My current historic sewing project is reproducing three tailor-made garments and their undergarments from the end of the 19th century. The project aims to show the development of women’s tailoring from the 1880s to the 1910s–essentially the turning point between a tailored dress and a suit.
Look 1: 1883.
This garment is characterized by its bustle. The bustle goes in and out of use, changing shape and size, throughout the 1870s and 1880s. In 1883 the bustle is at a point where I call it the “shelf bustle,” extending from the back at an almost ninety degree angle once being covered by the voluminous skirt layers. During the 1880s, in particular, “tailor-made” garments were fashionable, but these were essentially dresses, not suits.
Look 2: 1903.
This garment is characterized by its romantic figure, featuring “pigeon breast” blousing and gracefully flaring skirts. The foundation of this shape is the new corset design introduced at the turn of the century, augmented by extra padding at the bust and rear. Tailored looks of this period separated jackets from skirts, but still these do not qualify as suits.
This garment stands between the corseted Victorian woman of the 19th century and the independent, working woman of the 20th century. Just a few years after this the rigid corset disappears in favor of new, lighter undergarments such as brassieres, knickers, camisoles, and girdles. Clearly, this garment is a suit, not a dress, but its undergarments remain in the past where dresses, not suits, were what women wore.
More journal entries will be coming with more information about each look as well as updates on the actual construction of these garments. Stay tuned!
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