1885 Mantle (HSM #5) & Accessories

Last post was a detailed look at the 1884 Plaid Wool Bustle Dress that I completed last year. This post is going to look at the details of the accessories I made and wore to stay warm while taking photos of the 1884 dress: a mantle, a new muff cover, and a quick mention of the hat.

First, the mantle, which qualifies for the Historical Sew Monthly 2021 Challenge #5:

Purple: Make an item in any shade of purple.

Easier to see the color in the next photo! Purple!

Just the facts:

Fabric/Materials: 1 ½ yards purple wool, 2 ¾ yards drab polyester lining, and about 1 yard of faux fur.

Pattern: Adapted from a pattern on page 33 of The National Garment Cutter Book Of Diagrams.

Year: 1888.

Notions: 4 ¼ yards brown braid trim and 4 coat size hook and loops.

How historically accurate is it?: 85%. The pattern and silhouette are good, but the polyester lining and faux fur are not accurate. I’ve also never examined an extant 1880s mantle up close, so the construction methods are guesses that made sense to me.

Hours to complete: 18.5 hours.

First worn: In January, for a ramble and photos!

Total cost: Approximately $40.

Mantle: Beginnings

This accessory adventure started with a passionate desire to make a specifically 1880s shaped mantle to go with my new dress. I don’t remember the details exactly, but it’s possible that I fell in love with the red mantle on the right in the fashion plate below even before I fell in love with the shape of the bustle dress that I’m wearing underneath my mantle.

The shape! The fur! The matching muff! So cute! It seemed like it would go very well with my dress.

Mantle: Patterning

I started the mantle soon after finishing the 1884 dress last year, beginning with the pattern. The pattern is from The National Garment Cutter Book Of Diagrams published in 1888 (the entire book is digitized and available here).

The pattern I started with is on page 33: Ladies’ Wrap. It has the same general shape as my inspiration plate, including the very specific-to-the-1880s outerwear sleeve set into the side back seam. Figuring those out was an eagerly anticipated part of the challenge.

The brief instructions are to use the scale corresponding to the bust measure to enlarge the pattern. I didn’t feel like finding the right scale in the book, so instead I guessed at a scale that generated proportions that made sense for my size. I think it was somewhere in the realm of ⅛” to 1″.

After the pattern was enlarged, life became busy and I put this project on hold. Fast forward to the first days of 2021 and I decided to knock this project off the to-do list so it would be ready at the first sign of snow for photos!

I made a mockup from my pattern, adjusted a few things including the length of the front piece (it was much longer than my inspiration!), then altered the mockup to check the changes. At that point, I was satisfied and ready to move on to real fabric!

Mantle: Sleeve Puzzling

Along the way in this process I had to figure out the sleeves. Below is what the sleeve pattern piece looks like when cut out. It’s not your usual sleeve shape. The top looks mostly reasonable, but what’s with a dart on the bottom edge? And the point at the bottom? Odd! Folding this in half (as you would normally do for a sleeve) would produce a strange sleeve, indeed.

I pondered this… looked up extant garments (there are a number of mantles with sleeves like this on my general 1880s outerwear Pinterest board) and did some searching for other people who had made this type of garment before.

The thing that suddenly made the sleeve click for me was a series of posts from Caroline (who blogs at The Modern Mantua Maker) showing the construction of an 1880s dolman that she made. This post, in particular, contains a photo showing the sleeve before it was set into the body of the garment. Ah ha! I realized that the bottom of my sleeve folds up and the dart goes against the body. That creates the right shape!

This post from Caroline shows her finished dolman. It was also very helpful as I tried to wrap my brain around these unusual sleeves. And, Caroline has another dolman she made as well, which I also looked at as I was figuring out my pattern.

Mantle: Materials

I had the fashion plate to reference for the overall design of the mantle, but I needed a bit more detail to confirm my material choices. Many 1880s mantles are made from fancier fabrics: silks, velvets, brocades… I only had a heavy purple wool in my stash in a quantity I thought would be just the right amount for the mantle and I didn’t want to buy something new (especially something likely to be expensive, as many of those fancier fabrics would be).

After some searching, I found this c. 1880 opera cloak at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that seems to be made of a plain wool. I decided to use some of the details from it, like the braid trim, to upgrade my mantle from plain to more interesting.

I had the braid trim in my stash already, purchased a few years ago from Deb’s Lace and Trims because I liked the look of it and thought it would be useful someday (I love Deb’s Lace and Trims–you absolutely can’t beat the prices and the products are lovely–I’ve been using them for historical projects for the last ten years!). It was great to find a use for this braid.  With just five yards on hand I had to reduce the amount used relative to the Met inspiration mantle, but I think the end result is in keeping with the simple style of the dress. The braid highlights the shape of the mantle but doesn’t distract or seem too gaudy for the plain wool base.

After creating my first mockup I did have a very justified fear that my purple wool would not be enough for the mantle. Thankfully, after altering the pattern to suit my taste and size I was just able to eke out all of the pieces. Whew!

I love the quilted lining of the Met opera cloak and I considered quilting silk myself to do it. My stash didn’t have any appropriately colored silk, though, so that idea was out if I was to stay on the stash busting course. I thought of buying pre-quilted silk (completely abandoning my stash busting idea), but the colors I could find were bland and the dark brown I eventually decided on after months of indecision was sold out.

In the end, I decided I just wanted the project to be finished, so I would go the low-cost route of purchasing a polyester lining from the $3 per yard store. It helped me use other stash materials, so it seemed a reasonable trade off.

Mantle: Construction

Here’s that polyester lining. It’s unintentionally the same greyish-brown drab color as the cotton lining of the 1884 bustle dress. The mantle is fully lined, as you can see.

In order to make the lining of my mantle tidy, the sleeves were fully lined before being set into the side back seams. Here is one sleeve assembled and ready to be set in.

The assembled/lined sleeves were set into the exterior wool side back seams while the lining side back seams were sewn plain. After attaching the sleeves around the armsceyes in the exterior wool, the lining was turned under and whip stitched to finish the edges.

All of the braid trim is machine sewn on using a zipper foot. I was able to sew it in place on the wool before setting in the lining, so none of the attaching sew lines are visible.

The lining was machine sewn around the edges with the neck left open to turn right sides out. After that was completed, I machine sewed the collar lining (interfaced with cotton) to the neck edge by machine. Then I sewed the exterior fur collar on the neck edge by hand (shown in the next photo).

After that I flipped the lining up, turned all of the seam allowances in, and whip stitched the lining to the fur edge. It seemed easier to do it this way rather than machine sewing the fur.

The faux fur trim around the bottom edge is pieced where there are seams in the wool. This allows the fur to have the exact same shape as the wool underneath. These edges have no seam allowance. The edges are just butted together and then (roughly) whip stitched, as in the photo below. From the right side of the fur the seams are completely invisible.

The top and bottom edges of the fur trim have seam allowances that are turned in and hand sewn along both edges. The outer (bottom) edges are sewn right sides together with the bottom of the purple wool. Then, the inner (top) edges are turned under and stitched. Here is that process in progress.

The mantle closes with 4 coat weight hook and loops spaced down the front edges. They kept popping open while being worn, so when I got home I pinched them with a pair of pliers to make the hooks grab onto the loops better. I haven’t been out wearing this again since then, but I’m confident this solves the problem, as I’ve used this trick in the past.

New Muff (Cover)

Next, I want to share a bit about the muff I have in these photos.

Despite having a number of muffs, none of them are the right size and material to match my new mantle. I have a dark muff that matches the hat I wound up wearing and I have a muff made from the same fur I used to trim the mantle, but the dark muff didn’t match my mantle and the one that does match is an intentionally oversized early 19th century muff. Neither would do!

But I didn’t want to make an entirely new muff. Instead, I decided to make a new cover for a muff I’ve had since 2012 (you can see it in this post from 2019, when I used it with an early 19th century outfit). The muff is from a workshop I took with LadyDetalle. (She has an Etsy shop that often stocks muffs like this as well as many other beautiful and historically inclined goodies.)

The base is essentially a pillow (stuffed with real down–quite luxurious!) that can be rolled into a tube and have a cover put on. The idea is that the muff cover can be changed out so that you can have all sorts of beautiful muffs and only need to store the one base. The muff is sized for the 18th century, but I thought it just might work for my 1880s look, too.

Accordingly, I measured my existing muff cover and cut a rectangle of faux fur that size. I butted my edge to make a tube and whip stitched it, in the same way as I whip stitched the mantle trim. Next, I machine sewed twill tape on the tube ends. (I had no worries about the fur getting caught in the machine sewing because that whole edge turns into the muff in the end anyway, so none of that will show.)

Once whip stitched in place the twill tape covers the raw edge of the fur and also provides a casing for the ribbons at each end. I used tobacco brown polyester ribbon that was gifted to me. By way of justification for the polyester ribbon, I’d already used polyester for the mantle lining and this seemed like a good use for this particular ribbon.

Below is the muff cover after those steps were completed.

And here is a closeup of the twill tape with machine stitching on one side and whip stitching on the other. The ends of the twill tape are just turned under and butted together, leaving an opening for the ribbon ends to come through.

And ta da! A muff that is the right size and perfectly matched to the mantle! The additional muff cover takes up hardly any storage space and now I have more versatility in my wardrobe.

