1870’s Mantelet

When my 1870’s ballgown was nearly done, I also started looking into making a quick cape or coat to go with it. I’ll be walking to the ball after all (no fancy carriage, alas), so a little something warm will be welcome. I also had a 1,5m by 1,5m wool coupon in my stash with no specific plans for it yet. It would be perfect for this plan!

So I started looking at capes and coats, and quickly found loads of original online patterns for different Victorian eras. It’s really nice to see the progress in shapes! Generally speaking, the 1860’s see large almost ‘sack’ like capes falling over crinolines. In the early 1870’s a type of mantelet with two long extensions in the front and a fitted back become popular. In the 1880’s, coats become more popular, being even more fitted and having sleeves more often. In the 1890’s you see the rise of short (waist-length) circle shaped capes.

The patterns I found for the 1870’s were these:

Der Bazar 1874: Springtime mantelet from black elastine fabric with black guipure-lace, grosgrain ribbons and atlas lining (also suitable for confirmands); 38a. front part, 38b. back part:

Der Bazar 1873: Springtime mantelet from black cashmere with black lace and silk-reps adornments; 23a. front part, 23b. back part:

Der Bazar 1874: Springtime mantelet from black cashmere with black lace and…:

Der Bazar 1873: Springtime mantelet from black elastine with black guipure-lace and grosgrain ribbon adornments; 24a. front part, 24b. back part:

All very similar in shape. I settled on the last one, because I liked the square bottom front and fitted back. (Also, even though it has nothing to do with the pattern, the bow at the back might have influenced me slightly 😉 ).

I slightly adapted the pattern to fit me, mostly the back was way too narrow and the front slightly too wide for me. I didn’t have a narrow neckline anymore after I was done with the adaptions, and decided to leave it as it was. So mine is slightly wider then the originals probably were.

These patterns have no instructions, so I just made it up in the way I thought easiest. First I assembled the wool fabric pieces. I then trimmed the edges using velvet and polyester ribbon. The polyester ribbon (obviously not historical, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen actual silk ribbon for sale) was pleated every 1,5cm. All 10m of it.. Suffice to say that took a while, it was a relaxing task though, and perfect for the start of the holidays. (Very obvious in this image, I tend to group pins by color…)

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After trimming, I lined the wool with cotton by sewing it together right sides together, leaving a little part to turn it inside out. That part was hand-sewn shut afterwards. To keep the back close to the body right before the ‘flare’, I sewed a cotton strip of fabric at that point which closes in the front. I don’t know if this is period, just something I thought convenient.

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It closes with a fancy closure at the top and little hooks and eyes to keep the front together.

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I also placed a velvet bow at the center back, inspired by the pattern picture.

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To finish, a couple of images of me wearing the mantelet over the ball gown.

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1870’s early bustle ballgown photos

Although I’ve already posted images of both the skirts and bodice of this dress, it needed one final finishing touch. The main colors of the dress are pale yellow and black, but I always planned to have some dark red roses as accents. With those done, it was time to finally get some images with the whole ensemble on! A more detailed description on how I made the roses is at the bottom.

The top of the bodice on the dress form, including rose.

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Wearing the full ensemble! From the front.

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And another one, if only to see the bodice point better. Extra roses worn in my hair!

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From the side.

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Moving towards the back.

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And from the center back. Small disclaimer: I put on the whole dress, including bodice, by myself. So it’s possible! Only I missed a hole when lacing, and it gapes a bit at the bottom. Luckily I’ll have help when I go to the ball in this.

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I really loved wearing this, if only for an hour for pictures. It feels very elegant, and the silk makes a wonderful sound. I doubted for a bit if I would actually make the roses, as it felt quite finished already without. I’m very happy I did though, it gives just that little extra touch. The whole ensemble also quite easy to move around and sit in, which is always a plus! I’m really looking forward to wearing this in Bath next may.

 

As for the flowers, I looked at various tutorials for making fabric roses, and eventually settled on a method using polyester fabric strips. The actual tutorial disappeared in the day between me making the flowers and writing this, so linking to that page is useless. I’ll try to describe the method as well as possible here, but as a disclaimer; I didn’t think this out for myself, someone else very generously shared this process online first.

This method only works with polyester fabric, as you need to melt the edges. Not historical, but polyester lining fabric (which is what I used) is a lot easier to source than silk anyway. It also gives such a pretty result that I wanted to try it out.

The first step is to cut strips of fabric. The original tutorial advised 45″ strips of 2″ to 3″ wide. My strips were therefore 110cm long and 7cm wide at the widest part. I cut the fabric in ‘waves’, making smaller waves in the last 15 to 20cm for the center of the rose. After cutting, I melted the edges. The bottom edge was molten just slightly to prevent fraying. The top was molten more to also shape the petals a bit more.

The strips are then gathered at the bottom and rolled around themselves while stitching it together at the bottom. I finished them by sewing a circle of felt to the bottom. I attached all roses to a clip so I can remove them from the dress if I want, and I made a couple extra to put in my hair.

Because I was planning to just refer to the original tutorial I didn’t take too many pictures, but here you can see the stages. Far left is cut and molten strip, middle is gathered strip, right finished roses.

