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

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

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

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

Pattern

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

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

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

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

Construction Steps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The front view.

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

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

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

Related Posts

Making an Early 1870’s Gown: Skirts

Sources and Relevant Links

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

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

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

How to sew Cartridge Pleats – by Historical Sewing

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A bathing suit, from Metropolitant Museum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Women on Collaroy Beach, NSW.

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

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

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

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

The Pants

Pattern

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

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

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

Construction Steps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The finished pants

The finished pants

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

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

The Dress

Pattern

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

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

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

Construction Steps

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

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

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

bathing dress construction back

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

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

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

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

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

The sleeve finished, viewed from the front.

The sleeve finished, viewed from the front.

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

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

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

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

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

The button placket at the centre front.

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

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

The dress completed, laid flat to show the shape.

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

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

The dress all finished!

The dress all finished!

The Cap

Pattern

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

Construction Steps

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

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

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

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

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

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

The bathing cap completed!

The bathing cap completed!

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

1900s-bathing-costume

My new bathing costume on its first day out!

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

Related Posts

Making a Victorian Fan Skirt

Parenting Advice from 1910

An Anne of Green Gables Dress

Sources and Relevant Links

History of Bathing Suits, by Victoriana

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Evening gown, c. 1913-1914, from Na

Evening gown, made from silk and linen, embroidered with metal and glass beads, c. 1913-1914, from the National Museum of Norway.

Talk about Titanic Panic! Work had to begin on the gown!

Gowns had begun to change in a new and different way during 1908. Waistlines suddenly rose. Skirts suddenly clung to the legs. And an entirely different set of undergarments were needed to achieve this hip-hugging new look.

Evening gowns during the early 1910s were all generally “built” on a bodice, which could often be completely hidden beneath all of the outer draped layers. This bodice was often boned and could reach from above the bustline to below the natural waist.

On top of this bodice was mounted all of the other layers. The skirts, often several layers in contrasting colours and different lengths, was sewn or tacked to the bodice. The first layer of skirt was most often a soft, flowing silk satin, and was then followed by a lighter and more sheer layer, such as silk chiffon or netting. Sometimes there were several of these sheer layers, of two or more colours, to add depth or interest, and these layers were often beaded, sometimes very heavily. Evening gowns could be trained with either a square, pointed or rounded shape.

Evening gown, made from silk satin and chiffon, c. 1912, from Augusta Auctions.

Evening gown, made from blue silk satin and chiffon, c. 1912, from Augusta Auctions.

The sleeves of this era were cut in the same style as a Japanese kimono sleeve, which gave a very draped and flowing appearance. These soft sleeves were often mounted on top of a fitted sleeve made from chiffon or net, which provided the structure to the outer sleeve to prevent them falling down. They generally reached to just above the elbow, but could be shorter. Sometimes these kimono-style sleeves even formed a part of the bodice, as the sleeve did not attach to the armhole, but rather the sleeve and the shoulder were one piece. This line of drapery was then just extended down to the waistband at the front and the back.

Once the sleeve-shoulder-bodice pieces were themselves tacked onto the under bodice, a wide waistband was used to cover it all. This waistband clearly marked the higher waistline of this period, and a sash could often be hanging from the waistband at the back.

Pattern

I used the pattern of an evening gown from 1909-10 (made by Madame Hayward), in Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 2. There was some alterations I was keen to make, but it provided a good starting point.

An evening gown in ivory silk satin and black net, c. 1909-1910, from Patterns of Fashion 2.

An evening gown in ivory silk satin and black net, c. 1909-1910, from Patterns of Fashion 2.

This gown uses a small kimono sleeve, which has a larger bodice mounted on an under bodice which cannot be seen. I decided to use the underbodice from this pattern, making it a bit higher at the front, and then extend the sleeves so they came down to the waistband, and thereby do away with the outer bodice you can see in the picture. The skirts I intended to make were basically the same as this pattern.

The construction of this dress seemed very complicated when reading it all through, so I did skip some minor things that didn’t seem necessary to me. However, due to its complicated nature, the length of this post is much longer than normal.

I used a polyester taffeta for the dress (I was pleased to find one dress in this era made from taffeta!), flatlined with cotton broadcloth and overlaid with a silk chiffon. The undersleeves were made from soft polyester tulle.

