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A day dress, with a pleated bertha and sleeve trimmings reminiscent of the 30s, c. early 1840’s, from The John Bright Collection.

Luckily it took only two days to sew my late 1840’s skirt, as I always need a bit of extra time up my sleeve to work on bodices. With only a week and a half to go until my Colonial Dance display, I had to keep going!

In the 1840s, sloping shoulders were in fashion, as they continued to be for a large amount of the Victorian era. Bodices were long and often deeply pointed at the front, which made the waistline look slim.

In order to emphasise the sloping shoulders, bodices were often decorated with a bertha around the lower shoulder area and chest. Long “collars”, sometimes trimmed with lace or braid, went over the edge of the shoulders and down to the centre front point, and also served the purpose of drawing the eye down the shoulder. The off-the-shoulder armholes further accentuated this look, as the clothing made the shoulder appear longer and more sloping than it actually was.

A day dress, with a long pleated collar and decorative tassels down the centre front, c. 1846-49, from Fripperies and Fobs.

Day dresses often had a high neckline, resting above the collarbone, which was trimmed with a lace collar. Into the late 40s and early 50s, the neckline deepened into a V at the front, which was generally filled in with a collared chemisette or inserts of lace. Sometimes necklines developed a very wide opening along the shoulders, whilst still remaining quite high at the neck. Evening bodices even went so far as to be off-the-shoulder.

Bodices of this era tended to fasten with hooks and eyes at the centre back. The centre front panels tended to be cut on the bias, which did lovely things for stripey material. Buttons and tassels could sometimes be used as decoration down the centre front.

Sleeves were enjoying a short reprieve from the astronomical sizes they had reached to in the 1830s, before again increasing in size as the pagoda sleeve came into fashion in the 1850s. However, sleeves could still be decorated at the top with a sleeve cap, which again emphasised the sloping shoulders.

I really wanted a plain and basic bodice which I could make quickly, so I dispensed with the idea of a bertha or collar or any centre front pleating detail which was often common in this era. I thought that a centre front button placket – which become more common in the early 1850s – would enable me to get into the outfit by myself but would add enough interest. A sleeve cap also seemed to be a quick and easy detail to include.

Pattern

I used the basic bodice in Jean Hunnisett’s book, Period Costume for Stage and Screen. I would normally make a mock-up of a bodice to make any adjustments to the pattern, but I didn’t have the time to allow for that. Instead, I measured myself in my corset and I measured the pattern and added some extra allowance for adjusting. I also added some length at the bottom, as I wanted to make sure the bodice would overhang the waistband, which is consistent for this era.

The pattern pieces cut out; front, side back, back, sleeve, and sleeve cap.

I used a light cotton fabric with a woven stripe, flatlined with white cotton broadcloth.

Construction Steps

Step One: All the bodice pieces were flatlined and were then treated as one piece. The seams of the bodice were sewn; side back seams, the side front seams and the shoulder seams. Then the two front darts were fitted and sewn. (There was a lot of fitting and pinning at this stage – working from the back to the sides, then the shoulders, and then doing the front darts – just to get the fit right.)

The seams of the bodice are all sewn. In this picture, the piping has also been sewn on the arm scythe.

Step Two: I made some piping in a contrasting colour, using narrow cotton cord and some bias binding, and sewed piping to the edge of the armhole.

A close up of the piping in the arm scythe.

Step Three: The sleeves were sewn. I used a gathering stitch down the entire back edge of the sleeve side so that the sleeve seams could be eased effectively together.

The sleeve seam is pinned, and one side (the back side of the seam) is eased to fit the front.

The bottom edge of the sleeve was piped and finished the same way as the sleeve cap below.

Step Four: The sleeve cap was sewn and the bottom edge was finished with piping. I used the edge of the piping (which was a bias binding strip) to hem the bottom of the sleeve cap.

The piping has been sewn to the sleeve cap. The bias strip is then unfolded, and one half is trimmed back. The other half of the bias strip is folded over the raw edges, turned to the wrong side, and hand sewn down.

