill for the front opening on the shirt was a straight strip of fabric, hemmed on one long edge (and the two short edges) with a rolled hem. The remaining raw edge was gathered with a rolled-whipstitch-gather and then whipstitched to the finished edge of the front slit.

These are the instructions that I wrote on how to do a rolled whipped gather. Others do it slightly differently, but the end result is the same. If your material is not “gathering” enough, make your stitches further apart.

The front frill has been gathered and is now being whipstitched to the rolled hem of the front slit.

The frill is shown attached to the centre front edge.

Once the frill is attached, it was common to sew a heart-shaped reinforcing patch at the bottom of the centre front slit. This prevents the slit tearing. I folded the raw edges under on a small piece of material and tacked it below the slit.

Step Six: The bottom edge of the shirt was hemmed, and then dorset buttons sewn on the cuffs and neck.

And then the finished product is ready to wear!

The front view of the finished shirt

The shirt, whilst it is hardly seen beneath all of the other clothing, was great in the end.

I am really pleased with how this shirt turned out. It took about 3 weeks to sew, and I did have to work quite solidly to get it done. However, there is something quite therapeutic about hand-sewing garments. It has become one of my more favourite ways to complete sewing projects.

Related Posts

MY Mr Knightley: Making a Shirt

The Making of a Midshipman: Shirt and Stock

Sources and Relevant Links

Image Source: A man’s linen shirt, c. 1775-1800, from Victoria and Albert Museum.

Making a Men’s Shirt – cutting and sewing instructions from 1760, reproduced by La Couturière Parisienne.

Pattern Cutting for Men’s Costume, by Elizabeth Friendship – buy on Amazon

Stroke Gathers – by Sharon Burnston

How to Sew a Flat-Felled Seam – by Craftsy

How to make Dorset Buttons – by Craftstylish

18th Century Men’s Shirts – a list of online collections and resources, by 18th Century Notebook

A reproduction of a man’s shirt, c. 1780, by Kannik’s Korner

A day dress, with a pleated bertha and sleeve trimmings reminiscent of the 30s, c. early 1840’s, from The John Bright Collection.

Luckily it took only two days to sew my late 1840’s skirt, as I always need a bit of extra time up my sleeve to work on bodices. With only a week and a half to go until my Colonial Dance display, I had to keep going!

In the 1840s, sloping shoulders were in fashion, as they continued to be for a large amount of the Victorian era. Bodices were long and often deeply pointed at the front, which made the waistline look slim.

In order to emphasise the sloping shoulders, bodices were often decorated with a bertha around the lower shoulder area and chest. Long “collars”, sometimes trimmed with lace or braid, went over the edge of the shoulders and down to the centre front point, and also served the purpose of drawing the eye down the shoulder. The off-the-shoulder armholes further accentuated this look, as the clothing made the shoulder appear longer and more sloping than it actually was.

A day dress, with a long pleated collar and decorative tassels down the centre front, c. 1846-49, from Fripperies and Fobs.

Day dresses often had a high neckline, resting above the collarbone, which was trimmed with a lace collar. Into the late 40s and early 50s, the neckline deepened into a V at the front, which was generally filled in with a collared chemisette or inserts of lace. Sometimes necklines developed a very wide opening along the shoulders, whilst still remaining quite high at the neck. Evening bodices even went so far as to be off-the-shoulder.

Bodices of this era tended to fasten with hooks and eyes at the centre back. The centre front panels tended to be cut on the bias, which did lovely things for stripey material. Buttons and tassels could sometimes be used as decoration down the centre front.

Sleeves were enjoying a short reprieve from the astronomical sizes they had reached to in the 1830s, before again increasing in size as the pagoda sleeve came into fashion in the 1850s. However, sleeves could still be decorated at the top with a sleeve cap, which again emphasised the sloping shoulders.

I really wanted a plain and basic bodice which I could make quickly, so I dispensed with the idea of a bertha or collar or any centre front pleating detail which was often common in this era. I thought that a centre front button placket – which become more common in the early 1850s – would enable me to get into the outfit by myself but would add enough interest. A sleeve cap also seemed to be a quick and easy detail to include.

Pattern

I used the basic bodice in Jean Hunnisett’s book, Period Costume for Stage and Screen. I would normally make a mock-up of a bodice to make any adjustments to the pattern, but I didn’t have the time to allow for that. Instead, I measured myself in my corset and I measured the pattern and added some extra allowance for adjusting. I also added some length at the bottom, as I wanted to make sure the bodice would overhang the waistband, which is consistent for this era.

