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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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From the Delineator, 1897.

A cape and skirt, published in the Delineator, 1897. The magazine states: “The seven gored Princess skirt has a fan back.”

In the 1890s, the era of the bustle skirts had faded away. Instead, skirts became fitted closely to the waist but full along the hemline at the back. This look was achieved by making the front panel A-line in shape and the back panel shaped like a semi-circle. Because of the way the skirt fanned out at the back, often falling in natural pleats, it became known as the “fan” skirt.

There were many other skirts of similar design that were used during this period, all called rather unique names. Janet Arnold provides some of the names in her book, Patterns of Fashion 2, and they include the “Bell” skirt, the “Restoration” skirt, the “French” skirt, the “Rejane” skirt, the “Papillon” skirt, and the “Umbrella” skirt, among others. Essentially they were all the same in that they were fitted at the waist and full at the back hemline.

A fashion plate from 1896.

A fashion plate from 1896.

The way in which the back of the “Fan” skirt spread out when moving made it a very pretty skirt for ball dancing, and for this reason I have been very keen to make one of my own.

Pattern

There are several basic patterns in this style reproduced just as they were printed in newspapers and fashion magazines, in Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 2. For this particular garment I used Illustration 70 and 71 – “Illustrations and diagrams of the ‘Fan’ skirt, from Le Moniteur de la Mode, The Lady’s Magazine, 1 June 1894.”

Unfortunately for present-day dressmakers, many of these types of patterns and the accompanying instructions that have been extracted from historical sources presumed a fair bit of knowledge on the contemporary reader. For instance, there is no instructions about what sort of a waistband to construct or how the back or side fastens, especially when there is no allowance for a placket. In the absence of this information, I have had to look at extant examples to discover what sorts of waistbands and fastenings were used during this period and do my best!

One beneficial inclusion in the sewing directions is the precise instructions of how to make the garment to your own figure. However, the instructions also presume the wearer will be using a corset and has a relatively small waist measurement. (The pattern uses a waist size of 24″ as an example.) I wanted to make this skirt to my uncorseted waist size and, whilst I still used the sizing instructions, I found I needed to adjust them a little when using a much larger waist measurement. Basically I just applied the measurements to the cloth and then cut out the fabric, allowing a little extra for the seam allowances.

The front panel of the fan skirt, centre front on the fold.

The front panel of the fan skirt, centre front on the fold.

The back panel of the fan skirt, with the centre back on the fold.

The back panel of the fan skirt, with the centre back on the fold.

For the outer fabric I used a soft thick cotton (woven similarly to drill) and for the lining I used cotton broadcloth.

Construction Steps

Step One: Sew the side seams. Here, I treated the lining and the outer fabric as one. This made the fabric thicker and helped it stand out properly.

Step Two: Make two darts in the front panel at the waistline (one on each side). I also made two darts on each side of the waist, near where the back panel meets the front panel. You can see the darts in the photos below. Mine are a bit dodgy and I think I will need to go back and fix them.

Step Three: I was initially going to make a basic waistband which fastened at the centre back, but where to place the placket really baffled me, especially since the centre back was on a fold. In the end, I changed the design of the waistband, using this extant example as a guide.

This dress appears to still have a back placket and the centre back edges overlap and fasten with two buttons.

This skirt appears to still have a back placket and the centre back edges overlap and fasten with two buttons.

But I wanted the back of my skirt to look more like this:

This skirt has a lovely pleated back which I really like.

This skirt has a lovely pleated back, where two pleats fold to meet each other at the centre back.

So, using these two ideas, I developed a way to have a centre back opening without the need for a placket. Most extant Victorian skirts I have seen have plackets, so I am unsure of exactly how they were done in this case where the centre back is on a fold and the side seams are so close to the front of the skirt.

The waistband is in two parts; the normal waistband is cut to reach almost all the way around to the back but there is a second waistband "tab" in the centre back which the sides attach to.

The waistband is in two parts; the normal waistband is cut to reach almost all the way around to the centre back but there is a second waistband “tab” in the centre back which the sides pull in and attach to. This creates a pleat in the centre back.

The finished back closure is pictured below. It is not what I would call strictly historical, as most Victorian skirts had plackets and were generally fastened with hooks and eyes, but I am happy with it nonetheless.

The finished closure

The finished closure

If you are interested in looking at the way other skirts of this era are fastened, I have since found that Nancy Bradfield’s book, Costume in Detail: 1730-1930, has several drawings of extant garments from this period with different types of fastenings.

Step Four: Then the skirt just needs to be hemmed.

Here are the finished pictures:

Front view

Front view

Back view

Back view

Side view, with the fullness of the back held out.

Side view, with the fullness of the back held out.

It was really a fairly quick and easy sewing project to make. I have been thinking about also adding two tabs onto the waistband that I can tie in to make the skirt wearable with a corset. All that would change in the appearance will be that there will be an extra set of pleats at the centre back.

