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Steampunk is the name given to a new and modern reinterpretation of Victorian clothing. Essentially, Victorian clothing elements (such as lace, corsets, bustles and flounces) are combined with industrial themes (such as metal, leather, and dark colours) to create a very modern and often burlesque look.

A steampunk skirt by Retroscope.

A steampunk skirt sold by Retroscope Fashions.

I – rather suddenly – decided to go to a steampunk event with some friends and needed a rather quick and easy costume for it. My idea was that I could draft a pattern of a relatively simple Victorian skirt and use some of the steam punk ideas to dress it up. I looked at several skirts on the internet and came up with a look I was happy with.

Now, before sharing this quick little project, I must say that I have never made a steampunk outfit before. I also don’t really like black or brown and revealing or skimpy clothing are not really my cup of tea (probably because I am not that young and slim anymore!). So this little steampunk adventure doesn’t really feel “punky” enough to deserve the name! However, I felt that it was still worth sharing.

Pattern

After looking at several skirts online, I decided that I could use a similar pattern as my Victorian petticoat, with all the ruffles at the back. I also wanted the front cut shorter at the knees, and I wanted some draping to imitate a bustle at the back. I really liked the wider waistband (more like a yoke) that lots of steampunk skirts have, with the addition of possible lacing to imitate a corset.

Pattern Pieces:

  • Front Skirt Panel – cut 1 on fold
  • Side Skirt Panel – cut 2
  • Back Skirt Panel – cut 1 on fold
  • Back Short “Bustle” Piece – cut 1 on fold
  • Back Long “Bustle” Piece – cut 1 on fold
  • Front Yoke – cut 1 (plus cut 1 for lining)
  • Back Yoke – cut 1 (plus cut 1 for lining)

This is the pattern layout that I began with. Remember to add any seam allowances.

This is the pattern layout for the skirt.

This is the pattern layout for the skirt. The dotted lines across the back panel indicate the cutting line for the “bustle” pieces. This means that this back piece will need to be cut three times, each on a fold line (once for the skirt back, once for the short “bustle” piece, and once for the long “bustle” piece).

I have used some notch marks to indicate how the skirt panels are pieced together. The fold line on the front panel is the centre front and the fold line on the back panel is the centre back.

The skirt part is quite easy to fit to any figure. The curve line at the top of each of the skirt panels needs to measure about 1/5th of your total waist circumference. You can make the “waist curve” in back skirt panel a little longer than this if you like, which will give the back panel more gathers. You can make the skirt length whatever you like. I have made mine to scoop up at the front.

The yoke, however, will take a bit more fitting. Maybe you have a pattern you could use with a yoke that already fits you. Otherwise you can use some scrap material to make a toile or mock-up, which can be fitted to your body and then unpicked to use for your pattern. Or you could “drape” your yoke, which is what I did. To do this, set your dressmakers form to your measurements and then pin some fabric to the centre front waist, making sure the grain line is vertical. Smooth the fabric around to the sides of the dummy. In order to make the fabric sit correctly, you will end up with a curve at the top of your yoke and a diagonal seam at the sides. Do the same with the back. Cut or pin your yoke to fit, then sew it together and try it on to double-check. My back and front yoke ended up being different sizes, but they could be the same. Semptress also has a great tutorial to make your own yoke pattern too.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take as many pictures as I usually do, so my construction steps are a little sparse with diagrams!

Construction Steps

Step 1: Firstly, take the two back “bustle” pieces and sew the ruffles and lace along the bottom edge. These two “bustle” pieces are then gathered separately and laid on top of the back panel, which has also been gathered separately. Pin all layers together along the waistline.

It makes sense at this point to pin the side seams of all the layers together. This will mean that the raw edges of the bustle pieces will be hidden in the seams of the skirt. I forgot to do this and instead I did Step 2 first and then I had to topstitch the “bustle” pieces to the skirt.

The two bustle pieces have been hemmed at the side seams and then laid on top of the skirt. Then top-stitched through all layers. Not the best way to do it really.

The two “bustle” pieces have been hemmed at the side seams and then laid on top of the skirt. A top-stitch through all layers attaches the pieces. This is not the neatest way to do it unfortunately!

Step 2: Sew all the skirt panels together, flat-felling the seams.