The pattern pieces cut out; front, side back, back, sleeve, and sleeve cap.

I used a light cotton fabric with a woven stripe, flatlined with white cotton broadcloth.

Construction Steps

Step One: All the bodice pieces were flatlined and were then treated as one piece. The seams of the bodice were sewn; side back seams, the side front seams and the shoulder seams. Then the two front darts were fitted and sewn. (There was a lot of fitting and pinning at this stage – working from the back to the sides, then the shoulders, and then doing the front darts – just to get the fit right.)

The seams of the bodice are all sewn. In this picture, the piping has also been sewn on the arm scythe.

Step Two: I made some piping in a contrasting colour, using narrow cotton cord and some bias binding, and sewed piping to the edge of the armhole.

A close up of the piping in the arm scythe.

Step Three: The sleeves were sewn. I used a gathering stitch down the entire back edge of the sleeve side so that the sleeve seams could be eased effectively together.

The sleeve seam is pinned, and one side (the back side of the seam) is eased to fit the front.

The bottom edge of the sleeve was piped and finished the same way as the sleeve cap below.

Step Four: The sleeve cap was sewn and the bottom edge was finished with piping. I used the edge of the piping (which was a bias binding strip) to hem the bottom of the sleeve cap.

The piping has been sewn to the sleeve cap. The bias strip is then unfolded, and one half is trimmed back. The other half of the bias strip is folded over the raw edges, turned to the wrong side, and hand sewn down.

Step Five: The sleeve head was pleated to fit the arm hole (in three “inch-ish” wide pleats). The sleeve cap was placed over the top of the sleeve, with the raw edges together. The whole sleeve was then inserted into the armhole and topstitched “in the ditch” of the armhole piping – through all layers. This was illustrated in Jean Hunnisett’s book. I found it a good way of attaching a sleeve when using piping in the armhole.

From “Period Costumes for Stage and Screen”, sewing in a sleeve with armhole piping.

All raw edges of the sleeve and armhole were then neatened.

Step Six: The centre front button placket was made with a straight strip of fabric and was piped on either side, with the raw edges folded under.

The centre front button placket, with piping attached. A button is laying on top to show the contrast.

The entire strip was topstitched onto the right front panel at the centre front mark, once again “stitching in the ditch” of the piping. The raw edges of the front panel were folded to the inside, turned under and hand stitched down.

The button placket is pinned ready to sew, so that the middle of it is positioned in the centre front.

A line of piping was also sewn to the left front panel, with the raw edges being folded to the inside, turned under and hand sewn down.

A line of piping is sewn on the other centre front edge, with the button position (shown with pins) in line with the centre front.

Step Seven: The two front darts on each side were boned by simply sewing a boning channel into the dart flap. The boning was then inserted into the channel. The centre front placket was also boned behind the buttons, using the left over raw edges that were folded under after piping.

The boning channel is sewn on the left of the piping, from the bottom to about halfway up, and will be folded to the inside and slipstitched down. This will mean that the boning channel will sit directly behind the line of buttons (shown by pins).

Step Eight: Once the two centre front edges were finished, a line of piping was sewn around the top neckline and the bottom edge of the bodice. Once again, the raw edges were trimmed and turned under the bias strip and hand sewn down.

Step Nine: The button holes were sewn on the piped button placket, and the buttons (covered to match the piping) sewn to the other front edge.

The buttonholes and buttons. The bodice does not quite fit this dress form!

Step Ten: As a finishing touch, I decided to do a quick cotton collar, trimmed with lace. I draped this collar on the stand and then hand sewed it to the neckline.

The cotton lawn collar, trimmed with cotton lace.

The front view

The back view

I am really pleased with this bodice, as I think that it fits quite well. However, I had intended that the front stripes form a downward arrow, instead of an upward arrow. The downward arrow accentuates the slim waistline better and is a more period correct way of dealing with stripes, from what I have seen. It ended up being impractical to re-do the front panels in the time span I had. Anyway, slight distractions when sewing will do that to you!

So my “Jane Eyre” dress is finished! I did watch several different adaptations of Jane Eyre on DVD throughout the process of sewing this outfit, too.

