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 II: Patterns

The first step of this women’s tailoring project was to research what exactly I wanted to recreate. That being finished, I embarked on the next task: to create patterns for each of the garments I would be building. Each look is made up of about 8 separate garments: a chemise/combination, corset, corset cover, petticoat, blouse, skirt, jacket, and hat (the 1883 look also includes a bustle). To create the patterns for these garments I used a combination of the methods mentioned below.

Basic Sloper: a starting point for patterning

The simple undergarment patterns such as the chemises and corset covers were drafted using my models’ measurements. Pattern Drafting for Fashion Design, by Helen Joseph Armstrong, was a great starting point for creating these shapes.

The corset patterns were adapted to fit my models from the book Corsets and Crinolines by Norah Waugh.

The petticoat patterns were created using a combination of methods. For all of them I found an image I wanted to recreate, then I either used the drafting method I used for chemises and corset covers, or I used a historic pattern that was lifted from a historic garment like the patterns for the skirts and jackets (mentioned below). The images came from a wide variety of books, including The History of Underclothes by C. Willett Cunnington, Everyday Fashions, 1909-1920, as Pictured in Sears Catalogs edited by JoAnne Olian, and Victorian Fashions and Costumes from Harper’s Bazaar, 1867-1898 edited by Stella Blum.

For the outer garments (skirts and jackets), I used patterns from historic garments that were resized to fit the models who will be wearing the garments. The patterns are lifted from historic garments and printed in books such as Patterns of Fashion 2: Englishwomen’s Dresses and Their Construction C. 1860-1940 by Janet Arnold, Turn of the Century Fashion Patterns and Tailoring Techniques by S. S. Gordon, and The Cut of Women’s Clothes: 1600-1930 by Norah Waugh.

In addition, I also consulted a variety of books to get more background information about the fabrics and colors, method of construction, and look, name and use of each garment. Other helpful reference books include, but are certainly not limited to, English Women’s Clothing in the Nineteenth Century: A Comprehensive Guide with 1,117 Illustrations by C. Willett Cunnington, Underwear: Fashion in Detail by Eleri Lynn, and Authentic Victorian Dressmaking Techniques edited by Kristina Harris.

For the hats, I found an image I liked and then used millinery reference books to get more information. Millinery books included From the Neck Up: An Illustrated Guide to Hatmaking by Denise Dreher and Edwardian Hats: The Art of Millinery by Anna Ben-Yusef, edited by R. L. Shep.

More coming soon! Next, a look at my mockups of these garments!

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