Step 3: Sew the front and back yoke pieces together. Sew the front and back yoke lining pieces together. With right sides together, sew the yoke and the lining together along the top curved edge. Clip curves and turn to the right side.

Step 4: Attach the skirt to the bottom curved edge of the yoke. Make sure the front side seam is sitting at the yoke side seam so that a zip can be easily inserted. Adjust the gathers of the back panel and “bustle” pieces to fit. These will probably be fairly tightly gathered!

Step 5: Sew the zip into the side seam of the yoke and into the top of the front side seam. Then handstitch the yoke lining down, folding under any raw edges.

Not precision work, but a zip none-the-less!

Not precision work, but a zip none-the-less!

Step 6: Sew the ruffle and lace along the bottom edge of the skirt. My ruffles were folded lengthwise (so the ruffle did not have to be hemmed) and then pleated.

The ruffle is cut on the straight grain and folded lengthwise. Any joins are made with a seam. The entire ruffle is pleated.

The ruffle is cut on the straight grain and folded lengthwise. Any joins are made with a seam. The entire ruffle is pleated.

Step 7: Attach two lengths of cotton tape or twill tape to the inside of the yoke, where the two back side seams of the skirt meet the yoke. Attach a button to each point where the bottom of the “bustle” pieces meets this seam; a total of four buttons. Sew buttonholes in the tape so that the skirt can be drawn up and buttoned. You can add more buttonholes to the tape so that you have more options for draping.

The inside of the skirt, at the back. You can see the two lengths of twill tape which is buttoned to four buttons.

The inside of the skirt, at the back. You can see the two lengths of twill tape which is buttoned to four buttons.

Other optional extras:

  • I really wanted to add a lacing panel to the yoke somewhere, mainly because this dress will be leant to friends and it would provide a way to draw in any fullness (as well as being a bit decorative).
  • I also wanted to have a drawstring casing or some sort of clip system to the front panel (on each of the front side seams) so that the front of the dress could be drawn up over the knees.

These can always be added later. For now it is all finished!

Front view

Front view

Back view

Back view

Stay tuned for my new steampunk blouse – coming soon!

Related Posts

Making a Victorian Petticoat

Making a Victorian Fan Skirt

Sources and Relative Links

Image Source: Retroscope Fashions

How to draft a skirt yoke pattern – by Semptress

How to flat-fell seams – by Sew Neau

How to sew a yoke to a skirt – video by BurdaStyle (The skirt shown here has a centre back opening, but mine has a side opening.)

Pretty in Purple

For the past two months I have been working on a commission costume for a friend. She is attending a “Battle of Waterloo Ball” in London to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the famous defeat of Napoleon by the English, and she needed a Regency outfit.

Stays

She decided that she wouldn’t bother about a chemise, so we jumped straight into making the stays. I drafted the pattern for the stays myself, using her measurements and following a similar method that I used to draft my own.

The stays are made from two layers of white cotton drill, with the boning sandwiched in between. For the centre busk I used two clear 30cm rulers and the boning is plastic imitation “whalebone” boning. The lacing is cotton cord and I used some thin cotton tape for the front drawstring around the top of the bust. The eyelets are hand sewn using a buttonhole or blanket stitch.

She was particularly concerned about her large-ish bust presenting a problem, so I used a double row of boning underneath and to the side of the bust area. The “cups” of the corset do extend a bit higher than normal to compensate for the lack of chemise. Traditionally, the corset holds the bust underneath while the chemise contains the bust from above. In this case, I used the bodiced petticoat to contain the top part of the bust.

The front view

The front view

The side view

The side view

The back view

The back view

Bodiced Petticoat

For the petticoat, we used the Regency Wardrobe Pattern by La Mode Bagatelle. I used the “DD” sizing for the bodice part but in hindsight I probably didn’t need to, as I needed to do a fair bit of adjusting because it turned out so big.

The petticoat is made from white cotton broadcloth, with cotton tape around the top edge to draw it in over the bust. The buttons are just plain modern plastic ones. The bottom of the petticoat is hemmed with some wide bias binding, which forms a casing for some large cording. This helps the petticoat stand out from the legs and prevents the gown from clinging.