Hat Baubles

While making my mantle and debating how to stay warm, I figured I would need something to keep my head warm. I’d already made the dress and the mantle and I didn’t feel like creating something all new for my head, as well. And I loved this image from the McCord Museum of 1880s ladies curling in the cold with their hats.

I thought I could repurpose my 1917 faux fur hat to suit the purpose, as it has a generally similar tall, straight shape. That hat is nice and warm, being lined in flannel and interlined with layers of batting to insulate the head.

The look of it was a little bland with this outfit, though, and not really coordinated with everything else.  I liked the idea of bringing in some of the mantle fur to make the hat look like it belonged. After fussing with various ideas I decided on fur poms, or baubles.

The baubles are sort of like large-scale cloth stuffed buttons. They are a circle that is gathered, the edges turned into provide stuffing, and the backs sewn together to close up the opening. (This tutorial shows how to make these types of buttons, though I started with a circle of fabric rather than a square.)

I like that the finished baubles pull in the look of the tan fur, that they are silly and amusing, and that they are easily removable. In fact, they are attached with safety pins on the inside of the hat! You can’t get much more easily removable than that!

I’m very pleased with my stash-busting-and-using-things-I-have-on-hand winter bustle ensemble. It’s warm. It was a great patterning challenge. It’s really fun to wear (it feels super elegant!). And it (mostly) reduced my fabric stash.

Thanks for sticking with me through this second detailed (and rather long) post! Next post will be further photos of the bustle dress in action on a woodland adventure.

1884 Plaid Wool Dress Details

I’m very excited to share the details of my (somewhat) new 1884 Plaid Wool Dress! It’s ‘somewhat new’ because I actually finished it 8 months ago, but at that point it was July and the temperature was absolutely not acceptable for wearing a wool dress for photos! Instead of putting the dress away, I kept it out, waiting for colder weather and the opportunity for a photo shoot. I was hoping for snow… and this winter, I got it!

This dress is entirely inspired by the dress on the right in the fashion plate below from La Mode Illustree. I love the relative simplicity of the overall design and the waterfall of folded fabric on the skirt. Unfortunately, I don’t have an official source of the fashion plate or the year it is from, though my best guess is 1884.

I thought the design would be a great use of the tan and plaid wools that have been in my stash since 2012 (wow… that’s longer than I remembered!).  In addition to those, a small piece of plain purple wool had made its way into my stash over the last eight or nine years and when I started this dress in November 2017 I decided it would be a nice addition to the tan and plaid wools in the form of trim. While not an exact match to the purple in the plaid, I think it helps to perk up the plaid and bring out the non-tan tones (the green and purple).

Skirt Construction

I started the process of this dress with the skirt. I wanted the fabric to hang just like the fashion plate, so I decided to drape a custom pattern as opposed to starting with anything that already existed. The only exception to that (in the skirt) is a base of drab greyish-brown cotton. The base pieces were adapted from a Janet Arnold pattern.

I used the skirt base for the front and side areas, in order to have something for the wool layers to be attached to. In the back of the skirt there is nothing but the tan wool.

Here is a look at the inside of the finished skirt. You can see the tan waistband along the top and the drab cotton base with tacking stitches all over it. The tacking stitches are holding the plaid fabric in place–you can just see the plaid selvedge poking out on the right side.

The pleats in the plaid aren’t part of the original fashion plate, which instead has a draped apron-type front. I tried that, putting my plaid with a vertical grain and a tan apron over top, but I really hated how it looked in wool–too heavy and rather unattractive. I played with the fabrics until I settled on the bias plaid. I hinted at the draping in the fashion plate by adding tucks to the plaid to help it drape just slightly rather than just being flat. You can see the resulting folds pretty clearly in the next photo.

The various overlapping pleats of the plaid front, waterfall side, and back were complicated. I was trying to achieve a back that looked like this dress held by the Met, in addition to the various lovely folds shown in the fashion plate.

It’s easy to draw things, but sometimes they don’t really work in actual fabric… I found that with the waterfall, especially. There’s actually an added loop of fabric tucked between the folds that isn’t part of the side piece at all! It’s just a little fake bit to help create the look of the fashion plate. I couldn’t figure out any other way to do it!

Given these various challenges and lots of other things to keep me busy in life, this poor skirt sat in a half finished state on the dress form in my sewing room for at least a year. I couldn’t remove it without marking everything… and I couldn’t make up my mind about what I wanted! (I say poor skirt, but it was sort of poor me, as I definitely reached a point of wanting the dress to get put away!)

Eventually, I did make up my mind and remove the skirt, but the partially finished skirt still sat around for ages before I finished it. Part of marking the skirt also meant figuring out the facings of the waterfall bits, because the fully finished edges had to be set into the waistband. Mr. Q actually asked at one point after the skirt was off the dress form whether I had intended it as decoration in my sewing room because it was there for so long… Nope!

All the various pleats on the skirt wound up making for a rather thick layer of things to sew through for the waistband. Here’s what the side with the waterfall trim looks like on the inside. I count at least 9 layers of wool in one spot! Given that, I decided to cut the inner side of my waistband on the selvedge of the fabric and leave it hanging down into the skirt instead of turning the seam allowances up as you would normally do for a waistband.

Setting the hems on the skirt was another challenge, though this was due to the fact that I did it by myself. It involved dressing in my corset, bustle, petticoat, and skirt, twisting and contorting while putting pins in the hem to mark the floor, then standing to look in the mirror to see if they were even, then adjusting… many times!

I eventually had everything marked to my satisfaction and could move on with the sewing. All sections of the hem are finished with wide bias strips of the drab cotton, the goal being to make the hems durable and less likely to catch on twigs, etc. than if they had more textured wool exposed (and I can say, after romping about the woods in this dress, that the hems did an admirable job!).

After using the drab cotton for both my 1896 Bicycling Ensemble and to line my 1863 Apricot Evening Gown I was starting to run low for this project. I cut the skirt base pieces, cut the bodice lining pieces, and then used pieced scraps to make the wide bias to hem the skirt. As you can see in the above photo, some of my bias pieces were only 6″ or so in length. And in the photo below, you can see the only bit of wide bias that was leftover when I was finished!

The final skirt detail to share is a hidden patch pocket! The skirt opens on the side front, along one side of the plaid, and underneath that opening is a pocket, perfectly sized to fit a cell phone and keys. The pocket is oddly low, near the knees, but that is because I wanted to make sure that any bulk from items in the pocket would press in towards my legs and not make an unsightly bulge on the exterior of the dress.

The photo below shows the pocket, as well as some of the hooks and thread loops that allow the tan fabric to attach to the plaid wool.

Bodice Construction

In addition to this rather complicated skirt, there was also a bodice to be made! The bodice is actually pretty straightforward. The pattern is adapted from the one I used for my 1885 Frills and Furbelows summer dress which in turn was adapted from a Janet Arnold pattern.

The bodice is completely flat lined in the drab cotton. There is a ribbon waist tape to help keep the back of the bodice tight against the body and to keep the bodice from riding up while being worn.

The bottom and front/neck edges are finished with bias strips of the drab cotton. The seam allowances are unfinished. The bodice closes in front with hooks and loops.

There are two other details I want to discuss, as well. First, there are the bust pads! I came across these in this c. 1885 extant dress and decided I wanted to give them a try to see if I could get that really exaggerated bust to waist ratio in my inspiration fashion plate (here’s the link to it again).

Turns out… no. I did not achieve that bust to waist ratio… but I think that’s more a factor of my waist size than anything. (It’s not as small as it was 10 years ago…) To keep the proportions of the fashion plate I would drastically need to increase the bust size. Perhaps in another dress.

In the meantime, this dress tried out the bust pads. They are made from cotton scraps with shaped batting layers inside. Below you can see the steps to creating the pads. Once sewn, these were tacked inside the bodice to keep them in place.

The second detail still to discuss is the neck ruffle. I finished this dress shortly after completing my 1875 Reception Dress last summer and I had my antique fluting iron on the brain. After pondering the fashion plate neck and sleeve ruffles for awhile I decided to use my fluting iron to ruffle some cotton to use for my dress’s neckline and cuffs.

I was well practiced by this point, having fluted lots of silk for the 1875 dress, so away I went! The cotton strips are cut on the grain and folded along the long edge–no hemming required!

Attached to the neckline the trim looks like this. The waves are a little crushed where they are tacked down, but the folded edge maintains a nice wavy shape. I found that my cotton frayed more than I wanted it to, so I went back and whip stitched over the raw edge to keep it tidy.

I used the same cotton for small ruffles on each cuff, as well. Like the neck ruffle, these are hand sewn inside the finished sleeve openings.

You can see the finished effect of the ruffles in the next photo! Subtle, but adding a nice edge finish.

While the ruffles are sewn to the inside of the finished bodice, the purple bodice trim and plaid cuffs are sewn similarly but on the outside of the finished bodice. I didn’t want them to add bulk by turning all the way under into the bias edging, so they have the raw edges turned under and then they are hand sewn to the outside of the bodice.

I decided the purple trim around the neck wasn’t quite interesting enough and so I added a narrow fold of bias cut plaid to help transition between the two solid colors. This also helps the bodice to feel that it belongs with the skirt, so that the only plaid isn’t just on the skirt front and cuffs.

Final details

Both skirt and bodice are mostly assembled by machine with hand finishing, including trimming, hemming/facing, closures, etc.

