Monday, September 24, 2018

1870s Dress for an 8-year-old

A few months ago I made a new 1870s dress for my 8-year-old for our Victorian summer picnic.




First, The Foundation Garments. I made her a new very plain and simple chemise and drawers. I made up the chemise with a small cut-on sleeve. The drawers I made following Elizabeth Stuart Clark's instructions, but I sewed the crotch seam completely closed and also added a little elastic in back so they wouldn't slide down. She wore white, knee-high modern stockings with this.


Next I made the foundation bodice. I made it from cotton twill, stiffened with cords and a little boning. It has adjustable straps and laces closed in back. There are buttons along the lower edge to attach the petticoats and skirts. 


Here are a couple examples I used for reference. I omitted the front buttons on mine because it was a little quicker and I was on a deadline!

Adorable Antique Children's Corset in White Cotton with Center Front Buttons

http://manchesterartgallery.org/collections/search/collection/?id=1958.108

To make the pattern, I wrapped her up in tape, over an old t-shirt, then (carefully!) cut the tape away at CB, marked my desired seamlines, and cut on each to make pattern pieces. I removed a little from the CB for a lacing gap, traced them onto paper, and added seam allowances.


Onto The Dress. Here's a few images I used for reference. The white blouse under a sleeveless dress seemed to be a pretty popular look.

.

Here's another, with short cap sleeves instead of a sleeveless overdress.

Le Monde Elégant 1869 April

One more, hiding between these two ladies. Similar blouse/bodice look.

Musée des Familles 1872

This catalog page from 1873 specifically calls these sleeveless, low-neck dresses "overdresses," implying they go over something else, like one of the waists on the previous page, or another dress.


For simplicity's sake I decided to make the blouse/overdress fake, and sewed the white sleeves and yoke right to the purple dress.


The dress has buttons all the way down the front, white on top and grey mother-of-pearl on the purple part. The bottom 5 or 6 buttons are non-functional.


The sides of the overskirt are pleated up a bit to make it more bustle-y. I tied a dark purple petersham ribbon around the waist at the last minute.


The purple linen fabric has a small white stripe. The faux-neckline and hem are trimmed with pleats made of bias strips of the linen. The neckline and wrists are trimmed with lace and there is a little white ribbon around the faux-neckline also.


The underskirt is white muslin trimmed with wide knife pleats. A little of the pleats stick up above a trimming of white petersham. This underskirt came out far too long initially, so I sewed a tuck to the inside to take up a little length, The tuck is hidden behind the upper part of the pleats.








I liked this dress a lot, and so did she! The bustling at the sides and back didn't come out perfect, but what ever does? She really enjoyed wearing it and my only regret is I couldn't get her to stand still long enough for a few nice, serious pictures. Hopefully she will still fit into this one next year!

Friday, August 3, 2018

A Floral Lawn Dress for 1870

Last week I finished this very fluffy new dress!


We were having a Victorian Picnic, and I have been wanting something light and summery - with lots of ruffles of course!


My friend Laura took most of these pictures. I handed her my camera and asked if she'd be my photographress. (Thanks Laura!)


This dress was SO comfortable on a hot day. I wore it with my crinolette/hoop bustle thing and it really kept my legs free and breezy! The open sleeves were nice, too, and of course the fabric was just so fine and breathable.


The crinolette really gave me a shape I loved. I finally feel like I have enough volume for those huge 1870s dresses! My lower hoop is about 85" around and I made my skirt about 130".





The plans for this dress all started with the fabric: a light printed cotton lawn. We received it at work by mistake, and I got a great employee deal on it. It was 57" wide, and I had about 10 yards. 

The colors are a bit off in these detail shots, but you can see the pattern. Flowers and butterflies!


There was a wide border print. I wasn't super fond of the brick red color but it ended up being a nice contrast. I used up every scrap of the border for ruffles!


A little of the progress. I started with the crinolette. For the skirt I used a formula I came up with ages ago, consisting of three pieces (Front, Side Front, and Back) and drafted to measurements. Leveling it on my own body is always an exciting challenge!


