A timeline of fashion

I love timelines showing changes of fashion through time. It’s a very interesting subject, and gives a very good overview of what types of garments were worn when. Especially silhouette has gone through a lot of changes. Although several such timelines exist, I decided to make my own! It’s focused on 19th century fashion, but with a slight expansion of +- 20 years in either direction to give a little context. I started off with +-10 year increments, but it switches to 5 years from the 1870’s on because I felt with 10 years some silhouettes would be skipped. I focused on day-wear. As I’m not a very good artist, I shamelessly traced all silhouettes from fashion plates. I chose fashion plates over extant examples or portraits because they show the ideal silhouette and shape of that time. The originals can be found here, all credit goes to the original artists of course.

And this is what it turned out like, click for full size!

Silhouette change timeline web

And, for those who are interested, a write-up of the changes.

1780-1791: During this time, the width of the skirts starts to narrow, transforming from a wide shape to a more rounded one with emphasis on the back. The general silhouette of the bodice stays largely the same, with fitted sleeves.

1791-1798: A time of a lot of turmoil, which is reflected in a dramatic change in silhouette. The waistline rises to just below the bust, bodices are generally gathered and where before the torso was a conical shape, the bust is now lifted. Skirts are gathered from the waistline, still quite full and sleeves stay fitted.

1798-1811: The waistline stays roughly where it is, but the gathered bodice disappears mostly in favor of a smooth fit. The skirts become less full, now gathered only at the center back. Although fitted sleeves still exist, puffed sleeves make an entrance.

1811-1823: From about 1820, waistlines start to drop, although still above the natural waist. The puffed sleeve is here to stay and growing bigger. Skirts become more A-lined, with more fullness at the bottom.

1823-1830: Waistlines slowly drop to the natural waist. Sleeves continue to grow, becoming epic in size. The onset of the sleeve is low on the shoulder. Skirts keep widening at the bottom, becoming fuller and a little shorter.

1830-1840: The giant sleeve disappears, but fullness at the lower sleeve still exists. Sleeves still start low on the shoulders. Skirts become a little longer again, and are full and bell-shaped.

1840-1852: Skirts continue to grow, with a bell-shaped form. The onset of the sleeves rises a bit back up the shoulders.

1852-1861: The cage crinoline is invented in 1855, allowing skirts to grow to epic proportions. By 1860 the skirts are becoming slightly elliptic in shape, with an emphasis on the back.

1861-1870: The emphasis on the back of the skirt continues to grow, while the circumference of the skirt starts to become less. 1870 marks start of the first bustle era. The waist is just a little above natural.

1870-1875: The bustle keeps growing for a while, but around 1875 it starts to drop into a low sloping line back from the waist marking the beginning of the natural form period. Trains are all-abundant.

1875-1881: The bustle keeps getting lower in the back, until it’s nearly gone in 1879. From that time on, a small new bustle starts to appear high at the back. The bodices start to become even curvier.

1881-1885: From about 1882, the second bustle era starts as the bustle keeps growing bigger. Around 1885 it’s at its largest.

1885-1890: During this period the bustle starts to shrink again, being nearly almost gone around 1890. While before sleeves for day-wear were fitted, a slight puff starts to appear.

1890-1895: The bustle disappears completely and skirts start to widen from the waist. The hourglass figure becomes exaggerated. Sleeves keep growing quickly until they’re huge in 1895.

1895-1900: The giant sleeves disappear again, although a slight puff still exists. Skirts become slimmer giving emphasis on the waist-hip ratio. The ‘pigeon-breast’ makes its appearance, the bustline is quite low but with a strong emphasis on the waist.

1900-1905: Not a lot of change happens. A slight puffed sleeve still appears and the pigeon-breast silhouette is at its peak.

1905-1910: Changes are happening again. The emphasis on the hourglass figure quickly disappears for a straight silhouette. Sleeves are fitted again, with a smooth skirt.

