I’ve picked up a few patterned cotton fabrics over the last few months at my local discount fabric store. (Everything in the store is $3 per yard. Crazy!) I enjoy all of them and want to document their new status here. Hopefully, I can link back to this post when I eventually make garments out of them… This is encouragement to not let them languish in the stash for too long!
First, there is this light blue-ish grey cotton print. The mixture of colors and style of the printing reminds me of fabrics from the 1830s and 1840s. In fact, I used this very fabric to make an 1830s dress for a friend (you saw it in my posts last fall about apple picking). After seeing how wonderfully that dress turned out I decided I needed one of my own. And so… my stash has gained 7 yards of this.
I justify it by the price and the fact that I have very specific plans already. In the spirit of trying out different 1830s sleeve shapes, I want to make a dress from 1836 that has sleeves that are fitted around the upper arms but full around the elbow and down to the wrists.
Second, there is this purple mosaic looking fabric that has an Art Deco vibe. This one doesn’t have a specific plan, but I couldn’t pass up the colors, so I got 1 yard.
The mosaic Art Deco fabric came in four colorways: the purple above, as well as pink, orange, and… lime green! The lime green reminds me of palm fronds and Egyptomania styles.
On its own it’s a bit bright, but I also came across a teal fabric with gold metallic squares on it that I liked but couldn’t think of a use for… until I put it next to the lime green fabric. It helps bring out the blues in the pattern which tones down the lime green a bit. I’m thinking of a short sleeved 1920s summer dress like this using the teal as trim on the lime green.
I’m hoping to get around to the 1830s dress sooner rather than later, but the 1920s dress is lower on the priority list. Unless (maybe) this year brings the ability to reconvene and have 1920s summer events… and then maybe this dress will shoot up the to do list ladder! Ahhh, dreaming!
Today’s post is going to share more details about and photos of my new 1834 yellow dress. If you missed my last post about this dress, it was a lengthy one sharing oodles of construction details and photos. You can read that past post here.
Here is a reminder image of the fully accessorized dress!
The biggest accessory is my newly completed 1831 bonnet. There is a recent (lengthy) post about the construction of that here, if you want to learn more about it.
Back to the dress itself. Let’s start off with the Historical Sew Monthly details. Challenge #9 is Sewing Secrets:
Hide something in your sewing, whether it is an almost invisible mend, a make-do or unexpected material, a secret pocket, a false fastening or front, or a concealed message (such as a political or moral allegiance).
In this dress, I have two secrets, both of which I mentioned in the dress construction details post. One is pockets in the skirt and the other is that the bodice of this dress is detachable.
First, the pockets. Yay! My pockets are made from the dress fabric. They are French seamed and set into the side front seams of the skirt. On the inside, they look like this.
On the outside, they look like this. They’re a secret because they camouflage so well that you really can’t see them at all unless I pull them open or my hand is disappearing inside!
Second, the bodice detaches. This is very unusual (and possibly unheard of) for the 1830s, though it becomes common practice by the 1850s and 1860s. This system allows me to attach the current bodice, which I’ve dated 1834, or a second bodice that I have in the works which is dated 1838. That opens a whole world of possibilities in terms of showing changing bodice and sleeve styles without needing to create an entire second dress!
A bit closer up, you can just barely make out a loop on the skirt waistband that connects to a hook at center front. There are hooks and loops all around the skirt and bodice waistbands to connect them together.
Now that we’ve seen the relevant dress features, let’s look at the other HSM facts:
Fabric/Materials: 7 ¼ yds of reproduction print cotton, 1 yd muslin, a scrap of canvas for the waistband of the bodice, and a scrap of flannel for the cartridge pleats.
Pattern: Adapted from Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 1, with adjustments for fit and style, as well as The Workwoman’s Guide.
Notions: 2 ½ yds narrow cotton yarn for cording, 2 ½ yds of narrow white lace, and about 23 hooks and loops.
How historically accurate is it?: 95%. The pattern, silhouette, construction methods, and fabric are all quite good, but there is machine sewing on the interior seams.
Hours to complete: 25.75 hours.
First worn: In early October, for an apple picking outing, picnic, and photos!
Total cost: Approximately $60.
