1895 petticoat/skirt

For my 1895 ballgown, I wanted 3 petticoats. The mid 1890’s silhouette is all about volume in the skirt, so all the floof!

I’m using my old Edwardian petticoat at the bottom to start building volume, and I made a white cotton petticoat from de Gracieuse to start the correct silhouette. For the final petticoat, I wanted two things. Firslty, to make it in some color/pattern, as these were a thing and I already made a fully white petticoat. Secondly, to make it out of the same pattern as the skirt. This is actually a decent way to start to achieve the right silhouette, as it would have the same shape, and would also allow me to test my pattern.

Petticoats 1 and 2:

 

I initially wanted a striped petticoat, but I wasn’t able to find striped cotton in a color/weight which I liked. It’s a lot easier to find cotton in summer than in winter, so alas. But I did stumble on a glazed cotton in a beautiful blue color, so I decided to go for that instead. I didn’t get enough to also make ruffles, as it was a bit heavier and pricier than I’d originally aimed for. Fine for the base skirt, but adding frills would just add a little too much weight.

When I was in Ghent for the new-year’s ball, I found some lovely light blue lace, which I took home to use on this project.

The picture doesn’t really show it, but the lace itself is also light blue, and perfectly translates between the blue of the skirt and white of the ruffles.

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As a pattern, I’d gotten the Truly Victorian Ripple skirt. However, I decided I wanted a slightly different cut. The TV pattern is made so that you cut the front, side front and back with the center on-grain, and there’s one very large side-back panel which has one edge on grain. This is a historical pattern lay-out, however, I knew many patterns were also cut with one edge on grain and the other on the bias. All bias edges are matched with a straight edge which limits stretching and moves the width of the skirt to the back. So I decided to re-draw the pattern. I laid out all original pieces, and using Patterns of Fashion 2 as a guide, re-drew the lines so I had a front-side, side, back-side, and back piece with one edge to be on grain. The front piece I kept as was. Despite changing it up, I don’t regret getting the pattern, as it helps to get the width/length right without too much fuss. (I’d also love to one day make the pattern as-was, to compare the differences!)

A rough outline of how I changed the pattern. (These pieces are roughly based on the PoF2 skirt with a similar pattern as the TV one). Step one is to arrange all pattern pieces so the sides match.

 

Then, I divided the waist and hem by 5, marked those spots and connected the dots to end up with 5 even patterns. (Note that in the red pattern, the back panel is fully shown, while I wanted one per side. In the TV pattern, I also ended up with exactly the front panel as new front panel).

 

And then all panels are turned and grainlines drawn such that the edge on the front is on grain, and the back edge on the bias! I did it this way to ensure I ended up with a suitable waist and hem measurement and curve. This little picture was done by eye, so they don’t really match in size properly, but this gives an idea!

Pattern sketch 1e

 

Main construction was fairly simple. I didn’t interline the skirt as I meant for it to be a petticoat, and I gave it a center-back closure. When the basic skirt was constructed, I fell in love with the color even more. This was the point where I thought how great it would be if I were able to wear it as an outer skirt as well, because it was just so pretty!

So when it came to the lace, I had to think a bit on how to place it, as on an outer skirt it would be much more visible. In the end, I decided to place it not on the bottom edge, but a little higher up. Moreover, I decided on adding white cotton ruffles. I’d originally thought about these for a petticoat and wondered if they wouldn’t make it too underwear-like, but I’m really happy I went with them.

Debating lace placement options

 

I could actually use most of the left-over hemmed strips from my previous petticoat (for which I’d hemmed too many ruffles), so that was good!

The base skirt was hemmed a little on the short side, to be able to still work as petticoat as well. I did this  by machine as the ruffles would cover it up anyway. The ruffles were stitched on, and then the lace on top.

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And then it was done! I’m very pleased with how this came out, and that I can wear it as outer wear as well. It actually looks quite good with my Edwardian blouse, despite that being a little later in date! I wore the skirt + blouse to a shoot day at castle Geldrop, where it fit quite well with the surroundings!

