Project Journal: Victorian Women’s Tailoring Part IV: Fitting 1883 Undergarments

I’ve put together my actual fabrics! First to fit is my 1883 undergarments. These garments are essentially finished and ready to be worn.

The first layer is a cotton chemise with intersecting zigzag pattern lace insertion at the hem and simple lace edging around the neck opening and armholes. The tie is navy silk ribbon.

The corset is blue cotton twill flatlined with coutil for stability and grey silk shantung boning channels. The top is edged with black lace and off white silk ribbon. The bust also features cording across the front panels as well as flossing at the top of the boning channels.

It’s hard to see the corset detail in the first picture, so here’s a close-up. You can actually see the cording in this picture. The waistband is decorative as well as helping to cinch in the waist. The top and bottom of the corset are bound in bias silk shantung.

Here’s a small back view as well. It looks like I could have laced the bottom half a little tighter!

The next layer is the cotton corset cover with pin tuck decoration and navy silk ribbon threaded through lace around the neck. The front closes with pearl buttons down the front. You can see the corset cover detail in the two pictures below

After the corset cover is the bustle itself! It is constructed of off-white striped cotton with hoop steel bones inserted into the horizontal channels. The bottom is finished off with a nice box pleat.

Back bustle view on the left!

On the right you can see the pin tuck detail on the corset cover.

After the bustle comes the petticoat! It is constructed of cotton with lace edging. Here’s a front and side view. You can also see the pin tuck detail on the corset cover in the front view bustle picture.

Project Journal: Victorian Women’s Tailoring Part III: Mockups

I reached a point where all my patterns were complete! The next step was to make a mock-up, or toile, of each garment. My mock-ups are made out of muslin: their goal is to determine what changes I need to make to my patterns so that the garments will fit well before I cut and sew the garments out of my fashion fabrics.

By eliminating major fit issues in my mock-ups I am able to achieve a better fit in my final garments with fewer alterations. In these photos you can see the pins that mark the areas of the garments that I need to go back and change on my patterns so that the fashion fabric garments will fit better.

Look 1: 1883. In my brain this is the “bustle dress.”

1883 mockups--including the bustle!
1883 mockups.
My inspiration "cheat sheet" for this look.

Look 2: 1903. This is the pigeon breast dress.

1903 mockups.
1903 mockups.
1903 garment inspiration "cheat sheet."

Look 3: 1913. This is the tubular suit look.

1913 mockups.
1913 mockups.
1913 "cheat sheet" for garments.

Yay! My project is on its way to becoming actual garments. There’s still more work to do, but it’s inspiring to see it beginning to take shape!

Project Journal: Victorian Women’s Tailoring Part I: Overview

My current historic sewing project is reproducing three tailor-made garments and their undergarments from the end of the 19th century. The project aims to show the development of women’s tailoring from the 1880s to the 1910s–essentially the turning point between a tailored dress and a suit.

Look 1: 1883.

This garment is characterized by its bustle. The bustle goes in and out of use, changing shape and size, throughout the 1870s and 1880s. In 1883 the bustle is at a point where I call it the “shelf bustle,” extending from the back at an almost ninety degree angle once being covered by the voluminous skirt layers. During the 1880s, in particular, “tailor-made” garments were fashionable, but these were essentially dresses, not suits.

Look 2: 1903.

This garment is characterized by its romantic figure, featuring “pigeon breast” blousing and gracefully flaring skirts. The foundation of this shape is the new corset design introduced at the turn of the century, augmented by extra padding at the bust and rear. Tailored looks of this period separated jackets from skirts, but still these do not qualify as suits.

Look 3: 1913.

This garment stands between the corseted Victorian woman of the 19th century and the independent, working woman of the 20th century. Just a few years after this the rigid corset disappears in favor of new, lighter undergarments such as brassieres, knickers, camisoles, and girdles. Clearly, this garment is a suit, not a dress, but its undergarments remain in the past where dresses, not suits, were what women wore.

More journal entries will be coming with more information about each look as well as updates on the actual construction of these garments. Stay tuned!

Sources of Images:

1883. http://www.digitalchangeling.com/sewing/periodResources/Delineator-July1883/

1903. http://people.virginia.edu/~sfr/enam312/fashindx.html

1913. http://www2.uvm.edu/landscape/dating/clothing_and_hair/1910s_clothing_women.php