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!

Fezziwig’s Ball 2019

I’m a bit slow to post about it, but last December I again attended The Commonwealth Vintage Dancers’ annual holiday event: Fezziwig’s Ball. (You can check out posts about past years here.)

This year, I decided to wear my 1832 Burgundy Velvet Gown again, but I changed up my hairstyle slightly by adding a new element, since I was wearing a dress I’ve worn before. In addition to some new decorations, I also added a faux hair braid to make a giant swirly bun on the back part of my head. I wrote a blog post in January focusing on the hairstyle and my new faux hair braid that you can read here.

1830s hair is absurd and very fun. I enjoy the challenge of trying to style my own hair into these crazy styles. This year I had the faux braid and a few mesh supports under the front curls, but all the rest of the hair is my own. Those front curls are different each year… this year they have a sort of marching-in-a-line look that is interesting and different than in the past, but still documentable. Check out these curls from 1826 and these from 1829.

It’s fun to wear 1830s, as it’s a decade I don’t get to wear the clothes for as often as some others. The giant sleeves take a bit of getting used to but are entertaining in the end.

Looking festive with the addition of my Refreshing Apron, cranberry punch, hot apple cider, some real and faux fruit lurking near the punch bowls, and another 1830s-clad friend wearing a Refreshing-Apron-sibling.

1830s is more in fun (and maybe less ridiculous looking?) in groups. Here is a contingent of even more 1830s ladies from this holiday ball! It’s as though we sprouted from the column!

 

1830s Sleeve Puff Tutorial

Why make sleeve puffs, you ask? In order to keep the large sleeves of 1830s dresses from deflating, of course! Here’s an example of my 1832 dress without puffs (on the left) and with puffs (on the right). They make such a difference!

I chose to use a sewing machine for much of the assembly of my puffs, but you could easily hand sew all of these steps instead.

To make these sleeve puffs you will need the following materials:

  • Fabric: ¾ yard of 44″ wide or ⅜ yard of 60″ wide (cotton, linen, and silk are the most historical options, but you can use whatever is comfortable on your skin, just make sure it’s not too loosely woven or too heavy in weight)
  • Stuffing: I used scraps of stiff net and organza, but you could also use batting, tulle, down, etc.
  • Thread

To begin, you’ll need to cut out your pieces:

  • Two rectangles: 25″ wide x 13″tall
  • Two shaped bases: 18.5″ wide x 7.5″ tall at the center and curved down to 2.5″ tall at the sides
  • Four end caps (two for each end of your shaped base): use the shaped base as a pattern and cut the end caps so they are 2.5″ wide

Next, you’ll assemble your puffs:

Step 1: Lay your end caps on each end of the shaped base. Sew around the three exterior sides, leaving the side towards the center unstitched.

Step 2: Trim your seam allowances, corners, and clip through seam allowance close to the end of your stitch line on the shaped base.

Step 3: Turn each end cap so the right sides face out–the clip through the seam allowance allows the end caps to sit nice and flat on the shaped base.


Step 4: Run gathering stitches along each individual side of the four sides of each rectangle (not one long gathering line that turns the corners).

Step 5: Pull up your gathering stitches on the long sides and pin to the curved edges of the shaped base. You want to pin the rectangle to the side of the shaped based that does not have the end caps on it.

 

Step 6: Sew the gathered rectangle to the shaped base and turn it right side out.

Step 7: Now pull up the gathering threads on one short side of each rectangle. Turn the raw edge under and pin the gathers in place. Hand sew these gathers through all the layers, making sure to take small stitches and catch the gathers in many places. Leave the other side open for now.

Step 8: Stuff those puffs!

Step 9: Now pull up the gathering threads on the remaining short side of each rectangle. Turn the raw edge under and pin the gathers in place. Hand sew these gathers through all the layers as well, making sure to take small stitches and catch the gathers in many places. (This is the same as step 7.)

Step 10: Overlap the end caps about ¼” and sew them together.

Ta da! Now you have some sleeve puffs of your very own!

Extra tips:

I strongly suggest taking a look at extant puffs. As a starting point, I suggest this pair at the MFA and this pair at the V and A.

If you’re worried about keeping your puffs in place, ties can be added to the puffs which would be secured to additional ties in the armholes of dresses. Take another look at the those two pairs of extant puffs and you’ll see ties.

I also suggest looking at the puffs other people have made. It never hurts to see more methods of construction. I referenced Fresh Frippery and Stepping Into History when creating my puffs. Have you come across other 1830s puff making resources? If so, please share!