In addition to the HSM details, I want to share some more photos as well. These photos were taken during an all day outing in October. There’s still a post coming that will share apple picking photos from the outing, but there were many good ones from our later in the day photo shoot as well.
These next photos were taken in a neat conservation area that has beautiful, varied scenery that includes a pond area, open fields, wooded paths, huge rhododendrons, a meandering river, and this lovely row of pine trees.
I enjoy the line of trees and the interesting perspective they provide. So here you go, a front and back view of this ensemble.
Farther along our walk through this beautiful area we stopped to take some artistic detail shots of the sleeves of this dress. First up, the mancheron on the shoulder of the dress. There’s some pretty good pattern matching to admire and it’s fun to see the gathers up close, too.
Here’s another view of the mancheron and sleeve puff, with the zig zag cuff trim in the background.
I can’t decide if I like that photo or this next one best! The next one is similar, but the focus of the photo is on the zig zag cuff trim instead of the mancheron.
The last detail photo shows the cuff trim in even greater detail, as well as my new belt buckle from Ensembles of the Past!
I purchased the ‘antique gold’ color. I love it! It’s substantial in weight, has precise and delicate details, and will probably outlast me in terms of durability. (This is just my opinion–I’m not paid to say these nice things!)
The last photos I have to show you are a bit of a teaser for the apple picking photos that are still to come. We had the most gorgeous autumn New England day!
The sky was a brilliant blue. The temperature was wonderfully comfortable–neither hot nor cold. The leaves were changing and were starting to crown the trees in vibrant red, yellow, and orange.
And a fresh breeze lifted our spirits and our bonnet ribbons! I’ve so missed events and outings. This was much needed (socially distanced) relief for weary souls. I hope that you have also found relief and joy in these trying times!
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!
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.
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):
mancheron, n. 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.
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.)
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.
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.
With the bodice mostly assembled, I moved on to the sleeves. These are not flat lined.
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!).
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!
I’ve accumulated a few new fabrics over the last few months and I thought it would be fun to share them in a stash addition post!
Fabric for new sweatpants
I have a favorite pair of sweatpants that I’ve had for almost 20 years. They’ve seen a lot of wear. After 20 years, the hems are pretty worn out and they’re starting to develop holes in the fabrics near the seams. I’ve been on the lookout for similar ones to replace them for years, but the fit is hard to find: wide-ish legs with a bit of a flare, diagonal pockets, and wide hems. I’ve never come across another pair with quite the same styling. (And they’re not currently in style, being 20 years old, so that’s part of the challenge.)
While wearing them quite a bit in March and April I had the thought that “I could make myself a new pair of these pants!”
This idea was spurred in part by the lovely fleece fabrics that Blackbird Fabrics has stocked over the last eight months or so. Every time they popped up in an email I considered purchasing some, but couldn’t make up my mind about color and dragged my feet. Blackbird’s fabrics sell out quickly and I kept missing the boat with my indecision, but then they restocked the bamboo/cotton stretch fleece and matching ribbing and I decided to make a decision, go for it, and order some!
Doesn’t the fleece side of this fabric look soft? I love that new fleece feeling!
I ordered 1.5 meters of the fleece and .5 meters of the ribbing. I’m sure I’ll have leftover ribbing, as it’s only used for the band at the top of the pants, but I’ll find a use for it again someday, I hope.
Of course, right around the time I purchased my new sweatpant fabrics the weather warmed and I lost my motivation to make the pants. But the fabric isn’t going anywhere and in theory the weather is getting cooler soon, so maybe these will make it onto my sewing table sometime in the next few months.
I do congratulate myself on taking the time to take a pattern from the old pants before I lost motivation so that when I decide to move forward I’m ready to go!
Two block printed fabrics
I keep a running list of sewing projects, in order to remind myself what steps projects are at, what fabrics are marked for certain projects, and what projects I have in mind. Occasionally, while looking at this list, I get swept away with ideas for new projects.
Earlier this summer, this feeling of wanting new projects was compounded by a friend updating me on the status of her current 1830s day dress project using a lovely block print cotton. It’s been a few years since I’ve seriously looked at what’s on offer for block print cottons on places like Etsy and eBay, so I decided to check things out.