I used about 8 yds of the different wools and drab cotton for the ensemble. These materials, plus notions etc., cost just under $30. This was definitely helped by the fact that most of the fabrics were purchased for just $3 per yard at the local discount fabric store!

The skirt is a bit heavy, being made of about six yards of wool and cotton, but it’s not unreasonable. And, it’s quite warm! I was perfectly warm in the approximately 20 degree Fahrenheit cold for all of these photos except for my nose, chest, and hands. Never fear, though, I was wearing the additional layers of my newly completed mantle and muff except for during these photos! (And there will be posts coming up about them as well, with lots more photos!) With all my layers the only part of me that was cold was my nose!

In the end, I’m more pleased with the overall dress than I expected to be! I was always excited about the skirt and the purple swoop of the upper bodice trim, but once I started making the dress in wool I was worried the bodice might be too plain and maybe even boring… but I like the fit and shaping very much (especially in the back!) and I think that helps balance out the relatively simple style. It makes sense for a wool dress to be well tailored but more simple in decoration and style than its silk counterparts.

Also, I’m very pleased that my idea from 2012, to use these fabrics for a bustle dress, has finally been achieved! I think there’s still a yard or so of tan wool in my stash, but I’ve sewn my way through a good 8 yards of it. That’s great stash busting!

1950s Lady’s Raglan Cardigan In Boysenberry

I finished knitting another sweater!

This is actually my fourth sweater. The first was my 1917 Knitted Sweater of Angorina, the second hasn’t been posted to the blog, and the third was my 1920 Sweater of Determination. Each sweater has been a learning experience in some way, and this one was no different!

One thing I learned with this sweater was about multiple different ways to increase and decrease symmetrically on each side of a piece (a sleeve for example). This was a rabbit hole I went down that I think was sparked by my wondering why the stitch instructions were different for the left and right side raglan armholes.

The method of increasing or decreasing is an important one made by the pattern designer because every stitch has a different look and different types of stitches may or may not look symmetrical when knit up. Also, the increase and decrease stitches have a slant to them, so it’s important that the slants are going in the correct direction. This resource clearly outlines different increase and decrease methods.

You can see the decorative symmetry of the shaping on the armsceyes in this pattern in the photo below. I love how it looks!

I also learned how to K2Tog TBL (Knit 2 Together Through The Back Loop). I’d K2Tog before, but not through the back loop. I found this explanation of K2Tog TBL to be the most helpful.

And, I learned about picking up stitches along an already finished edge, which is something I hadn’t encountered in any of the things I’ve made so far. This technique is used for the cuffs on the new sweater. I found this information and this information super helpful in terms of figuring it out and making it look nice.

The pattern for this sweater is a PDF download from Subversive Femme on Etsy. It is the 1950s Fitted Raglan Cardigan pictured below. The pattern was easy to download and the quality was clear and easy to read.

My cardigan (the end result) generally follows the pattern image, so that’s great! There are a few differences:

1- My understanding of the instructions created a vertical pattern that doesn’t quite match the one pictured on the orange sweater. I’m not sure if I was doing something wrong or not, but I don’t mind how mine turned out.

2- The pattern image clearly shows full length sleeves, but the instructions definitely produced ¾ sleeve sleeves with weird proportions in terms of circumferences around the arms. After making one, I puzzled for a bit, then decided to take it apart and knit a new sleeve with alterations to make it longer.

Below, you can see the comparison of the sleeves: the original sleeve that follows the directions is on the left and my altered version is on the right.

3- I made up the sweater in a bust size 38″ (the largest size included in the pattern). As much as I love my sweater, it is a bit small. I’d prefer it to be an inch or two longer in length, a bit bigger in terms of torso circumference (the buttons don’t really stay closed), and definitely bigger in the size of the armsceyes (it’s a bit tight under my arms). This makes sense, since my bust measures 40″. Someday I might make another version of this sweater and adjust the pattern to have more space in the areas where I need it.

The pattern seems to have been published by a yarn company and states quite clearly that “Correct results can only be obtained by using Lee Target in ‘Motoravia’ Double Knitting Wool.” Well, I didn’t use that… I used Red Heart With Love acrylic yarn in boysenberry, because I had a bunch of it in my stash (enough, I thought or at least hoped). It was leftover from my Deauville sweater, I liked the color, and it also seemed to be a similar weight to the Lee Target wool, which Ravelry has great information on and photos of.

I figured that if the sweater was a complete disaster I wouldn’t have spent tons of money on yarn for it. In the end, I didn’t have quite enough yarn and had to order another 6oz, but luckily I found the right yarn, in the right color, on Etsy and the skeins don’t have dye lots, so I had enough to finish the project!

Being acrylic, this cardigan is quite warm. It’s great for being outside in the cold, but I’ve found that wearing it inside can sometimes make me too warm. That’s true of most acrylic sweaters I own. I can’t count on them being part of an outfit all day, because I often take them off at some point.

This sweater took about 46 hours of knitting to make, plus another 4 ½ hours of unknitting (either to take apart the sleeve that was too short or because I’d mixed up a stitch somewhere along the way and had to go back and fix it). It was made over the course of about 10 months.

For materials, I used about 18 oz/925 yds of yarn and 7 plastic buttons that I found in a coordinating shade of deep pinky/purple, after a lengthy hunt on Etsy. The total cost of the materials was about $20, plus some shipping for the buttons and extra skein of yarn.

I had a wonderful time tromping through the woods after an early snow last October to document the new sweater and the black wool ¾ circle skirt I’m wearing with it. Despite the fit being a bit small, I’m very pleased with the cardigan and have added it into my regular wardrobe rotation even outside of a photo shoot walk.

While it’s fun to make historical things that only get worn on special outings, there’s also an added bonus when things can be worn more often for everyday life!

How To Make A Gaiter Mask Out Of A T Shirt

I haven’t posted about mask making on the blog. It’s felt as though doing so would sort of confirm the situation of wearing them. Ignorance is bliss, right? Or something?

Last weekend, I was going skiing and finally decided that the masks I’d been using weren’t going to cut it for that activity. Instead, I made new gaiter style ones!

I made my new gaiter masks from old t shirts in the spirit of recycling, extending the use of clothing I already own, and using what I had on hand. I was excited, took photos of my process, and wanted to share them, hence the inspiration for finally sharing about mask making.

Gaiter masks made from old t shirts!

The (Rather Lengthy) Background

I’ve made it through the last 9 months using self-made masks with ties. Here’s a colorful assortment of my masks, made from cotton scraps of old projects, random fat quarters I had in my stash, and old sheets for most of the ties. Recycling again!

I have very few subtle masks… I made enough to wear them every day and still be able to launder them no more than every few weeks. This is only a sampling!

I have a single mask that has elastic (made specifically to match my 1834 yellow dress, because tying a mask on with 1830s hair and a bonnet just did not seem feasible!). My preference for masks with ties come from the fact that I wear glasses most of the time and don’t like the feeling of more things behind my ears. Also, it’s nice that the lower ties can double as a neck cord when needed, such as when I’m driving between errands.

But for skiing, a tie mask with a helmet was just not going to work for me. I don’t even think the ties are long enough to go over a helmet. And ties under the helmet? It would be a pain to adjust, so I wasn’t inclined to do that, either. I’ve seen people wearing the gaiter style masks for months, especially for physical activities, but I don’t like the idea of breathing through polyester and I’ve been stubborn about wearing the masks I had already made.

In my mulling over the idea of a gaiter style mask, I realized I could make my own, to whatever specifications I want! However, I didn’t have fabric yardage easily accessible that was stretchy. But then I had the thought that my donation pile had a number of t shirts that no longer fit… and that recycling them into gaiters would be a wonderful way to keep their life going!

So, without further ado… a tutorial!

The Tutorial

I started by laying one of the old t shirts out on my table. I smoothed out the layers, but didn’t worry too much about it being perfect. It’s a knit that’s been folded for quite awhile, so there were some wrinkles to contend with, as you can see.

I measured a rectangle 10″ wide by 11″ tall and cut through both layers of the shirt at the same time, leaving me with what you see below, as well as an oddly shaped scrap I’ll keep that and see what other creative uses for it I can come up with! (If you have a small-ish or large-ish head, or a t shirt that is really stretchy or really not-stretchy, you might need to adjust the measurements.)

Finishing the gaiter mask is much faster and easier if the bottom edges of the rectangles use the finished bottom edges of the t shirt as the ‘cut edge’. That means not cutting anything off that side!

Pin the vertical edges right sides together and stitch them with a straight stitch on the machine using ¼” seam allowances. (You can use a straight stitch because you’re not trying to preserve vertical stretch.)

Here’s what my gaiter looked like after sewing the sides. The fabric should make a tube!

Once turned right side out it should look something like the photo below. If you’ve used the finished t shirt edge for one side then you’re close to being done!

In my case, the t shirt I used was two layers of fabric in the front, which is why the left and right sides of the top edge in the photo below aren’t finished in the same way–they weren’t on the original t shirt either. The two layers allowed me to seam the vertical seams in a way that encased the raw edges between the double layer side of the mask. Nice!

But most t shirts are not two layers in the front, so how to finish those raw edges of the seam allowance? They won’t fray, because the fabric is knit, but if you don’t want them flapping around you can flat fell them using a zig zag stitch.