Construction Steps

Step One: The bodice

First I drafted the pattern out, did a mock up and fitted it with my corset on. The calico mock up pieces became my new pattern.

The pattern for the bodice

The pattern for the bodice, showing the original pattern below and my adjusted calico pattern above.

I flatlined each panel with white cotton broadcloth and sewed all the panels together. The raw edges were neatened as one.

The bodice panels are all sewn together.

The bodice panels are all sewn together.

Then I attached boning channels to the seams. I used some twill tape and sewed each side of the tape to the seam allowances, so the channel sits in the centre of the seam but is not seen from the outside. I used solid nylon (plastic) boning.

The bodice seams are all boned.

The bodice seams are all boned.

As per Janet Arnold’s instructions, the top of the bones stand free.

The boning channel stands free at the top.

The boning channel stands free at the top. You can see that I have hand stitched the top of the casing to hold the bones.

Note: It was clear to me when I fitted the bodice with the boning attached, that the original gown was probably meant to go over a mid-bust corset, rather than an underbust, as there is little bust shaping in the bodice. As I had made an underbust corset, the boning in the bodice did not behave as it normally would have. I ended up increasing the length of the boning strips in three of the seams; the centre front and the two side-front seams. This helped the front of the bodice to conform to my shape better.

A thin flat metal bone was put in the centre back edges. Then I attached hooks and eyes on the centre back seam, which met edge to edge. (Later on I did sew a little flap on the inside so that any gaping on the centre back seam was less noticeable.)

The hooks are attached to the gown beneath a facing.

The hooks are attached to the gown beneath a facing. There is also a facing on the “eye” side, which are both slipstitched down.

Step Two: The net undersleeves

The pattern for the net undersleeves.

The pattern for the net undersleeves, cut in polyester tulle.

The undersleeves were sewn together. The pattern indicates that a line of elastic is sewn along the neckline edge to help the sleeve stay on the shoulder.

The undersleeve sewn, with the elastic sewn on the lefthand edge.

The undersleeve sewn, with the elastic sewn on the lefthand edge.

The undersleeve was sewn to the top edge of the bodice. A fitting at the point is good to establish that your sleeves are in the right spot for your body.

The undersleeve is attached right-sides-together to the bodice. There is a bit of extra fabric in the allowance to trim away.

The undersleeve is attached right-sides-together to the bodice. There is a bit of extra netting fabric in the allowance to trim away.

To finish the top edge of the bodice, I sewed a strip of insertion lace which could be drawn up with a ribbon.

A length of lace is sewn around the top of the bodice to neaten the edge. The eyes can be seen on the left of picture.

A length of lace is sewn around the top of the bodice to neaten the edge. The eyes can be seen on the left of picture. You can also see the lengthened boning on the right of the picture.

The bottom edge of the bodice was hemmed with a length of bias binding, sewn right-sides-together, turned to the inside and handsewn down to cover the raw edge.

A grosgrain ribbon (to act as a petersham waistband) was stitched at the natural waistline on the inside of the bodice. It was attached at the centre front boning channel and the two side-front boning channels with herringbone stitch. This waistband is fastened with a hook and eye.

The petersham waistband sewn in. You can see the lace inserts tacked in at the neckline too.

The petersham waistband sewn in. You can see the lace inserts tacked in at the neckline too (Step Six).

The bodice was now finished.

The front of bodice

The front of bodice

The back of bodice

The back of bodice, showing the ribbon that ties up and keeps the top edge of the bodice tight.

Step Three: The skirt layers

I cut out the underskirt and sewed the side seams and back seam, leaving a bit open for a placket. There is also a small piece added along the placket edge to hide any gaps in the skirt.

It was important to re-fit at this stage, as the skirts are designed to fit fairly snugly over the hips but should still be roomy enough to sit down in.

The underskirt (with train) is cut out.

The underskirt (with train) is cut out. You can see the placket “flap” already attached on the left.

I cut out the chiffon overskirt and sewed the seams together. (I always zigzag all raw edges of chiffon before I start sewing it too!) An opening is again left in the centre back for the placket.

The top edges of both skirt layers were neatened with a zigzag, and the top edge of the chiffon skirt was gathered to help with the easing of the skirt around the bodice. The skirts were then pinned in place, flat against the bodice, and handsewn through all layers with a running backstitch.

The skirts are attached to the bodice with a back stitch.

The skirts are attached to the bodice with a back stitch. (The lace at the bottom was eventually used at the neckline.)