Oops! Because, of course, I found pretty things! And then my brain went into overdrive, thinking of all the amazing projects I could make with the beautiful things!
I confess that I gave in to temptation and purchased two block printed fabrics.
I feel somewhat justified in that I have very clear ideas in mind for them!
I intend for the green and red print to become a gown like this one, from about c. 1785. I have 10 yards, enough to make the dress and a matching petticoat, but I thought that someday I might also be interested in having a contrast petticoat as well.
In terms of timeline, I have no clear plans for when I might make this. I am working on stays from this period, so that will be a great help, but that’s not really a solid plan. And the stays are going slowly, as I’ve been distracted from them by other projects. So, no deadline or timeline in mind.
I also bought 9 yards of the pink print in order to make a day dress from 1843/44. But then I remembered a fabric already in my stash that would also make a lovely dress from these years (I actually posted about it in this past stash addition post in 2018–it’s the cream woven plaid). So… I’m not exactly sure which fabric I would pick for this project, though I’m leaning towards the new pink block print (whichever one I don’t pick doesn’t have a clear plan).
I have a new corded petticoat that would help with the 1840s silhouette and I already have the rest of the undergarments, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that I could tackle this project in the not-too-distant future. (What does that actually mean? Next year, maybe?)
Discount duchess satin
This is the standard ‘I happened upon it’ story. This blush duchess silk satin was in the discount bin at a local store.
Of all of the fabrics I’ve acquired recently, this is the one that is the most ‘stash addition’. I don’t need the 1.5 yards that I bought for anything in particular, but I thought that for the low price it was worth picking some up.
I think it would make a gorgeous 19th century corset (like my 1880s steam molded corset, which is also made from duchess silk satin). I also have vague plans to someday make a 1920s corset/girdle and I think it might be useful for that as well.
I’ve been doing well at using stash fabrics to make things recently, which is great, but I’m not sure if I’ve offset that by buying new things… Oh well! Sometimes you have to buy things when you see them!
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!
Since this photo was taken my shape has changed, making the dress a garment that could no longer be worn.
I’ve also never worn this dress all that much. It’s easy to draw a seam along the bust, but hard to pattern it so that the stripes are straight and it actually follows a curved body comfortably. It was ok, but not the most comfortable dress I’ve ever made. And it was a lot of purple.
I have limited fabric leftovers from this dress–certainly not enough to make a whole new front bodice, which is what would be necessary– and not being completely sold on the idea of the dress as a whole, I decided to turn it into a skirt! This eliminated the bodice problem and instantly cut down on the quantity of purple in one seam-ripping swoop.
I started by removing the bodice and taking out the zipper where it crossed the waistband, as well as down into the skirt just past the seam that connects the waistband to the top of the skirt, as you can see below.
My waist is larger now than it was when I made the dress, but I was saved by the fact that the waist of the skirt had been a few inches too big when I originally made the dress. Whew!
At the time I made the dress, I’d solved the problem of the skirt being too big by adding tucks on the back. This kept me from needing to alter the side seams, which I didn’t want to do because I’d matched the stripes perfectly.
To alter the dress now, all I had to do was take out the tucks and the waist fit! (I’m reminded that I had a similar problem/good fortune while letting out the waist of my 1904 Anne of Green Gables skirt–I mentioned it in this past post. Interesting that they’re both inspired by Annes!)
Luckily, I had enough extra waistband length to accomodate letting out the tucks. It was a little annoying to do, because I had to take the waistband off entirely to reset it with the extra across the back and I had serged the skirt and waistband seam allowances together. It was a bit of extra seam ripping, but that was better than trying to piece the waistband and match the stripes.
The next step was adding a waistband facing. I used a scrap of white striped cotton for the facing. It is machine sewn on the top edge, understitched (to keep the facing from rolling out and being seen), and then hand whip stitched on the inside.
Here’s a closeup view of the waistband. I shorted the zipper so it stops below the waistband, but I did not re-sew the whole zipper length–I still didn’t want to mess up the stripe matching on the side seam!
The final step was a hook and bar to close the waistband.
Ta da! The dress is now a skirt.
I’m not completely sold on the skirt. I like it, but I don’t know if I love it.
And I still feel it’s a lot of purple.
