Posts Tagged ‘18th century’

An embroidered coat, c. 1770-1780, from Manchester Art Gallery.

In the 18th century, menswear was generally quite elaborate. Not only was it colourful (including pinks and purples) with suits of clothes often matching, but court clothes could also be extensively embroidered.

The coat of the late 18th century began to be cut further away from the centre front below the waist, revealing more of the breeches and waistcoat than it had before. This meant that the coat could not be buttoned up, and often had only one or two functional buttonholes at the chest level, or sometimes a few hooks-and-eyes to fasten it closed at the top.

The skirts were not as full or as wide as they had been previously in the 17th and early 18th centuries, but there was still a significant amount of fabric pleated at the back in the skirts of the coat. These “skirts” reached to behind the knees.

Court suits, including the coats, were made from silk and were elaborately embroidered. Silk coats were generally lined, whereas their woollen counterparts could often be unlined.

Collars, particularly small standing collars, were becoming more common as the 18th century progressed, and it offered a prominent place to put embroidery for those coats designed for court use.

Fabric was very expensive during this era, more expensive than the labour to make the clothes, and so fabric would often be pieced together when the panels were not going to be big enough to fit the body. This is frequently seen in the skirts of the coats of this period. With embroidered coats, the join could also be performed for the purposes of conserving the look of the embroidery.

After I had finished (mostly) embroidering the jacket onto lengths of fabric, I was ready to turn it into an 18th century coat.

The finished panel, showing the two fronts at the top, the pocket flaps on the right, the buttons (unfinished here), and the cuffs at the bottom.


I used the pattern from the book, Costume Close-Up, by Linda Baumgarten, as a guide. I did a mock-up and fitted it to check and see what alterations to the pattern were needed. Extra width around the middle, extra length to the skirts, and extra over the shoulder area were the major changes I made to the pattern.


Step 1: I began by cutting out the pieces of the body of the coat. These were: Front panels, back panels, pocket flaps. (I saved the sleeves, cuffs and collar for later!)

The front panels have been cut, along with a strip to serve as interfacing. You can see the join in the fabric on the right.

Step 2: The back pieces were sewn together, for both the lining and the outer.

The back panels are sewn together at the centre back seam. The vent is left open.

Step 3: The front pieces were sewn to their lining pieces at the centre front. At this stage, I have also sewn the lining fronts to the lining backs along the side seams.

The front panels have been sewn to the lining pieces (with a strip of cloth for interfacing). In this photo you can also see the pocket flap being put in place.

Step 4: The pocket flap was sewn, pinning the embroidered panel right sides with a lining piece.

The pocket flap sewn, but not turned the right way yet.

Step 5: A slash was made for the pocket bags. I make a slash that has a sideways V at each end, and looks like this: >—-<

Then I folded over the raw edges and whipstitched it to the pocket bags, which also had their raw edges folded outwards.

The finished pocket with flap raised and bag attached to the slash.

The pocket flap, finished.

Here is the coat so far, with the centre back outer panel still not sewn in.

The coat so far, laying spread out – inside down – with the outside showing.

Step 6: The back outer panel was then sewn to the front outer panels. To be honest, this could have been done earlier (more in the manner of making a normal coat with lining!) but I had really wanted to sort out the front panel with the embroidery first. In some ways it would have been easier to leave the back lining off and then slipstitch it in place, rather than leaving the back outer off and then fiddle around figuring out how to sew it on. I think I did it this way because the lining was a bit sturdier than the outer fabric and easier to do fittings with. The shoulder seams of the outer layer were then sewn.

Step 7: The sleeves were cut in two pieces, as sleeves were in this period, and sewn together. The sleeve lining was inserted into the sleeve outer and then sewn to the coat as one layer.

The two-piece sleeve outer, with the lining inside.

Step 8: The cuff panels were cut out. Firstly I sewed the cuff to its lining along the embroidered edge.

The cuff has been sewn to the lining along the embroidered edge.

Then it was opened out and sewn along the side seam. This meant that the raw edges on the side seams of the cuff would be contained.

The cuff and lining have been opened out, folded over and sewn along the side seam.

Then the seams were pressed open, the lining was folded over to properly back the embroidered panel, and it was ironed again. Then the cuff was sewn to the bottom of the sleeve.

The cuff is pinned ready to sew. The RIGHT side (embroidered side) of the cuff is pinned to the WRONG side of the sleeve. This means that when the cuff is folded to the right side, the raw edges of the seam will be not be rubbing on the wrist.

Step 9: The collar was cut out. I did not embroider this part initially, as I was not confident of it fitting correctly! I had planned to do the embroidery once it was fitted, however I ran out of time. My consolation was that another collar can be attached later!

The collar is cut out, from top to bottom: the pattern piece, the outer, the interfacing, the lining.