Step Five: The sleeve head was pleated to fit the arm hole (in three “inch-ish” wide pleats). The sleeve cap was placed over the top of the sleeve, with the raw edges together. The whole sleeve was then inserted into the armhole and topstitched “in the ditch” of the armhole piping – through all layers. This was illustrated in Jean Hunnisett’s book. I found it a good way of attaching a sleeve when using piping in the armhole.

From “Period Costumes for Stage and Screen”, sewing in a sleeve with armhole piping.

All raw edges of the sleeve and armhole were then neatened.

Step Six: The centre front button placket was made with a straight strip of fabric and was piped on either side, with the raw edges folded under.

The centre front button placket, with piping attached. A button is laying on top to show the contrast.

The entire strip was topstitched onto the right front panel at the centre front mark, once again “stitching in the ditch” of the piping. The raw edges of the front panel were folded to the inside, turned under and hand stitched down.

The button placket is pinned ready to sew, so that the middle of it is positioned in the centre front.

A line of piping was also sewn to the left front panel, with the raw edges being folded to the inside, turned under and hand sewn down.

A line of piping is sewn on the other centre front edge, with the button position (shown with pins) in line with the centre front.

Step Seven: The two front darts on each side were boned by simply sewing a boning channel into the dart flap. The boning was then inserted into the channel. The centre front placket was also boned behind the buttons, using the left over raw edges that were folded under after piping.

The boning channel is sewn on the left of the piping, from the bottom to about halfway up, and will be folded to the inside and slipstitched down. This will mean that the boning channel will sit directly behind the line of buttons (shown by pins).

Step Eight: Once the two centre front edges were finished, a line of piping was sewn around the top neckline and the bottom edge of the bodice. Once again, the raw edges were trimmed and turned under the bias strip and hand sewn down.

Step Nine: The button holes were sewn on the piped button placket, and the buttons (covered to match the piping) sewn to the other front edge.

The buttonholes and buttons. The bodice does not quite fit this dress form!

Step Ten: As a finishing touch, I decided to do a quick cotton collar, trimmed with lace. I draped this collar on the stand and then hand sewed it to the neckline.

The cotton lawn collar, trimmed with cotton lace.

The front view

The back view

I am really pleased with this bodice, as I think that it fits quite well. However, I had intended that the front stripes form a downward arrow, instead of an upward arrow. The downward arrow accentuates the slim waistline better and is a more period correct way of dealing with stripes, from what I have seen. It ended up being impractical to re-do the front panels in the time span I had. Anyway, slight distractions when sewing will do that to you!

So my “Jane Eyre” dress is finished! I did watch several different adaptations of Jane Eyre on DVD throughout the process of sewing this outfit, too.

Related Posts

Making a late 1840’s Day Dress: Skirt

Making an Early 1870’s Gown: Day Bodice

Sources and Relevant Links

Image Source: Day dress, c. early 1840’s – from The John Bright Collection

Image Source: Day dress, c.1846-49, from the exhibition “A Century of Style” at Glasgow Museum – at Fripperies and Fobs.

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

How to Flatline a Bodice – by Historical Sewing

A Piping Tutorial – by Historical Sewing

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

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

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

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

Pattern

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

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

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

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

Construction Steps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The front view.

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

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

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

Related Posts

Making an Early 1870’s Gown: Skirts

Sources and Relevant Links

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

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

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

How to sew Cartridge Pleats – by Historical Sewing

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Walking Dress, 1901, from De Gracious, Netherlands.

Walking Dress, 1901, from “De Gracieuse: Geillustreerde Aglaja”, The Netherlands.

After finishing my 1902 skirt and realising that I had an imminent Steampunk event to attend, I decided to make a jacket to match the skirt using the left over material.

Zouave and bolero jackets had become very popular through the 1850s and 60s and continued to be popular through the last half of the 19th century. They seemed to be consistently used as a fashion accessory rather than a warm jacket to protect against the cold, judging by the contemporary fashion plates. There was a tremendous variation in the styles and decoration of these types of jackets, and even different names to confuse you some more! The Eton jacket for women, for instance, was similar but tended to be always buttoned up at the front.

The zouave and bolero were generally short jackets, going only to the waistline. They could be decorated with any manner of trims, some imitating a military look, others more feminine with embroidery, or even decorated with ribbon and braid. They could have long sleeves, short sleeves, or no sleeves, and – whilst they were often left open – some did have front fastenings.