I thought it would go with more tops in my wardrobe, but it doesn’t really. I like it with white. I think it would look nice with yellow, but the yellow top I had in mind is horizontally striped and that just seems like too much with a vertically striped purple skirt!
I think I need to try wearing it for awhile and see how I like it. I haven’t really had a chance to wear it this summer given that I haven’t been going out, or wearing real clothes (as opposed to comfy clothes) very much. So a judgement about whether I like the dress-turned-skirt is on hold. That being said, I’m still excited that at least the garment is wearable now, whereas when it was a dress it was not.
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 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.
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.
The story behind these is that back in 2015, I made cotton tap pants to wear under my dresses and skirts in the summer. Here is the link to the original post. Wow, I can’t believe it’s been five years!
The original tap pants have been great and seen tons of wear! In fact, the original pairs are pretty much threadbare on the inseams. I’m kind of surprised they’re still holding together, as there’s not much left!
I made another pair with slight pattern tweaks about two years ago, but I felt it was time to add a few more pairs into the rotation. I found great satisfaction in the theme of all three of my older pairs having dots on them (in addition to the dots on the pairs in the original blog post, the third pair was made out of scraps left over from my Bubble Dots Skirt). So when I had this idea to make more tap pants over the winter, I was on the lookout for new dotty fabrics that I could make into shorts to stay with the theme.
I would have made multiple pairs out of the green fabric if I could, but there wasn’t much left on the bolt, so I had to pick a second fabric. The white background fabric has allium flowers printed on it. I love the round shape of allium flowers in full bloom, so this fabric was what I decided on.
After being washed a few months ago, the new fabrics sat around until April, when I was inspired to tweak my pattern (again–this is the third time) and cut out the pieces. About a month after that I finally got inspired to whip these up.
As with the other tap pants I’ve made these are entirely machine sewn with the seam allowances finished with an overlock machine. The waist is zig zagged to a bit of loop edged elastic. And really, that’s all there is to them!
Sometimes a quick project is just the thing to feel successful. And it’s great to fill a wardrobe need with handmade items, especially when they bring extra joy, as these do by continuing the dotty theme.
I decided I needed a new petticoat as part of the 1875 ensemble I’ve been working on for the last few months. I have a very ruffly petticoat from 1883 (shown in this past post) that helps with the shelf backside shape that became popular in that year, but I wanted a different shape for 1875… something to produce a more rounded silhouette and support the train I was expecting to include on my new dress.
My original thought was that my balayeuse would button to this new petticoat to create the support for the train of my dress (as opposed to making a trained petticoat and then potentially needing an additional petticoat without a train in the future). The idea is that the balayeuse + new petticoat will provide lots of wearing options for the future.
Along those lines, this new petticoat is able to fit over my large bustle from 1883 as well as having the ability to contain the back fullness so that it can also be used for the Natural Form years of approximately 1877-1882 (you can see the bustle in the same past post as the super ruffle-y petticoat). I don’t have a Natural Form dress yet, but it is on the to-do-someday list and in the spirit of reusing garments and saving time, this seemed like a reasonable decision.
Here is the new petticoat over my large bustle. The drawstring partway down the back allows for the adjustment for different bustle shapes. It is anchored in the side seams.
Here is the petticoat without the large bustle. This is approximating the Natural Form look. While the hem pulls up a bit over the large bustle (above), it is pretty even for the Natural Form look (below). The great thing is that once there is a dress over the petticoat you can’t tell what the hem is doing!
The pattern for my petticoat is from Frances Grimble’s Fashions Of The Gilded Age Volume 1, page 107. It’s a pretty simple shape. Accordingly, I made mine using straightforward details and machine sewing/finishing.
The petticoat has a drawstring at the waist, for adjustability. The drawstrings run through the waistband and are anchored along the sides with a line of machine stitching.
At center back the drawstring closes the top of the placket. The placket is just a slit that is bound with a strip of cotton cut on the grain. No bias here–this saves fabric and makes things easier to sew! The waistband and placket biding are finished by stitching in the ditch.
I decided on a medium width pleated ruffle for the bottom edge of this petticoat. I used a fork to help space the pleats, eyeballing and ironing as I went along.