Step 10: A horizontal slash was made at the back for the back pleat, and it was pleated and sewn. Then the raw edges of the back panels were folded in and slipstitched together. The same was done with the front panels. Once all the raw edges were dealt with, the skirts were pleated, ironed and held in place with tacking stitches and buttons, as is outlined in Costume Close-Up.

The back view, finished. You can see the horizontal slashes and pleats at the centre back.

Step 11: The buttons were embroidered and covered and sewn on. I used some plastic pirate money for the button base! I ran out of time to do the centre front buttons, but all the others were done.

The finished buttons

Once the coat was finished and tried on, I discovered something was wrong with the fit around the shoulders, neck and arms. This necessitated it being unpicked and reworked, which was very annoying!! This meant that the centre front no longer meets as I had wanted it to. The importance of fitting is restated again!

The front view, shown on a female dress form (which alters how it looks a bit).

However, there are many portraits of men wearing their coats open that look the same as this one, so I am slightly mollified!

The side view

The cuffs, all finished.

This was an extremely challenging project. If I were to repeat the process, I think I would have made a plain 18th century coat first. Then I could have dealt with all the pattern alterations on something that could be easily altered, and then had a good pattern to work with when starting the embroidery.

The embroidery of this coat took 2 months, sewing almost everyday for up to 5 hours. The bits that were not completed were the collar, the front buttons, and embroidery at the back vent. As this was for an event (so I had a firm deadline), I just had to do as much as I could manage.

I am really happy with how it turned out, but I would love to finish off the rest of the embroidery at some stage. Stay tuned for my next post on making the waistcoat – coming soon!

Related Posts

Making an Embroidered Suit: Embroidery

MY Mr Knightley: Making a Regency Tailcoat 

Sources and Relevant Links

Image Source, An embroidered coat, c. 1770-1780, from Manchester Art Gallery

Costume Close-Up, by Linda Baumgarten – buy on Amazon

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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.


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.


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!


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 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.


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 robe a l'anglaise, with a matching petticoat, from MET Museum.

A robe a l’anglaise, with a closed front and a matching petticoat, c. 1785-95, from The MET Museum.

This year I have had a long list of costumes planned to make, but a Robe a l’Anglaise was not one of them. However, I quickly changed my mind when a friend decided to make one and it became convenient and easy to work on the project together!

The robe a l’anglaise was fashionable for an extended period of time during the 18th century. Literally, “the English gown”, it was characterised most generally by a fitted bodice, in contrast to the robe a la francaise which had a pleated-and-draped back that flowed free from the shoulders.

A gown cut en fourreau, from MET Museum.

A robe a l’anglaise, with the back cut en fourreau, c. 1776, from The MET Museum.

The Anglaise saw many different variations through the 18th century: open and closed bodices; long and elbow-length sleeves; worn polonaise style; etc… During this time, the Anglaise often had a long centre-back panel piece, extending from the shoulder to the floor. This back piece was then formed into a series of sewn-down pleats on the dress bodice (the “en fourreau” back) which were then released to form fullness into the skirt of the gown. Towards the end of the gown’s popularity, the bodice was cut separately to the skirts and attached with a waist seam.

Another transition in this gown was with the front. Gowns that had been worn open to reveal a stomacher earlier in the century, began to be worn closed, either pinned or closed with hooks and eyes. The skirts could also be closed in front (called a “round gown”), or be worn open to reveal a matching or contrasting petticoat.

For this particular costume, I decided that I wanted a petticoat to match the gown, and with a pinked flounce. It also needed to have pocket slits so that I could wear my new pockets!

The petticoat

The petticoat, c. 1775-1785, in Patterns of Fashion 1, by Janet Arnold.


In looking for a suitable pattern for a petticoat, I went with one in Janet Arnold’s book, Patterns of Fashion 1. It is dated 1775-1785 and is part of a matching petticoat/gown set. It is a very basic skirt pattern, made up of a large rectangle of material (pieced where necessary).

The FINISHED WIDTH of the front panel of my petticoat (not allowing for seam allowances) was 62 inches wide (and then made as long as I needed it for my height). The back panel was exactly the same as the front.

This gown is made of a cotton printed material, and is completely handsewn.

Construction Steps

Step 1: After you have cut out the large rectangles that make up the skirt, sew the side seams together. I had to piece several pieces of material together to get the required width, but I made sure I had two side seams to make allowing for the pocket slits easier. The top 10 inches of the petticoat side seams were left open for the pocket slits. All seams are either on the selvedge or flat-felled.

Step 2: Pleat the top of the front panel onto a waistband. My pleats start from the centre front and go out to the sides. Pleat the back panel in the same manner with a second waistband. Often petticoats of this era could also be attached to a length of twill tape as a waistband.