A picture of a Zouave Jacket and its pattern, in Period Stage and Screen, by Jean Hunnisett.

A picture of a Zouave Jacket and its pattern, in Period Costumes for Stage and Screen, by Jean Hunnisett.

Pattern

The pattern I used was found – again – in Jean Hunnisett’s book, Period Costumes for Stage and Screen. It is not a pattern that she had drawn up herself in her pattern sheets, but a pattern that had been reproduced in a picture as a “Pattern for a Zouave jacket.” This jacket is very similar to many fashion plates of the period.

There were a total of four pattern pieces included: front panel, back panel, collar, and cuff. I drafted these up onto 1 inch grid paper.

In order to enlarge these types of old-style patterns up to full-size, first find the starting point of the pattern piece – often indicated with a circle or the letter A. Then use the horizontal numbers (indicating width measures) and the vertical numbers (indicating height measures) to measure out the pattern piece onto grid paper.

The part of the pattern that was the most tricky was the right side of the front panel, as the sudden use of large quantities of letters (instead of numbers) was hard to interpret. I eventually made the presumption that the jacket picture was drawn to scale and sketched it as closely as I could.

The pattern pieces, in which the seam allowance was added.

The finished pattern pieces, in which the seam allowance was added when cutting out.

This jacket was made from a cotton with a woven stripe, lined with a black broadcloth and trimmed with black polyester braid. Interfacing was used in the front lapel facing. As usual, I did a mock up in calico before I started. The size of this pattern seemed to be pretty perfect for me and needed hardly any adjustment.

Construction Steps

Step One: First I added facing to front lining piece, trimming off any excess material. The seam allowance was pressed to the front and top-stitched down.

The lapel facing is sewn to the lining to make one front-panel-lining piece.

The lapel facing is sewn to the lining to make one front-panel-lining piece.

Then add interfacing to the wrong side of the front lapel area.

Step Two: The front and back pieces were then all sewn together; first the centre back seam, then the side seams, and then the shoulder seams. This was done for the lining pieces and then the outer pieces, resulting in “two” jackets.

The centre back seam of the lining is sewn together.

The centre back seam of the lining is sewn together.

The outer layer of the jacket is sewn together, except for the shoulder seams.

The outer layer of the jacket is sewn together, with the shoulder seams pinned ready to sew. You can see the front darts already sewn in.

Step Three: At this point the front darts of the jacket can be taken in. This is also a great time for a fitting!

Step Four: The two layers of the jacket are sewn, right sides together, along the bottom edge – matching all seams and darts. Continue to sew up the centre front and around the lapels until you reach the neckline. Leave the collar area open. (You may need to pin your collar on at this point to check where it will sit.)

The two layers of the jacket are put together and sewn.

The two layers of the jacket are put together and sewn around the bottom and centre front edges.

Clip any seam allowances and turn the jacket right sides out. Press well. You could top stitch the edges at this point, however I intended to add braid which would hold the edges in place.

Step Five: The collar pattern is a fold-down collar, and has a centre back seam. This means that the pattern piece needs to be cut out four times in the outer material, and four times in the lining/interfacing (I have used the black cotton broadcloth as a stiffener).

At first I was a little baffled about how to sew it. First, I flatlined the collar with the lining material, which meant it did not require interfacing. (You could always use interfacing instead though.) Both layers were then treated as one.

The centre back seam of the collar was sewn next. This has to be done a second time with the other collar pieces. (This second collar will form the collar facing.)

The centre back seam for the collar is sewn.

The centre back seam for the collar is sewn. (The pattern piece is there for comparison, but I didn’t sew a centre front seam, even though it looks like I did!) In this picture the collar is already folded in half for the next step.

Then the top edge of the collar was sewn according to the pattern line, to form a “curved dart”. This needs to be done to each side of the collar and for the collar facing pieces as well.

The top edge of the collar is pinned right sides together to sew.

The top edge of the collar is pinned right sides together, ready to sew as per the pattern line.

I could have cut the top and bottom halves of the collar separately but then I would have had a thick seam on this top edge, so instead I have sewn it as a dart. Press the centre back seams open at this point.