The front view

The front view

The back view

The back view

Ballgown

I drafted the pattern for the ballgown myself, using a lot of similar features that I used in my own purple Regency ballgown. However, I used the sleeve pattern from La Mode Bagatelle (View C – short sleeve). My friend gained a lot of inspiration for how she wanted her gown from one she saw at Edelweiss Patterns.

The ballgown is made from purple dupioni silk and lined with acetate bemsilk lining. The piping around the waist and sleeves is made from cotton cord and cream satin bias binding. The buttons are self-covered and there is a ribbon drawstring around the lining of the neckline.

Side of Regency ballgown

Side and Sleeve view

The sleeves are “smocked” by sewing thread in a 1cm diamond and then pulling and knotting the threads tight. This is repeated in a honeycombed pattern across the sleeve. This creates little “puffs” on the other side of the material (which I used as the “right” side), and my friend then sewed little pearl beads to. The hemline was embellished later with some cream lace drawn up in scallops and some “flowers” made from the same lace.

In the pictures below, the dress takes on a luminescent glow from the morning sun, but the colour is actually darker purple than this.

The front view

The front view

Back of Regency ballgown

The back view

Spencer

The cuff detail

The cuff detail

We used the La Mode Bagatelle pattern for the spencer, using View H (minus the sleeve caps and with the addition of the peplum).

The spencer is made from a beautiful cream silk that my friend had in her “fabric stash”, but not dupioni as it has no slubs. The piping is made from cotton cord and gold bias binding. The buttons are a gold plastic button with a military design; a larger size for the front and two smaller ones for the cuff.

Instead of boning the collar (which is instructed in the pattern), I used two layers of very stiff, woven, sew-in interfacing which has worked really well.

In the pictures below, the spencer is shown over the bodiced petticoat.

The front view

The front view

The back view

The back view

The side view

The side view

I am very pleased with this little project, as I don’t normally do pattern or gown drafting for other people. And my friend is also very pleased and is looking forward to her trip overseas in a few months!

Related Posts

My Regency Journey: How to draft a corset pattern

My Regency Journey: Making a Ball Gown – my own purple ballgown

Making a Regency Spencer – my own spencer

Sources and Relevant Links

Regency Wardrobe Pattern by La Mode Bagatelle – to buy

A Pink Silk Regency Ballgown – by Edelweiss Patterns

“Smocking” instructions – on Pinterest

For my previous stitch sampler I focused on practising some of the stitches used in Dresden whitework embroidery. Many of these stitches had been used from before the 18th century and continued to be used during the Regency. So for my next sampler, I decided to focus more on how the Regency embroidery designs had changed.

During the Regency period, embroidery designs became much more delicate and “flowy” than their 18th century predecessors. Some of the common flower, bud, leaf and frond motives had been quite large and bulky, but changed a little in shape to be more delicate. Often the designs were smaller in size and were repeated more frequently in the embroidery sequence, and – as a result – the areas of pulled work embroidered also became smaller during this era. Other Regency designs were still quite large but the flowing and dainty nature of the design made it subtly different to the style used in the 18th century.

“Sprigged muslin”, where muslin fabric was embroidered with quite small motives to form a “dotted” design, became very popular. Linear designs also became more popular, probably due to its likeness of Greek and Roman clothing trims which the new model of Regency fashion was based on.

My design has been copied from a needlework pattern from Ackermann’s Repository, the one in the centre below.

A Regency needlework pattern, from Ackermann's Repository (June 1812).

A Regency needlework pattern, from Ackermann’s Repository (June 1812).

Once again used premium cotton muslin and chose a convenient handkerchief-sized piece for my sampler, finished with a handsewn rolled hem. I used many of the same stitches as I used in my previous sampler: chain stitch, satin stitch, eyelets and blanket stitched pinwheels. The pulled stitches I have used here have also been used before in my pulled work sampler.

My finished "handkerchief", ready to throw down so the nearest "redcoat" can pick it up for me.

My finished “handkerchief”, ready to throw down so the nearest “redcoat” can pick it up for me.

The six pulled work areas were worked in the centre of the paisley shapes and were all different: (from top left to bottom right) ring-backed stitch, double backstitch, faggot stitch, honeycomb stitch, spaced wave stitch and four-sided stitch. The pulled work in period examples leaves much larger “holes” in the fabric than I have in this example, so I will have to practice my technique some more.