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Christmas Cheer (Fezziwig’s Ball 2017)

While it’s still holiday season I want to share a few pictures from The Commonwealth Vintage Dancers’ 2017 Fezziwig’s Ball. This year we had snow on the day of the event. It made for some slippery driving, which unfortunately caused a number of people to not be able to make it, but the bright side was that Salem was enchantingly draped in snow.

It was a bit colder than it has been in some previous years, so it was necessary to wrap up warmly for outdoor caroling. The easiest (and warmest) option that would fit over my gigantic 1830s sleeves was my 1860s wool cape (it is lined in flannel and has thick batting so it is quite soft and warm!). It was great to make use of its amazing warmth since I hadn’t worn it in years, though I have yet to get actual documenting photos of it. I always seem to be wearing it when it’s dark outside! We did get this nice picture though. The stars of light are made using a special Petzval lens (you can read more about this special lens in this past post). The cape plus a muff did a good job of keeping everything but my head warm. There’s no easy way I know of to cover a big hairstyle without mussing it while also keeping your head warm…

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I wore last year’s 1832 dress again, but with bigger and better underpinnings, so you’ll likely recognize one of these images from my comparison of 1830s pouf.

Super puffed sleeves, a little more skirt volume, and ribbons on my shoes are the notable changes from last year’s wearing.

I basically styled my hair the same way as last year. I really liked what I came up with and there seemed to be no need to reinvent the wheel!

After vigorous dancing to lovely holiday music it is always a treat to partake of the lavish refreshments, which provided a perfect outing for my refreshing apron. It does a wonderful job of keeping my dresses clean!

Happy holidays!

I hope you’ve had a joyous December so far, full of laughter and blessings!

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A Comparison Of Pouf

Last year, I made and wore an 1832 dress to the annual Christmas ball, but was disappointed with the silhouette as I didn’t have the time to make all of the supporting garments to really get it right. This year, I made the supporting garments to fill out last year’s dress so I could get the silhouette just right. Are you as curious as I am to compare the silhouette from one year to the next? Wait no more! (I even managed almost the exact same pose!)

I’m especially pleased with my sleeves! I have to confess that my sleeves were brushing up against things as I wasn’t used to how large they were! It was great! And the skirt is ever so slightly more full as well, which helps to balance the rather enormous sleeves.

I’m also pleased with the subtle difference of having laces on my shoes. Last year, I tried using masking tape to attach the laces inside the shoes, but pressure from walking pulled them right off. This year, I sewed the ribbons to lining of the shoe. That part worked great, but the ribbons would not stay tied and it was rather a challenge to bend over in a corset and tie the bows behind my ankles on a regular basis. It was great for looks but not for practicality!

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New 1830s Underpinnings: Sleeve Puffs & Skirt Puffer (HSM #11)

I made an 1832 dress last year for the annual Christmas ball. I was very happy with the dress itself, but a bit saddened by the silhouette due to the fact that I didn’t have time to make all the accessories to help give the dress just the right silhouette. This year I’m wearing the same dress again for the Christmas ball but I’ve taken the time to create two different underpinnings that will really help the shape.

There are two areas where I was disappointed with last year’s silhouette. The first was my sleeves. The dress I made has large beret sleeves but without anything inside to keep their shape they became deflated as the night wore on. The solution: a pair of 1830s sleeve puffs! The one below, from the V and A, is just one example (and what I used as direct inspiration for creating mine).

Conveniently, these fit this month’s HSM challenge perfectly!

HSF Inspiration: “One of the best things about the HSF is seeing what everyone else creates, and using it to spark your own creativity. Be inspired by something that has been made for the HSF over the years to make your own fabulous item.”

Sleeve puffs have been made by multiple people over the years of the Historical Sew Fortnightly/Monthly, though most recently a pair was submitted for Challenge #10: Out of Your Comfort Zone in 2017.

Here are my sleeve puffs!

So, just the facts:

Fabric: Soft cotton twill, polyester organza and stiff net for stuffing.

Pattern: My own, based on measurements and looking at extant puffs.

Year: 1830s.

Notions: Thread.

How historically accurate is it?: Let’s say 95%. It’s entirely recognizable in its own time. The exterior is plausible fabric, the stuffing is not.

Hours to complete: Perhaps 2?

First worn: Not yet! Will be worn in December.

Total cost: Free! All the fabrics are from the stash.

