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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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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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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

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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

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