Step 3: After finishing the waistband, attach ties to the ends of both the back and front waistbands. I made an eyelet through each end of each waistband and then tied a length of cotton tape to it.

The two halves of the waistband, with ties on each end.

The two halves of the waistband (back and front), with ties on each end.

Step 4: Hem the bottom edge of the petticoat. I inserted some cord into the hem to help it stand out better.

The hem, with a length of cord threaded through the hem casing.

The hem, with a length of cord threaded through the hem casing.

Step 5: Using pinking shears, pink the flounce with a scallop at the top and a zigzag at the bottom. Attach the flounce. My flounce is 9 inches deep, and twice the length of the bottom of the petticoat. It is box-pleated to fit the petticoat, and it should only just overhang the hem.

The flounce, box-pleated to fit.

The flounce, box-pleated to fit.

Step 6: Add any trim. My trim is just a piece of plain gimp-like braid with a ribbon threaded through it at intervals.

The trim; a length of gimp-like braid with ribbon threaded through it.

The trim: a length of gimp-like braid with ribbon threaded through it.

The finished pictures!

The front, shown over my hip roll.

The front, shown over my hip roll. The front half is tied around the waist first, and the back half is tied around the waist second.

The side view. Because the petticoat is not shown with my stays, you can see the pocket slits in the side.

The side view. As the petticoat is not shown with my stays, you can see that it doesn’t quite fit the dummy. There is normally a bit of an overlap between the front half and the back half. The pocket slits can be seen in the side.

I was quite pleased with the end result, though I do think I need another plain petticoat underneath (over the hip roll) to help with the skirt’s body.

Look out for the next post in this series, the closed-front gown to match. – coming soon!

Related Posts

Does my Bum Look Big In This? – Making an 18th Century Rump

An 18th Century Robe a l’anglaise – a very early and non-historical attempt!

How Heavy is Too Heavy for a Dress? – about a quilted petticoat

Sources and Relevant Links

Image Source: Robe a l’Anglaise, c. 1785-95, from The MET Museum

Image Source: Robe a l’Anglaise, c. 1776, from The MET Museum

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

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The bum-bailiff

“The Bum-Bailiff Outwitted, or the convenience of Fashion” (1786)

In preparation to make a 1770 robe a l’anglaise, I decided that I need to have a bum enhancer of some kind. I have made myself a padded bum before, to wear with my caraco jacket and petticoat, but I really wanted to try a hip roll that curved all the way around my hips.

Padded clothes certainly can have their advantages! The caricature entitled “The Bum-Bailiff Outwitted”, depicts a lady so desperate to escape an unwanted pursuer that she is able to wiggle out of her self-supporting garments and take flight. The accompanying text puts the situation into verse admirably:

Suky like Syrinx changes shape,
Her vain pursuer to escape;
Ye Snapps; of Pans hard fate beware
Who thought his arms embrac’ed the fair
But found an empty Bum-case there.

So an empty Bum-case is what I need!

Monsieur Le Que Ladies Cork-Cutter from Paris (1777), from Demode.

Monsieur Le Que Ladies Cork-Cutter from Paris (1777), from Demode.

I found Demode’s post on “Bums, Rumps and Culs” very helpful, especially as she had tried out a number of different types of “bums” to catalogue their effects to the fashionable shape. After researching a little more, I decided that a hip roll or bum roll would be the best for my gown.

Patterning and Construction

Since I was not going to use a commercial pattern, I had to figure out exactly how to make it.

Firstly, I measured around the back of my hips, from my left front “hip point” to my right front “hip point”. (For want of a better term, by “hip point” I mean the part of your pelvis that sticks out at your side front, just across from your navel. It is often where your fingers sit when you put your hands on your hips.)

Once I had this measurement, this became the inner measurement of my bum roll. I laid the tape measure out on a piece of calico, trying to mimic the natural shape of the hips (that is, not a circle but a sort of oval). If you measure the space between your “hip points”, then you will know how much of a gap to have in the front of your “oval tape-measurey pattern”.

After I was happy with how my inner measurement sat on the calico, I used a pencil to draw the sewing line. Then I began to sketch the outer edge of the bum roll. I used the diagram of the “cork-cutter from Paris” to help in getting the shape fairly right, with a larger portion over the hips and a skinnier portion around the back. Then I cut it out, adding a fairly generous seam allowance, in case of mistakes.

These are my cut out bum roll pieces.

These are my cut out bum roll pieces; two layers of calico.

Then I simply sewed both layers together, leaving a hole for adding some cushion stuffing. Once it was stuffed, I hand sewed the hole closed and sewed some lengths of cotton tape to the front “hip point corners” so that it could be tied on.

The front view

The front view

You can see the cotton tapes tied at the centre front. I actually think – now! – that it probably reaches too far around to the front, just beyond my hip point instead of on it.