I took in progress pictures of the puffs as I made them, so eventually I’ll post a detailed tutorial for how exactly I made these. But for now, let’s talk about the second area that I was disappointed with my 1832 silhouette last year: the skirt fullness. I had hoped to create a nice round shape, but my silk petticoat alone wasn’t enough. I whipped up a puffer of stiff net gathered onto a waistband, but it didn’t add enough oomph either.

Of course, a corded or starched (or both) petticoat would be the ideal way to fix this problem. I didn’t devote the time to making either of these for this particular dress (and don’t already have them as part of my wardrobe.) Another idea one of my friends had was to use a fluffy many tiered organza petticoat from eBay to get a nice 1830s silhouette. I, however, was inspired by Lauren’s ‘ugly puffer’ (she made it for the 18th century, but the idea can be used to fill out skirts from many different eras) to try and get a better silhouette this year.

I actually used the same net puffer I used last year, but added a gathered layer of pre-quilted cotton from the stash. I hemmed the edges to help add stiffness and used up the small scrap that I had (only about ¼-⅓ of a yard), which amounted to about a 2:1 ratio of gathering.

That, plus giving my silk petticoat a shake out to get the ruffle at the bottom more full and less squashed from storage, seems to help, at least when I tried it on at home. We’ll see how these two underpinnings help at the ball. I’ll have to do comparison pictures between this year and last year!

How do you get an 1830s silhouette? Do you have any creative ways to get the right look?

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HSM #1: Brown Silk Petticoat

While making my 1832 velvet gown at the end of last year, I decided that a generic 1830s/40s petticoat might add to the silhouette, besides being elegant and fun to own. Silk petticoats remind me of Mammy, in Gone With The Wind, who is very excited (and a bit scandalized) about a red silk petticoat gifted to her by Rhett.

I had purchased this silk taffeta a number of years ago on clearance, but it was languishing in the stash due to its unflattering shade of brown. I had 3 yards, which was just right for a petticoat. And since the garment is never seen nor worn near the face, the color was perfectly suited to the project.

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I made a tube of the yardage, then cut off the excess length and used that to make the ruffle. I had thought of making the ruffle twice as high, but realized that I needed to have more than a 1:1 ratio to gather… duh! I was sick while making this and clearly my head wasn’t working terribly well. Anyway, I cut my tall ruffle in half to make a 2:1 ratio and that was that.

The waistband is made of small bits of leftover cotton from some other project. There is evidence of quilted petticoats from the 1830s and 1840s having waistbands made of other fabrics, which was my inspiration (examples can be found here, here, and here). It was a perfect idea, as I was trying to make the best use of my fabric and I did not want to cut a waistband piece out of it.

Petticoats of this type also sometimes close with buttons (like this one), so I chose to close this petticoat in that way as well. It used up a single, random, khaki colored button from the stash and matches the fabric perfectly!

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I added tucks to the petticoat after trying it on with the 1832 dress and realizing it needed to be shorter. Those are hand sewn, but the rest of the construction was done on a machine except for the buttonhole and sewing down the inside of the waistband.

This garment fits the first HSM challenge of the year, Firsts and Lasts (create either the first item in a new ensemble, or one last piece to put the final fillip on an outfit), as it was the start of the 1830s ensemble.

Just the facts:

Fabric: 3 yards brown silk taffeta.

Pattern: None. Just rectangles and math, sort of.

Year: 1830s/40s.

Notions: Thread, a button, and a cotton scrap.

How historically accurate is it?: I’m going to go with 95% on this one. The materials are good and so is the method. The only thing off is the machine sewing and the plastic button.

Hours to complete: Not many, for me. Maybe 10? It didn’t help that I was sick  and not thinking straight.

First worn: December 10 for a ball.

Total cost: $18.

Vernet Project: A Witzchoura Tangent

I started this post soon after joining the Vernet Project, so I think it must have been in my drafts for close to two years at this point. I didn’t want to leave it in the drafts folder forever, though, so I thought I’d include it as I’m wrapping up my Vernet posts.

Throughout my research, I’ve looked through many hundreds of pins on my Pinterest boards from the 1810s, 1820s, and 1830s and have found only a handful of plates that show outerwear specifically labeled as witzchouras (these can be seen in this past post showing examples). There are a much larger number of other, similar, types of outerwear.

(If you’ve missed out, this post explores the origins and qualities of a witzchoura, while this past post explores witzchouras in even more depth, with multiple excepts from the first part of the 19th century mentioning them.)