The tan and white gaiter mask below is halfway through having the seam allowances flat felled. I’ve pushed all the layers of seam allowance to one side and am using the machine to zig zag over the cut edges. It’s a little tricky to make sure that only the part you’re intending to sew gets under the presser foot of the machine, but going slowly and checking where all the layers are makes it completely do-able. (I had enough of the tan and white fabric to make this whole mask double layer, but not all t shirts have enough fabric to make that possible.)

Here is what that looks like when finished. (This gaiter also has a hem already, which is the next step!)

Finishing the top and/or bottom edges of the tube is the last step!

In the tan and white example above, the edges are already finished because I used two layers of fabric and turned them right side out before stitching the sides. To keep the layers in place I zig zag stitched near the top and bottom edges through both layers as a final step. (I used a zig zag so that the stitches would allow the fabric to stretch without breaking the thread.)

Back to the teal example we’ve been looking at, I simply folded up the raw edge of the fabric and top stitched over the edge with a zig zag (in the same way as for the seam allowance finish on the tan and white example). I used ½” seam allowance for the top and bottom edges. It looks like this when complete!

And that’s it! Each gaiter took me about 30 minutes to make.

Final Assessment

I wore the teal gaiter while skiing! I don’t plan to wear these every day, but for that purpose the gaiter style was great!

I did find that it tended to slip down as it absorbed the moisture of my breath, in combination with the head movement required to check behind me, etc. while skiing. Due to this, I had to pull it up somewhat regularly. I eventually tucked it into my helmet a little better and that made it stay in place. Another solution would be to take tucks in the sides to make the top circumference smaller. Or, perhaps, for next time (or for you!), make each rectangle ½” smaller across (so only 9.5″ instead of 10″) to make the gaiter a little more fitted.

The two layers of fabric on the front of my gaiter felt thick enough for virus protection while still easy to breath through. All that condensation made for a pretty damp mask after a few hours though… It was fine while I was out in the cold, but after taking it off in the car on the way home I had no desire to put it on again without a wash (though that’s true with any mask, regardless of the style)!

Whether this inspires you to make a gaiter mask or not, I hope my t shirt recycling inspires you to also consider recycling textiles (or other materials) in some way… perhaps in a way you hadn’t considered before!

Presenting A Coat From 1925

A few years ago, I decided I wanted a 1920s coat. The goal was to make it for an event, but I ran into some construction problems along the way that caused me to give up work for awhile. In January, after letting it sit for about two years, I was tired of looking at the half finished project and worked up the determination to actually finish it.

Though I’ve only worn it once so far, I’m very pleased that I finally finished this coat! It is quite decadent and elegant to wear (and it’s nice to have completed the project so I can put it away)!

My inspiration started with the pattern below. I was intrigued by the flared side pieces and overlapped closure. I enlarged this pattern and did a little adjusting for my proportions.

With the pattern ready to go, I purchased the exterior fabric of the coat and got to work. The exterior is made out of fleece backed velvet upholstery fabric from Fabric.com. Thankfully it isn’t super stiff, like some upholstery fabrics are. The fleece backing is actually quite soft and the exterior has a low pile and lovely sheen. It shows every little brush against the nap though, so I was super careful while making it, transporting it, and wearing it to keep the pile brushed the right way.

The inside body of the coat is lined in tan silk shantung. This was a remnant I purchased years ago from a local discount fabric store. I’ve never found a good use for it until now, when I managed to just squeeze out the pieces I needed for the coat.

Unfortunately, that’s also where the problems started. I cut the sleeve linings on the cross grain of the silk (because I was running low on fabric). I know that grain and cross grain can behave differently, but these were drastically different! The sleeves were so constricting!

Also, I hadn’t widened the sleeves enough to actually move in even without the silk lining! I could get my arms in the sleeves but there was no way I was going to bend them or use them for any useful purpose. Oops!

What to do???

Well, with the event I had intended this for fast approaching… I gave up. I put the project on the back of a chair (so it wouldn’t get marks in the pile!) and moved on.

Two years later, I decided it was time to finish the coat. In the spirit of forging ahead and in order to make things work, I changed a few things from my original vision.

For the sleeves, I scrapped the silk linings, opting to just leave the arms of the coat unlined. This worked because of the softness of the fleece backing. In addition, I was able to cut cuff facings and binding for the armhole seam allowances out of my failed sleeve linings.

I thought I could let out the under sleeve seam and it would be enough extra fabric to make the sleeves comfortable. The needle holes had left scars on the fabric, but I figured no one would see it. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough!

So, I ripped out the let out seam, dug out my fabric scraps, and pieced a section down the entire length of the arm. The piece is about 1″ wide at the wrist and 2″ at the armsceye. What was I thinking with my original pattern??? Thankfully the added piece is not obvious, since it’s on the underside of the arm. And I suppose that if you didn’t know where sleeve seams should be it wouldn’t look out of place!

As well as actually fitting my arm (and allowing for movement!), the bigger armsceye on the sleeve allowed me to move the sleeve up on the shoulder a bit, too, which helped the coat not look oversized.

In addition to the sleeve changes, I also changed the front edges of the coat from that nice jag with buttons to straight from collar to hem. I realized there was no way to do buttonholes I would be happy with in my very thick velour and that the angle I had very carefully sewn just would not lie flat. A slight tug line at the inside corner really bothered me.

I looked at these two pages from a 1925 Sears catalog to help with the design choices at this point.

These helped me decide on the button closure. There is one button and corresponding thread loop on the hip and another below the collar.

The Sears images also helped me decide on the location of the fur trim. The bands and collar are made faux fur leftover from my 1814 Wizchoura Ensemble, also from Fabric.com. The collar is especially warm and comfy when buttoned shut, though it’s also a lot around the face… so I think wearing it open is more likely! This combination of red pile exterior and tan fur shows up multiple times on my 1920s Outwear Pinterest board and it was nice to use fur I already owned instead of buying more.

I decided against fur trim on the cuffs and instead kept the French cuff look, set off with two buttons. This was a feature from the original pattern that was supposed to mirror the jag on the front edges that I eliminated.

I didn’t change the flared side pieces of the pattern and I’m very pleased with the end result. They give a 1920s flip to the otherwise very straight shape of this coat.

The six buttons on the coat are from Farmhouse Fabrics. They’re big, about 1 ¼” across, and they have a wavy pattern on them that helps make them interesting looking without being distracting. They match the velour so well!

All together, the materials used on this coat are: 2 ½ yards of the fleece backed velvet, approximately 2 yards of silk shantung for the lining, scraps of faux fur used on my 1814 Wiztchoura, 6 large buttons, and thread. The total cost of these materials is about $70, including shipping.

I didn’t keep track of the number of hours spent making, altering, and finishing this coat, but I would guess that it is around 30-40. There was some serious frustration in there (or despair, as Anne of Green Gables might say!).

As you can see in all the photos, when I finally wore this coat in January 2020 at the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel, the Christmas decorations were still up. I loved (and still do!) how festive the coat looks with the decorations, but by the time this post was written it seemed a bit late for the holiday look here on the blog, so I decided to save this post for this 2020 holiday season. Now, after many months of missing fabulous indoor spaces and events, I’m particularly pleased that I have these photos to share!

Finally Finishing My 1831 Bonnet

Many years ago (well, in 2012), I started a bonnet that was intended to match my 1822 Walking Dress. I was making a whole ensemble, with the dress, a muff and tippet, and also a bonnet and chemisette. It was more than I had time to complete for the deadline at the time. The chemisette was not even started, but the bonnet was patterned, cut out, started, and then abandoned.

In the intervening years, the bonnet pieces have sat in my UFO box, patiently waiting for me to come back to them. This year, as I was making my 1834 yellow dress and thinking about how to accessorize it, I remembered the bonnet and wondered if the shape and color might work for the 1830s. It seemed more useful to use something that already existed, and was already partly finished, as opposed to starting something new, so I decided to go for it!

This is the state of the bonnet when I picked this project up again this fall. It’s not bad progress, actually. All the pieces were cut out of buckram, flannel, and slightly slubby silk; the buckram assembly was started; the flannel was basted on; and the edges of the pieces were wired.

All of that turned into this!

In this post, we’ll follow along with my construction process. Future posts will have more finished ensemble photos as well.

Inspiration

First, let’s go back to the inspiration for this bonnet.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a bonnet that is dated c. 1820, pictured below. It is silk and appears to be satin edged in velvet. It looks brown to me, but it’s also possible that it is black and that lighting and fading from age cause it to appear brown.

Bonnet, c. 1820, The Met, 2009.300.1615

This is what I was aiming for when I started patterning in 2012. However, after finishing my bonnet, I realized that my brim shape is more open and high, and less forward, than the shape of this bonnet. This surprised me! And actually, it worked out in my favor, as the shape I patterned is more 1830s than 1820s.

Despite the shape not being quite like The Met bonnet (maybe someday I’ll alter the pattern and try again for the 1820s shape), I still took much color and material inspiration from it. I liked the tone on tone silk with velvet trim, the edges trimmed in velvet, and liked the lightweight silk ties (plus, I had all of these materials in the stash in perfectly coordinating purples!).

The trim needed to be different for the 1830s, though. I liked this 1830 bonnet, particularly for the inside of the brim trim, and this 1826-1830 bonnet for the fabric loop trim. There are other inspirational fashion plates showing floral trim inside and outside the brim on my Pinterest board for this project, as well. My bonnet is a melding of all of these sources of inspiration.