A close-up of one edge of the embroidery, with the stitches labelled.

A close-up of one edge of the embroidery, with the embroidery stitches labelled.

I am really pleased with how this turned out, and now I am ready to start designing my embroidered fichu! -coming soon.

Related Posts

Pulled Work Sampler: Part One

Dresden Whitework Stitch Sampler

Sources and Relevant Links

Regency needlework designs (1811-1815), from Ackermann’s Repository – at My Fanciful Muse

Pulled work stitches – by Lynxlace

Whitework is the name given to white embroidery on a white fabric background. This term is rather broad however, as it encompasses many different types of embroidery, such as Dresden, Schwalm, Ayrshire, Hollie Point, Hardanger, and Mountmellick. Whitework has also been popular (in many different forms) through many periods in history. I am now making my second whitework sampler, and I decided to focus on practising the stitches often used in during the 18th century for Dresden embroidery. Dresden work was the name given to a particular type of whitework performed on thin white muslin during the 18th century. During this period, the popular (and expensive) French and Flemish bobbin lace became more difficult to import to England, which created a need for a cheaper lace imitation. This type of embroidery uses a number of techniques to create the “lacey” effect that was particularly desirable at the time. According to Gail Marsh, Dresden in Saxony was one of the main centres of production for this type of embroidery, hence the name.

Techniques

The stitches that I used in my sampler are pictured below, with links included for further instruction. All of these stitches I have seen in extant examples of whitework viewable online and in books.

Outline stitches

Chain stitch

Chain stitch: I used this as an outline, but it can also be used as a filling. Source: Rocksea & Sarah

Chain stitch: I used this as an outline in this example, but it can also be used as a filling. Source: Rocksea & Sarah

Back stitch

Back stitch: I also tried using a double running stitch, where you use a running stitch one way and then a running stitch back again, filling in all the spaces. Source: Rocksea & Sarah.

Back stitch: I also tried using a double running stitch, where you use a running stitch one way and then a running stitch back again, filling in all the spaces. Source: Rocksea & Sarah.

Stem stitch

Stem stitch: A good outline stitch. Source: Rocksea & Sarah.

Stem stitch: A good outline stitch. Source: Rocksea & Sarah.

Filling stitches

French knot

A french knot: stitched close together they form a very textural filling. Source: Rocksea & Sarah

French knot: When stitched close together they form a very textural filling. I have also seen them used for a shading effect, and an outline. Source: Rocksea & Sarah

Shadow work (using herringbone stitch)

Herringbone stitch. When it is used for shadow work, the stitch is done on the underside with the stitches on the outside appearing like back stitch. Source: Rocksea & Sarah

Herringbone stitch: When it is used for shadow work, the stitch is done close together on the underside with the stitches on the outer side appearing like back stitch. Source: Rocksea & Sarah

Satin stitch

Satin stitch: I found that doing an outline in running stitch was really effective in helping the final result to look good. Source: Rocksea & Sarah.

Satin stitch: I found that first doing an outline in running stitch was really effective in helping the final result to look good. Source: Rocksea & Sarah.

Single feather stitch

Single feather stitch: Basically blanket stitch on an angle. If the stitches are done very close together it can form a nice filling stitch. Source: Rocksea & Sarah.

Single feather stitch: Basically blanket stitch on an angle. If the stitches are done very close together it can form a nice filling stitch, with an edge already included. Source: Rocksea & Sarah.

“Shaped” stitches (That is, stitches that form their own shape in the embroidery.)

Blanket-stitch pinwheel

Blanket-stitched pinwheel: A blanket-stitched circle, with an attractive eyelet-hole resulting in the centre. Source: Rocksea & Sarah.

Blanket-stitched pinwheel: A blanket-stitched circle, with an attractive eyelet-hole resulting in the centre. Source: Rocksea & Sarah.

Eyelets

Eyelets: Usually pricked with an awl first (to make a wide enough hole) and then an overcast stitch sewn around the edges. Source: Rocksea & Sarah.

Eyelets: Usually pricked with an awl first (to make a wide enough hole) and then an overcast stitch is sewn around the edges. Source: Rocksea & Sarah.

