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I recently ran a workshop at the Jane Austen Festival, Australia, on the use of ribbon in 18th century clothing, with a particular focus on the stomachers used to fill in the front portion of a woman’s 18th century gown.

I have made several stomachers before (links to them are below), and I do enjoy the nature of a small project that entails a bit of handwork! This project was no exception.

Pattern

I used as a guide the pattern in Janet Arnold’s book, Patterns of Fashion 1. This particular extant stomacher uses a bordered silk ribbon with silver thread lace. This original example was not a boned stomacher.

One of the stomachers that is pictured and patterned in her book.

Construction Steps

Step 1: As I have done previously, I boned the foundation layer of the stomacher. This was not always done, as there are plenty of examples of stomachers that are just mounted onto a layer of unstiffened linen, however I do find it a bit easier to hold it in place when it is a bit firmer!

I used two layers of grey cotton broadcloth and sewed boning channels down them. It was then boned with solid plastic boning.

A view of the finished stomacher from the underside, showing the boned foundation.

Step 2: The top layer can now be decorated. I tried to use a very similar pattern as Janet Arnold’s stomacher used. I drew the pattern shape onto the cloth so that I could see an outline. I used silk ribbon, a metallic lace, and some little beading decorations. These were all mounted by hand onto the material, starting with the lace and the ribbon.

Attaching the ribbon and lace to the top layer of the stomacher.

I gathered the ribbon into little ovals so that it was symmetrical, and the lace was slightly gathered so that it would bend around the corners sufficiently.

The basic decorations are all attached, and half sewn on at this point.

I tightly gathered some ribbon along one edge so that the ribbon would fan out to become a circle. The raw edges were folded on themselves and a basic running stitch held them together. Then these flower circles were handsewn to the stomacher. This type of flower decoration was very popular in the 18th century, especially with two-toned – or, what we call – ombre ribbons.

Silk ribbon flowers were handsewn in place.

Step 3: I turned the raw edges of the two layers in, and then stitched the folded edges. I have generally bound the edges with binding, but I wanted to try something different this time.

The raw edges of the stomacher and stitched closed.

The photo shows that some areas were whipstitched, and in other areas I did a running stitch. I basically did whatever stitch I thought would work best in keeping the raw edges secure!

Step 4: The tabs were hand stitched to the sides of the stomacher during the edge-stitching phase above. These tabs help with pinning or attaching the stomacher to the front of the dress or stays.

The tabs attached

The finished piece!

All finished, with some little dangly pearl beads included!!

Now I’ve got to figure out what to wear with it!!

Related Posts

Making an Embroidered Stomacher, from 1725

Making a Stomacher– an “embroidered carnation” stomacher

Sources and Relevant Links

Patterns of Fashion 1, by Janet Arnold – buy on Amazon

Ribbon Embroidery in the 18th Century – from 18th Century Notebook (examples of 18th C. clothing that have used ribbon embroidery)

Jane Austen Festival Australia– website

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Two ladies from the Edwardian era, both wearing belts.

After I had made my Edwardian walking skirt and its matching Zouave jacket, I had decided that an Edwardian belt was in order. It was a basic belt using a pattern from Jean Hunnisett’s book, Period Costumes for Stage and Screen (1800-1909). I had not considered blogging about this belt, as it was a quick and easy project, but it is one of those accessories that really does make a difference to the costume! You can see it in the photo below.

My Edwardian belt in action at a Picnic at Hanging Rock excursion.

Now, because I often wear this particular walking skirt and jacket ensemble for steampunk occasions (as sexy-and-skimpy steampunk is not my thing!), I decided to make a steampunk belt to wear with it too. My plan was to use a similar style and shape to my first belt, and just add black leather and silver to “punk” it up.

I really wanted a belt made from real leather, but my leather-making skills are a bit rudimentary to make something from scratch. After looking at this tutorial by Susan Dennard, I decided to try and find a leather handbag to repurpose.

