Posts Tagged ‘18th century costumes’

Early on, I had decided that I needed to make a new stomacher to match my 18th century robe a l’anglaise. The original one I had made 12 years ago was completed using quick and easy ribbon embroidery and appliqued lace motifs, mainly so that I could wear it immediately to a ball. But once I found out that the dress no longer fitted me, I decided to make a caraco jacket.

An embroidered stomacher (c. 1700-1729), displayed in Victoria and Albert Museum. (Image source below.)

Caraco jackets were worn as day wear in the last half of the eighteenth century. They were styled similarly to a gown but the skirts were trimmed off at mid-thigh level, with a petticoat worn underneath. Some would meet in the middle, fastened with hidden hooks and eyes, but others were worn open and had a decorative stomacher displayed at the front. Since I really like the idea of a pretty piece of handiwork displayed on the bosom, I decided to make another stomacher that would match my new jacket!

Stomachers were often worn during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, though they did change shape a little throughout the period, depending on the fashion. They were triangular shaped pieces of material, either boned or unboned, usually pinned in place at the front of the bodice. They were often elaborately decorated, using many different methods and items such as embroidery, bows, pleated ruffles, braid, lace or sequins.

My Pattern:

Using a stomacher pattern in Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 1 for inspiration, I drew out a pattern on tissue paper and cut out two pieces of calico and one piece of outer fabric. I researched common embroidery patterns for stomachers and drew out a pattern for this on the tissue paper.

The pattern


The two layers of calico were placed together and boning channels sewn through all layers. As you can see from the picture, the stomacher is fully boned. Once the embroidered outer layer was completed, it was laid on top of the boned layer and the edges bound with satin bias binding.

The back of the finished stomacher


After a lot of deliberation, I decided to stretch my embroidery skills to long and short stitch, and try embroidering a carnation with some buds in true eighteenth century style! The V-shaped border and the stem of the carnation was done with a whipped chain stitch, and the scrolling curves at the sides were done with backstitch. The leaves were done in a satin stitch, creating a groove where the stitches met in the middle of the leaf.

The front!

I am VERY VERY pleased with the result! I have never been good at embroidery, but I have spent a lot of time practising with very simple plain stitches to create some good effects on my costumes. I never thought I would be able to do this so well!

Now all that remains is to finish off my caraco jacket!

Relevant Posts

An 18th Century Robe A l’anglaise

Stays from the 18th Century

Sources and Relevant Links

V&A Stomacher Image from In Jane Austen’s England

Embroidered Stomachers, c. 1700-1729, from the Victoria and Albert Museum

Embroidered Stomachers, c. 1700-1725, from the Victoria and Albert Museum

Patterns of Fashion 1: Englishwomen’s Dresses and their Construction, by Janet Arnold – buy through Amazon

Long and Short Stitch Tutorial – on Youtube

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Plate XX, from Diderot’s Encylopedie. Title Translated: Tailor of bodices, closed bodice and open bodice, front view.

Corsetry, or stay-making, was an important craft in the eighteenth century – as much as dressmaking and tailoring. Every woman wore one, and even the poorest women still owned the basic garments – a pair of stays and a petticoat – even if she could not afford a gown over the top.

Stay-making was generally a male-dominated field of work, though females could make stays as well.

Sarah Hurst (1736-1808) spent her youth as an assistant to her father, who was a tailor in Horsham, England. She records in her diary on 31st July, 1762, that she “begin[s] making Mrs Hurst a pair of stays.” On the 13th August, she records that she “Finish[es] Mrs Hurst’s stays and she greatly approves of them.” Sarah had been staying with the Hurst’s for a short holiday and, despite being busy almost every day, she still managed to finish handsewing the stays in two weeks.

This week I was sorting through some boxes in my wardrobe and I found an unfinished eighteenth century corset that I started 13 years ago. I got it out and then remembered why I had put it away! I had made a few corsets before this one (and have made some since), but the tabs on the bottom of the stays had me completely stuck! I just didn’t know how to cut and bind them properly.