Ruud De Korte

Photographer: Ruud de Korte

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Photographer: Martijn van Huffelen

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Photographer: Werner Russel

Bicycle skirt

Beginning of this year, a friend of mine found a sweater in a modern shop which looked remarkably like a 1890’s sports sweater. It’s not quite perfect, but it definitely mimics the look. I debated about it, but in the end I couldn’t resist and followed her example and got one as well.

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An original sweater from the MET ca 1895

 

I’ve had the TV299 pattern for a ca. 1900 split skirt (bicycling/riding) for years now and never had a good reason to make it, but I now needed something to wear with the sports sweater, so it was perfect! Although dated a bit later, I found some earlier examples of similar split skirts, so I called it ‘close enough’.

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Cycling suit (MET, 1896–98) – the TV pattern image – Lady cyclist tabacco card (NY public library)

 

I knew I really wanted wool for this project, and preferably a plaid. In the end, I found this beautiful brown fabric, which has hints of green, blue and red running through. It was just a little thinner and drapier than I was hoping for, so I chose to interline it with unbleached cotton to give it a bit more structure and volume.

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The fabric, this picture probably shows the colors best

 

Shosing the interfacing when I was hemming. The bottom has a brown cotton hem facing. Because I made it bycicle length, and I didn’t want the white cotton to show when moving.

 

I tend to use patterns as inspiration and basic shapes, changing things as I go and not follow instructions. But for this skirt, I actually stuck with the pattern very closely. Technically, this is a pants pattern. It looks like a skirt, but it’s pants with really wide legs and strategic pleats. So it’s a little more complicated to me than skirts or bodices, as the only ‘pants’ I’d ever made were split drawers. Not quite the same. (What’s complicated depends on experience, pants patterns scare me much more than corsets).

 

The pattern went together quite well (when I was paying attention), the only thing I had to read a couple of times were how to fold the back pleats. It worked out as I was doing it though. My only nit-picky comment would be that because you sew the buttonholes in the front leg through 2 layers of fabric (basically in the pleated part), that bit becomes quite difficult to hem at the end. If you want your final button hole close to the bottom, I’d actually advice not stitching that when the pattern tells you (before construction), but leave that one to last (after you’ve hemmed everything). The only minor thing I changed was to take in the side/back seam a bit and widen the darts in the side, as I picked a size based on hip measurement (as advised), meaning I had to make the waist smaller by 3 inches. That worked quite well though! I was a bit scared because of all the pleating, but the relevant seams are not pleated, so I could check for fit quite well.

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Back pleats

 

I’m really happy with how this turned out, and love the fabric with this style. All the buttonholes (20…) were a bit of a chore, but they do add that little extra interest.

Button holes & buttons on the opening.

 

Making this in the shorter bicycle length means it actually reads quite modern! I didn’t necessarily plan this beforehand, but by now I’ve already worn it in daily life a couple of times!

When visiting the museum!

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I also wore the split skirt with the sweater to a photoshoot day. I made a beret to go with it the day before as it does really call for some type of headwear. I’m very happy with how this look turned out! It’s fun, but also very comfortable and easy to move around in.

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Photograph by Amabile

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Photo by PressCoat Photography

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Photo by PressCoat Photography

Edwardian corset – revisited

My Edwardian corset was one of the first I made, and the very first from a commercial pattern. Generally, I am extremely happy with the fit of Truly Victorian patterns, but for this corset it never quite worked out. Added to that, I didn’t really know how to fit it properly. Because I have a relatively large hip-spring, it turned out too small through the hips. After making a number of other corsets, I realized this actually meant there was barely any waist compression, and the corset smoothed out my figure rather than make it more hourglass. It also got a tendency to ride up when I sat down, making sitting not very comfortable.

The before: (2015)

 

I debated on what to do, because I did like the materials and the lace I used. Initially I thought I had enough silk leftover to make a new one, but that wasn’t the case. So eventually, I decided I’d try just replacing the two side-panels. These are the ones where all the hip-action happens, so where the main changes needed to be. My goal here was to have enough space at the top of the hips, and maybe even a bit too much at the back to allow for padding to achieve the typical S shape. I initially made the corset to go over padding in the back, and although I needed more hip room at the side, I can still use a little help in the back.