Construction

With my half finished pieces in hand, I decided to attach the tip of the bonnet to the side. Here is that step, pinned in place. These pieces were hand sewn together.

I’d decided to baste my flannel in place in order to help it follow the contours of the shapes instead of pulling away. On some bonnets (such as one covered in transparent fabric) these stitches might be seen, but I was confident that my silk would hide these quite well. The alternative would be to use spray adhesive to hold the flannel in place, but I didn’t have that at my fingertips 8 years ago.

In addition to the basting stitches in the middle, I also roughly whip stitched over the outside edge of the brim to hold the flannel in place.

I took this brim piece and basted it to my assembled crown, then stitched those two layers together using a Z stitch. Pinning this was fiddly, as I had to get the buckram seam allowance of the side to slip under the flannel of the brim smoothly.

The next thing to do was cover the brim with my silk, but I still had the problem of getting the fabric to follow the contours of the curves without pulling away. When I started on this step I only had rubber cement on hand. I (smartly!) tried a sample to see if it would show through the silk. It definitely did! The rubber cement sample is on the bottom of the photo below. Not what I wanted! So, I ordered Krylon spray adhesive, which I knew would do the job. When it arrived, I tried another sample. The spray adhesive sample is on the top of the photo below. Success!

I used the spray adhesive for the inner and outer layers of the brim covering. It worked wonderfully, just as I had expected it to. The only exception is that I accidentally left a mark on one of my brim pieces where I’d let too much spray build up and had to recut that piece. So if you try this, make sure to do very light coats with the spray adhesive if your fabric is thin enough for it to show through!

Here is the inside of the brim, with the seam allowance clipped where it meets the crown.

And here is the outside of the brim, with the seam allowance clipped so it can lay along the outside of the side band. You can see the interior of the brim showing on the extreme left of the photo, on the other side of the wired edge of the buckram. You can also see that by this point I’d put the silk covering on the tip of the bonnet. The seam allowances of that piece are clipped and then stitched over onto the side band through all the layers.

This photo shows the Z stitches holding the silk tip piece in place a little better than the last photo. It also shows the side band. For this piece, I pressed under the brim side seam allowance ahead of time, pinned it in place, and then turned the top edge under as I went along, so it would be just the right width. Stitching this piece on covered all of the seam allowances you can see in this photo.

In the next photo ,a few more steps have been completed. The side band was sewn on, the silk edges were trimmed and bound with bias velvet, I cut bavolet pieces (out of my glue stained brim piece!), edged the bavolet with bias velvet, and attached the bavolet. The great thing about the spray adhesive is that it’s not so glue-y that it gums up a needle or makes things hard to sew through, so I had no problem with any of these sewing steps.

As a side note, what is a bavolet? Interestingly, my go-to source for definitions, the Oxford English Dictionary, does not have an entry for this word! I believe that is because it is actually French, not English. I would define bavolet as ‘the curtain piece at the back of the bonnet’. There is more information about this word, including examples of the word in use from the 19th century, in this French Vocabulary Illustrated blog post. If you know of other good places to find a definition or etymology of the word bavolet I would love for you to share!

Back to the photos! All the long purple stitches around the side band are from attaching trim. I find that double thread makes it much easier to attach trimmings such as feathers and flowers, as you can double back through your looped thread to hold things in place and it makes it a little extra sturdy. The nice thing about doing all of that before lining the hat is that it makes for a really elegant interior when all is finished!

Below, you can see what that trim looks like from the exterior. I used some scraps of velvet to make loops and a variety of vintage paper and velvet millinery flowers and leaves in white, pink, and gold.

I’m super pleased with how it turned out, but it took hours to decide on the placement and then sew everything in place. It was finicky… The trim kept causing the bonnet to fall over as I was trying to place it and when sewing it the thread kept getting wrapped around the different elements and getting stuck. Plus, to make the stitches on the brim invisible they had to catch just one layer of the silk (as opposed to being stitched all the way through all of the layers) without pulling the silk away from the flannel.

Finally, it was time to make a lining! This used the same pattern pieces as the tip and side band and was cut from scraps of ivory shantung. The seams for the lining were machine sewn.

After I put the lining inside the crown of the bonnet, I covered most of the raw edges of the purple and ivory silk with a band of brown cotton velvet. This blends with my hair and provides a bit of a velcro effect to help keep the bonnet in place, in addition to providing nice finishing! This is the same process that I used when making my 1875 hat earlier this year.

At the bavolet edge, where there is no brown velvet, the ivory silk was turned under and sewn in place. I also added lightweight silk ribbon ties as a finishing step.

Finished!

Here is the finished bonnet, being worn with my 1834 yellow dress! I love that the purple coordinates with my yellow print dress fabric without directly matching any of the colors in the print. It was also fun to choose white, pink, and gold floral trimmings for the bonnet to echo the colors in the print. I think the combination is anchored well while still being distinctive parts.

This photo clearly shows that the ties are purely decorative. I left them hanging free so that they could elegantly (usually!) move around. So what keeps this giant sail in place on my head? (Because I can say with certainty that a bonnet this big is basically just a wind catcher on the top of your head!) It will stay on its own… until moving around. I used the back section of my hair to make a bun, at just the right height so it would sit in the crown of the bonnet, and then used two hat pins at different angles to anchor the hat in place through the bun

I found that I placed the curl bunches too far back on the sides of my head when I tried to put on the bonnet and had to push them forward to get it to sit in the right place. It was unexpected how far forward the curls needed to be. As I’ve done in the past for 1830s side curls (explained here in 2016 and again in 2019), I used my own hair on top of mesh poufs to create the side curls. The combination of my hair getting very long and the curls needing to sit in front of the bonnet means that these curls are larger looking vertically than what I’ve had in the past. It seems to fill in the shape of the bonnet well, so I guess it’s good!

The other thing that the above photo does a good job of showing is the trim on the inside of the bonnet, which was also finicky to place. I had to get it in the right location so that it would organically grow out of my planned side curls hairstyle. The bonnet looks quite silly without the 1830s hair to go with it (and one might argue that it looks silly, in scale at least, even with 1830s hair!).

Speaking of scale, this bonnet is quite large. With the trim, it stands more than 8″ high on top of my head. I had to hold the brim when wind picked up while wearing it–the hat pins kept it in place but it would pull at my hair which wasn’t comfortable. Also, it required a pretty severe slouch in the car in order to not hit the roof! Thankfully, I was able to be a passenger while wearing the bonnet, so that I could arrange it, with the hat pins, in front of a mirror and then not need to sit up or look around while driving. Pretty silly! A carriage would have made so much more sense!

Just The Facts

While this bonnet does not qualify for any of the remaining challenges of the Historical Sew Monthly this year, I would still like to share the facts about this bonnet in the format I would use for an HSM garment. So, without further ado, the facts!

Fabric/Materials: ½ to ¾ yard each of floral cotton flannel and purple silk shantung, scraps of purple polyester velvet and ivory silk shantung, about ½ yard of buckram, about 3 yards of millinery wire, and a small piece of brown cotton velvet.

Pattern: My own.

Year: 1831.

Notions: Vintage millinery flowers, thread, and about 1 ½ yards lightweight silk ribbon.

How historically accurate is it?: 90%. Pretty good in terms of silhouette, construction methods, and materials; however, there are a few modern materials mixed in (such as spray adhesive).

Hours to complete: 15.75 hours to finish, plus maybe 6-8 from years ago.

First worn: In early October, 2020.

Total cost: Approximately $35.

Thanks for sticking with me through another long construction post! I have one final photo that also hints at an upcoming post… 1830s apple picking adventure photos! Happy autumn!

1834 Yellow Dress: Construction Details

Some of my recent posts have mentioned my excursion into sewing clothing from the 1830s. Most recently, in September, I posted about making a corded petticoat to help support a fashionable 1830s silhouette. I also shared a reminder about the fabric I’ve had in mind for an 1830s dress since I bought it seven years ago. It’s finally time to share the finished ensemble created with that fabric!

Today’s post is going to focus on the construction of this dress, but, never fear, upcoming posts will share more finished garment photos as well as construction details about the bonnet.

There is a lot of information about this dress to share and many photos of the process, so I hope you’re ready for a lengthy post!

Inspiration

As you probably guessed from the title of this post, this dress is from the year 1834. The trimming details and shape are directly inspired by the dress pictured below, which is in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Day dress. 1830-1834. Victoria and Albert Museum. T.168&A-1915

The V & A Dress is dated to 1830-1834. From a style perspective, this makes sense as these are the years from this decade with the largest sleeves, but it is also around this point in the decade that sleeve fullness starts to slide down the arm. This look that is just beginning to show in the V & A dress, which achieves the falling look with the addition of the mancherons at the top. The mancherons both practically and visually push the fullness of the sleeve off the shoulder.

What is a mancheron? The Oxford English Dictionary has the following entry):

mancheronn.
1. French Heraldry. A sleeve used as a charge. Obsolete.
2. A piece of trimming on the upper part of a sleeve on a woman’s dress. Now historical.