Related Posts

Making a late 1840’s Day Dress: Skirt

Making an Early 1870’s Gown: Day Bodice

Sources and Relevant Links

Image Source: Day dress, c. early 1840’s – from The John Bright Collection

Image Source: Day dress, c.1846-49, from the exhibition “A Century of Style” at Glasgow Museum – at Fripperies and Fobs.

Period Costume for Stage and Screen: Patterns of Women’s Dress 1800-1909, by Jean Hunnisett – buy on Amazon

How to Flatline a Bodice – by Historical Sewing

A Piping Tutorial – by Historical Sewing

Two day dresses, c. 1848-49, with gathered skirts and long sleeved bodices.

Two weeks ago I was invited to participate in a Colonial Dance display team and I realised that I had nothing to wear that fitted the Colonial description. Strangely, even though the Australian colonial period spans from 1788 through to 1901, the style of dress that is considered iconically colonial (especially for dancing) is the 1850s and 1860s. Even so, I did not have enough time to make anything that required me to make a hoop (or any additional undergarments that I did not already have), so I decided to venture into the realm of the late 1840s.

During the 1840s, skirts had been gradually increasing in size with the help of several petticoats, often corded to enable them to stand out nicely. The first crinoline was not patented until 1856, so until then skirts were fairly limited in their width. The skirts of this era were generally cartridge pleated to a waistband or bodice to enable a large amount of fabric to be condensed to a small area. In most instances, the bodices were attached to the skirts to form one dress, rather than a separate skirt and bodice. This meant that openings were generally at the centre back.

I particularly wanted a front opening bodice with a separate skirt, which became more common in the 1850s. The picture shown above shows a dress on the right with buttons down the centre front, however I think these are decoration rather than functional.

Pattern

I used Jean Hunnisett’s book, Period Costume for Stage and Screen, as a reference for the skirt, and then looked at the 1840s dresses in Janet Arnold’s book, Patterns of Fashion 1. This gave me the general shape of the dress and some ideas of how to construct it.

I used three spans of material (selvedge to selvedge, 60 inches wide), cut to my chosen length (46 inches long, including an allowance for the hem and cartridge pleating). There were two panels on either side of the centre back (with a seam for the CB placket), and one more panel at the centre front.

The skirt panels, all folded in half lengthwise, with all three laying on top of one another. At the bottom is the waistband.

I used a light cotton fabric with a woven stripe, as well as some white cotton broadcloth inside the waistband and for the hem facing.

Construction Steps

Step One: All the skirt seams were sewn. The top of the centre back seam was left open 12 inches for the placket. I also decided to put a pocket into the right-hand seam at the side.

The finished pocket on the finished skirt. The pocket is attached to the waistband with a piece of twill tape.

Step Two: The waistband was sewn into a 1-inch-wide tube, and interlined with white cotton broadcloth. The ends of the waistband were turned in and slipstitched. The waistband has a finished length of 33 inches, which enabled a generous overlap at the back.

Step Three: The top of the skirt panels were neatened, then turned over 1 1/2 inches and cartridge pleated. I used two rows of stitches for my pleating, the rows being 1/4 inch apart, and the pleating stitches 1/4 inch apart, resulting in 1/4 inch deep pleats.

Step Four: The cartridge pleats were drawn up and then whipstitched to the waistband. I left the cartridge pleating stitches in to help them sit properly. A waistband hook and eye was used for fastening.

The 1/4 inch cartridge pleats sewn to the waistband. You can see the tiny stitches.

Historial Sewing has a great tutorial on cartridge pleating, so have a look there for all the finer details of how to do it!

Step Five: The hem was finished with a hem facing (5 inches deep) made from white cotton broadcloth. It was sewn right-sides together to the bottom of the skirt, then folded to the inside and hand sewn down.

This skirt took me two days to complete and is worn over a basic bridal petticoat without a hoop. This saved me having to make any undergarments.

The front view.

The back view, pinned at the waistband because this dress form is a bit too big.

Dappled sunlight does not really make for a good photo – I am sorry! Overall, I am very pleased with my skirt. It is not an elaborate skirt, like I usually like to make, however it works fine for a simple day ensemble – which is what it was supposed to be!

A late 1840s day bodice to match the skirt will be coming soon!