S-Bend Corset

The typical S-bend silhouette

 

To figure out how much I needed to add, I removed the binding from the bottom and then slashed the panels to the waist. I then pinned fabric underneath until it felt like I had plenty of room.

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Slightly messy picture, but this gives an idea. Black fabric is pinned underneath the slashed panels.

 

I then re-cut the silk panels, removed the binding from the top, removed the lace from the top, and re-sewed the seams. Then I re-attached the binding and lace up top, and at the bottom, where it needed to be lengthened a bit.

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The panels were made quite a lot bigger from the waist down

 

 

Seeing how much of a difference this change made to the shape of the corset on me was really eye-opening. I did not change the waist circumference of the corset, it is exactly the same. But because I now have enough space in the hips, I can actually lace down better. Moreover, visually the waist looks even smaller by comparison. For corsets, is all about shape, much more than size.

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The old vs the new. Again, nothing was taken away from the waist or anywhere else. All the difference is in the enlargement you see in the pattern picture above, in the hip portion of two panels (neither of which you can actually see from the front).

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I do still use padding, but it’s all to fill out the back and bottom of the hips. The hip-spring itself (so where it curves out from the waist) is not padded at all. The padding maily helps to fill out the back towards a more S like shape.

Although not my neatest work ever, I’m very glad I was able to give new life to this corset by making these changes. I never liked the wrinklyness of this corset, and I still don’t really. But this was actually a really good way to make use of what I already had, and as a foundation garment it serves it’s purpose again. Because of the new shape, I’m now actually looking forward to wearing it again! (Now I just need to adapt the high-waisted skirt that was made to go on top…)

2020 – Plans!

After looking back, it’s time to look ahead! As usual, my most concrete plans have to do with events, and everything else is a bit less defined.

Firstly, 1895! I’ll be going to Bath in May for Isabela’s Victorian ball, and preparations have started. A ball gown is the main thing, and then a day-outfit for the day after.

I have started a new corset, which is just waiting for the boning (which still has to arrive) and then binding.

The other under-thing to make is my final petticoat. I plan to also use this as a test-run for the skirt pattern. I have a blue glazed cotton I’m planning to mix with pale blue lace and white flounces. I don’t know how accurate the blue-white combo is this way, but colored petticoats were definitely a thing!

1898 Vintage Fashion - H.O'Neills Spring & Summer Catalogue Page 31 - Victorian Ladies Skirts | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

 

For the dress, I’m planning on using a green dupioni with black organza overlay. I don’t have one specific example, but it’ll probably be a mix between something like this;

Green/black, with silk dupioni?

And something like this:

Portrait of Countess of Santiago | Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida | oil painting

 

I really want to take my time with this project, and use historical techniques as much as possible. Interfacing the skirt with tartan, having a hem facing and brush braid, slightly gathering channels for boning in the bodice, etc. May sounds like a long way away, but with my speed I know I’ll need time if I really want to pay attention to the details!

For the breakfast the day after I haven’t quite decided yet. My Edwardian tartan outfit might be an option (slightly stretching the theme…), but I do need to fix the skirt to properly fit again (would be a good incentive in any case!). Another option would be a sporty outfit, as I recently found a modern sweater which actually looks a lot like the 1895 sport sweaters. Whatever I decide, I do want to make something to go with the sweater. Specifically, I have a beautiful wool fabric and the TV299 split skirt pattern I want to make up.

An example of a sport sweater, and a split skirt from the MET.

bumble button: advertismentAmerican cycling suit, circa 1896. This particular ensemble features a bifurcated skirt that allows the rider a more comfortable ride while also giving the modest appearance of a skirt at front. Other more daring ensembles feature fully bifurcated Knickerbockers. This suit also includes a pair of gaiters, which provide protection for the legs.

 

For the first half of the year, this is the only planned event for which I really need to make something. Plans for the second half are not finalized yet, but I’m looking into going to England again in fall for a 1830’s event. In that case, I’d want to make the 1830’s dress I have materials and plans for, based on this original (but in green):

Concord museum collection - but in moss green, tucks in skirt?