1910-1915: Waistlines rise slightly for just a bit, fit across the bodice is becoming looser. Skirts start to shorten.

1915-1920: Hemlines keep rising and the waist drops to the high hip. The silhouette becomes straighter and straighter, with very little waist emphasis.

1920-1925: Waistlines drop even more, and hemlines rise. The silhouette is almost perfectly straight in the late 1920’s.

 

Bustle over-skirts

For my ballgown I’ll be making an under-skirt, front-apron, back-bustle, back-train and a bodice. The front-apron and back bustle will be attached to one waistband forming one over-skirt. The train I’ll be making separately so it can be removed. I’m using a commercial pattern for the under-skirt only, the TV201 1870s underskirt, which I already had in my stash.

So for the rest, I’m drafting/draping my own pattern. The bodice will be similar to my 1860’s ballgown bodice. The train will be fairly straight-forward, just a large panel rounded off. The over-skirts I’m draping myself, and to help others these are the patterns I came up with!

The over-skirt I wanted to make is similar to these images from the Musee de Familles and the Journal des Demoiselles.

The striped one:

Journal des Demoiselles 1872:

And the yellow/red one:

Musée des Familles 1873:

I started with the back bustle. I was greatly helped by this tutorial from Historical sewing, where she shows how to bustle-up a back skirt.

I took an old sheet I had laying around for mock-ups, and started by pleating the top to fit the back width I wanted. I did this by eye, looking from where on the side I wanted the back bustle to start. After pleating, I pinned the top to the waistband of my bustle cage. For the mock-up, I used four large box pleats.

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Next I started to pleat up the sides. Again I didn’t really measure these out, just did it by eye and pleated the fabric up until I liked how long the pleated section was.

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I then looked at the center ‘swag’, and pinned around the bottom to where I’d like the bustle overlay to hang. I didn’t want to actually cut it, so I could re-use the sheet for latter mock-ups. This is what it looked like at this stage, if you look closely you can see the pins around the back marking the length.

 

I didn’t mark the position for the inside tapes which will hold the bustle in shape yet. The cotton held its shape quite well on its own, so I’ll make the tapes when I’ve cut and pleated the silk for the actual bustle.

Next up was the front swag! I used an old shawl-like square of fabric. This one wasn’t pleated around the front, but pinned on straight. Then I pleated up the sides to match the length of the back bustle. As turned out the fabric I had wasn’t quite wide enough at the bottom and too wide at the top, so it’s a bit tilted in the mock-up version. It did give me a good idea of the dimensions the finished apron will need though.

 

After I’d pinned everything, I took the mock-up pieces from my dummy and started measuring to draw up my pattern. This is the eventual pattern I’m using. I hope it’s readable, I overlayed the measurements in black just in case. As the pattern says, my waistband will be 68,5 cm, the front apron has a 37 cm waistmeasure and the back 31,5 cm adding up to the total. The length of the side pleats downwards is 30 cm. The pattern is drawn to scale here, every square is 5 cm. The tapes for the bustle were determined with the silk bustle, as it drapes very differently to the cotton. The little image on the right shows the width of the pleated top back panel with the length of the tapes underneath. The colored spots represent which position on the tape was matched with which position on the fabric of the bustle (red with red, etc.)

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Made in my eventual fabric, this is what the inside of the back bustle looked like before sewing it to the front. I ended up making 8 box pleats at the top and the pleats on the side are also a bit smaller than in the mock-up.

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And all put together, shown over my bustle cage! It’s not fully done yet, I want to add trim to the bottom and roses to the sides, but to get a picture of the eventual shape and proportions. The right side has a slit to put it on, and to reach the pocket in the underskirt which is on that side.

From the front (left) and back (right)

From the sides:

 

Early Bustle Ball gown

Last year in May, Izabella from Prior Attire organized a Victorian ball in Bath. I didn’t go, but I saw a lot of images of the event, and many gorgeous visitors. I decided at that point that it’d be worthwhile to put the event on my wish-list, just to see if it’d be possible to go one time. It would have to involve a holiday as I don’t actually live in the UK, but it’s always fun to dream.