Related Posts

Making an Early 1870’s Gown: Skirts

Sources and Relevant Links

Image Source: Two 1840s day dresses – Costume and Lace Museum

Period Costume for Stage and Screen: Patterns for Women’s Dress 1800-1909, by Jean Hunnisett – buy on Amazon

Patterns of Fashion 1: Englishwomen’s dresses and their construction c. 1660-1860, by Janet Arnold – buy on Amazon

How to sew Cartridge Pleats – by Historical Sewing

A bathing suit, from Metropolitant Museum

A cotton bathing suit, with pants and a separate belted dress, c. 1900-1910, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

With an Edwardian beach day planned in the height of the Australian summer, making a bathing suit seemed the most sensible thing to do these holidays!

“Modern” swimwear – that is, the swimwear of the last 200 years – has only been “invented” as the popularity of recreational swimming has increased. This increase in popularity has been influenced by the availability of transport, the prevalence of travel, and the increases in disposable income of everyday people. Hence, swimming has only become popular by the masses since the 18th and 19th centuries.

My interest in bathing suits was centred more around the region of 1880 to 1910, which fit more closely with my Edwardian-themed beach day. During this era bathing suits consisted of baggy pants, a top and a skirt in some combination. Sometimes the pants were separate and were then covered with a belted dress. Other times the pants and top were all-in-one, and then there was a separate skirt that buttoned on over the top. They could be made of wool, cotton or occasionally linen.

Bathing suit, an all-in-one pants-and-top with a button-on skirt, c. 1885, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

A woollen bathing suit, with all-in-one pants-and-top and a button-on skirt, c. 1885, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The closures were most often buttons down the centre front, and elastic or ties were used for the pants. Bathing suits were made in a great variety of colours, although the most popular seem to have been dark blue with white trim, and also dark blue with red trim. The trim was generally made from twill tape and could be quite elaborate.

Often bathing shoes were also worn, along with a bathing cap and stockings, though these seem to reduce in frequency as the 1910s approach.

My initial thought was that through the course of this era (1880-1910) bathing suits would have progressively got shorter and more revealing, but during each of these decades I have found examples of pants that were well below the knee as well as above the knee. Similarly, I have found that sleeves of the tops/dresses could be longish or shortish, and the lengths of the dresses/skirts could be below the knee or up to mid-thigh. My conclusion is that through this time period, swimwear remained largely the same, and the more drastic changes occurred either during or after World War 1, but certainly had occurred by the 1920s.

Women on Collaroy Beach, NSW.

Women in bathing suits on Collaroy Beach, NSW, 1908. I love seeing real women wearing their historical clothes in the era!

I decided, after much deliberation, to go with a pair of baggy pants and then a belted dress to go over the top. I also was keen to have a bathing cap to wear.

I used a dark blue cotton broadcloth, with white polyester grosgrain ribbon. Buttons were just plain white plastic ones.

Please excuse the poor quality of the photos, as I tried not to use a flash so that the colour contrast would be a bit better. Some have turned out a little blurry.

The Pants

Pattern

I thought the easiest way to go about making pants quickly was to use an existing pattern for culottes and then cut them short at the knee. I used McCalls 6788 from my teenage stash of patterns. And since I love the usefulness of pockets in costumes (even bathing costumes!), I decided to add pockets on each side.

The pattern pieces, shortened to be just below knee length.

The pattern pieces, shortened to be just below knee length.

Construction Steps

Since the pattern comes with instructions, I have not gone into much detail here.

1:  As with most pants, I sewed the inside leg seams first and then the crotch seam.

2: Then one half of each pocket was sewn onto each outside hip seam. Once this was done the outside leg seams were sewn, right sides together, including around the pockets (but leaving a space for a hand to enter the pocket).

3: The top edge of the pants was folded down to form a casing, and two rows of elastic were threaded through the casings.

The casing is folded down in the inside and pinned ready to sew. You can see the pockets in this view.

The casing is folded down in the inside and pinned ready to sew. You can see the pockets in this view.

4: A strip of bias binding was sewn just under knee-level and was then used for a casing for elastic. Two rows of ribbon trim were attached below this casing, on the hemmed edge of the pants.

The finished pants

The finished pants

A pattern for a woman's bathing suit, c. 1900, from Cutter's Guide.

A pattern for a woman’s bathing suit, c. 1900, from The Cutter’s Practical Guide.

The Dress

Pattern

I used a historical pattern from The Cutter’s Practical Guide (1900) as – well – a guide.