Unfortunately, I was so excited about this project that, once I had found a bag at a local second-hand shop for only $4, I forgot all about taking photos of it before I started unpicking it to pieces! So here is a picture of a similar type of bag to the one I used.

My handbag was very similar to this (except black), with two front “pouches”.

Tip: Get a leather needle (a needle specially designed for sewing leather) and a good thimble when hand sewing a leather project!! The poor fingers took a beating…

Construction Steps:

Step One: I made an Edwardian belt shape using two layers of black cotton broadcloth, interlined with two layers of very firm woven interfacing (similar to buckram). The centre front points had a steel bone wedged in there to keep the front stiff. Each side of the centre backs also had a steel bone underneath the leather binding to help with stiffness too!

Step Two: The belt was bound with leather strips obtained from the handbag. In particular, the leather strips on either sides of the zips were particularly useful for this! I tried to reuse the existing stitching marks when I was hand sewing.

Step Three: I used scraps of the leather to attach some D-rings, making it easy to attach things to the belt. (I used the sewing machine to sew these, as the multiple layers of leather were proving too difficult for my fingers!)

Front view of the belt, showing the very simple shape. You can see the D-rings poking out the bottom of the belt.

The inside view of the front, showing the inside of the binding and the D-rings attached.

Eyelets were hammered in and lacing (black grosgrain ribbon) added.

Back view, showing the eyelets and lacing. You can also see some joins in the binding.

The inside view of the back.

Step Four: Now for the accessories! The thing I really wanted was to have some pouches or bags to put some things in when I’m out-and-about in costume.

I cut the two pouches off the front of the bag (if I had unpicked them from the bag, there would have been no pouch left!) and sewed the two pieces together. Luckily the tops of the pouches had some convenient rings (where the handles of the bag had been attached) that I used to attach it to the belt.

Affectionately called “my saddle bags”! Shown here attached to the belt with some clips.

Step Five: The other accessory I really wanted was a way to carry a parasol and a fan. Using the biggest leather pieces (from the bottom of the bag and the other side that didn’t have the pouches), I fashioned a tube to hold the parasol. The top of the tube was wider than the bottom, so that the parasol would not fall through.

The top of the tube was bound with a piece of leather that also had a ring attached (which was another ring used to hold the handles of the bag). This was going to be useful to attach the holder to the belt. Inside this top binding I inserted a large metal ring (7 cm in diameter) to help keep the opening open when in use. The bottom of the tube has another smaller metal ring (5 cm in diameter) in it, with the leather tube then folded over it and hand stitched in place.

The end pieces of the handbag (the sides where the zips start and finish) became a good part for the fan holder, and this piece was sewn to the side of the parasol holder. (It is a good idea to do this before you sew the tube together!)

The parasol holder, with a fan holder attached to the outside.

Finally, there was one last matching ring (that held the handles of the handbag) that I hand sewed onto the lower edge of the parasol holder. A length of chain was added to this ring to make the two attachment points different lengths. This helps make the parasol hang on an angle, kind of like a sword scabbard does.

Here is the holder attached to the belt, with the parasol and fan inside.

The last D-ring on the belt will be used for my steampunk chatelaine.

I still have a tiny bit of leather left over, including the handles, the front clasp and a few little bits left from the binding. (Maybe for another accessory later on!) There’s a few good zips and the rest is the innards!

The left over parts!

This belt will be worn at a Steampunk picnic that I am going to in a month, so I will post a picture of it in use as soon as I have one to post.

I am pretty pleased with this project! I would like to get more tools to use in leather craft and explore making some more things. I should even get my old Singer industrial sewing machine serviced, as I think it would do a great job in sewing leather! That might save my fingers too.

Now for a cup of tea!

Related Posts

Making a 1902 Walking Skirt

Making an early Edwardian Zouave Jacket

Making a Steampunk Chatelaine

Sources and Relevant Links

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

How to make a steampunk utility belt – by Susan Dennard

Edwardian Belt – by Sew Historically

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An example of an historical chatelaine generally in use during the 19th century.