The ruffle is edged with a stiff lace from my stash. I’ve had this for nine years and always wondered what to do with it, because it is so stiff. Turns out it was perfect for a petticoat, when a little stiffness is helpful! The lace comes in the stack of three that I used to top the ruffle. To get the single width I simply cut apart sections of the stack.
Here’s another view of the stack of three lace, the pleated ruffle, and the drawstring. Both this drawstring and the one in the waist are cotton twill tape.
This simple garment qualifies for the Historical Sew Monthly challenge #5: Basic. I imagine it will be used for any project I make, day or evening, from about 1875 through 1882.
Make a garment that can be used for many occasions (like a shift, or the classic ‘Regency white dress’), or a simple accessory that will help you stretch the use of an already existing garment.
Just the facts:
Fabric/Materials: 3.5 yards plain cotton.
Pattern: From Frances Grimble’s Fashions Of The Gilded Age Volume 1.
How historically accurate is it?: I’m going to give this one 95%. It’s good on shape, materials, and methods. I believe would be recognizable and plausible for its time.
Hours to complete: 8 ¼ hours.
First worn: In May, for photos with my 1875 ensemble!
Total cost: This was a stash project, so free, but the original cost of the materials were $10.50 for the fabric, $2 for the lace, and about $2 for the twill tapes, so $14.50 total.
While not the most exciting project, this was a great start on the way to making my 1875 ensemble. I’m pleased to have made a garment that is easily adjustable, useful for multiple types of events and silhouettes, and is functional but still pretty!
I am super pleased with a recently completed addition to my historical closet, my brand new balayeuse! Practical, utilitarian, and still managing to be a little frivolous looking, this thing is amazing!
I’ll tell you all about it, but first… what is a balayeuse? Our go-to source for etymology, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), has the following information.
balayeuse, n. Pronunciation: /balɛˈjəːz/ Frequency (in current use) Etymology: French, feminine of balayeur sweeper. Dressmaking. 1882 S. F. A. Caulfeild & B. C. Saward Dict. Needlework 18/2Balayèuse, or Sweeper.—A French term to signify the frilling of material or lace which lines the extreme edge of a dress skirt to keep the train clean as it sweeps along the floor. The balayèuse is allowed to project beyond the edge of the dress, so as to form a decorative as well as a useful trimming. 1894 Daily News 20 Jan. 5/7 Three flounces of..silk forming a richly-rustling balayeuse beneath the hem.
Please note: The Oxford English Dictionary is only available by subscription, therefore I have not included links to this definition as you will not be able to access it simply by clicking a link. Many libraries have subscriptions to the OED, so I suggest you start there for access.
Are you curious how to pronounce balayeuse? The OED provides us with the correct pronunciation, but the official pronunciation notes don’t mean too much to me. I think of the word as bal-ay-yuhz.
Ok, so now we know what this thing is and how to pronounce it. We even have an idea of the purpose, from the OED definition.
As you saw in the first photo, my balayeuse is it’s own garment. But there is another type of balayeuse mentioned in the first OED quote, from 1882. Also called a ‘dust ruffle’, this type of balayeuse is directly attached to the skirt. I’ve had great luck with this in the past and I really like the look of lace peeking out from under a late 19th century skirt, so I included that type of balayeuse on the pink skirt as well, but that alone was not enough to keep its shape.
I decided to make a second type of balayeuse–one that, in addition to the wonderful job of keeping the underside of the skirt’s train from becoming soiled, also helps the train to keep its shape and not collapse on itself. Caroline (of the blog Dressed In Time) mentions this function in a blog post showing her own balayeuse. Here is the train of my skirt laid out (sneak peak!).
I felt I had to make my skirt before the balayeuse, in order to make the balayeuse the right shape to hide under the skirt when it was finished, and so I’ve tried it on a few times without the balayeuse. The train is great looking when I twist and turn in my corset to get the skirt to lay just right, but it doesn’t stay that way when I move around.
But with the balayeuse it was so different! The skirt just magically lays exactly how it should as soon as I put it on and it stays that way no matter how I move–backing up, turning, it is amazing!
So how does this balayeuse really help keep the shape? Well, the main thing is that the base is a double layer of stiff cotton poplin (from Dharma Trading–I love them for my natural fiber, white, black, and unbleached fabric needs). This photo of the balayeuse with the ruffle side face down (as it would be worn) shows the poplin off nicely.