With a sudden burst of motivation, I decided that I should try and finish them, and here is my finished product! Sorry about the quality of the photos, as they were taken on my phone.

The front (shown over my Regency chemise)

The back

The outer layer is a peach and cream brocade, with a lining of calico. The boning channels are in twill tape and I have used plastic boning. The stays are bound with some peach-pink satin bias binding. The seams and channels have all been sewn with a sewing machine, but I ended up hand-sewed most of the binding. This made the tabs much easier to bind! The eyelets are hand worked and it is laced with the spiral lacing common to the 18th century.

Unfortunately, the top is a bit too big and the waist is a little too small. Obviously the last 13 years and 5 pregnancies have had an impact on my figure! Nevertheless, I am so pleased to be finished it. It means I can start another one that fits a bit better!

Related Posts

My Regency Journey: How to draft a corset pattern

My Regency Journey: Corset Construction

Sarah Hurst’s Diaries: From 1759 to 1762

Sources and Relevant Links

The Encyclopedia of Diedrot and d’Alembert, translated and available online.

The Diaries of Sarah Hurst, 1759-1762: Life and Love in Eighteenth Century Horsham, transcribed by Barbara Hurst, edited by Susan C. Djabri. – buy through Amazon

Corsets from the 18th century, (1700-1750) from the Kyoto Costume Institute

Corset, Panniers and Chemise, (1760-1780) from the Kyoto Costume Institute

Corset (c. 1770-1799), from the National Trust Collections

How to lace 18th century stays

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The deliberation required for deciding what to write for one’s first ever post, in one’s first ever blog, is, in one word, excruciating! In the end, I decided to write about something I love: 18th century costumes.

Being a keen sewer – ever since my mother first sat me at the sewing machine at aged 6 – as well as a keen historian, the natural progression to making historical costumes appeared to make sense.

Today I am going to share a reproduction of a sacque-back dress from the 1770’s.

When you make a costume, it is important to have the correct undergarments before you begin, or else the finished result does not look as historically accurate. So this means firstly reproducing the undergarments; in this case, the corset and panniers (hip attachments).

Corset and panniers from the 1770’s

This corset is not the type that was worn in the 1770’s, but is more similar to those worn in 1850’s. However, the corset has been made to perform a similar function of the corsets from that era, as the front contains an embroidered stomacher that shows through to the outside. (There is also a convenient piece of lace gathered to conceal some cleavage, as this type of corset was made to reach the nipple-line and no higher, therefore showing much more cleavage than I felt comfortable with. In hindsight, it would have been a good idea to make a chemise to go under the corset…)

The panniers are accurate to this era, and are made of calico and boning.

The outer garments consist of a petticoat as an underskirt, and a sacque-back outerdress. The dress attaches to the corset with large hooks and eyes at the front, and then laces up at the back (hidden under the sac).

A sacque-back dress of the 1770’s

Sacque-back dress Back

The back view of the “sack”


Close up of the Bodice

I got many of the details of this dress from pictures and drawings that I could gather from original dresses from the period. This was back “in the day” when the internet was not quite as abundant in resources as it is today! I then used these pictures and descriptions to draft my own patterns.

As this costume was made to go dancing at balls, I made several adjustments to the bodice to help me feel more comfortable! For this reason the bodice is cut much more like a modern bodice. For one of my first “proper” historical costumes (i.e. a costume that wasn’t made for a school production!), I was very proud of it.

I hope you enjoyed looking!

Related Posts

How to Make a Regency Poke Bonnet in Ten Steps

How to use Ribbon to make Decorative Trims

Dress-ups for a Baby

Relevant Links

There seems to be a range of different patterns available to purchase on the internet if you are interested in making historical costumes. Here is a link to only one of many sites.

18th Century patterns

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