Examples of garments similar to witzchouras

Common garments in this category are labeled using words such as pelisse and pardessus. Then there are also carriage dresses (example), promenade dresses (example), and redingotes (example) trimmed in fur, but it seems clear in the fashion plate descriptions that these garments were not considered witzchouras.

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Fashion plate showing a Pardessus from 1811.

Here is another similar garment, a Russian mantle, described in The Ladies Pocket Magazine in 1838 under the chapter English Fashions and Novelties: Remarks On The Prevailing London Fashions.

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Descriptions of garments similar to witzchouras

In 1849, La Belle Assembleé addresses this for us (while also mentioning yet another type of outer wear, a burnous. The Dreamstress defines and explores this garment specifically as it relates to historical fashion, which is excellent and full of images!). The author of this reflection of fashion specifically mentions the weight of a witzchoura and how that compares to the weight of a pardessus, as well as the types of outings that these garments would have been worn for. Interesting that they would be worn for carriage dress, when, alternatively, one could also wear a ‘carriage dress’.

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This next excerpt, from La Belle Assembleé in 1825, tells us one distinctive quality of a pelisse which is that the arms were not encased in the garment and could be freely moved about.

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Example of a Pelisse from 1815, showing the armholes that would allow movement.
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A slightly later example of a Pelisse in a similar style. This is from 1821.

Examples of out of the ordinary witzchouras

Then there are garments labeled as witzchouras, but which are odd in a variety of ways. For example, take a look at the interesting witzchoura mentioned in The Lady’s Monthly Museum in 1817, seen below.

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I’m not really sure what qualities allow a witzchorua to keep one’s dress from being rumpled, but what strikes me as odd is that the witzchoura mention is lined with silk and that is has a chapeau bras attached! Also in 1817, La Belle Assembleé mentions this exact garment twice! The first is a description of the garment. The second is about the inventor, Mrs. Bell, who, if you care to read more, has a long list of other interesting things that she supplies.

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In this next case, the witzchoura is described as being lined with sarsnet (a fine plain or sometimes twill weave usually silk fabric) and only trimmed with fur rather than being lined entirely with fur. Haven’t we seen conclusively that a witzchoura should be lined and trimmed in fur? This witzchoura is also interesting because of its colors. It is quite likely a garment made for the general mourning of the death of Queen Charlotte, who passed away in November 1818.

“For out-door costume nothing can be reckoned more completely elegant than the Witchoura pelisse of black velvet lined with white sarsnet, and trimmed with real ermine.”

La Belle Assembleé  in January 1818

Finally, there is this fashion plate at the LACMA which is labeled as being a witzchoura but with nothing witzchoura-like about it! A mistake perhaps? This looks like a summer garment, not a heavy winter garment.

What a rabbit hole of obscure information the witzchoura is. I’m rather glad to say that I’ve now exhausted my currnet list of historical references to the witzchoura!

June Fabric Stash Additions

Twice recently I’ve wound up at the local low-priced fabric store not needing fabric, but finding fabric that I knew wouldn’t be there if I went looking for it again in the future. Those trips resulted in three new dress lengths of fabrics for the stash.

The first two were from the first trip, when a friend and I stopped by the fabric store so she could get some supplies… I didn’t need anything…

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Fabrics 1 and 2: rayon velvet and good imitation silk

But I bought the gorgeous burgundy rayon velvet specifically to make an 1830s evening gown I’ve been thinking of for the last year or so. It’s nice and lightweight and won’t weigh down the silhouette!

And the icy pink shot imitation silk I also purchased. I’ve used this fabric in other colors in the past multiple times, in my 1813 Regency dress and my 1811 Regency dress. It’s a little poofy, but looks like silk. I also have it in gold, which has been sitting in my stash for a few years. I have no current plans for this fabric, but I finished off the bolt so I have enough to make a dress from just about any decade in the 19th century I eventually decide on.

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Fabrics 3 and 4: very slightly slubbed silk and figured purple lightweight silk

The lovely pumpkin silk is a color I’ve been dreaming of having a dress made out of, but it’s one of those colors you don’t often find. I carried it around the store for probably an hour before purchasing it. I’ve thought specifically of an 1820s dress, but really this color could be used for many decades in the 19th century. I also finished off the bolt on this one with hopefully enough yardage for any project I eventually decide on.

In addition, I found a lovely figured silk online at Blackbird Fabrics that I also knew was a fabric I wouldn’t find if I went looking for something similar in the future. That’s how fabric shopping often is, at least near me. You have to buy great things when you see them because if you go looking for specific and similar things you’ll likely not find them. Is it like that near where you live?

