This is Part Three of a series I have been doing on making an early 1870’s gown. Part One was about making the skirts, and Part Two concerned the construction of the evening bodice. In this post I will be making a day bodice for this ensemble. I am hoping to wear this outfit for the Bi-annual Melbourne Victorian and Gothic picnic in Australia later in the year.
Day bodices of this era often had full length sleeves (with a somehow 3/4 length look) with closely-fitted sleeve heads that dropped off the shoulder and large flared frills or cuffs at the bottom of the sleeve. A high neckline was also often popular.
The pattern for this Victorian ensemble is in Janet Arnold’s book, Patterns of Fashion 2. It comprises three skirts (underskirt, overskirt, and basque) and two bodices (evening and day).
The pattern for the day bodice was a lot looser than the evening bodice, which made it a lot easier to fit. As with all of my bodices, I did a mock-up of calico to check the fit before beginning.
This bodice was made from a printed striped cotton material and lined with cotton broadcloth. The ruched trim was made from a polyester maverick shantung. The netting used around the neck was a soft polyester tulle – the most similar to silk netting that I could find.
Step One: I flat-lined the bodice with white cotton broadcloth and treated both layers as one. First I sewed the centre back seam, then the side seams and the shoulder seams. Then I made two diagonal darts at each side on the front to fit the bodice properly to the figure. On the left side of the front opening, a bone casing and bone was added to the vertical edge.
Step Two: I made the sleeves up (the outer fabric and the lining) separately. The lining was sewn to the bodice first (as can be seen in the picture above) and then the outer sleeve was sewn on the same stitching line as the lining. The sleeves were then turned in the right way, so that the wrong sides of both layers were facing each other.
In hindsight I should have flatlined the sleeves as I did with the bodice. The sleeve outer and the sleeve lining were tricky to get the same because of the pattern. This made the two layers slightly different and they feel a little uncomfortable to wear. In addition to this, it was quite difficult to sew the sleeves on the garment, as the entire bodice had to be inside the sleeve lining in order to attach the outer!
Step Three: There were two layers of flounces; one positioned around the elbow and one around the wrist. The wrist flounce was bound on the bottom edge with bias binding and was then eased to fit around the sleeve using gathering stitches. It was sewn to the sleeve so that the bottom edge of the flounce and the bottom edge of the sleeve were the same.
The elbow flounces each consisted of two layers of flounce joined together. Both layers were bound with bias binding along the bottom edge. The top edge of the bottom flounce was gathered to fit the bottom edge of the top flounce, and then handsewn to it. The top flounce was then gathered to fit the sleeve, and was handsewn to the sleeve along the sleeve’s central seam line.
It was at this point that I realised that I had done the skirt flounces wrong, as the flounce was supposed to be slightly gathered and I had sewn mine flat and just stretched the bottom bias edge so it would sit properly.
Step Four: The bodice was trimmed with the same ruched bias trim I made for the evening bodice and the skirt. To read more detail on how I made it, go to Making an Early 1870’s Gown: Skirts. This trimming was around the neckline and around the top of the two flounces on each sleeve.
Step Five: In addition to this ruched trim, the neckline was filled in with a lacey trim. I made this by folding a layer of poly tulle in half lengthwise (with a finished width of 2 1/4″) and then pleating it into 3/8″ pleats. Once pleated, the trim was bound with white bias binding along the raw (not the folded) edge, and an insertion lace was sewn 1/2″ from the folded edge. Ribbon was threaded through the insertion lace so it could be pulled closed and tied at the centre front.
Once the neckline was bound with some bias binding, I sewed the lace trim on, with the bound edge hidden inside the garment and 1 3/4″ of the trim showing on the outside. The ruched trim was then handsewn on top to cover the bound edge of the neckline.
Step Six: The bodice was hemmed with a white piece of bias binding, all of which was folded to the inside and handsewn down. The front closures were 5 hooks and eyes, with 4 covered buttons sewn on the outside of the garment, over the top of the top 4 hooks. There were three waistband “eyes” or “bars” sewn on to the back of the bodice for the basque to attach to.
I am really pleased with how this has turned out, and it is all ready to wear to a Victorian picnic I am attending in October. Now I just have to decide if I should making a hat for this ensemble! The list of things to make is neverending.
Making an Early 1870’s Gown: Skirts (including how to make the trim)
Sources and Relevant Links
Image Source: Janet Arnold’s dress – from Manchester Art Gallery
Patterns of Fashion 2: Englishwomen’s dresses and their construction, by Janet Arnold – buy on Amazon
Another reproduction of an 1871 day dress, made by Before the Automobile