Last year, I made a yellow cotton print 1834 dress (there are tons of details about it in this past post). The yardage leftover after that project wasn’t enough for another full dress, but it was enough for another bodice, and I’d been caught up in 1830s fever!
There are so many ridiculous sleeves to explore! Accordingly, I decided to make a second 1830s bodice with different sleeves. I finished the new 1838 bodice earlier this year and over the summer I was able to wear it with my recently finished chemisette.
The 1834 dress was made in two parts, a skirt and separate bodice, so that it was easy to make a second bodice and save yardage on the skirt.
First, the construction details of the new 1838 bodice, starting with the HSM facts, because this bodice fits Challenge #4:
The Costumer’s New Look: Give an old costume a new look, either by creating a new accessory or piece which expands or changes the aesthetic and use of an outfit, re-fashioning something into a costume item, or re-making an old costume.
Fabric/Materials:Approximately 2.5 yds reproduction print cotton and 1 yd of muslin.
Pattern: 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, as well as sleeve information fromThe Workwoman’s Guide.
Notions: 2 ½ yds narrow cotton yarn for cording, about 10 hooks and loops, and thread..
How historically accurate is it?: 90%. The pattern, construction methods, and fabric are all quite good. Inside seams are sewn by machine.
Hours to complete: 22.
First worn: August 2021.
Total cost: Approximately $15.
The back of this bodice is made just like the 1834 bodice, with piping in the side back seams. The armsceyes and neck are also finished with piping.
The main difference in the bodice (aside from the sleeves, which we’ll get to shortly) is the front, which has a deep V shape.
I looked at extant garments to see how this style was constructed. There are a collection of pertinent ones on my Pinterest board for this sewing project. The main inspiration for my observations was this garment, featured on All The Pretty Dresses blog (and included on my Pinterest board).
What I saw is that instead of being flatlined (as with the yellow and muslin layers of the back pieces), the lining was stitched separately from the gathered front panels. The muslin provides a fitted shape for the yellow exterior layer. There is a photo of the inside of the bodice of the extant bodice that shows this very clearly.
For my dress, the piping that finishes the back neck continues around the muslin to finish the edge. The yellow exterior pieces of the V edges (which are cut on the straight of grain) are simply pressed under twice.
Here is a closeup of the armhole of my bodice from the inside. The muslin front edge and exterior yellow layer are on the right of the photo. You can also see the ties that hold the sleeve puffs in place.
In addition to those details, the photo below also shows the hooks that are used to attach this bodice to the skirt.
Ok, but the sleeves are the star of the show here, so let’s discuss them! Being from 1838, they still use a lot of fabric (a yard each), but the fullness is pleated to force the puff down to the elbow level.
Here’s a closeup of the completed sleeve. The pleats are held in place by two bands of double piping that are hand sewn in place.
To make the double piping I machine sewed the cord into one side of my bias and hand sewed it into the other, then pressed the bias in half and attached it through all the layers. In my sample below I didn’t bother to put the machine stitching on the under side, but on the dress the machine stitching is not visible.
Before the piping was added, the pleats were machine basted in place. My machine basting wasn’t exactly where the piping ended up, so I removed the basting anywhere it showed.
Backing up some more in the process, below is one of the sleeves with the pleats pinned in place. I did this while the sleeves were flat, before I sewed up the inseams.
There’s no pattern for the pleats… it was just a matter of knowing what dimensions I wanted to end up with for my top edge and bicep and then eyeballing it. The pleats vary in depth on the inside, even though the outside is pretty even at ¼”. Part of this is due to the fact that the pleats have to angle in order to create an armsceye that keeps a curve up in the middle. Figuring it out is a great mind puzzle!
Below is the sleve before being pleated, etc. Between being over a yard high and also being cut on the bias you can see why each sleeve takes a yard of fabric!
After pleating and sewing the inseam the sleeves had this shape (below is my mockup sleeve). I really wanted an exaggerated elbow puff, so this isn’t quite the shape I wanted to end up with. To get the shape I wanted, I took horizontal tucks about halfway down the sleeve. This keeps the forearm relatively unwrinkled while creating lots of elbow puff. The tucks are lost in the pattern of the finished dress.
Could I have altered my pattern to not have to take tucks? Sure! I’d probably change the curve of the sleeve inseam to do that. But… I’d already cut my pieces. And adapting sleeve shapes to adjust for changes in styles seemed very appropriate and in the spirit of what 1830s ladies might have done.
So for a bit more sleeve information… These sleeves have an opening at the cuff to allow for the tight fit of the forearm. The openings are finished with self fabric facings and then the hem is turned up.
Here’s what that looks like on the inside.
And that’s it for construction!
Here’s a bonus photo of the dress with a quince tree. I’ve heard of quinces but never encountered them before.
They sort of look like pears!
I’m very pleased with this cross front bodice and the sleeves that go with them. I appreciate their minute detail even though they were definitely the most time consuming part of this bodice!