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Posts Tagged ‘walking skirt’

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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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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