The back view

The back view

A bum roll like this is supposed to sit on your “high hip” line, not your waistline. In some of the pictures, mine looks like it is sitting a smidgen high, but that can always be adjusted when a gown goes on top.

The side view

The side view

Since I whipped it together in an hour, I was pretty happy with how it turn out. Hopefully, once its under a dress, it will give the necessary “oomph” to my bottom!

Stay tuned for my robe a l’anglaise; first part up, the matching petticoat.

Related Posts

A Caraco Jacket

Making 18th Century Stays

Sources and Relevant Links

Image Source: The bum-bailiff outwitted (1786), by Isaac Cruikshank, at The British Museum

Late 18th Century Skirt Supports: Bums, Rumps and Culs, by Demode

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A pair of linen pockets, embroidered with wool, from the Victoria and Albert Museum.

A pair of linen pockets, embroidered with wool, from the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Recently I decided to make an 18th century pocket, and – after a little deliberation – I thought I should make a second one to match. Although there are many extant examples of a single pocket, I thought a pair might be useful. However, pairs of pockets were often not an exact match, as we generally desire today. They were often stylistically similar, but featured different arrangements of flowers in essentially the same design.

These pockets were not sewn into women’s gowns as they are often sewn into garments these days. Instead women had a pair of pockets – or a single pocket – attached to some ribbon or tape which was tied around their waist. The pockets were rather voluminous and were reached through a hole in the side of the skirts of the dress.

Once fashions changed at the end of the 18th century – with the popularity of the long, clingy dresses of the Regency – these large pockets were dispensed with in favour of the hand-held “Ridicule” or reticule. However, there is evidence to suggest that these larger pockets were still widely used, though possibly more by the older generation. I have even seen Regency “versions” of the tie-on pocket, which were smaller and easy to access through the front seams of a bib-front dress.

A pair of cotton and linen pockets, embroidered with wool, from the Museum of London.

A pair of cotton and linen pockets, embroidered with wool, from the Museum of London.

I have never really considered the necessity of making a pocket for my 18th century costumes before, but there are some great reasons to do it. Firstly, it gives you somewhere to hide your mobile phone and a purse! It is also fantastic for easy access to a fan while you are dancing. Secondly, it can be a really quick and easy project to whip up, especially if you are wanting a plain pocket. But it also gives some creative scope for the embroidery of a smallish project (by historical standards, anyway!).

Pattern and Construction

I used the same pattern and construction process as I had used on my first pocket.

As with my first pocket, this one was made with white cotton broadcloth and bound with printed cotton quilting fabric. The design was embroidered with cotton DMC thread (No. 798). The tie was made from a length of cotton tape (25mm wide), made long enough to tie around the waist. This project was hand embroidered and hand sewn.


Embroidery Stitches used:

The second pocket embroidered and sewn together

The second pocket embroidered and sewn together

The central flower, a carnation, embroidered with...

The central flower, a carnation, embroidered with backstitch, seed stitch and satin stitch.

This flower is embroidered with chain stitch...

This flower is embroidered with chain stitch, backstitch, buttonhole pinwheels and seed stitch.

This flower is embroidered with blanket stitch, chain stitch, ...

This flower is embroidered with blanket stitch, backstitch, running stitch, satin stitch, chain stitch and double feather stitch.

This flower has been embroidered with chain stitch and french knots.

This flower has been embroidered with chain stitch and french knots.

This flower has ben embroidered with chain stitch, long and short stitch, ...

This flower has ben embroidered with chain stitch, long and short stitch, running stitch and a buttonhole pinwheel.

This flower is stitched with buttonhole pinwheel, chain stitch, and ?.

This flower is embroidered with buttonhole pinwheels, chain stitch, and square laid filling stitch.

And here it is all finished!

The pair of pockets completed

The pair of pockets completed

The second pocket took a lot longer to finish than the first, largely because I had less time spare to sit and embroider. But I still managed to get the entire project finished within three months, which is pretty good.

The great thing about these pockets is that, when they are tied around my waist, my hands can reach right to the bottom of them to easily grasp any item that sinks there. Now I just need to make an 18th century dress with some pocket holes!

Related Posts

Making an Embroidered Pocket

An Embroidered Regency Letter Case

Making an Embroidered Stomacher

Sources and Relevant Links

Image Source: A pair of pockets – at Victoria and Albert Museum

Image Source: A pair of pockets – at Museum of London

Make Your Own Pocket – Victoria and Albert Museum

Pocket Research – by Sew 18th Century

An Embroidered Pocket – by American Duchess

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

Costume Close-Up: Clothing Construction and Pattern, by Linda Baumgarten – buy on Amazon

Sarah’s Hand Embroidery Tutorials – on Rocksea and Sarah

How to bind your project – by HowToSew.com

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