I am looking forward to my next dancing evening now!

I have since made a matching 1890’s bolero jacket for this skirt.

Related Posts

Making a Gored Petticoat

Sources and Relevant Links

First Image Source: at Victorian Trends by Vintage Field and Garden

Second Image Source: at All the Pretty Dresses

Patterns of Fashion 2: Englishwomen’s Dresses and their construction c. 1860-1940 – buy on Amazon

Black and purple extant Victorian ensemble (1895) – at All the Pretty Dresses

Tweed Victorian ensemble with a pleated skirt back (1890’s) – at All the Pretty Dresses

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Parisian bonnets from Ackermann's Repository (1817)

“Parisian Head Dresses” from Ackermann’s Repository (1817)

At the Jane Austen Festival in 2013, I did a workshop on making a bonnet from buckram. I have always wanted to do more millinery but have struggled to know where to start without proper tuition, so this workshop was very exciting for me!

The pattern was of a late Regency bonnet, circa 1817, and was provided as part of the workshop. The basic materials (buckram, wire, and pellon) were also provided. We were set to work handsewing the strips of metal wire to the edges of the buckram.

In millinery, the buckram is cut to the desired shape and the wire is used to hold the buckram in this shape. For this reason it is important to pre-shape the wire to the desired shape before attaching it to the buckram. It is also important to double check that the part of the hat that sits on the head will fit your head!

The buckram top and brim, partially assembled

The buckram crown and brim, partially assembled. This is as far as I got in the class.

Once I got home, I sprayed the assembled buckram frame with a spray-on adhesive and stuck the pellon (thin layer of padding) to it. The pellon pieces covered the entire outer sections of the hat, as well as the inside brim area. The inside of the bonnet had no pellon.

The buckram frame fully assembled with the pellon adhered

The buckram frame fully assembled with the pellon adhered

Then the fabric was cut out and handstitched to the frame. The fabric was cut out in 6 pieces: the outer top, the inner top, the outer side, the inner side, the outer brim, the inner brim. The fabric I chose for the inner sections was different to the fabric I chose for the outer sections, thereby creating a contrasting lining.

The bonnet with the fabric handsewn on

The bonnet with the fabric handsewn on

Then I decorated it. The trimmings were all sewn on by hand after the hat was finished. This means that the trimmings can be easily removed and replaced later to create a new look.

All finished!

All finished!

"Parisian Bonnets" from Ackermann's Repository (1817)

“Parisian Bonnets” from Ackermann’s Repository (1817)

The piped band and ribbon flowers were both made by me (the links are below), and I obtained the ostrich feather from my local craft store.

These pictures from Ackermann’s Repository helped provide ideas of how these bonnets were trimmed at this time. I particularly wanted mine to match the Regency spencer I have just finished. Now I have a lovely bonnet-and-spencer ensemble! For my first-ever buckram hat, I am pretty pleased with how it turned out.

I really loved the opportunity to work with buckram because the skills I have acquired give me so much more versatility to my hatmaking. Now I am able to purchase other hat patterns or draft my own to make my own range of hats.

Hats are my cup of tea!

Related Posts

How to make a piped band

Making Ribbon Flowers

How to make a Regency Poke Bonnet in Ten Steps

Making a Regency Spencer

Jane Austen Festival – Australia, 2013

Sources and Relevant Links

Image Source: Regency Era Fashions from Ackermann’s Repository 1817 – by EKDuncan “My Fanciful Muse”

The Repository of Arts, Literature, Commerce, Manufactures, Fashions and Politics, by Ackermann – read various volumes online

How to make a Regency stovepipe bonnet from buckram – Youtube tutorial (The author recommends using millinery wire as I have done, but does not use it in this particular tutorial.)

Covering a Regency stovepipe bonnet – Youtube tutorial (The author shows how to cover a buckram frame. I sewed, rather than glued, mine.)

From the Neck Up: An Illustrated Guide to Hatmaking, by Denise Dreher – this book has many ideas for hat patterns, as well as construction steps and decorating ideas.

Jane Austen Festival, Australia – website

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The poke bonnet was fashionable at the beginning of the 19th century, and consisted of a small crown and wide brim to shade the face. From 1830 through to the 1840s, the shape of the brim became more tubular in shape and increased in size until the wearers face was only visible from directly in front.

A French satire print on the poke bonnet in the 1810's; "Les Invisibles en Tete-a-Tete". The bonnets were called "invisibles" in France because the face of the wearer was virtually concealed except from the front.

The Gentleman’s Magazine proposed (tongue-in-cheek) the formation of a Female Convocation or Parliament in order “to regulate dress in all its changes and varieties” (1807). The author drew several comparisons between the all-male Parliament and its female counterpart, with particular mention of the poke-bonnet.