The poplin base is basically a big rectangle with the bottom edge curved up at the sides. I used the full width of the poplin, which was a little less than 60″ wide. The center is 17″ tall and the sides taper to about 9″. The base is gathered to a band that is 28″ wide and 2″ tall. I didn’t add extra stiffening to the band, as the poplin is pretty hardy all by itself. This blog post at Atelier Nostalgia has an image that was great inspiration for my shape (though my balayeuse is wider than this) and the button attachment method I’ll show you below.
The poplin base has three rows of ruffles attached to it. I decided to use unbleached muslin for the ruffles for a few reasons: #1 gathering three rows of stiff poplin didn’t sound like fun (and the base is plenty stiff enough as it is), #2 I figured that the muslin would be less obviously dirty looking, already being unbleached as opposed to very white, and #3 the muslin will be easy and cheap to replace someday, if needed.
As you can see in the photo above, the band of the balayeuse has buttonholes in it. This allows the balayeuse to be easily removed for cleaning and storage, or use with a different dress (thinking ahead, here!). To accommodate the buttonholes, there are buttons sewn to the lining of the skirt.
The buttons are reinforced with extra squares of muslin whipped to the lining, as you can see in the photo below.
It seemed too much to ask the buttons to hang on to a single layer of muslin while dragging the balayeuse around. Here’s what those whipped on squares look like on the other side.
The end result is this. As you can see, the non-ruffled top of the balayeuse overlaps with the skirt lining and would not be dragging on the ground. The muslin ruffles actually continue the muslin underskirt nicely, I think, though no one is likely to ever see that!
It might not seem super stiff, but this ruffle-y contraption spreads out beautifully when it hits the floor. For comparison, here is a photo of my mockup balayeuse, made from an old sheet (and without ruffles). It’s spread out for the photo, but you can imagine how an old sheet would collapse on itself when picked up.
One last thought… the ruffles! I decided to try out a new tool for these ruffles: a narrow hem foot. This is one of those things I should have tried before but haven’t ever used for a project, but miles of ruffle edges seemed like the perfect opportunity to practice!
I can report that practice definitely helped! For example, I had some trouble going over my french seamed joins in the ruffles. In the photo below, my first try is on the left, my fifth try is in the middle, and my last try is just coming up on the right. The french seam was just too bulky to fit through the hook on the presser foot that turns under the hemmed edge. I discovered that if I eliminated some bulk with a diagonal cut of the seam allowance it worked so much better!
I didn’t bother to go back and fix my first few sad-looking french seam crossings. I figured this was going to drag around on the ground, and who would be looking? Also, it’s more fun to make beautifully colored dresses than muslin ruffles… There was a bit of ‘done is good’ on that front for this project.
Yay for learning things! I also found I needed to move my needle just a tad bit to the right of center to easily (and speedily) stitch the narrow hems.
The mention of the narrow hem foot reminds me that this project qualifies for the HSM challenge #8: Celebration.
Make something for a specific historical celebration, make something generally celebration worthy, make something that celebrates a historical hero, or just make something that celebrates some new skills you’ve learned.
Just the facts:
Fabric/Materials: 1 yard cotton poplin and 1 yard cotton muslin.
Pattern: My own.
Year: c. 1875.
Notions: 5 light yellow plastic buttons and thread.
How historically accurate is it?: I haven’t seen an extant stand-alone balayeuse before, so I can’t be sure, but I would say 90%. Materials and style completely recognizable and plausible for their time.
Hours to complete: 5 ¼ hours.
First worn: In May, for fittings. I need to complete my ensemble (only the hat is left!) so I can wear it with the dress it was made for to get photos.
Total cost: $6.25 for the poplin and $4 for the muslin. The buttons were gifted to me. And the thread was negligible. There was a bit of shipping to get the poplin, so let’s say $15 total.
Further information I found helpful as I made my balayeuse included this blog post at Yesterday’s Thimble. It’s also worth mentioning that if this idea sounds great, but patterning your own balayeuse is too much, Truly Victorian has a pattern for a petticoat with detachable train that you can check out.