Concord museum

 

I also really like the idea of having a white cotton bodice to wear with a colored skirt, so I might make that as well to go with the green skirt, and increase versatility.

All The Pretty Dresses: 1830's Bodice

 

And I’d need to make a bonnet (I do already have a pattern), and perhaps a cap.

hats fashion print original 19th century french antique engraving no 3

 

It would also be a good opportunity to finish the pelerine which goes with my gold dress, as in the original outfit.

Met museum

 

I also bought some wool to make an 1830’s coat. That’s pushing plans into the more ambitions though, so who knows whether it would actually happen. But, something like this?

Coat

 

For my non-event related plans, I mainly want to work on my new stays. I genuinely don’t know if I’ll finish those in a year, but I would like to at least have finished all boning channels and main construction. As I’ll also be working on other things in-between progress will be slower than in October, but slow and steady also works!

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The stays will look like something like this for quite a while yet!

 

And that’s it for the somewhat concrete plans! I have a whole lot of fabric in my stash of which I know what I want to make out of it, but as usual planning and impulse at the time will probably dictate what else (if anything) happens and what does not.

2019 in review

The new year has started, so it’s time to look back again! I really like these retrospects as they often reveal I’ve done more than I thought.

Looking back to my plans a year ago, there were three main things. Finish my 1830’s dress, make a Victorian fancy dress fairy costume, and an 1880’s tennis dress for summer picknicks. I didn’t really make plans yet for the second half of the year.

The good news: I actually did all of those things!

The 1830’s dress was finished and worn to two events:

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So was the fancy dress fairy, for a ball in April, and then again last weekend:

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And I finished my tennis dress in summer, wearing it once before and once after all the trimming was done:

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I’m actually quite happy I already managed to wear all outfits more than once!

Between May and July, I also started embroidering pockets during travel time, and finished a pair:

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After that, I slowed down a bit. I’d been sewing on bigger, deadline-bound projects for half a year, and needed a break from that. I did some little things in August and September, and started working on my new stays in October when abroad. November was mostly spent travelling, and in December I started the prep for my new big project.

In August I re-covered some things for my sewing room, and did some crochet which I didn’t blog about (a shawl, a scarf, a hat, legwarmers, and a neck/arm warmer set):

My sewing room now finally has matching iron/pillow covers

 

In September I started on a new long-time hand sewing project, fully boned hand-sewn stays from Patterns of Fashion 5. I did the drafting and 5 mock-ups in that time.

 

In October I was abroad, and spent quite a bit of time sewing boning channels. I finished the first panel in about 3 weeks, and at least 16 hours of stitching.

 

I started the second panel in November, but didn’t finish yet, as most of the month was spent travelling. In December, after getting back home I started on other things again. I started and finished one wool skirt for daily wear, and a cotton 1894 petticoat. I also finally finished a re-make of my Edwardian corset I’d started on in summer. More on that in an upcoming blog!

 

Overall, I’m pretty happy with my year! Initially I’d expected more full costumes after summer, but with spending two months abroad that changed a bit. I am really glad to have started the new stays though, as I’d been wanting to for at least a year. They’ll be a long term project without set deadline, and I’ve found it’s quite nice to have a hand-sewing task to do if I don’t want to bother with patterning and such. I also really love the materials, which always heightens the enjoyment.

In addition to the sewing, I also visited 4 balls, one fantasy event, organized 3 historical picnics, visited 6 costume exhibitions, went to Edinburgh for a dress-making event, and met fellow costume-makers half way across the world in Wellington. Thanks to everyone for making it a great costume year!

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1894 Petticoat

For my 1890s project I decided I want 2 new petticoats. I have an Edwardian petticoat which is too slim for 1895, but which is usable as a ‘bottom’ petticoat. The second petticoat would build the right shape, and the final petticoat I’m planning to make with the same pattern as the skirt and make in more fun fabric. That one is to really get to the wide shape of the period. This post is about the second, so the middle petticoat! This is how it turned out:

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After getting some white cotton I  started looking for patterns. I browsed trough the 1894 to 86 issues of the Gracieuse, and eventually found this petticoat:

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There was a tiny pattern on the pattern sheet. Way to small to read any text, but enough to get a feeling for the shapes. I figured that the front and back would be cut on the fold, and that the horizontal line through the back and side panels would be where the gathering happens. I ended up not using the dart in the side panel, as that piece is gathered on anyway.

