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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.

Pattern

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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Here are a few different types of ribbon trims that can be used to decorate period hats or costumes.

Plaiting Ribbons

Start with 3 lengths of ribbon about 1cm wide. Pin the three pieces together at one end, as shown in the picture below. (I used sticky tape initially, but it created problems when I ironed the folds of the ribbon!)

Plaiting Ribbon - Step One

Fold the ribbon to form a plait.

Plaiting Ribbon - Step Two

I used an iron to flatten the ribbon and stop it slipping. I then did some small stitches at the junctions of the three ribbons to hold it in place better.

Plaiting Ribbon - Step Three

The resulting length of plaited decorative ribbon can be used just like a normal ribbon to decorate any of your particular projects. Simple, but I think it looks great!

Ribbon Rosette

Use some thick ribbon and sew a loop in one end of the ribbon. My loop lengths were 3cm.

Step One - Sew a loop

Sew a second loop close to the first, leaving some space between the loops. Do not cut the ribbon.

Step Two - Sew a second loop

Continue to sew loops in the same manner. I had 12 loops for my rosette.

Step Three - Lots of loops

Repeat the above steps in a matching or contrasting colour to make an inner layer. For this one, I again made 12 loops but made the loop lengths a bit shorter, at 2cm.

Step Four - The same in a contrasting colour

Hand sew the first layer of the rosette to a patch of buckram or stiff interfacing, arranging the loops around in a circle as you go.

Step Five - Arrange loops and sew in place

Hand sew the second layer of the rosette in a similar way.

Step Six - Sew the second layer

For the middle, gather one side of a piece of ribbon and pull the threads to form a tight circle.

Step Seven - One edge of ribbon gathered to form a circle

Hand sew it to the middle of the circle to cover the exposed buckram, making sure your stitches are small and close to invisible.

Ribbon Rosette - finished!

Ribbon Flowers

Using some thin ribbon (2mm wide), wind it around a rectangular piece of paper. The width of the paper will be the length of the petals. You can wind another length of ribbon of a contrasting colour  over the top for a two-toned effect, if you desire.

Step One - Wind ribbon around a piece of rectangular paper

Lay another length of the same or contrasting ribbon along one edge and sew through all thicknesses.

Step Two - Sew a piece of ribbon along one edge

Then rip the paper out from underneath. This will be a bit fiddly, and you will leave some paper behind.

Step Three - Rip the paper out

Pull the ribbon rings around in a circle and hand sew to a piece of buckram or stiff interfacing.

Step Four - Hand sew to a stiff backing

Sew a button to the middle of the flower to hide the exposed centre. You may also need to trim the stiff backing so it is not visible from the front.

Step Five - Sew a button to the middle

This is a two-toned flower that I made for a bonnet recently. Here I have used a covered button for the centre instead, so it matches the bonnet material.

Two-toned Ribbon Flower on a Poke Bonnet

Related Posts

How to make a Regency Poke Bonnet in Ten Steps

Sources and Relevant Links

From the Neck Up: An Illustrated Guide to Hatmaking, by Denise Dreher – I discovered these trims in this book.

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