Patterning

The pattern for this bodice is based on patterns contained in Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 1 and Norah Waugh’s The Cut of Women’s Clothes. I was able to start with my basic darted 1860s bodice and adapt it for the 1830s using information about grain line, dart placement, etc. from the books. This worked well because I know the basic darted bodice fits in areas that can be fussy to fit such as neckline, armhole, etc. and those things (in the 1860s) are still very similar to the shapes from the 1830s.

The sleeve pattern is from Plate 12 (page 84) in The Workwoman’s Guide (published in 1838), which can be viewed on Google Books here. I used the big circle sleeve (Figure 8–shown made up in Figure 7) and varied the top shape so that it forms a downward V shape to allow for my mancherons, which are patterned based on the V & A inspiration dress.

The ladies at American Duchess created a very helpful video discussing sleeve shapes from the 1830s, including showing mockups of a few different sleeve patterns from The Workwoman’s Guide. It is wonderful for seeing how the flat patterns turn into 3D shapes, which I found to be very helpful as I dithered about sleeve patterns.. You can view the video here. Lauren also has a blog post talking about 1830s sleeves, which shows the pattern I chose to use in various stages of its construction, from being flat to being made-up.

The skirt is based on information from the same books as the bodice pattern. It is made of 3 panels of my 45″ wide cotton fabric.

Construction Method Disclaimer

I chose to construct this dress in the mid-19th century way of separate bodice and skirt. This is odd for the 1830s (in fact, I can’t think of any examples that are done this way) as they are usually sewn together to make a one piece dress. However, as I was pondering sleeve options and considering my yardage I was faced with an exciting prospect.

There are so many sleeve variations in the 1830s–super poof, takes-a-while-to-get-used-to-looking-at elbow poof, meticulous pleated details as the poofs are reduced and contained… I wanted to make more than one! Also, I had 10 yards of my beautiful reproduction cotton and I expected my 1834 dress to only use about 7. What would I do with the last 3 yards? That’s not enough to make another dress. But… it is enough to make another bodice, even with giant 1830s sleeves that use a full yard for each arm!

I decided to make one skirt with two bodices, so in addition to this 1834 dress I also have an 1838 bodice halfway completed. It is a variation on a theme, using mostly the same bodice pieces, but with a different front style and different sleeves. More on that in the future, but for the purposes of this post it is an explanation for the fact that the skirt of my 1830s dress hooks to the bodice in a way that is common in the mid-19th century, as you can see below. (The loops on the skirt waistband blend really well with the pattern on the fabric, but you can see them if you look really carefully.)

Skirt Construction

As I mentioned earlier, my skirt is made up of 3 panels of my 45″ wide cotton. They are carefully pattern matched to keep the scrolling consistent across the panels and to help hide the seam lines. They’re not perfect, but they are pretty darn close.

Two seams are on each side of center front and one is at center back. The two front seams have french seamed pockets set into them below the cartridge pleats. This is wonderfully helpful while wearing the dress! I made sure to make the pockets big enough to hold a phone, keys, etc.

The fullness of the skirt is cartridge pleated to the waistband. I find that this quantity of cotton is weeny looking when cartridge pleated to a waistband without a little help to create loft, so I sandwiched a single layer of cotton flannel into the pleats to help them have a little bit of puff. I just used scrap flannel from my stash for this–the fun dot print pictured below. This is the top of my skirt pressed and ready for pleating!

Here is the skirt in the process of being pleated. The top edge is left raw and folded over the flannel before I ran two rows of parallel stitches to form the pleats.

I absolutely eyeball my cartridge pleats! My stitches are vaguely even but I really don’t worry too much about that. I mark the quarter points of the skirt and waistband and then adjust the pleats to fit. No math for this process!

The waistband has a single layer of canvas inside (a scrap from a decorating project) to help stiffen it and provide stability for the cartridge pleats and closures. This is machine stitched to the cotton where it will not show.

The cotton is then wrapped around the canvas and whip stitched in place. I finished the waistband entirely before whip stitching the cartridge pleats in place.

Bodice Construction

The construction of this bodice is pretty straightforward as 19th century bodices go, though I spent a bit of time searching out photos of extant dress interiors from this decade so I could see how they were finished (or left with unfinished edges!). I found these dresses featured on All The Pretty Dresses very helpful, especially as they have interior views: late 1830s green/blue/red cotton print dress and early 1830s brown dress.

There are other inspirational dresses on my Pinterest board for this project, as well. Many of them are held by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Those are excellent because you can really zoom in on the photos to look at details, but unfortunately they don’t often show interior views of the dresses.

The hardest part about this bodice was the pattern matching! It was mind boggling to keep the flowers growing upwards, match the wave, keep the dark pink flowers at corresponding places, and keep some parts on the bias and some on the straight.

For example, here is my first attempt at the front bodice, which is cut on the bias. It’s not awful… but it’s just not quite right, and that bothers my eyes.

I very carefully tried again…

And was able to get this, which I was much happier with!

And I was able to use the reject front piece to cut out a pocket piece (and later a bit of bias as well)… no waste here!

Here is the front piece after flatlining (the fronts, side backs, and backs of the bodice are all flat lined with muslin), stitching the darts, and putting cording down the center front seam.

Ah yes, the cording! There is 1/16″ cotton cording in most of the bodice seams (front, side back, shoulders, armholes, neckline, and to finish the cuffs). This detail is taken directly from extant 1830s dresses.

My cording is made up of bias scraps, some as small as about 4″ long, that are pieced together. The cording is machine stitched. I made it with even seam allowances for most of the seams, but thought ahead and offset the seam allowance for the neckline cording, to make it easier to turn it under and whip stitch later. The photo below shows the neckline cording (on the top) and regular seam cording (on the bottom).

Here are the side back pieces with the cording attached, before being sewn to the back pieces. As you can see, I carefully matched my pattern across these two pieces as well.

And here is one side back sewn to its corresponding back, with the cording in the seam. Even across these pieces my pattern matching is pretty good, especially at the bottom!

And the back! It also makes me very happy, but was a super mind boggle to figure out! I have a flap that overlaps past center back, covering a pleat on the other side that will anchor my loops. I found this detail on a number of 1830s dresses, including this 1835-1836 dress at The Met and this c. 1837 dress at The Met.

It doesn’t look like much until it’s lined up to be closed… and then it’s perfect!

The final step was to finish the bottom. I wanted to have a self fabric waistband on this bodice, as with the bodice at the V & A, so that I would have the option of wearing my dress with or without a belt, while still having the visual change of pattern in the fabric.

The outer waistband and inner muslin facing encase the bottom seam allowance of the bodice. They are machine stitched at the top, have graded seam allowances, and then the muslin is whip stitched along the bottom.

Sleeve Construction

With the bodice mostly assembled, I moved on to the sleeves. These are not flat lined.

The sleeve is given shape by the use of sleeve puffs. I made my sleeve puffs in 2018 and posted a tutorial about how to make them.

I upgraded my sleeve puffs for this ensemble by giving them ties to attach to the armsceye of the dress so I can control the height that they sit at. This is essential for getting the right shape poof with this sleeve style. Looking into a sleeve, here is one sleeve puff tied in place.

I edged my decorative mancheron and cuff zig zag with narrow lace before attaching them to my sleeve. The cuff zig zags are sewn on by hand, while the full tops of the sleeves are gathered and machine sewn to the mancherons (you can see a the seam allowance from this seam in the photo above).

After the trim was added to the cuffs, I sewed cording to the bottom edge and then a muslin facing to finish everything off. This allows me to have nicely finished edges for the sleeve openings, which extend up about 8″ and allow for the tight fit of the forearms.

Here’s what that looks like flipped up and ready to be slip stitched along the top edge. You can see my hand sewing from attaching the cuff zig zag.

So… I got this far and realized that my sleeve was too narrow (even though I’d had no trouble in my mockup!) and my hand wouldn’t fit through the opening! Even if I made the opening higher, the sleeve edges wouldn’t butt, but would have a gap!

It’s good to have extra fabric… Having extra allowed me to make the decision to cut off the old forearm pieces and piece on new ones (with careful pattern matching, of course!). This meant redoing the cuff trim and finishing, but I couldn’t find a better solution. The seam hides under the crazy big sleeves, so it’s really not noticeable at all (even if I hadn’t pattern matched the seam!).

Finishing

Finally, after these various successes and challenges… the dress was done! Here are some more photos of it in its finished state.

This is the inside of the bodice with the skirt attached. You can see machine stitching, seam allowances mostly left unfinished (they really don’t fray at all), neck binding, closures, etc.

This closeup shows a shoulder seam, as well as the neckline and armhole finishing. The bias on the neck is turned under and whip stitched. The lace is sewn on top of that. The armhole seam allowances were trimmed and then roughly whip stitched to hold the layers together. You can also see a little square of the twill tape tie for the sleeve puff (it is sewn to the armsceye seam allowance below the shoulder seam).

Here is the finished cuff opening. Hidden under the zig zag are the hooks that correspond to the loops on the muslin facing.

This is the center back opening with all of the closures in place. Those hooks really do camouflage well on the brown scroll, don’t they? Doing the closures this way leaves lots of seam allowance at center back for me to make alterations in the future if I need to.

This photo shows the inside of the skirt and bodice. Specifically, you can see the raw edge of the top edge skirt seam allowance folded to the inside (the skirt is intentionally shorter in the front than in the back, which you can see in the varied top edge seam allowanced length), the french seam of the pocket, and the skirt opening, which is simply an opening in the back seam (no placket on this skirt, the fullness of the cartridge pleats easily hides the opening).