At the back placket, the chiffon was hand stitched to the underskirt. Hooks and “thread loop” eyes were added to the back placket to close the skirt opening.

The back skirt placket, shown here half done up.

The back skirt placket, shown here half done up.

Step Four: The chiffon oversleeves

I cut out the chiffon oversleeves, first draping them to get an idea of how long and wide they should be. They are cut in the same style and shape as a kimono style sleeve.

The chiffon sleeves cut out, with the neck edge against the selvedge.

The chiffon sleeves cut out, with the neck edge against the selvedge. The under-arm shape is yet to be cut out.

Once I had neatened the raw edges of the chiffon, I draped it on the stand to work out the under-arm shape. I made sure to test out the range of movement of the arm as well, as this can be adjusted by how the sleeve is pinned at the waistline.

The under arm section is pinned, ready to sew and then trim.

The under arm section is pinned, ready to sew and then trim back.

The underarm seam goes down the underside of the arm, and then down the side of the body. The resulting side seam should mean that the bottom edge of the sleeve can be sewn to the bodice around the waist area. I sewed this edge down (already neatened) with the same running backstitch through all thicknesses as before with the skirts. This untidy looking midriff area will be covered with the sash in following steps.

I sewed overlapping sequins along the neckline of the gown. This had the double effect of attaching the chiffon sleeves to the net sleeves underneath, whilst also attaching the chiffon sleeves to the front and back of the bodice. I sewed a similar row of sequins along the arm edge of the sleeve, turning under the zigzagged edge to neaten it.

The sequins are handsewn around the neck edge of the sleeves.

The sequins are handsewn around the neck edge of the sleeves (shown only on the right here).

Step Five: The waistband and sash

I cut the sash and waistband out as per the pattern given by Janet Arnold, only adding a bit of extra length in case I should need it. The waistband was a straight piece of fabric, 3 inches wide, which had to be pleated to fit the tapered angle of the high waist. Once pleated to my satisfaction (which took a long time!), and with the raw edges turned under, I hand stitched the waistband in place on the bodice using a slip stitch, making sure to go through all layers to properly anchor it. I also stitched the waistband pleats in place with small slipstitches, as the taffeta did not want to stay in its pressed position.

The waistband, side back view, showing the pleating to help shape it.

The waistband, side back view, showing the pleating to help shape it.

I cut two layers of each sash, sewing them right-sides-together and turning them the right way to get two sashes. I did an inverted box pleat in the top of each sash, making sure that the resulting size fitted the waistband area.

The two sashes, with a box pleat at the top.

The two sashes, with a box pleat at the top.

The bigger sash was attached underneath the waistband (on the left side) with hand stitches, making sure to go through all layers to properly anchor it.

The larger sash is attached on the left side, underneath the waistband.

The larger sash is attached on the left side, underneath the waistband.

The smaller sash was attached to the left side of the waistband on an angle, which required some adjustment and pinning in place so that it hung down straight. It was hand sewn onto the waistband securely.

The smaller sash is attached on an angle on the right side of the waistband. It hangs down over the larger sash.

The smaller sash is attached on an angle on the right side of the waistband. It hangs down over the larger sash.

Hooks and eyes were added to do up the overlapping waistband.

Step Six: Decorating and embellishing

A beaded fringe was attached to the bottom edge of the chiffon skirts, with the zigzagged edge turned up to neaten it. Another row of overlapping sequins was sewn over the top of these stitches.

The beaded fringe is sewn on by machine, turning up the zigzagged edge.

The beaded fringe is sewn on by machine, turning up the zigzagged edge.

Beading and sequins were then sewn in a graduating way up the chiffon skirt.

The beaded fringe, the sequins and beading.

The beaded fringe, the sequins and beading, all completed.

Lace sections were sewn to the front and back neckline to conveniently cover some of the undergarments that kept peeking through. The raw edges of these lace sections were bound with cotton tape and then tacked in place.

Lace was cut to fit in the front and back neckline.

Lace was cut to fit in the front and back neckline. The one pictured is for the front.

The back lace section was cut in half at the centre back and then had a hook and eye attached so it could be done up.

Step Seven: The hem and train

The hem was faced with a piece of cotton flannette (wool flannel in the original example), which reached up 12 inches from the front hem. This hem facing was sewn, right-sides-together, around the bottom raw edges of the skirt and up the side slit.