Petticoat b

 

My first step was to translate it to roughly the right length and width. For the length I just measured how far I wanted it, for the width I used the placement of the front-side seam. In the picture you can see that this is just slightly further than halfway around the body. This way I could figure out the width I wanted the front panel, and increase the size of the others similarly.

My first step was to take some notes and measures:

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For construction, the first step was to cut the main skirt shapes, and sew them all together. The front panel has two darts, and has a yoke as waistband.

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The side and back are gathered to a waistband which is itself a bit larger than the waist circumference. The waistband then encases a string (starting at the seam between front and side panels) which ties in place center back.

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On the side and back panels, a piece of cotton tape is stitched on, encasing another cord (again starting at the seam between the front and side panel) which ties center back. Pulling this in keeps the width of the skirt towards the back, and the front smooth. This is quite typical of the skirts of this era. Though very wide, the folds are in the back.

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For the ruffles, I cut one strip 42cm high and one about 16cm high. All ruffles were hemmed with a rolled (machine) hem. This took a while. The small ruffle was about 15m long, the other one about 7m.

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I used my machine pleater foot to sew the small ruffle to the large one, and the large one to the base skirt. Before sewing, the top was simply ironed over about 1cm. In retrospect I cut too much ruffle fabric, as I didn’t really calculate the ratio beforehand. There’s plenty on the skirt though, and I can easily re-use the rest as linings later.

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And this is how it looks finished! I’ve put it over the old Edwardian petticoat to properly show what the shape would be at this point. It’s starting to show the typical A-line shape with fulness in the back. The final petticoat will serve to make the shape even more extreme.

A blue circle skirt

My last completed make for this year was a blue circle skirt. I don’t normally blog about all circle skirts I make, but I used so many historical techniques on this one I wanted to share.

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The fabric is a lovely blue wool. It’s not very heavy, nor very tightly woven, which means that it drapes beautifully. The picture below shows the color best, I brightened the other pictures a bit more to show the details better.

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I got 3m of fabric for this project, and knew I wanted to have it be between under-knee and kalf length somewhere, and as wide as possible. With a little piecing I managed to get one full circle and one 3/4 circle cut out. Lying flat, you can see how it’s much wider than a single full circle would be.

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It did take a little piecing to make it this wide and long enough at the same time. I pieced the hem at two points so I could cut my circles in full from 1,5m wide fabric (the circles were cut with a 164cm diameter). You can see it if you know, but I suspect it’ll hardly be noticeable when wearing. Piecing li

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The waistband was machined to one side, folded over and machined again in the stitchline so the stitching doesn’t show from the right side.

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I also put a pocket in one of the seams, the pattern taken from the Truly victorian 1870’s underskirt pattern.

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When I got around to doing closures, I didn’t really feel like putting in a zipper. So I pulled out another TV pattern (TVE23) and used the hooks-eyes + placket method described in there. I quite like the look of this finish.

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The last thing to do was the hemming. I really wanted a minimal of machine stitching showing, so I decided to bind the hem. About 10m of bias tape was sewn onto the right side by machine, turned over and ironed to the wrong side and then sewn on by hand. It took about 3 hours to do the hand-sewing, but the clean hem is so worth it.

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I’m very pleased with how this skirt came out, I love how it moves with all the volume, and the little historical details make me quite happy.

 

1896 – Suggestions for dressmakers

Along with looking at inspiration pictures (aka: too much pinterest), I’ve been doing some reading on the 1890’s. The website archive.org has a large collection of old dressmaker manuals. Most for the 1890’s are drafting guides, but I also found one book which goes into more aspects of dressmaking. It’s called ‘Suggestions for dressmakers’, from 1896, by Catherine Broughton, and it’s a gem.