One last photo! This is the cartridge pleats and bodice waistband from the exterior. Cartridge pleats are always visually intriguing to me and I also love how the waistband of the bodice is perfectly cut to show off the scroll and flower pattern.

After so many construction photos, here is a reminder of what the completed dress looks like from the exterior. I’m looking forward to sharing more photos in future posts!

Thanks for sticking with me through this very long post!

Making A Corded Petticoat For 1830s & 1840s Ensembles

My sewing has taken a sharp turn into the 1830s in the last two months or so. It’s an exciting detour that has been on the horizon for a long time–ever since I purchased this yellow block print cotton back in 2013, in fact.

I wanted to up my silhouette game for the 1830s and achieve a fuller looking skirt than I’ve been able to do with my 1832 velvet gown in the past. To that end, I decided to make a corded petticoat.

I followed the directions from American Duchess in this video and only changed the cording pattern to suit my materials. If you’re interested in making a corded petticoat yourself I definitely recommend the American Duchess video. I found it easy to follow along with the steps and appreciated the mentions of pitfalls and tips along the way.

I was super excited to get started and maintained my enthusiasm for the first 4 sections of cording, but by the top 2 sections I was definitely feeling ready to be done! By that point the petticoat was unruly and difficult to turn as I sewed around each channel. Despite being less fun than when I started, I pushed on, and I was quite grateful when I finished the last section of cording!

Here’s a closeup photo of the cording sections. I used a continuous piece of cord for each section, as suggested in the American Duchess video.

My opening is just a portion of one seam left open just above the top section of cording. This is what it looks like from the outside. I made the waistband extra long to allow for future adjustment (just in case!), which is why the button is set over so far from the edge of the waistband.

On the inside, that opening looks like this. The second layer of fabric is just turned back from the edge and top stitched in place. The other seam allowance edges are selvedges, so they didn’t require finishing. Easy and tidy!

The ivory cotton waistband is whip stitched on the inside finish it all off nicely. Hidden underneath is a layer of cotton canvas that helps to stiffen the waistband a bit.

This petticoat is almost entirely machine sewn and took 8.5 hours to make. I used 4 ¼ yards of ivory cotton, 13 ¼ yards of 5/16″ cording from Wawak, 39 ¼ yards of 7/32″ cording also from Wawak, the canvas scrap for the waistband, and a lone ivory button from the stash. The materials cost about $33.

When I started this petticoat, I thought that it would only be worn with the 1832 velvet gown I mentioned earlier, but since then 1830s daywear using the yellow print cotton has made it onto my sewing table… and this will definitely get worn with the new dress. I also hope to be able to wear it with 1840s dresses that will someday make it onto my sewing table. It’s a great step towards improving my silhouette!

When The Dress No Longer Fits (Mid-20th Century Edition, Part I)

Have you ever encountered closet shrinkage?

I’ve mentioned it here on the blog before, most recently in my modern wardrobe inventory post, but it is not only confined to my modern closet. Oh no, the things in my historical closet shrink, too!

In the past, I’ve shared how I updated two mid-19th century dresses to fit again, after finding that they no longer fit the way they did when they were first made, as well as how I updated two early 19th century dresses for the same reason.

I was recently inspired to finish off not just one, but two UFO ‘this doesn’t fit anymore’ projects that fall into the closet shrinkage category. I’ve decided to post about them separately, since I have a number of photos for each, so today we’ll look at my 1953 Dot Dress and next time we’ll look at my 1940s Inspired Anne Adams Dress.

I made this dress in 2013, for an adventurous day that included brunch, fall leaves, and roller skating (all followed by a Regency ball)!

I loved (and still do) the lightweight fabric, the fun dot print, and the pink, purple, and and rust colors of the dots. I wore this dress for the next few years–to a few historical/vintage events as well as in my everyday life.

This next photo is from 2016–the last time I could squeeze into the dress and actually close the zipper.

After that, I had to accept that the dress no longer fit. My shape had changed and it just wasn’t feasible. I was sad!

Fast forward to 2019, and I had the courage to decide to remake the dress, somehow, to make it fit. I got started by cutting straight down the front, stopping just short of the waistband, to see how much I needed to adapt the bodice…

It was rather a lot! I ran out of inspiration… and let the dress hang in my closet until recently.

I had thought I would just be able to add a piece to the front, somehow, and that would be enough. But when I started really looking at things again, I realized that the dress needed more than that to really do it justice. The side darts needed to be let out, the underarms need to be raised and filled in, the waist was still very tight, and there was the bust issue.

Oh, and I had minimal scraps for these alterations, partly because I’d used some of the larger ones to make ice skate soakers in 2015. (I’m not saying I shouldn’t have used my scraps to make a second project that brings me joy, but… the alterations would have been easier if I’d had wider scraps to work with!)

The front needed to have more more space created, about 3″ worth, but I had no scraps both wide enough and long enough to make a straight panel without seams. So I decided to get creative with a straight panel, adding tucks to it so I could hide seams within the tucks. I was inspired by the dotted dress Miss Hero Holliday wears in this wardrobe roundup post.

Here’s what my pieced piece looked like before pleating (lots of P’s!).

After a fair bit of complicated math (I’m pretty sure I made it more complicated than it needed to be), I was able to achieve a dress front that looks like this.

Essentially, I added princess seams. It was complicated to figure out, because I had cut straight down to figure out what was needed and I needed to add as much as 3″ at the bust while adding nothing at the waist, while actually adding in the panel that was 3″ wide from top to bottom. That means that I basically created a curve on the old center front line that was filled in with the straight pleated panel.

While being worn, it looks like this.

On the inside, I carefully bound all the raw edges in pink hug snug, just as I had when I first made the dress. However, I realized when trying on the altered dress that the pleats just opened up instead of staying put.

Oops.

This seems like it should have been an obvious problem from the beginning, but my brain missed it until I tried on the dress with the pleats in place.

So I had to figure out how to hold the pleats in place. The middle ones are held by the bits of grosgrain ribbon, while the side ones are invisibly tacked in place under the fold.

In addition to the front pleated panel, I also let out the side darts, which helped to create bust space and also raised the armhole a little bit as well. When I put the bias binding back on after doing all the other alterations I maxed out my meager seam allowance, which also raised the armhole up a bit.

You can just barely see my old stitch line on the side dart (on the top left side of the photo below). (You can compare this updated inside view to the original inside view in this post showing the original construction.)

And as you can see in both the photo above and the one below, I added a piece at the side seam, both above the waistband and in the waistband. There’s also a little crescent of added fabric on the back armhole (on the right sides of these photos), that fills in the raised underarm area.

I was very careful to re-finish the insides of the dress as nicely as I had the first time. That includes binding all the raw edges in hug snug (sometimes piecing in little pieces to do so) as well as adding pieces of bias to finish the new, wider neckline.

I decided to put in the zipper by hand this time around, as my first attempt on this dress with a machine sewn lapped zipper was a bit clunky where it went over the waistband.

All of these steps definitely added a bit of time to the alterations, but it makes me happy to still have lovely finished insides even after altering the dress.

The underarm area looks like this on the outside now. The busy print really helps to hide all my piecing seams! You can just make out some old stitch lines (like the one to the left of the zipper), but they’re not noticeable when the dress is being worn, thankfully.

I’m so pleased that I can wear this dress again! It actually fits better now than it did the first time, imagine that!

I wouldn’t have been able to make these alterations happen if I hadn’t kept my scraps!

I’m so grateful to all those seamstresses from the past few hundred years who have shown me that piecing is ok and making do/repairing/altering to keep getting wear out of clothes is ok, too! It’s a wonderful benefit of making my own clothes and knowing how to sew.

Welcome back, dotty dress!

1875 Reception Dress: Skirt Construction

Today’s post is a continuation of the detailed construction posts documenting the creation of my 1875 reception dress. This post is going to focus on the construction details of the skirt. You can check out past posts to learn more about the construction of the bodice, petticoat, balayeuse, hat, and a post about the finished hat and hairstyle.

This is a rather long post, so I hope you’re ready to settle in and take a close look!

Skirts from this period are often confections crafted from fabrics and trims–and this one is no different. The inspiration came from a fashion plate from L’Elegance Parisienne (June 1875) that is held by the LAPL.

I think I stayed pretty true to the fashion plate for this portion of the project. Slight changes include leaving off the black trim around the bottom apron edge and at the top of the green fluted bands of trim on the skirt base, as well as choosing to stitch one row of soutache in most places instead of two.

(Also …huh… You know what? I just realized, as I am comparing the photo above to the fashion plate, that I sewed the top green bands of trim on upside down. They are supposed to have the black trim at the bottom. Oops! I know I patterned them to follow the fashion plate. Well… they’re probably not changing now.)

So where was I with the skirt construction?

Base Layers

The base of the skirt is cotton muslin, with the bottom front portion covered by silk, as you can see in the photo below. This drastically saves the amount of expensive fabric used and provides a stable base for the following layers.

I started with a pattern I’ve used for my other bustle dresses for the front skirt panels (I think at some point it came from Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion, but I’ve tweaked it since then). It is closer in shape to 1880 than 1870, but I think it works for this particular 1875 dress, since so much of the back fullness is contained in the waterfall of silk underneath the bows and ruffled trim.