Then the collar is opened out and sewn, right-sides together, to the collar facing around the sides and top of the collar. The bottom edge of the collar is left open, with the seam allowance of the facing folded up.

zouave jacket collar 3

The collar is pinned ready to sew around the outer edges. Make sure it is sewn on the “top” or “fold-down” edge. The bottom edge is left open, with the seam allowance of the facing folded up.

The seam allowances of the collar should be clipped and then turned the right way and ironed well.

The collar is then sewn to the jacket, matching the centre back seams. The seam allowance of the neck/collar can then be turned inside the collar and hand-sewn down.

The collar is attached to the jacket, with the raw edges turned under and hand-sewn.

The collar is attached to the jacket, with the raw edges turned under. The inside edge of the collar will then be hand-sewn down.

Step Six: The sleeves were flatlined first and then the sleeve seam was sewn.

The sleeve seams are sewn.

The sleeve seams are sewn.

The head of the sleeve was then gathered to fit the armhole, and sewn in – right sides together. The raw edges of the sleeve were trimmed and bound with black bias binding. The bottom edge of the sleeve was gathered to fit the cuff.

Step Seven: The cuffs – like the collar – were also in two pieces, so had to be cut four times for each sleeve. I did not use interfacing for these either, but instead used one layer of broadcloth as a stiffener (which meant there were two cut from the lining material for each sleeve).

The cuffs were then sewn, right sides together, around the lower edge of the cuff (with the seam allowance of the cuff facing turned over in the same way as the collar). Seam allowances were clipped and then the cuffs were turned right side out and pressed well.

The cuffs were then sewn to the bottom of the sleeve, with the cuff facing being turned under and handsewn down to hide the raw edges.

zouave jacket cuffs

The cuffs sewn, turned right side out, and sewn to the bottom of the sleeve. The inside raw edge will be turned under and handsewn down.

Step Eight: The last step involved the hand sewing of the braid and the addition of two buttons and buttonholes.

The braid and buttons attached

The braid and buttons attached

I am really pleased with the finished result!

The front view

The front view

The back view

The back view

The collar does not sit quite like it should (from in the picture, anyway), so I think I will use a few tacking stitches to keep it in place.

It does look a tiny bit short at the back, but I am planning on making myself an Edwardian belt to go with this ensemble which should disguise that.

But there it is, my new dancing and (quite historical) steampunk outfit! It is lovely to dance in, too!

Related Posts

Making a 1902 Walking Skirt

Making a Bolero Jacket

Sources and Relevant Links

Image source: Walking Outfits, published in “De Gracieuse: Geïllustreerde Aglaja” (1901) from The Netherlands.

Bolero and Zouave jackets of the mid-19th century – by The Quintessential Clothes Pen

Bolero jackets of the 20th century: 1900-1909 – by The Quintessential Clothes Pen

Period Costumes for Stage and Screen, by Jean Hunnisett – buy on Amazon

McCalls Dressmaking 1901 – by Dressmaking Research

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Fashions in The Delineator, 1902

Both of these skirts have a form of circular flounce, taken from The Delineator, October 1902.

For a while I have wanted to make a new dancing skirt. I have loved dancing in my Victorian Fan Skirt and I really love this style of skirt prominent in the late Victorian and early Edwardian period. The long A-line shape with the pleated fullness at the back seems so elegant, and it is a style that I think I could wear everyday!

After the late bustle period faded away in the 1880’s, the skirt – which had already become tighter over the front of the waist and hips – lost the bustle bulge at the back and became fitted closely around the waist, but full at the bottom. This basic style continued through the 1890’s and into the Edwardian period until around 1908 when the fashions for skirts began to change again.

The type of skirt that had particularly caught my eye was one that had a circular flounce that kicked out below the knees. This seems to have been particularly popular during the early Edwardian period, when S-bend corsets were also in fashion.

“They’re–they’re not–pretty,” said Anne reluctantly.

