Meet Georgina!

“Georgina” is the name I’ve chosen for my new 1858 cotton print day dress. Being a day dress from a new decade (the 1850s), makes her a fabulous new expansion in my wardrobe of historic clothes!

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Georgina: 1858 cotton print day dress.

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Back view.

The dress is constructed from about 5yds of a Marcus Brothers reproduction historic cotton print I purchased earlier this summer. I used Past Patterns #701 and #702 bodice patterns as a starting point, though I had to make significant alterations to achieve a comfortable and pleasing fit, especially in the shoulder/armsceye area. I used the darted pattern for the fitted lining and the gathered pattern for the gathered exterior. The sleeves are the bishop sleeves from one of the patterns, though I totally changed the cuff design.

The cuff design and a lot of other fiddly details were taken from this c. 1852 dress at the Met (pictured below). If you zoom in on the cuffs on the Met website you can see that they look just like mine (pictured later in this post)! I also used the following design elements from the Met dress: piping at the neck and waist, gathers that are tacked down beyond the seam line, button closure on the cuffs, and cartridge pleating all around the skirt. I have a whole pinterest board of inspiring images for this dress and hat ensemble, but this dress is the one from which I took the most information and detail.

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c. 1852 Dress, Met.

Here are a few pictures of the fiddly details I integrated from the Met dress:

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Gathers at the center back that are tacked down beyond the seam line. I like the controlled look these extra stitches produce.

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Self fabric cuff finished with a small ruffle. The cuffs close with a hand sewn buttonhole and button.

Georgina’s bodice is lined with white cotton. There are hand sewn boning channels sewn into the bodice in the front darts on each side and on the sides. The bones are then slipped in between the layers of fabric. I didn’t have the right length metal bones, so I used heavy duty plastic wire ties–but–I cut them in half the long way so they are much skinnier than normal (they just don’t look at all historically plausible in their normal width, in my opinion). Once they’re in the bodice, you’d never know they are plastic instead of metal.

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The proper left side of the bodice: hand stitched boning channels in the darts, front hook closure, a hook to attach the skirt and bodice together, and nicely finished piping along the bottom edge.

The bodice is finished at the neck and bottom edge with piping that is nicely whip stitched to the inside. There is also piping in the armsceye seam. The sleeve seams are french seamed by machine with the opening seam allowance at the cuff turned twice and stitched by hand. The other bodice seams are all machine sewn and the bodice is hand finished. The bodice closes at center front with hidden hooks and bars. It also hooks to the waistband of the skirt to keep the two pieces from gaping while worn.

The skirt has a wide hem that is hand stitched. The long skirt seams are machine sewn. The waistband is the same cotton print with an interfacing layer of canvas to create stability. The skirt is cartridge pleated and hand sewn to the waistband. There is a single layer of lightweight flannel folded into the cartridge pleats to give them a little more bulk than the thin cotton had on its own.

I also took the time to add pockets to this skirt! This turned out to be really useful for storing gloves, sunglasses, chapstick, a fan… with two pockets a lady can store so many things! Here’s how I made them and sewed them into the skirt:

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The pockets are muslin rectangles with a piece of the cotton print topstitched on the top center (this is the part of the pocket that can show while I’m wearing the dress and taking things in and out of the pockets).

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After the cotton print was sewn on I french seamed the vertical seam and then the bottom seam by machine, making sure that the cotton print stayed centered. On the left is what a pocket looks like with the french seams facing out. On the right is a pocket turned inside out to show the cotton print centered at the top.

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I left the top part of the vertical seam open and hand sewed that into slits in the skirt using a whip stitch through the pocket and the seam allowances (essentially under stitching the pockets, which keeps the muslin from rolling to the outside!). The pocket slits were made after the skirt was cartridge pleated and attached to the waistband, so the slits stop below the cartridge pleats (it was way too much thinking to try and figure out where the pockets should be before cartridge pleating the skirt!).

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It worked wonderfully, and the pockets blend right in and are hardly noticeable, even when they gap open! (I’ve turned the edges of the pocket so you can see the muslin pocket for this picture, but they don’t actually stay turned out like that, and you can imagine how the print fabric of the skirt blends right into the print section of the pocket).

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On the inside, the top edge of each pocket is stitched to the cartridge pleats to evenly distribute the weight of anything in them.

Georgina cost about $18: $15 for the fabric and about $3 for hooks and eyes. The various other fabrics (cotton lining, canvas interlining, etc.) were all in my stash from previous projects (yay!). I first wore Georgina last weekend to a vintage dance performance on George’s Island in the Boston Harbor. I’ve got pictures of the performance and pictures of island exploration coming up soon!

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6 responses to “Meet Georgina!

  1. Wow, this is gorgeous! How did you manage to get it out of 5 yards? Most of the dresses I see with those huge hooped skirts say on the pattern they need about 8 yards! Do yo have any tips? I am planning to make some things out of materials I have that I only have limited amounts left of.

    • I checked my notes after reading your question, and it looks like I was closer to 6 yards. I used just over 4 yards for the skirt and 1 2/3 yards for the bodice. Still, it’s true that 6 yards is less than the 8 yards that patterns often recommend.

      In terms of how I cut out the dress: I make sure to measure how long the skirt needs to be and add enough for top seam allowance and bottom hem without adding extra inches that get cut off in the end. I also carefully place my bodice pattern pieces to make the best use of the fabric (sometimes that involves cutting out left and right pieces separately rather than with the fabric). I leave almost no extra fabric between pattern pieces when I cut them out–the outside line of the seam allowances usually touch those of another piece.

      Good luck working on your projects! I hope you can make them work with the amounts of fabrics that you have available!

  2. How lovely! Your cartridge pleats are delectable! 🙂 They’re my least favorite pleat to sew. Also, the print of your dress is perfect!

  3. Nice to meet Georgina! Such a joy – what a beautiful daydress she is! Thank you for sharing the construction in detail, espcially the pockets. Highly interesting.
    The fabric you’ve chosen wonderfully catches the spirit of those 1850s dresses! Very well done 🙂

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