The back panel was draped as opposed to flat patterned. I started as double width of muslin with no shaping, but as I tried to figure out how to pleat or gather the top into the waist I realized I should add some shaping along the center back seam. I think I took out about 16″ at the top, tapering to nothing at the hem.

This next photo shows my silk panels on top of the base as I tried to figure out what they were doing. Since this was an entirely draped process it’s not likely to ever be repeated in exactly the same way. I have notes documenting what I was up to, but no actual pattern.

It was important to me to achieve both the gathered look at the top of the skirt and the wonderfully waterfall-ing pleats at the bottom, just as you see in the fashion plate. It turns out that was easier said than done–one of those things that’s easy to draw but not thought out in terms of actually being made up.

After getting a little farther with the back of the skirt, I moved on to the apron. Here, we have a (very wrinkly) old sheet being draped to create the apron pattern. My apron is not quite as long as the one in the fashion plate because I had limited silk fabric to work with.

Waistband & Closures

Many dresses from this period have the skirt base on one waistband and the apron and/or back draping layer on a second waistband. Essentially they are two separate skirts. I decided that I didn’t want to have to arrange the layers separately so I put them all on one waistband. This is a little bulky at the back, where both the muslin base layer and silk drape are gathered, but that’s all hidden by the point on the back of the bodice. The other thing (I realized later) is that this decision made the closures extra complicated. Let’s start there.

First, the muslin base edges hook together at the waistband (that hook is done up in the photo below). The apron layer then hooks onto the loops on the muslin layer (this layer is open in the photo below so you can see the hooks and loops).

After that, the skirt drape hooks forward, covering the muslin layer completely (this is not done up in the photo below). This completely hides all of the previous closures. To help keep this layer of closures invisible, the hooks attach to thread bars instead of metal loops. You can make them out below if you take a close look.

Pretty neat! It took a waistband extend-o to make it work, and a few brain somersaults, but we got there in the end.

In order to be sturdy enough to attach all of the skirt layers, the waistband is flat lined with muslin and also encases a grosgrain ribbon. That adds a bit of bulk, but it also creates a very sturdy finished product and, again, you can’t see the bulk under the bodice.

Flat Lining & Apron Folds

In the photo above, you might have noticed the rather bold pink organza showing on the back drape panel. That’s just a small portion of what’s actually back there–the entirety of the back panels are flat lined with this pink polyester organza. Polyester organza is not what they would have used in 1875. But other stiff, lightweight fabrics such as silk organza or cotton organdy would have been used to help the silk maintain pouf. I chose the pink because I had the perfect amount in my stash (and both it and the dress are shades of pink, so… it’s not that far off?).

Similarly, I used up some light yellow polyester organza from my stash to flat line the apron. The color was harmonious with the silk and again, I had the perfect amount sitting around, so I think it was meant to be. The polyester organza is springy enough that it keeps the silk from creating tight creases, which helps to maintain the apron folds and the back drape pouf. It’s really quite magical! Both the pink and yellow organzas were left over from old projects and I was happy to be able to use them up. You can see the yellow organza at the top of the next photo.

The next photo is also showing you the quarter bag that is hidden under the apron. You see, I wanted to make sure that all of those folds I took the time to drape for the apron would stay in place and not need to be fussed with to lay nicely with each wearing. My solution was to run a length of twill tape down from the waistband to just above the hem of the apron. The silk is tacked to the twill tape to help keep the folds just so, and the bottom of the twill tape has this small pocket of silk, containing a Canadian quarter (perfect, because I’m not in Canada so it’s not very useful as currency) to help weight it and keep the folds from springing up.

Secret Pocket

Next, I want to share a hidden detail I added to this skirt. A pocket! This is stitched into the muslin base layer at the left side opening. It’s only accessible when the skirt is partially or completely unhooked, but that makes it a perfect place to stash a phone, keys, etc. if I wear this and don’t want to carry a purse or bag.

I made the size quite generous and placed the pocket low enough that anything in it hides under the skirt without adding a bulge.

Hems

There are multiple hems and hem finishing methods used in this skirt. The next photo shows most of the layers of the skirt and their varying hem methods.

Top in this photo is the front base layer of the skirt (that’s the pink with green trim). The pink silk is hemmed with bias strips of muslin that are machine sewn, pressed to the inside, and then hand stitched to the muslin base. This creates an invisible finish. (The apron, though not pictured here, is finished in the same manner, with the bias facing hand stitched to the yellow organza flat lining.)

The middle layer in this photo is the back skirt base. This muslin layer is also finished with bias strips of muslin, but in this case I’ve sewn the bias up by machine since it is always covered by the back drape and will not be seen. I amused myself by using a small stitch length to mimic the machine stitching I’ve seen on extant late 19th century clothing as well as the same bronze thread that I used on the silk.

The bottom hem layer you can see is pretty fabulous and the most involved to make in terms of research and sewing.

The back drape hem is finished with a muslin facing that ranges from about 12″ high at the sides to 20″ high at center back. This completely covers the portion of the train that drags on the ground, effectively keeping dirt off of the silk and organza layers. After piecing the muslin, but before attaching it to the skirt, I machine sewed the three rows of lace to the facing. I didn’t bother gathering, inside I just eyeballed tucks in the lace as I went along to create fullness.

This creates another form of a balayeuse. Remember that word, from May? I have a whole post about the amazing detachable balayeuse I made for my petticoat for this dress, but a balayeuse can also be an inside frill on the hem of a skirt.

I’ve had fun reading a series of blog posts by Natalie at A Frolic Through Time about creating an 1895 ensemble and her research about the support structures and methods that help maintain the fashionable silhouette. Along the way there have been mentions of the balayeuse! I’m going to include them here, because I am intrigued by them, even though their time period is a little later than this 1875 dress.

1 – In the post 1895 Outfit: Period Methods To Add Skirt Fullness, Part 1, Fullness and Flare, Natalie includes a mention under the heading What Books and Magazines Said About Fullness and Flare in Mid-decade Skirts.
2 – Later in the series, in the post 1895 Outfit: Period Methods To Add Skirt Fullness, Part 5, Steels, Rattan, Candlewicking, and Dust Ruffles, Natalie includes more information under the heading A Balayeuse or Dust Ruffle, Fixed Inside the Outer Skirt.

The lace balayeuse extends past the finished hem by just a little bit, so that it peeps out while the dress is being worn, as you can see in the photo below.

This particular detail is not from my inspiration fashion plate, but it’s a feature often seen on extant garments, such as this cream dress dated c. 1879 and this red dress dated 1879, both from the Met Museum.

In addition to being pretty, trailing white garments on the ground show off that you have the resources to keep the garments clean and also that you have the resources to pay for the extra materials to make them. More practically speaking, the lace helps grip the balayeuse that is attached to my petticoat, which helps to keep the skirt folds in place even with movement. I found that moving forward, backward, sideways, and turning all caused no disruptions to the folds of my skirt while being worn.

Trimmings

The final step of making this dress was trimming! Lots of it!

The first bit of trim I tackled was the trim on the front base section of the skirt. In the inspiration fashion plate this looks like knife pleats, but I was inspired to use my antique fluting iron instead. You can read all about making the fluted trim in this past post.

Here is the fluted trim pinned in place on the skirt base.

After sewing the fluted trim on, it was time to consider the back trim–all those gathers and the massive bows.

The gathers are strips of silk, some shaped, that are hemmed by hand along one edge. Here are my six pieces of green silk: hemmed, gathered, and ready to go.

The non-hemmed edge was pressed under but not stitched: it was stitched down as I attached to the green cotton bands you can see in the photo below. These are made from old bedding (not the perfect color, but green, and you can’t see them, so I’m pleased to be able to re-use old fabric). The cotton bands are shaped and the ruffles sewn to them so that they can float on top of the gathered pink silk.

The gathering threads in the green panels were sewn my machine. After the green cotton bands were hand tacked in place, the gathering threads were covered by the black soutache trim, which was also hand sewn in place. This image shows this part of the process in progress.

The end result looks like this. It reminds me of heirloom lettuce. Not in terms of color (hopefully!) but in terms of the ruffle-y ness. The edges are all nicely finished, the gathers are covered by black soutache, and the whole thing is invisibly held in place.

Then there are the bows. I love these massive bows! Here’s a photo showing the wonderful acid green color of the silk. The bow pieces were cut out, hemmed, and assembled by hand. The bottom edges of the bow ends have the edges pressed under (but not hemmed) and finished with self fabric fringe.

Yes, self fabric fringe. I cut strips of the silk and spent a few hours watching Netflix and shredding the silk to remove the black threads, leaving only the green. Here’s my test piece.

On each fringed piece of silk I left a border of non-fringed fabric at the top. I used this to attach the fringe pieces to the pressed under edges of each bow end. It keeps the fringe looking organic and part of the fabric, without any stitches showing.

Here is one of the bows pinned in place. The bows are tacked at multiple points to keep them permanently in place.

And here is the skirt with all those layers of trim added on!

As I made my dress, I also referenced Caroline’s post on The Modern Mantua Maker about how she made her 1875 Autumn Plaid Dress.

Whew! That was a long post. There are lots of details in this skirt. Next time, I have more finished ensemble photos for you as well as the HSM facts–quantity of materials used, time spent, etc. Thanks for sticking with me through the details of this construction post!