The front hem facing is pinned and cut to shape to match the skirt.

The front hem facing is pinned and cut to shape to match the skirt.

The back hem is cut to form a pointed train and the hem facing pinned ready to sew.

The back hem is cut to form a pointed train and the hem facing is pinned ready to sew.

The facing was then handsewn down from the inside. Any stitches that were showing are covered by the chiffon overskirt.

A lead weight was sewn into the facing to help weight the train down, and a hook and eye was attached so that the train could be folded up if needed.

The lead weight sewn into a little square of flannelette, with the hook shown.

The lead weight sewn into a little square of flannelette, with the hook shown.

I found this gown was quite complicated to make, but I was very pleased with my efforts when it was finished. There were many low points, like cutting a hole in it and struggling with fitting issues.

The front view

The front view

The back view

The back view

Finally, it is all completed and now its time for some real Titanic panic!

I thoroughly enjoyed my evening out!

I thoroughly enjoyed my evening out!

I hope you have enjoyed my Titanic-costuming-adventure as much as I did. Now its time for a cup of tea and a lie down!

Related Posts

Titanic Panic! – Making a chemise/drawer combination suit

Titanic Panic! – Making a 1911 corset

Sources and Relevant Links

Image Source: An evening gown, c. 1913-14, from the National Museum of Norway (Nasjonalmuseet).

Image Source: An evening gown, c. 1912, from Augusta Auctions

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

Evening gown (c. 1909-1910) made by Madame Hayward, from Museum of London.

How to do a running backstitch, by Felt Magnet

How to make thread loops, by Historical Sewing

Dressing for Dinner on the Titanic: Early 1910s Evening Dress, by Demode Couture

Free pattern from an extant evening gown at Chapman Historical Museum, made from silk and chiffon, c. 1911-1913, patterned by Cassidy Percolo.

“Titanic” Theatre Restaurant – Williamstown, Melbourne, Aus.

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Corset Covers and Bust Ruffles, and White Petticoats, from a Sears catalogue, c. 1912.

Corset Covers and Bust Ruffles, and White Underskirts, from a Sears catalogue, c. 1912.

My panic is rising in my quest to finish off the raft of undergarments required for a Titanic evening costume.

As the list of undergarments required for a Victorian woman increased during the length of the 19th century, new “combinations” were invented to try and limit the sheer quantity of them. There were an almost exhaustive range of these undergarment items that were combined during the late Victorian and Edwardian periods; from chemise-and-corset cover, to corset cover-and-skirt/drawers, to brassiere-and-bust improver. We have already examined the chemise-drawer combinations, but there was also the combination of the corset cover and petticoat, which became known as a “princess slip”.

An Edwardian petticoat, c. 1910-1915, from

An Edwardian petticoat, c. 1910-1915, from The MET Museum.

Princess slips of the time tended to have a series of long panels (often either 6 and 8), with or without a waist seam. There was generally a lightly gathered frill at the knee, which was not very full, especially as the width of gowns was decreasing into the 1910s. The frill was very often trimmed with lace or could be a whole embroidered lace panel fixed to the bottom of the petticoat. Lace often adorned the top of the princess slip as well, which was used instead of fabric at the shoulder straps. The neckline could have a ribbon drawstring to help adjust it properly around the neck, and the princess slip generally reached to the ankle area.

Pattern

I did not use a pattern for this princess slip, but instead relied on what I could see from pictures of surviving extants online.

The petticoat pictured below was one of the sources I used in my design. Some of the design features that I liked were the large insertion lace around the neckline, and a smaller row of lace/ribbon to draw in the neck. The knee length frill and the back opening placket were also features I wanted to include in my garment.

An Edwardian Petticoat, front view - from Antique Dress.

An Edwardian Petticoat, front view – from Antique Dress.

An Edwardian Petticoat, back view - from Antique Dress.

An Edwardian Petticoat, back view – from Antique Dress.

There are more detailed pictures of this particular garment on the Antique Dress website, which is in the “Sources” below.

My princess slip was made from white cotton lawn, and various different types of cotton lace.

Construction Steps

Step One: I decided that the best way to do this was to do a bit of draping. Initially I was going to do a side panel, which went over each shoulder, and then a front/back panel (with the centre back having a button placket). Unfortunately I underestimated how much material would need to go under my arm, so I added an “underarm side panel” in addition to the side front panel I had already cut out.