I love chatelaines! I have loved them for a long time!

As I have progressed in my costuming, adding accessories has become more important to me than just making more garments. Whether it be hats, jewellery, hat pins, brooches, gloves, handbags, hairstyling or shoes, accessories do lend a “finished” element to the costume.

For a long time I have wanted to buy a chatelaine. Unfortunately the antique ones are quite out of reach of my budget! And when I finally found ones that are currently manufactured and sold, they too were quite expensive. Gorgeous! But still not a priority for me at the price sold for.

So… what to do? Make one of course! Now I am by no means a jeweller… The idea of constructing pendants and objects using metal was way beyond my skill set. So using very basic jewellery making techniques I have managed to construct a steampunk chatelaine by combining different elements of existing jewellery items I have found. This will be used with a new steampunk belt I am currently making.

Construction Steps

Step One: Begin by buying some modern jewellery.

Recently there was a fashion for American Indian or tribal style necklaces, with larger pieces that had various “rings” from which other decorative items dangled. I found these two pieces in Kmart on sale last year for $4 (AUD) each. A second-hand shop may be another place to look. You will need a largish pendant that has some rings around the bottom of it.

Two suitable necklaces I bought from Kmart.

Step Two: Detach the pendant items from the chain. You can re-use the chain for the chatelaine items later if you wish. I also removed some of the dangling items from the “rings” that I wanted to use, and also some extraneous beading detail that I didn’t like. I attached a hook fastener to the top of the pendant that would clip onto my steampunk belt.

The necklace pendant was then “trimmed” to be suitable for what I wanted.

Historically, chatelaines had a large hook on the back for hooking over the waistband. In a future post I will look at ways to reproduce this when making a more historical chatelaine.

Step Three: Buy a selection of chatelaine items. For a steampunk chatelaine, these items can be sourced easily since steampunk is quite fashionable at the moment. The bonus is that many types of items are suitable in the creative process that is steampunk! Here are some items I bought from my local Spotlight.

Some steampunk items that I picked up at my local craft store. All of them are able to be hung from a chain.

 

However, if you are wanting a selection of historically accurate chatelaine items it can be more difficult. I suggest you keep looking for things that could pass for historical, but can still be easily attached to a chain.

Step Four: Attach the chatelaine items to lengths of chain using a jump ring and jewellery tools. I cut the necklace chain into four pieces, two shorter and two longer.

I cut the necklace chain into four, and have begun attaching the chatelaine items.

Step Five: If you would like to make your chatelaine items removable, you could attach a jewellery catch onto the other end of the chain. The catch can then just clip on to the “rings” on the pendant. This means that you can easily mix-and-match the items hanging from your pendant.

I decided to attach mine with jump rings so they are not removable.

The four items are being attached to the pendant with jump rings. These were a microscope, twist tube, fake fob watch and a key.

I am so pleased with the finished result!

The completed chatelaine attached to my half-completed steampunk belt.

I am hoping to wear it soon at a steampunk event, and I will post a picture here of it being worn as soon as I can!

Related Posts

Making a Steampunk Skirt

Making a Steampunk Shirt

Sources and Relevant Links

Image Source: for sale from Whitaker Auctions

Chatelaines for sale – Artistic Anachronism

Make a chatelaine (from ribbon) – The Jane Austen Centre

How to attach jump rings – Youtube video (If you have never done jewellery making before, this clip can come in nice and helpful!)

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One of my earliest attempts at costuming was a sacque-back gown, however – as is normal for one’s first attempts – not all aspects of the gown were historical. One of my first corrections of this was to make a set of 18th century stays that would more accurately shape the torso for the dress, but because the “stomacher” for this gown was embroidered onto the front of the previous stays that I used for this dress, it meant that the gown was left without one!

An embroidery pattern for a stomacher, by Margaretha Helm, ca. 1725.

I have made an embroidered stomacher before, to go with my caraco jacket, and I really enjoyed making it! It really stretched my embroidery skills, and ever since then I have wanted to make another to match my sacque-back gown.