“Pretty!” Marilla sniffed.  “I didn’t trouble my head about
getting pretty dresses for you.  I don’t believe in pampering
vanity, Anne, I’ll tell you that right off.  Those dresses
are good, sensible, serviceable dresses, without any frills
or furbelows about them, and they’re all you’ll get this
summer.  The brown gingham and the blue print will do
you for school when you begin to go.  The sateen is for
church and Sunday school.  I’ll expect you to keep them
neat and clean and not to tear them.  I should think you’d
be grateful to get most anything after those skimpy wincey
things you’ve been wearing.”

Anne Of Green Gables, by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Walking Dress, c. 1902, pattern in Period Costume for Stage and Screen, by Jean Hunnisett.

Walking Dress, c. 1902, pattern in “Period Costume for Stage and Screen”, by Jean Hunnisett.

Pattern

I found the pattern I wanted to use in Jean Hunnisett’s book, Period Costume for Stage and Screen. All of the patterns in this book are based on period patterns or fashion plates, but have been altered by the author to fit the more modern figure.

This particular skirt had a straight front panel with the circular flounce only going around the bottom of the side panel. This pattern consists of four main pieces; front panel, side panel, side circular flounce, and back panel (plus a waistband).

The only two measurements I took was my (corseted) waistline and my waist-to-floor length. This skirt was made from a cotton fabric with a self-woven stripe. It was flat-lined with black cotton broadcloth and trimmed with black polyester braid.

Construction Steps

Step One: All pieces of the skirt were flat-lined with cotton broadcloth. I began by basting the lining to each panel.

The front panel of the skirt, flat-lined with cotton broadcloth.

The front panel of the skirt, flat-lined with cotton broadcloth.

Step Two: Then I sewed the circular flounce to the bottom of the side panel.

The circular flounce is sewn to the side panel.

The circular flounce is sewn to the side panel.

Step Three: Then all the skirt pieces were sewn together.

The back panels are sewn together.

The back panels are sewn together.

Step Four: At this point I fitted the skirt. The side panel had darts to fit it to the waist, and the back panel had two large pleats on each side of the centre back seam to take in the fullness of the skirt.

The back pleats of the skirt

The back pleats of the skirt

Step Five: Once the skirt was fitted, I attached it to the waistband in the normal manner.

Step Six: Up to this point the skirt construction had been fairly straightforward, but the hemming practices of 1902 was something I had never done before. My skirt was levelled and then hemmed using some helpful advice from Historical Sewing.

I cut a length of black broadcloth on the bias (7″ wide) for my hem facing. I also cut a length of white cotton duck on the bias (4″ wide) for a modern version of “horsehair stiffener” enclosed in the hem.

I laid the broadcloth and duck strips together and treated them as one layer. It was placed, right sides together, on the hemline of the skirt. The raw edges were stitched together at the bottom of the skirt and then the broadcloth/duck layers were turned to the inside of the skirt. The end result was that the white duck was hidden in between the hem facing and the skirt lining.

The inside of the hem, showing the folded facing stitched down.

The inside of the hem, showing the folded facing stitched down. This makes four layers at the hemline; outer skirt, skirt lining, duck stiffener, and hem facing. You can see the stitching lines for the braid attached in the next step.

The upper edge of the hem facing was pleated to fit the skirt and, with the raw edge folded under, hand stitched down on the inside of the skirt. The duck would be attached/anchored in the next step.

Step Seven: Next was the trimming! Two lines of braid were handsewn through all layers along the hemline (which effectively fixed the cotton duck in place and stopped it bunching up in the hem).

The hem finished with trim.

The hem finished with trim.

Then a bias strip of black broadcloth was added to the seamlines, with the raw edges turned under and then edged with more of the black braid used at the hem. (At this point I had to unpick small portions of the waistband to slip the trimming into the waist seam.)

The seam trimming

The seam trimming

I am very pleased with the end result!

The front view

The front view

The back view

The back view

I decided – on a whim – to use this skirt for an upcoming steampunk event, and so then I began planning a matching jacket for it!

Related Posts

Making a Victorian Fan Skirt

Sources and Relevant Links

The Delineator, March 1902 – an article by Antique Crochet

Anne Of Green Gables, by Lucy Maud Montgomery – read online

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

Flatlining 19th Century Skirts – by Historical Sewing

How to Finish Skirt Hems for the Most Support – by Historical Sewing

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