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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