Pattern

In my search for ideas for a pattern, I happened across several drawings from a pattern book by Margaretha Helm, on the Victoria and Albert Museum website. Here is what is written about the particular one I chose (pictured above):

This is a printed design for embroidery, with some drawn-thread work, for a stomacher featuring a floral pattern. Drawn-thread work is a form of counted-thread work in which the embroidery threads are used to pull the fabric threads apart. This creates an openwork pattern of holes and stitching. A stomacher is a stiff panel, usually triangular in shape and often heavily decorated, inserted in an open bodice to cover the corset in eighteenth-century dress. It is from a pattern book for embroidery (about 1725) by Margaretha Helm (neé Mainberger) (born in 1659 in Deiningen, died in 1742 in Nuremberg, Germany). Helm worked in Nuremberg as an embroiderer, a teacher of embroidery and a copperplate engraver who had her designs published by Johann Christoph Weigel. The V&A has a series of pattern books for embroidery in three parts by Margaretha Helm of which this volume is Part I. It is entitled Kunst-und Fleiss-übende Nadel-Ergötzungen oder neu-erfundenes Neh-und Stick-Buch or
The Delights of the Art and Industry of the practising Needle or the newly invented Sewing and Embroidery Book.

from Victoria and Albert Museum website

The design is symmetrical but not perfectly identical on both sides. I printed off the pattern and enlarged it to the size I needed to fit the front of my gown. I traced the full-sized pattern onto a large sheet of paper (as enlarging the pattern with the photocopier reduced its clarity), and then I traced it onto my fabric and began stitching!

Construction

The stitches I used are all ones that I have found before on extant embroidery pieces. Despite the V&A description stating that the pattern included “drawn” (or maybe more accurately, “pulled”) work, I did not do any of this on my stomacher. Instead I used laid work or various types of filling stitches that provided a patterned look to the finish.

The stitches I used were chain stitch, satin stitch, backstitch, seed stitch, long-and-short stitch, colonial knots, buttonhole wheel, laid work (called lattice work in this video), feather stitch, and stem stitch.

The beginnings!

I used a blue, water-erasable, pen to draw the design. This works well for me, although the colour does have a tendency to reappear after a while.

A flower, showing detail of the laid work, chain stitch and stem stitch.

A flower, showing detail of satin stitch, seed stitch and chain stitch.

More flowers, showing the detail of satin stitch, laid work, french knots, and chain stitch.

Flowers with satin stitch, laid work, and eyelet stitch (or buttonhole wheel), plus the chain stitch stems.

Once the embroidery was finished, it was mounted on to a boned base made from cotton broadcloth and synthetic whalebone.

The back of the stomacher, showing the boning channels.

The edges were bound with a bias-binding strip and tabs were handsewn on.

All finished, with a boned base and tabs handsewn on.

And some photos of it being worn!

I wore my stomacher for the first time to a Georgian High Tea!

I have a new embroidery project on the go now, so keep an eye out for posts about it later in the year!

Relevant Posts

Making a Stomacher

A Sacque-back gown (one of my earliest costumes)

A Caraco Jacket

Making 18th Century Stays

Sources and Relevant Links

Image and Quote Source: Embroidery design for stomacher, ca. 1725, from Victoria and Albert Museum

18th Century Embroidery Techniques, by Gail Marsh – buy on Amazon

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To all my readers, I wish you a belated Merry Christmas and a wondrous New Year, full of costuming and historical goodness!

I wanted to share with you my Christmas tree from this year. The lead-up to Christmas was a bit stressful for me, so lots of traditional Christmas things were left undone! However, I was particularly proud of my moment of inspiration for a quick and easy Christmas tree.

My Christmas tree for 2017

I have not blogged for the last half of this year, mainly because my time was taken up with a few commissions, but I have been still madly sewing for myself and my family. This means that I have a list of blog posts that need to be written in order to catch up!! So I hope to begin afresh next year and share with you some of my creations.

All the best for your creations in the New Year!

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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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