My finished item is approximately the size of a small handkerchief, with a hand-sewn rolled hem on all the raw edges. I created the design myself to imitate some of the more common motifs used in the 18th century. These often included large stylised flowers, normally with pulled work in the petals or centres, and large fronds of ferns or leaves.

The finished piece!

The finished piece! You will notice, if you look closely, that I tried a few different techniques with the single feather stitch, none of which I was particularly happy with. The finishing touch to this work would have been the pulled work that is intended to go in the centre of the oval “flower”, which was very characteristic of Dresden embroidery, but as this is intended as a teaching sample I decided to leave it blank for the moment.

My next sampler will be more of a Regency whitework design, which often contains elements of the earlier Dresden embroidery.

Related Posts

Pulled Work Embroidery Sampler: Part One

Making a Pair of Lawn Ruffles

Sources and Relevant Links

History of whitework

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

Types of whitework and techniques – plus a free sampler

Embroidery stitches – by Rocksea & Sarah

My New Lady

I had the most amazing luck the other day! I heard of someone who was getting rid of some old dressmakers forms and I thought that having another form – particularly a cheap, old one – would be fantastic to use for period dressmaking. I could perhaps alter it or pad it for using for a particular era.

I arrived to inspect my new acquisition, only to discover that it was an old one! A lovely old one! And one that I couldn’t possibly alter.

The front

The front

The side

The side

It has a label on it saying, “Your Double Co.” with a Sydney postoffice box address. I have yet to figure out what era it is from though.

The best part about it was that it was only $20! I am not sure how I will use it yet, but it is beautiful to just gaze upon in my living room.

I probably won’t get to post again before Christmas, so I will take this opportunity of wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a safe and happy New Year!

Related Posts

My Christmas Present!

An 1880's petticoat, worn over a bustle.

An 1880’s petticoat, worn over a bustle. From The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Another one of the numerous undergarments worn by the Victorians were petticoats, and – depending on the particular decade of the 19th century – there could be many layers of them.

I needed to make a petticoat that was worn with a bustle, generally made with layers of frills to soften the line of the cage-like structure underneath. As my bustle was most similar to those worn in the 1880’s, it was no surprise that the petticoats that really suited my purpose were ones from the 1880’s.

The one I really liked is pictured to the left, with small flounces to add body and pretty lace that could peep out the bottom of the dress. It was really unfortunate that I had so little time to incorporate any of this into my own petticoat, but I had only two days to make mine!

My fabric choice was a white cotton broadcloth, 4 metres in length.

Pattern

I made my own pattern from the picture above, using the measurements of myself and my bustle as a guide for size.

Measurements to take (with bustle and corset on):

  • Waist circumference
  • Waistline to floor at centre front
  • Waistline to floor at centre back
  • Waist to floor at side

Using these measurements, measure out the pattern pieces on the fabric. The waist-to-floor measurements should correspond to the length of the pieces (minus the depth of your intended bottommost frill). The front area of the petticoat at the waist is not gathered so the front and side pieces (on the top edge) together should measure the same as the front part of your waist (or a bit further around). The back area is gathered, so the top edge of the back panel should be double this part of your waist. Add seam allowances too!

Pattern pieces:

  • Front panel (cut centre front on fold)
  • Side panel (cut 2)
  • Back panel (cut centre back on fold)
  • Waistband (cut 1: 2″ x 28″ or waist measurement, plus seam allowances)
  • Frills for back panel (10″ deep, plus seam allowances) Each frill should be roughly double the length of the line (across the back panel) that it will be sewn on. I tried to cut these frills against the selvedge.
  • Bottom frill (10″ deep x double the length of the bottom edge of petticoat, plus seam allowances)
These are my panels; from left to right, front, side and back.

These are my panels; (from left to right) front, side and back.

Construction

Step One: Sew the front panel to the side panels, neatening seam edges.

Step Two: Hem one long edge of each section of frill (those frills that are for the back panel) and gather the other edge (I gathered the selvedge edge to avoid neatening it). Attach the frills to the back panel, one at a time, by sewing it on top of the back panel, through all layers.

The first frill is attached along the upper edge of the back panel.

The first frill is attached along the upper edge of the back panel. Each frill is roughly twice as long as the section it is sewn to.