Shortly after the ball, the theme for next year was announced, namely early bustle. Even though I had no concrete plans to go, I started looking at gowns from that period and eventually decided to just make one! There’s another ball a bit closer to home in January, so if I could manage to finish before then I’d be able to wear it anyway.

So a new project was started! I now have the corset and bustle/petticoat finished, and it’s time to start working on the dress.

When settling on what to make, I started with looking at ball-gowns from this period, namely 1870-1876. I found quite quickly that most are actually a bit too frilly for my taste. Most dresses I saw had some elements I didn’t like. Some had a lot. I quickly decided that the ruching you see a lot was not for me.

Something like this was a nope…

Le Monde Elégant 1870:

So instead, I went looking for what I did want, to see if I could incorporate this into one design. First up was color! I didn’t have too much choice, as I wanted to buy the fabric at an outlet. This made buying silk possible budget-wise, but given how much I’d need I would depend on stock. Almost all ball-gowns in fashion plates are white or pastel. The very occasional red or black appears, but pink and baby-blue were definitely popular. It’s a little too sweet for me though. So I decided to go for a light green/yellow/sand color if I could find it.

And that worked out! I bought a lovely thin but sturdy taffeta in a very pale yellow/lime color. It’s fairly difficult to photograph the color right, but this comes pretty close:

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On to the rest of the design! I knew I wanted a train, as almost all ballgowns seem to have one. It’s not always practical though, so I want a train I can bustle up or remove. This means having the train as an over-skirt so that I can either remove it or bustle it up by attaching ties on the inside, should be doable!

For the front and back overskirt, I decided to keep it simple. This’ll be my first time making a bustle, and I don’t want to make it too complicated for myself. So the bustle will be based on a pattern as shown in this video.

For the underskirt I don’t want a train, so I can wear the dress without one. Ideally with trim all the way around so the train can be removed. I’m not certain if I have enough fabric for a lot of pleating, so I settled on another type of trim. Lace! You see quite a lot of examples of sheer-ish black lace on top of light fabrics, something I really like. This brown dress is a nice example:

Le Monde Elégant 1870:

So, lace it is! I also decided that I want flowers. They’re so typical for the period, and can serve to bring a little color into the picture. I’m aiming for (dark)red.

For the bodice, I’m going for pleating, inspired by this image, although I’ll probably do the basic puff sleeve.

 

Although I haven’t got the lace and flowers I’ll eventually use, I pulled something from my stash just to look  at the color combinations.

 

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And with everything kept in mind, this is the initial design! I might change some things along the way, but this is the plan!

Bustle design

To finish off, shortly after I made the design image, I found this fashion plate. I love how the middle dress resembles my design. I might even go for the lace as bertha as well…

Godeys 1874:

Bustle cage

When I started my 1870’s corset, it was mostly as a patterning exercise. But halfway through the patterning, I decided to start a new project, namely a 1870’s bustle dress! So I decided to fully finish the corset. Of course, I now also needed a bustle cage. I already had the pattern for the Truly Victorian 101 petticoat with wire bustle. It suited very well, as it’s a wire bustle with additional ruffle overlay so you don’t really need an extra petticoat. (Although it never hurts of course)

The pattern went together really well. It’s also remarkably light to wear, and it folds up really well. No problem moving and sitting at all, definitely reccomended.

I forgot to take any in-progress pictures except of the cut fabric.So instead, some images of the finished bustle!

From the front. My only mistake was making the waistband way too long and I didn’t want to unpick it, so I just fold it over till it fits.

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The back. Ruffles galore! I’m getting better at folded hems…

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And of course, the most important part, from the side! Really looking forward to making a dress to go on top of this! A post about the plans is coming soon.

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New Victorian Corset

As soon as I finish a corset I want to make a new one, nevermind that I don’t wear them all that much. My last underbust wasn’t any different, and I started playing with a new pattern almost right after finishing it.