Men may act very perversely in questions of peace or war, but there would be little room for animosity in discussing the height of a turban, or the colour of a shawl; men may be warm on extending the militia, or increasing the army, but there would be more liberality in puckering a handkerchief, or gathering up a petticoat; in enacting a poke-bonnet, or proposing an amendment in the straw-hat bill; I have no doubt, indeed, that all the members would be so duly impressed with a sense of the importance of their office, as to discuss with most becoming temper, the dimensions of the square bust, the curvature of ringlets, the necessity of indispensibles, the side over which the veil is to fall, and the manner in which the dress should be broached on the shoulder, with every other circumstance of equal importance to captivate and conquer.

The Gentleman’s Magazine, Volume 100, January, 1807.

My Poke Bonnet

The materials you will need are: 

  • A straw hat (from a craft shop or second-hand shop)
  • Material for the crown
  • Material for the lining (chiffon, fine netting, silk or lace)
  • Ribbon or bias binding, to bind the edges of the hat
  • A small amount of cheap, thin craft ribbon
  • Ribbon, lace, or feathers, to trim or decorate bonnet
  • Thread, scissors, needle, pins, safety pin, sewing machine.

Step One

Begin by bending the straw hat in half to decide on the shape you want for your bonnet, and then cut the hat in half. My straw hat was quite small, only 25 cms in diameter.

Step Two

Bind the edges of the hat with bias binding or ribbon, using a needle and thread.

Step Three

Gather the lining material about 1cm from the selvedge edge. I used a thin voile, similar to chiffon, with a selvedge edge that was 1 metre long. Measure the width of the brim, from the brim edge to the base of the crown, and do a second line of gathering stitch that same distance from your first line of gathering stitch. You can see from the photo below that my two lines of gathering are approximately the width of the brim.

Step Four

Hand stitch the first line of gathering stitch to the binding on the inner edge of the brim, using a simple running stitch.

The second line of gathering stitching should rest along the base of the crown of the hat. Pull the gathering threads tighter to fit. You can attach this line of gathering to the base of the crown with a hot glue gun or some hand stitches, but I left it loose.

Step Five

The lining will now have a lot of fullness inside the hat. Trim it level with the bottom edge of the straw hat, and then bind the raw edge by hand sewing another piece of bias binding or ribbon along it to prevent fraying.

Step Six

For the crown of the hat, fold your piece of material (mine measured 45 cms x 60cms) lengthwise to form a rectangle. If you would like a more gathered crown, make your rectangle longer; alternatively, make it shorter if you would like an ungathered crown. In order to have a decently gathered crown, the length of your folded rectangle would need to be at least 2 times the circumference of the base of the crown of the hat.

Sew the short ends of the rectangle together to form a tube, leaving a small section (0.5 cms) unstitched closest to the folded edge. This will enable it to be gathered with ribbon in the next step.

Step Seven

Using a safety pin, thread a thin piece of craft ribbon inside the folded edges of the seam, so it comes out the other side. (It’s kind of like threading elastic in a waistband, except there is no casing for the ribbon. Not having a casing enables you to tightly close the crown.)

Then you can pull it tight and knot it so it forms the top of the bonnet.

Step Eight

If your crown is very loose on the straw hat, it will need to be gathered to fit. In order to hide the raw edge, you can either turn it under and sew it (as I did), or bind the edges with bias binding, ribbon or a long strip of fabric.

Step Nine

Sew two lines of gathering stitches and adjust the gathers to fit the base of the crown.

Pull it down over the base of the brim (where the nape of the neck would be) so it holds the hat in a bonnet shape. (Try it on at this stage, just to make sure it will fit your head!) Then, using a basic running stitch to attach the crown, hand sew through all layers.

Step Ten

Decorate the bonnet with ribbon, lace, feathers or other trims as you wish.

I used a craft straw hat that was 25 cms in diameter (designed for a doll, I imagine), so it was not large enough for me! The Intended Recipient, my youngest daughter, was duly impressed!

A poke bonnet, with pleated green taffeta

Tips:

  • Buy a thimble!! I bled all over my bonnet several times!
  • Use a foam head, as it will help you decide how best to shape your bonnet.
  • Melt the ends of any ribbon with a match or cigarette lighter, which will stop them fraying everywhere. (Don’t set your bonnet alight though!)
  • The more “invisible” your hand stitching, the better the result.
  • Have fun creating!

    Bonnet detail, with a ribbon flower

I made these bonnets by following a tutorial given by The Oregon Regency Society. The author also gives alternative ways to construct a bonnet for those who are not sewers, and has another tutorial on making a Regency stovepipe bonnet.

I love historical fashions! They are my cup of tea!

Related Posts

How to use Ribbon to make Decorative Trim

An 18th Century Reproduction of a Sacque-back dress

Dress-ups for a Baby

Sources and Relevant Links

How to make a Regency Poke Bonnet, by The Oregon Regency Society

From the Neck Up: An Illustrated Guide to Hatmaking, By Denise Dreher – This is a great book on the different techniques required for successful millinery, and also includes a basic pattern guide to the various fashions in hats through history.

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