The bottom frill is attached along the bottom of the back panel.

The bottom frill is attached along the bottom of the back panel. The bottom edge of the frill reaches slightly below the bottom edge of the petticoat.

Start with attaching the first frill along the top edge of the back petticoat panel and then do the bottom frill. Then you can space the other frills in between. There should be an inch or two overlap where the upper frill falls over the one under it. I had a total of four frills on the back panel.

Step Three: Pinning the edges of the frill to the edge of the back panel, sew the back panel to the side panel (making sure you catch the frill edges in the seam).

Step Four: Make sure the bottom edges of the petticoat are even. Trim off any excess if needed. You will notice that a little part of the last frill (in the side seam) is raw, and this was hemmed by turning under and sewing.

The frill at the bottom of the back panel is lifted up, and you can see me trimming the bottom edge of the petticoat.

The frill at the bottom of the back panel is lifted up, and you can see where I am trimming the bottom edge of the petticoat. This is because I made the back panel much longer than the front panels so it would go over the bustle.

Step Five: Hem one long edge of the bottom frill and gather the other long edge (in small manageable sections). This gathered edge will be caught in a seam so I used a raw edge (rather than a selvedge edge as I did in the back panel frills).

Step Six: Attach the frill to the bottom edge of the petticoat. You will notice that a small part of the side seams will need to be unpicked (where the back frills are sewn into the side seam) at this stage so that the bottom frill can go around neatly. You may need to resew (or hand sew) these parts afterwards so they sit properly again.

Step Seven: Gather the top edge of the back and side panels. Attach the waistband in the normal manner, adjusting the gathers to fit.

Note: Because I had sewn all the seams closed, I needed to make a placket in the left side front seam. I just sewed (top-stitched) the seam allowance open, reinforcing it at the bottom of the placket, and then unpicked the seam.

I used a pair of hooks and eyes for a closure, but a button or waistband hook and eye would work too.

The side view, with the bustle underneath.

The side view, with the bustle underneath.

The front view

The front view

All finished! And I really like it! One very handy thing is that, if it happens to be too long, you can take a few horizontal tucks around the bottom frill to raise the bottom edge, as it was done in the extant garment pictured above. Mine is slightly longer at the back, but not enough to trip on when I am dancing.

My next item in my Victorian wardrobe is an early 1870’s gown. – coming soon!

Related Posts

A Victorian Bustle

Making a Victorian Corset

Sources and Relevant Links

Image Source: from The Metropolitan Museum of Art

An overview of Victorian undergarments

Attaching a waistband – by Sewaholic

The Victorian era has always been one of my favourite periods (coming a close second behind the 18th century), particularly for fashion. It is a very diverse period for fashion, and the more I have studied it, the more I have been intrigued by the great variety of fashions that existed for women throughout Queen Victoria’s reign.

A mid-late 19th century chemise.

A mid-late 19th century chemise. From: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

I have particularly wanted a Victorian wardrobe for a while, and the corset and chemise were my first items to embark on.

The Victorian chemises are a different creature to those that came before it. They seem to be lacey, frilly, pin-tucked, embroidered and – generally speaking – a whole lot more feminine! The only era to outdo the Victorians in this way were the  next-generation Edwardians.

I found this lovely chemise, complete with pin-tucks, a delicate vine embroidery, and dainty lace, and it took my fancy!

Pattern

I began with a free pattern by Serinde, and then made a few alterations to make it a bit more like the picture above.

The pieces of my Victorian chemise.

The pieces of my Victorian chemise: body, sleeves, yoke bands.

The extant chemise pictured above does have its own triangular-shaped shoulder straps that are cut separately to the sleeves and body of the garment, but I didn’t do that.

Construction Steps

Step One: Sew the sleeves onto the body of the garment, following Serinde’s instructions. I then flat felled the seams.

The two sleeves attached to the body.

The two sleeves attached to the body. The seams are not flat-felled yet.

Step Two: Sew the side seams, from the under arm down to the bottom of the garment. I flat felled the seams here too.

The side seams are sewn. Sleeve seams are pinned down for felling.

The side seams are sewn. Sleeve seams are pinned down for felling.