It is a little obscure, but this pattern can be used a number of different ways. You can have separate pants (right upper corner), and either long or short sleeves (right lower corner), and a detachable skirt (left lower corner). The top left corner shows a pattern for an all-in-one, but it can be altered to have a yoke front or to be a dress, which is shown in the dotted lines. The only shaping in it is under the arms, in the form of a dart.

I decided to cut a front panel (with the centre front on a selvedge edge) and a back panel (on the fold). All shaping was under the arms. I also did petal sleeves as an interesting inclusion.

Construction Steps

1: The side seams and shoulder seams were sewn. This dress has virtually no shaping, except for a little at the side seams.

The front view, showing the centre front pinned and the side and shoulder seams sewn. This dress has almost no shaping except for at the side seams.

The front view, showing the centre front pinned and the side and shoulder seams sewn. This dress has almost no shaping except for at the side seams.

bathing dress construction back

The back view, showing the centre back markings and waistline markings for where the belt will be attached.

2: I used a tutorial on making petal sleeves to help me with the sleeves.

This shows the pattern shape of the sleeves. The skinny bit in the middle goes under the arm.

This shows the pattern shape of the sleeves. The skinny bit in the middle goes under the arm. The two wider parts on each side cross over at the top of the arm. (There is an underarm seam joining the two halves of the sleeve, but it is hard to see.)

Once I had drafted the pattern piece and cut it out 4 times (2 for each sleeve), I sewed the bottom edge, right sides together. Once this was turned the right way, one row of ribbon trim was sewn to it. The sleeve was then set into the armhole.

The sleeve finished, viewed from the front.

The sleeve finished, viewed from the front.

3: The collar was draped on the stand and then cut out. My collar had a centre back seam, and so the pattern piece below was cut out 4 times.

The collar pattern piece, with the bottom edge being the centre front, and the top edge meeting at the centre back.

The collar pattern piece, with the bottom edge being the centre front, and the top edge meeting at the centre back.

The collar was sewn right sides together along all edges (except the neck edge). Then a row of ribbon trim was attached to the finished edge. The collar was then attached to the neck of the dress, with the raw edges folded into the collar and handsewn down.

4: The button placket was made with a facing, sewn to the centre front right sides together. The facing was then folded to the inside and sewn down.

The button placket at the centre front.

The button placket at the centre front, showing the facing folded to the inside and pinned ready to sew down.

The dress was hemmed and then trimmed with ribbon. Buttons and buttonholes were then sewn.

The dress completed, laid flat to show the shape.

The dress with buttons attached, showing the trim coming along the hem and up each side of the button placket.

5: The belt was made from a two strips of material, sewn right sides together and turned the right way. After pressing, ribbon trim was sewn to the finished edges. The belt was attached to the dress at the waistline at the centre back.

The dress all finished!

The dress all finished!

The Cap

Pattern

I had no real pattern for this, but used some of the extant pictures I had found as a guide. I used two large circles of fabric, 17 inches in diameter.

Construction Steps

1: I started by sewing the two layers around the outside of the circle, right sides together (leaving a gap to turn it the right way). Then the circle was turned the right way and pressed.

2: The casing for the elastic was sewn, leaving a small gap near where the “turning” gap was (above) for threading the elastic through.

3: Before the elastic was threaded, two rows of ribbon were sewn around the outer edges of the circle, once again leaving a small gap where the “turning” gap was.

The circle has the casing sewn and the trim attached. You can see the small stitching gaps made to allow the elastic to be threaded in.

The circle has the casing sewn and the trim attached. You can see the small stitching gaps made to allow the elastic to be threaded in.

4: The elastic was threaded through the casing and all gaps sewn up.

The bathing cap completed!

The bathing cap completed!

And here is a picture of me with it on in front of the bathing boxes at Brighton Beach, Melbourne.

1900s-bathing-costume

My new bathing costume on its first day out!

Hopefully it won’t be the last time I get to wear this ensemble!

Related Posts

Making a Victorian Fan Skirt

Parenting Advice from 1910

An Anne of Green Gables Dress

Sources and Relevant Links

History of Bathing Suits, by Victoriana

Image Source: A bathing suit, c. 1900-1910, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Image Source: A bathing suit, c. 1885, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Image Source: Women in bathing suits, 1908, from State Library of New South Wales

McCalls 6788, a 2 hour pants pattern, from Pinterest.

Pattern Diagram for a Womens Bathing Suit, c. 1900, from Vintage Connection

Two methods of Petal/Tulip Sleeve Drafting, by Style2Designer.