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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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And its a BOY! Our new addition to the family is very cute and has currently taken residence of the lounge room!

Source: Every Woman's Encyclopeadia, Vol I.

“Iron cots are more healthy than wooden ones, and both sides should be made to slide down.” Source: Every Woman’s Encyclopeadia, Vol I.

To celebrate this occasion, I wanted to share with you some advice given to mothers upon the birth of their babies, published in Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia (1910).

Firstly, the high rate of infant mortality (statistics of one in five is stated in this article) was considered quite costly to the English nation. And 75% of these deaths were attributed (by the author of this article) to the early introduction of “harmful foods”. In these days, cows milk was not routinely pasteurised and so was considered problematic for a baby’s consumption, especially when it could not be obtained fresh from a cow. As a result, the writer recommends exclusive breastfeeding as best for the baby.

Every mother, then, who can nurse her baby should make it her duty, as well as her pleasure to do so, and provided she is reasonably healthy, looks after herself properly, and feeds the baby at regular intervals, there is no reason why her milk should not amply suffice. It is a well-known fact that breast-fed babies vary rarely suffer from rickets, diarrhoea, convulsions, or any of the troubles which beset the baby brought up by hand [hand/bottle feeding rather than breast feeding].

And after giving a description on how to tell if a baby is thriving on breast milk, the author goes on to give advice to the nursing mother.

…the nursing mother must be very careful of herself for the baby’s sake. She should eat good, plain food, with milk and cocoa, or good oatmeal gruel, avoiding too much tea, and unless ordered by the doctor, all alcoholic drinks. She must avoid hot places of amusement, late hours, and worry or excitement.

Mental note to self: Avoid hot places of amusement…

Thereafter comes some advice for mothers who cannot nurse their baby, for whatever reason. Cow’s milk must be modified to suit the baby’s digestive system better. It should be sterilised and pasteurised if it cannot be got fresh. It then needs to be diluted with barley-water, fresh cream added, and sugar of milk added. Just reading the rigmarole of cow’s milk modification makes me grateful for the invention of formula!

One sees how Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia was probably an invaluable source of information to the women of this era. Its advice is fairly sensible, especially when compared to much of the other types of advice given to women throughout history, and the publication covers a wide range of issues and topics that the Edwardian housewife would encounter.

Related Posts

Parenting Advice from 1910

Pregnancy in 1910

Sources and Relevant Links

Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia, Vol. I, p. 181.

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My blog has been a bit quiet of late, largely due to the expectation of another “bundle of joy” arriving in our family. In the flurry of this organisation – and then the inevitable rest that results when a pregnant woman has been too busy organising things – a lot of my sewing and reading projects have been put on hold.

In expectation of this event, I wanted to share with you some advice given to expectant mothers in 1910, in Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia. This publication was generally full of a great range of (usually) sensible advice and information for the Edwardian woman, but this article in particular amused me!

"A nursery freize that would delight children." Source: Every Woman's Encyclopaedia, Vol I.

“A nursery frieze that would delight children.” Source: Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia, Vol I.

In ‘Preparing for Baby’, the midwife begins by stating that “as soon as a woman knows that she is likely to become a mother, it should be her sweet duty to order her life that her child may be born strong, healthy and beautiful.” She goes on to advise on “the essentials which should receive attention” – that is, food, clothing, exercise, fresh air, rest, sleep and “good surroundings”. Here are several of her recommendations.

Food

The wise woman will put aside her fancies and eat only such foods as will be most beneficial to herself and her unborn child. Wholesome, plain, nourishing food should be taken, little meat being required. Indeed, some authorities recommend a diet chiefly of fruit and vegetables, with plenty of wholemeal bread.

Knowing the terrible trouble I have with anaemia during pregnancy, I am surprised at advice on limiting meat in the diet! She also recommends limits on tea and coffee, as well as alcohol and other stimulants, which falls more within the bounds of normality.

Clothing

Clothing should, of course, be warm but light, and should not be suspended from the waist, and there should be no pressure on any part of the body. Corsets must be dispensed with, as they cause harmful pressure on the heart and stomach.

Only 20 years previously, in the late Victorian era, pregnant women wore a maternity corset which contained lacing to accommodate the enlarging abdomen. The Edwardian corset, by contrast, extended well down over the hips.

For house wear a pretty maternity dress or princess robe, made in tea-gown style, is becoming and easily made at home.

Charming really!

Garters, which are never advisable, must not be worn, as they increase the tendency to varicose veins.

Sensible…

Exercise and Fresh Air

It is a great mistake to suppose that the expectant mother cannot take exercise to do her ordinary household work. She should however, avoid such work as entails lifting the arms high above the head, lifting heavy weights, climbing stairs or standing too long.

I might avoid sharing that piece of insight regarding housework with my husband!

If the weather be unsuitable [for getting outside to breathe fresh air] (for great care must be taken not to contract internal chill), the house must be flushed with fresh air, especially the bedroom and living room, which should be as bright and sunny as possible.

Good Surroundings

Try to cultivate pure, placid thoughts, remembering that “of all created things, the loveliest and most divine are children.”

I am not sure that my children fit into that category!

Avoid undue excitement, such as crowds or theatre-going.

And I had been thinking of getting to the movies this weekend!

After giving advice on how to engage a doctor, nurse and midwife, the author gives prescriptions for preparing the labour room with all the essentials, including the baby’s clothing and articles for the mother.

To Conclude…

After the first few days following the arrival of baby, the young mother should be encouraged to think of this time as one of great happiness, rest and contentment – cheerfulness is a great restorer.

Yes, well, the first few days are usually manageable… it is the months of sleep deprivation that follow that is the killer! However, I am sure that cheerful thoughts can often play their part.

Related Posts

Parenting Advice from 1910

Having a Baby in 1910

Sources and Relevant Links

Every Woman’s Encyclopaedia, Vol. I, p. 30.

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