Step Three: Marking the centre front, create a series of pin tucks across the front, making sure that both sides look even. Press them to either side.

IMG_4827

The 1/8″ pin-tucks, placed 1/4″ apart.

This is the point that my chemise-making went awry. I did not take into account the pintucks and allow enough material across the width of the chest, so my resulting chemise was very tight.

Step Four: I embroidered the bands that I was using on the sleeves, neckline and centre front button placket with a scrolling leaf pattern. I used two strands of white embroidery cotton, and used a very short backstitch for the stem and a fishbone stitch for the leaves.

The scrolling embroidery, with the lace attached at Step Nine.

The scrolling embroidery, with the lace attached at Step Seven.

It is helpful if this is done before attaching it to the garment, as then the self-facing can cover the back of the embroidery. Make sure you mark the seam allowance and the fold line of the strip so that your embroidery is centred on the part that will be seen on the outside.

Step Five: Make the centre front placket. Firstly, slit the centre front down the middle, ending with an inverted V-shape at the bottom. (A helpful tutorial with plenty of pictures is here on sewing a partial placket, by Make It and Love It.)

Taking two small strips of the yoke bands, sew one on each side of the slit (right sides together). (Note: It could be a good idea to think about the lace placement on the sides of the top placket here, rather than at Step Seven, as I did! I appliqued mine on top rather than putting it in the seam.) Fold the excess over to create a self facing and, tucking the raw edges under, hand sew.

At the bottom of the placket (where the two sides of the placket meet), I created a V-shape on the outer strip of the placket and hand stitched the top layer to the bottom layer.

The V-shape at the bottom of the placket, before it is handsewn down.

The placket has been attached and the facing has been folded to the inside ready to handsew. The V-shaped placket can be seen at the bottom of the picture, before it is handsewn down. You can also see the mitred seams of the placket at the top of the picture (read below). I handsewed these mitred seams and tucked the excess under, as it was a bit easier to be precise.

Step Six: For the rest of the neckline, sew longer yoke band strips around it. Making mitred corners at the centre front where they meet the placket (as pictured above). For the centre back, gather the back panel to fit. I also adjusted the back of the yoke band with some angled tucks so that it would fit better over the shoulders. I moved some of the centre back fullness to the sides with two pleats on either side, as it was too small for me and this helped the fit.

The back neckband

The back neckband, embroidered and attached.

As before, fold the excess over to form a facing and turn the raw edges under to hand sew. Much fitting was done at the this stage to see if the neckline would fit properly under my dress.

Step Seven: Sew on sleeve bands in the same way that the neck band was sewn.

Step Seven: Trim the neckline, placket and sleeve bands with lace. Hem the bottom edge of the chemise.

Step Eight: For the centre front closure, I have seen chemises as late as 1850 with a dorset button. I decided I should utilise some skills I had developed at a previous Jane Austen Festival and so added a dorset button.

The dorset button, 5/8" wide. The ones I have seen on extant items are teensy, but this was the smallest ring I could find.

The dorset button, 5/8″ wide. The ones I have seen on extant items are teensy (about 1/4″ wide), but this was the smallest ring I could find.

The front view

The front view

The back view

The back view

Usually the plain chemises of the 18th century and Regency do not take me very long to sew, but the profusion of Victorian pin tucks, embroidery and lace meant that this project was much more time consuming than I had imagined. Victorian chemises also seem to be more fitted, particularly across the shoulders, than in previous eras, which then consumed more time in fitting and unpicking and re-fitting!

In addition, it does not fit very well! I had to add a few “extensions” under the arms so that it would fit across my chest better. It is kind of disappointing when I spent so much time on the embroidery, but I may re-make the body of it at another stage.

Look out for the next post in my Victorian wardrobe – making an 1880’s petticoat.

Related Posts

Making a Victorian corset

My Regency Journey: Making a Chemise

Making an 18th Century Chemise

Sources and Relevant Links

An overview of Victorian underwear

Free chemise pattern – by Serinde

Extant chemise – Museum of Fine Arts Boston

Flat-felling seams – by Coletterie

Sewing Pin Tucks – by Burdastyle

Sewing a Partial Button Placket – by Make It & Love It

Fishbone stitch – by Rocksea & Sarah

Making Dorset Buttons – by Craftstylish

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