This time I wanted to try adapting a historical pattern using a similar method I used to draft the underbust pattern. I looked at different historical patterns, and decided on a 1870’s Victorian pattern without any gussets. The lack of gussets would make it easier to scale with the method I was using (more about that later). The choice for Victorian was because at the moment, I only have a 1860’s corset. That was the second corset I ever made, and although it fits okay, I can’t lace it quite as tightly as I’d like if I’m wearing it all day. Additionally, its shape is good for 1860’s and early 1870’s, but a bit to ‘short’ for latter Victorian. The 1870’s pattern I picked is a little longer and should work for a slightly later period as well.

A slight comparison. On the left a corset from 1865 (De Gracieuse, Dutch), in the middle from 1876  (Le Moniteur De La Mode, France) and on the right from 1885 (B. Altman & co Catalogue, England). You can see how the left one is much shorter in length than the other two. As time progressed, the flare out from the hips started lower on the body, calling for a more longline corset. The 1876’s one shows the beginning of the natural form movement, with a sleek line. In 1885, the silhouette became curvier than ever, but still with a lower flare over the hips than in 1865.

corsets

While my current corset follows the 1865 shape closest, the new corset is modeled more after the 1876 example.

For pattern, I settled on this historical pattern:

Vintage Corset Pattern:

I then resized the pattern by drawing a digital line through the bust, waist and hip points. I took my own measurements, and first lengthened the pattern so that the distance between bust-waist-hip was the same as for my body. I then took the line through the pieces and adapted the shape of the panels so that the total width of the pattern would fit with my measurements. I merged the first and second panel from the center-front, because these have a straight seam anyway. If you want a full (with pictures) description of the type of method I used, here’s a tutorial. I didn’t follow this exactly, but used the same concept.

I took this pattern and made a mock-up, and made some further changes. Mostly I removed some width at the top of the back patterns, and added a little more to the hip flare. I cut down the length at the bottom front just a bit to be able to sit better, and added a little width on the top front of the left half of the pattern. I’m not 100% symmetrical… The eventual pattern I ended up with looks like this:

pattern 1870 corset

I decided to make the corset out of a white brocade coutil I had bought on sale with no specific plans in mind. I also decided on doing a little more decoration, namely cording at the front. I’ve seen examples of both vertical and horizontal cording, but settled on the horizontal inspired by this corset from the amazing Aristocrat: (seriously, if you don’t know her work, go check it out)

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In order to be able to make the cording, I flatlined the whole corset with white cotton. The busk was put in first. The two front pieces on both sides were corded before construction. After that, all the pieces were sewn together wrong sides together. This left the raw edges on the outside, to be covered with boning channels. I cut the boning channels from the same brocade coutil, ironed the edges to fold over and stitched these over the seam allowances to hide them. Next time, I think I’ll make the boning channels tubes instead of folded strips. In some places, the fold ‘folded back out’ when sewing them on, leaving the edge a little wobbly. Final steps were cutting and inserting the boning (flat steel around the grommets, spiral for the rest) and bind the edges in white cotton bias binding.

The finished corset, here shown over my Edwardian chemise because I don’t have a Victorian one. (And because it’ be quite scandalous without chemise, as it’s very solidly mid-bust, and not over-bust).  I now sort of need to make a chemise with the neckline sitting right above the edge of the corset.

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And lying flat. I love how the coutil makes it curve even off the body.

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A detail of the cording on the outside.

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And an interior picture. You can see that by constructing the panels right sides together, the inside gets a really clean finish.

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The cording on the inside. The only disadvantage of having the coutil as fashion fabric and cotton as lining is that with the cording, the cotton tends to wrap around the cord more than the coutil. So the relief is stronger on the inside. I suspect it’d work best with the thinner fabric on the outside. (Also, I think I’m getting better at hand-stitching, very pleased with the stitches sewing the binding on on the inside.)

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