For the bodice, I used the pattern based off the one I call Bodice X, the same as my wool polonaise, but with a narrow V neck. I sewed the darts as tucks for a softer look. I made a new sleeve pattern that widened into a bell below the elbow.


The skirt ruffle. I machine-hemmed all the ruffles using dark red thread to blend into the border stripe. The skirt ruffle was gathered with a bit of a frill on top.


Starting to come together! The dressform was very helpful for figuring out the trim layout and general look.


The overskirt was pretty much just a big rectangle, longer in the back, with rounded front corners, gathered to the bodice waist. For the overskirt ruffle, I stitched the gathered ruffle right sides together with the skirt, then flipped it. Same with neck and sleeve ruffles. I closed the CF with hooks and bars.


I made a few pleats along each overskirt side seam to froof it up.


I bustled the back with tapes. 3 tapes, caught in 3-4 places each. I could definitely nitpick this a bit, but it's okay.


I trimmed the neckline and sleeves with a wide embroidered net lace, cut a bit narrower at the neckline. I tea-dyed it just a bit first because it was a very stark white. I wore my green-trimmed straw hat and gold Etruscan-revival-style earrings, and carried my gold silk reticule. My hair is just my own hair, done up in a braided bun.


I love how this dress turned out a lot and it was a dream to wear!

Early 1870s Crinolette

The very full-skirted shape of the early 1870s can be difficult to achieve with petticoats alone. And even if you can get the correct volume, that means layers and layers of petticoats sticking to your legs. For a summer dress, I wanted a hoop and bustle combo - a.k.a. crinolette - that would hold my skirts out, give the correct, very large shape, and be comfortable to wear.

Here's the finished crinolette.




Here it is under a petticoat.





I used this diagram from Corsets and Crinolines as a guide.



Obviously mine didn't come out exactly like this one! I couldn't figure out how to make the bustle part connect to the hoop like in the book, so I just let it float. I also lengthened the whole thing a bit; I wanted it to be short enough not to trip on, but long enough to hold my skirt out at the bottom.

The diagram is also not perfect. There are lengths written in for a few of the bustle wires, but they didn't correspond to the size of the fabric piece when scaled up. The bustle portion's waist also did not fit with the skirt portion (between X and Z) and no pleats are indicated to make it fit. So I took this as an inspiration and just fiddled with it until it worked.

I sewed the fabric structure from plain white cotton (some of it recycled from old sheets) and made the channels from white cotton twill tape. I didn't bother with seam finishes because this was an experiment and I wasn't sure if it was going to work.

The lower part was easy - just hoops! I used wide German plastic boning. This was ideal material; the hoop was supportive but very flexible, not rigid, making it easy to sit, get in the car, and move past obstacles, and keeping the look of the dress soft. The lowest hoop is about 85" in circumference.

I rounded the ends with a scissor, overlapped them by about 1", punched two holes in each end with a very small hole punch, and sewed the ends together with strong thread. Then I slid the joins into the channels, making sure to stagger them throughout the hoop.


The bustle portion was more challenging. Getting the shape just the way I wanted was tricky. Here I used plastic-covered double-steel hoop wire, and I played around with the lengths until I liked the shape.

I cut the lengths and covered the ends with tape (yeah, I know boning caps exist, but I didn't have any handy) then sewed each end through the plastic middle part of the boning (using a big strong needle and some muscle!) and the fabric and twill tape channel, to keep it from shifting.


I tied a piece of twill tape to connect the bustle portion to the hoop to prevent it riding up and shifting.


Even after I finalized the hoop lengths, the back seemed not quite right, so I sewed a small pad (which I just happened to have sitting around leftover from a different project a couple years ago - yay for re-use!) into the back waistband. The pad is a rounded shape about 8" x 11", stuffed with fiberfill into a soft, flat shape. It was stuffed more firmly when I found it, but I took some out because it made the bustle just a bit higher than I wanted.


The crinolette came out a bit funny looking, but under a dress it really works! And it's so comfortable to have your petticoats not sticking to your legs - I felt so light and cool!

I wore this under my new floral lawn 1870s dress, which you can see here!