I cut out the basic pattern shapes and then pinned them together. After I laid it on the dressmakers form, (which was set to my corseted waistline) I realised I had to alter some of the seam lines as the grainline did not sit properly.

The front, pinned together.

The front, pinned together. You can see the centre front fold line.

The side, pinned together.

The side, pinned together. You can see the underarm panel I cut later.

The back, pinned together.

The back, pinned together, allowing a bit extra for the back button placket.

Step Two: I sewed all the seams and then flat-felled the raw edges.

The seams flat-felled. The top seam is how it looks from the inside, and the bottom seam is how it looks from the outside.

The seams flat-felled. Hard to see, but the top seam is how it looks from the inside, and the bottom seam is how it looks from the outside.

Step Three: I wanted to put a wide insertion of lace in the front neckline. I pinned it to fit, adjusting the corners to a mitred edge, and making sure that the resulting angle would go over the shoulders correctly. Then I topstitched it to the top of the garment. The raw edges of the lawn on the underside were trimmed and turned under and slipstitched down.

The finished neckline, showing the wide insertion lace with mitred corners.

The finished neckline, showing the wide insertion lace with mitred corners.

Step Four: The neckline was then finished with a row of large entreduex and a row of lace. These were sewn together in the same manner as is done in heirloom sewing, with a small tight row of zigzag stitches. Any raw edges were trimmed back to the row of zigzag stitches.

The finished neckline. A ribbon was threaded through the large entredeux.

The finished neckline. A ribbon was threaded through the large entreduex, and then tied in a bow at the centre front.

Step Five: The armhole was finished with the same lace as around the neckline. The raw edges were turned under and sewn in a small hem.

The lace finishing the armhole.

The lace finishing the armhole.

Step Six: The centre back (which had been cut on the selvedge line) was finished with a button placket by folding over 1 inch of the edge of the fabric. Buttonholes were then sewn and corresponding buttons attached.

The button placket. The ribbon threaded through the entreduex is attached at the centre back so as not to come undone.

The button placket. The ribbon threaded through the entreduex is attached at the centre back so as not to come undone.

Step Seven: The bottom frill was cut 15 inches deep, and finished with the same large insertion lace as used at the neckline, plus another large row of broider anglaise. The large insertion lace was sewn in the normal way, topstitched onto the fabric and then the material cut away behind the insertion. The raw edges were trimmed and turned under to form a small hem.

The bottom of the frill is edged with a row of insertion lace and a row of broider anglaise.

The bottom of the frill is edged with a row of insertion lace and a row of broider anglaise.

The broider anglaise was sewn right sides together onto the bottom of the lace insertion, and then the raw edges trimmed and neatened with a small zigzag stitch.

Step Eight: The frill was gathered and then sewn to the bottom of the slip, just below the knee level.

The frill; trimmed, gathered and attached.

The frill; trimmed, gathered and attached. The total length of the frill is 15 inches. The lace is attached at the 10 inch mark.

Step Nine: A row of ribbon insertion lace was topstitched around the bottom of the slip, but above the gathered frill. The fabric behind this insertion can be cut away, and often was in extant examples, however I didn’t do that this time.

The ribbon insertion lace attached above the frill.

The ribbon insertion lace attached above the frill.

All finished! A bit wrinkly, but nothing that an iron won’t fix.

The front view

The front view

The back view

The back view

One of the undergarments that I had been keen to make was a brassiere, but I felt that I had run out of time to manage it for this event.

So next on the list is the Titanic-era evening gown!

Related Posts

Titanic Panic! – Making a Chemise/Drawer Combination Suit

Titanic Panic! – Making a 1911 Corset

Making a Gored Petticoat (1890)

Sources and Relevant Links

Image Source: 1912 Sears catalogue, in “What real women wore in 1912“, by American Duchess.

Image Source: An Edwardian Petticoat, c. 1910-1915, from The MET Museum.

Image Source: Detailed pictures of an Edwardian Petticoat, from Antique Dress.

How to sew flate-felled seams – by So Sew Easy

Sewing Lace and Entreduex – by Sew Beautiful

Basic Lace Insertion by Machine – Wearing History

Interpreting Edwardian Undergarments – by Lady Carolyn

Dressing for Dinner on the Titanic: Early 1910’s Evening Dress – by Demode Couture

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