It has a lot of tips for how to make stuff up, fitting, lining, etc. But it’s also very funny, although perhaps not intentionally. So in this post, some things I learned, and some funny quotes!

Firstly, this book is written for an American audience, and absolutely cannot get enough of praising Parisians. The author was particularly fond of Worth, though not so much of queen Victoria….

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And in case you were wondering how exactly something was done, she reassures us it’s more about general effect. As the Parisians know, of course:

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Although reading the following, I’d probably be a bit less inclined to go to Paris for my dress. About Parisian dressmakers:

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She also has some really good advice though, and describes some clever techniques in enough detail to be very helpful.

These are some comments on fitting I need to remember. The tip to also fit sitting down is one I want to try more. (I’m also definitely guilty of fitting inside out, despite knowing I’m not fully symmetrical…)

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Of course, in case you thought it was easy, here is a comment to put you back in your place.

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But she does have good tips! If you fit around a posture you normally don’t adopt, then as soon as you go back into your ‘regular’ posture it won’t fit as well.

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And a little note on skirts.

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On cutting on grain: (of course, including some snark)

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I found the section on linings particularly interesting.

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She also has some interesting tips on boning. In particular that the boning should really stretch the fabric, and how to achieve that.

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And for everyone who has ever struggled with hooks and eyes which come undone (including myself):

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And a little bit on skirt bands. I thought the idea of piping was quite interesting, it definitely makes sense if the bodice goes over anyway.

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She then has some chapters on color and style, and her main message is that a dressmaker can make a world of difference. Snarkily worded, of course, we cannot let it get too kind.

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I’d definitely recommend everyone to read this little book in full, it has a lot more good advice in it (and also some not so good). It can be found in full online here.

To conclude, some advice on trousers, just so you know.

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1895 fever

I’m currently on holiday, so a little scheduled prettiness for this post!

Although I’m still working on the stays, I’ve also been brainstorming about my next project, because I’m going to a ball next May with 1890-1902 as theme! I have a ca. day 1905 ensemble, but nothing 1890’s, so it’s time for a new dress.

I have some plans already, which mostly center around year & fabric. I have some emerald green dupioni I’ve been trying to find a project for. The main problem is that it’s dupioni, so not quite historical. My ‘fix’ for this is to overlay it with black silk organza, which I also have in my stash. It will disguise the slubs a bit, and should create a nice overlay effect! (I’m also very partial to black-green combinations, as people familiar with my regular wardrobe will know). The slubs will still show a bit, but this will allow me to finally use this fabric I’ve had in my stash for a couple of years. I’d really hate to ‘waste’ this fabric by not using it, and I think this is a nice compromise.

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It’s hard to get the color right on screen, but this comes close. Beautiful color, but quite slubby.

 

The other plan so far is to go full out, crazy 1895. The 1890’s saw quite a lot of change, with sleeves being slim at the beginning and end of the decade, but growing to huge in-between. 1895 is the height of crazy-big sleeve period. I didn’t use to love it, but it’s grown on me, and doing these extreme’s is just so much fun!

So for this post, some big-sleeved inspirations from contemporary plates and portraits!

Some with the lovely green color:

Green/black, with silk dupioni?

 

Some working with overlays and extra ruffles:

 

Portrait of Countess of Santiago | Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida | oil painting

 

And some because they’re just too fun and quirky to skip:

La Mode Artistique, February 1895

L'Art et la Mode 1893 N°02 Complete with colored engraving by Marie de Solar, Emma Calve

L'Art et la Mode 1895 N°25 Complete with colored engraving by Marie de Solar

Cartridge pleating in the 18th century

This is a story about cartridge pleating in the 18th century, specifically on fitted-back (robe a la anglaise) women’s gowns. About how I first did not know anything about it, and then learned about it not existing at the same time as seeing it for the first time. If that sounds contradictory: it is, which is the main reason I’m writing this post. (a hint to the conclusion: they do exist!)

Some pretty pictures to spark your interest (Kunstmuseum Den Haag)

 

First up: a little terminology! (feel free to skip to the picture of the blue damask dress if you already know all of this).