The purple color is so very 2nd-half-of-the-19th-century-chemically-dyed and it’s figured. It’s hard to find good silks these days for a reasonable price that aren’t just solid. I’m eventually planning a new 1890s gown, though who knows when. Maybe when another 1890s ball pops up on my calendar?

For now I need to get back to using up stash fabrics for my summer projects instead of adding to the stash!

Vernet Project: Further Witzchoura References

Last post relating to witzchouras, we looked at basic definitions of the word, determining that the garment and its name developed from Polish and French influences, that the garment was popular c. 1808 to 1835, and that the chief qualifications are that it is an outer coat or mantle lined and trimmed in fur. But let’s not stop there: here are more references to the witzchouras from the early 19th century.

In 1817, La Belle Assembleé has multiple mentions of witzchouras. The following excerpt tells us a good amount about this style:

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Side note: A Louis d’Or is a French gold coin first struck in 1640. These were promoted by the French kings to fill the need for a large denomination coin, since the franc and livre silver coins were greatly decreasing in value. In 1726, France developed monetary stability and the Louis d’Or was established as being worth 24 livres, a value that remained static through the French Revolution. At the time of this quote in 1817, a Louis d’Or referred to a 20 franc gold piece, also called a Napoleon, so named because Napoleon coopted the idea of the French kings before him. (Sources: Merriam Webster, the OED for louis d’orNapoleon, and livre, and the Encyclopedia Britannica.)

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Louis d’Or from 1709

Throughout the 18th century, a franc was similar in value to a livre, and about 20 of either of these coins equalled one Louis d’Or. La Belle Assembleé tells us that a witzchoura in 1817 was worth 30-90 Louis d’Ors. What I’m driving at here is the relative value of one of these garments.

The OED gives us an idea of the value of a livre over time: in 1746 one captain was paid 120 livres a month (6 Louis d’Ors). Extrapolate that for a year, and that captain was making 72 Louis d’Ors, just enough for a witzchoura or two and nothing else! Another example from 1797 sounds outraged that an English sea officer was charged 300 livres for eight days of lodging (15 Louis d’Ors). That’s almost 60 Louis d’Ors per month, which would easily be a witzchoura, though I doubt that sea officer would need a witzchoura instead of lodgings! The takeaway message is that, as La Belle Assembleé says, witzchouras were costly and worn only by the wealthy.

It is worth noting that there are fur lined pelisses mentioned which do not qualify as witzchouras in the eyes of La Belle Assembleé. I’ll be examining these almost-witzchouras in a later post.

Moving along some years, The Ladies’ Pocket Magazine describes fashionable witzchouras in 1833 (the OED had quoted part of this in their definition of witzchoura that we looked at in my last post):

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As we established before, by the 1830s the shape of the witzchoura had changed to accommodate the changing fashions of dresses under them: becoming more cape-like, with collars and loose sleeves rather than being fitted like a pelisse as they were in the earlier years of their popularity. Again, we are reminded that witzchouras are made from expensive fur, and the more expensive the fur the more likely to see it displayed as much as possible.

Moving forward once again, C. Willet Cunnington mentions witzchouras in his book English Women’s Clothing in the 19th Century referencing a year as late as 1849: “The Witzchoura Mantle, for the carriage, lined and trimmed with fur.”

This quote from La Belle Assembleé in 1849 could be the source for Cunnington’s mention of the style, as the phrasing is quite close to Cunnington’s description:

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Here there is a mention of another garment similar to a witzchoura: in this case a burnous. According to the OED again, a burnous is a woman’s cloak or mantle from the 19th century resembling an Arabian upper garment of the same name. It is interesting to note that by the 1830s and 1840s a witzchoura is described as heavy, cumbrous, and very ample instead of the more fashionable and positive descriptions from the decades prior.

One final mention of the witzchoura is from The Outdoor Girl Of A Century Ago, published in 1922:

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This is the second mention in this post of a similar (or possibly the same) garment of Russian origin. In addition to the specific evidence of the Polish origins of the witzchoura in name and relating to Napoleon himself, I’ve also come across multiple mentions of the witzchoura style being brought back to France from Russia by Napoleon’s forces. Both of these influences fit in with the dating we’ve established and lead me to wonder if these are two separate and unique garments. Perhaps, though I suspect that if they were indeed separate styles in name they would have been variations on a similar theme, just like the fur-lined pelisse mentioned earlier in this post.