What’s cartridge pleating?

Cartridge pleating is specific way of gathering a width of fabric into a smaller area. Specifically, it involves:

  1. Folding over the top of the fabric to exactly the height you want it to be.
  2. Running multiple (at least 2, but often more) lines of gathering thread exactly parallel to each-other through the whole width of the fabric, one underneath the other. This is done (at least partly) in the folded over part.
  3. Pulling up the threads to form large gathers/pleats. The threads are kept in and secured in place!
  4. Stitching your gathered/pleated strip of fabric to where it needs to be attached (e.g. a waistband) one pleat at a time, catching the outside of the pleat to the inside of the other fabric. This leaves the width on the inside.

A picture for clarity:

Where grey is the right side of the fabric, red are the gathering threads, and purple (last picture) the stitches attaching it to a waistband.

Cartridge pleats

If you want to be sure a piece of fabric has been cartridge pleated, you need to check 3 things. 1, the raw edge is folded down, 2 there are at least two rows of gathering threads in place and 3, it is stitched to the other fabric not by pressing it flat, but pleat by pleat, keeping the width of the pleat. Of these, only the second one is always visible from the outside! But you can typically infer the others if the pleats ‘stand out’ and are not directional (so the ‘fold’ of the pleat is facing directly up in the middle), as this means they have not been flattened when sewn on, and this can only be avoided if you also have a folded over edge.

In my gold 1660’s dress you can see the finished result, with the threads peeking out between the folds.

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What’s a robe a la Anglaise? The exact definition differs a bit (in French it’s used for any fitted-back gown), but in this article I’ll be using it to refer to 18th century women’s gowns who have folded pleats in the back which are stitched down and run into the skirt. The skirt of the gown is cut in one with the back, and then pleated down to fit to the other pieces of the body. In English terminology, this is also what you’d call an ‘English gown’.

In this example from the MET museum you can see the folded back, and how those panels run into the skirt (click on the picture to see their high-resolution photos)

Wedding dress, 1776, American, silk.

MetMuseum, 1776, American

 

And now, on with the story!

The first time I saw cartridge pleats 0n an Anglaise was in 2017, when I got a chance to see some of the items in the Kunstmuseum Den Haag behind the scenes, on a study table. Including this dress:

 

 

 

I took a fair number of pictures of it showing the inside. Including of how the skirt was attached to the bodice, which was clearly cartridge pleating. All 3 characteristics were there!

This picture clearly shows how the fabric has been folded over, and how there’s a little ‘ridge’ where it’s attached to the bodice.

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And this picture from the outside shows, if you look closely, glimpses of the threads keeping the pleats in place.

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So what, you might ask? And so would I have, until I got a comment on one of my pictures on Facebook: “I thought they didn’t do cartridge pleating in the 18th century“.

I did not know this, and my first thought was: “Obviously they did, look at this dress“.

But once I knew this, I saw many more people talk about how cartridge pleating was just not done on these gowns (or any 18th century gown, for that matter). And these were people who I’d consider experts, long-term costumers and reenactors who had seen many original garments. In short: people much more experienced than me in 18th century dress.

Instead of cartridge pleating, the way to attach the skirts was by knife pleating, which is done by folding the fabric into one direction, stitching it on flattened through all layers. Like I did with my own silver gown: (even though here, the skirt was cut separately from the bodice.)

 

Or on this original gown sold by Vintage textile.com

 

 

18th Century Clothing at Vintage Textile: #2811 French open robe

1780s

 

So maybe the blue gown was just an oddity? That happens, you can often find single exceptions to a rule, and one counter-example does not prove something is commonly done. Maybe the person for who this dress was made just had odd taste?

Except that I also visited more exhibitions around the country. And I kept seeing Anglaise’s with what seemed like cartridge pleated skirts. From the outside, so it’s more difficult to be sure, but it certainly looks a great, great deal like cartridge pleating to me. This blue gown seemed increasingly less an oddity, and increasingly more like a very typical example.

These are pictures of the 4 gowns I’ve seen which seem to be cartridge pleated. Of all of the Anglaises I saw with folded back pleats and where I could see the skirt attachment clearly, this is 100% of them. I don’t doubt there’s English gowns in Dutch collections which clearly show knife pleats. But I haven’t seen any in person.

Kunstmuseum den Haag circa 1775-1799 (although similar, this is a different dress than the first!

Kunstmuseum Den Haag ca. 1780

Kunstmuseum Den Haag ca. 1780

Centraal Museum Utrecht, 1780

 

So what’s true here? Were these experts wrong in saying there was no cartridge pleating? Or was I seeing all of these wrong? My theory is that it’s neither, and although I cannot be 100% sure, what seems most likely to me is this:

Cartridge pleating your skirts was a typically Dutch thing to do. It was normal in the Netherlands, despite not being at all fashionable in France or England (and, therefore, the US).

This fits with the fact that 1. All the experts I’ve heard the ‘no cartridge pleating’ from are speakers of English and most familiar with English and American collections. And 2. All these examples of cartridge pleating occur in Dutch collections. (I haven’t seen enough items from other countries/cultures to know if it extents beyond the Netherlands, but if anyone does I’d love to learn more!). I proposed this theory to the same experts on Facebook, and the general consensus was that this is probably correct. (I was not imagining things, yay!)

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A very Dutch ensemble? A chintz gown with cartridge pleated skirt, over a blue satin corded quilted petticoat. (Centraal museum Utrecht)

 

There are two additional things which seem to support this theory. The first is that nearly all the cartridge pleats I’ve seen occur on dresses which share some other shared characteristics. This type of dresses seems to exist much more in Dutch collections than in others, indicating that this style was popular mainly in the Netherlands.

Specifically, all of these gowns have the pleated back (even though by the 1780’s, a back with cut back panels became more popular), they have robings in the front (folded edges running over the shoulder) which run all the way into the skirt, and the space between the robings is filled with either 2 sewn-in panels closing center front, or several sewn-in trips of fabric closing center front. Although you see robings a lot in the 1740’s and 1750’s in England in particular, these robings typically stop at the bottom of the bodice, and the center front of these is open (to be worn with a stomacher). Moreover, this style had become very old-fashioned by the 1780s, while a fair number of these Dutch gowns is dated that late.

This picture points to the robings and cf closure on the green gown.

 

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And this picture shows the lining of one of the strips closing the bodice on the first blue gown. You can see the (in the picture) horizontal fold above this, which is the robing.

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There are more examples in Dutch collections that I haven’t seen in person, such as this lovely red chintz dress:

Japon, robe à l'Anglaise van sits, rood fond met grote veelkleurige bloemen, lijf met vestpanden, aangeplooide rok, mouwen met geplooid elleboogstuk, vierkante halslijn | Modemuze

Museum Rotterdam 1780/1785

 

For more examples of this style, see this pinterest board!

The second is that we know from some contemporary accounts that Dutch women liked their skirts big, and cartridge pleating is particularly suited making very full skirts stand out even more. The book ‘Aangekleed gaat uit’ has a reference to women mocking others for their lack of petticoats, and the book ’18th century Dress in Europe’ has a quote of a contemporary (non-Dutch) traveler remarking on the same thing.

So, the moral of this story? For me, it drove home a couple of things. Firstly, that the further you go back in time, the more important it becomes not to generalize knowledge on one region to another. Yes, people traveled and communicated, but in the 18th century, there were still loads of characteristics of dress common in one region/country but not in the other. The second is that it’s important to ensure that ‘rules’ don’t make you blind to what’s right in front of you. A single exception does not prove a general rule is false, but it could be a sign that there’s more to the story. And finally, that there is definitely such a thing as cartridge pleated skirts to Anglaises, as long as you are talking about a Dutch context, even if there isn’t in a French/English one.

I also now want to make my next Anglaise with cartridge pleats!

Because it’s so pretty!

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Edit per 10-01-2020: Two pictures of a silk dress from the Kunstmuseum Den Haag, seen early 2020 which shows cartridge pleats as well. This dress has the same characteristics as all the others, folded back pleats and folded robings in front.

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