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Christmas tones

For some reason, christmas in the Victorian era is linked to Dickens. It might be all the Dickens festivities around christmas, and probably a Christmas Carol has something to do with it. So for this post, some christmassy dress inspiration from the Dickens era! Most Dickens events tend to bring 1860’s clothing, but his books were written from 1836 to about 1865, so these images cover that whole period. Prepare for loads of red, green and plaid, in chronological order (as far as I could find out).

 

Court dress | probably German | The Met:

l:

Le Bon ton fashion plate 1837:

Day dress ca. 1840’s:

Lady's Cabinet Fashion Plate - "MORNING VISITING DRESS (Green)" - Hand-Colored Engraving - 1840:

Litografia di moda d'epoca 1848: due signore di AntiquePrintsOnly:

Two-piece woolen plaid dress, 1855-1865, via In the Swan's Shadow.:

An exquisite Canadian plaid/tartan evening gown from circa 1860. The popularity of plaid exploded after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert chose Balmoral Castle in the Scottish Highlands as one of their royal residences:

The Victorian Needle:1860 fashion plate:

La Mode Illustrée, 1864:

March 1865, Les Modes Parisiennes. From LAPL.:

1863 Vintage Victorian Fashion Plate from Les by PastPaperNPostcards,:

 

1870’s underskirt trim

While making the trim for my 1870’s dress, I also looked a lot at images of other underskirts of the period. There’s loads of different ways to trim the skirt, and although  skirts without any trim do exist, they seem quite rare. In fact, there are so many options available that I can imagine it’s difficult to pick how to trim a dress! In Dutch there’s a saying, that you ‘can’t see the forest through the trees’. Basically it means there’s so many options that you can’t clearly see any one choice clearly. So in this post I’ll give a brief description of different types of popular trim.

To illustrate how different trims were used in combination, I’ll be using pictures of existent 1870’s dresses. All of these are in the Metropolitan museum of Art. I’ve decided to only use this source, as it’s very extensive and many of the dresses are photographed in high resolution so close-ups of the trim are available.

Nearly all trim on bustle skirts is a combination of lace, fringe, fabric/ribbon strips, ruffles and pleats.

Lace

Lace existed in many forms and shapes, and would be made out of silk, linen or cotton. In the 1870’s, lace could already be made by machines although hand-made lace was still an industry as well. I’m not an expert on lace, so I won’t go too much into types and history here. From what I’ve seen, nearly all lace used on dresses was either a shade of white  (white to yellow-ish) or black.

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A skirt close-up. Rows of lace attached to ruffles of sheer fabric.

 

Fringe

Fringe is the type of trim Victorians loved but which doesn’t get used a lot today. It seems it’s just not that appealing to the modern eye. Fringe is mostly seen on the lower edge of the over-skirts, but it does also occasionally pop up on underskirts. Fringe can also be beaded, or consist of more adventurous shapes.

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An example of very pretty fringe, with tiny tassels and what looks like beads

 

Fabric/Ribbon strips

Contrasting strips of fabric or ribbon are often used to create (mostly horizontal) stripes. These strips can be turned over, used as bias tape or finished by bias strips themselves.

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Fabric strip decorations. You can see how they’re cut on the bias, the edges seem to be folded under.

 

Ruffles & Pleats

Ruffles & pleats are by far the most common way to decorate a skirt and come in a massive number of variations. A ruffle is a gathered strip of fabric, a pleat is folded. You get strips of ruffles, strips of pleats, folded pleats, or gathering on the whole fabric creating a smocked effect. Loads of different versions exist.

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Three rows of ruffles. The top one is gathered with multiple rows to create a smocked effect.

 

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Two rows of pleats. The top strip is frayed and box pleated, stitched down in the middle. The lower strip has spaced double box pleats. (and a row of lace at the bottom).

 

Some more examples, for inspiration. The dress below has a dark brown skirt with a lot of tiny pleats.

In the close-up you can see that the top two rows of pleats have tiny folds in them. They seem to be knife pleats, stitched down at the top. The bottom has just 2, wider rows. The fabric in-between seems gathered down just a bit. There are some folds as well, but they’re very uneven, so I’d guess that this is just a result of the gathering. Might be that they originally had very shallow box pleats as well.

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Another one. A very dark blue one with light accents.

Mourning dress | American | The Met

In the close-up you see that black lace was used in a very clever way. A lighter strip of fabric was sewn on, with the lace overlay. Below are ruffles, slightly gathered. The ruffles are lined in the light fabric, being sewn in such a way it just shows around the edges.

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Another blue number

Afternoon dress | French | The Met

This dress also has trim lined in a contrast fabric showing around the edges, similarly to the previous one. In this case the strip is knife pleated and then folded in the middle to create the zig-zag effect.

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A combination of a lot of different things! On the overskirt, a strip of lace covered in a strip of fabric. The underskirt has a wide strip of fabric, which seems to have been gathered near the top, in the middle and near the bottom. These gathers are covered by fabric strips. The slightly ‘poufy’ effect is probably created by placing the top and bottom gathers just a bit closer to the middle gather than necessary. The bottom part has short sections of knife pleats with unpleated bits in the middle.

Walking dress | American | The Met

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Another brown dress. There’s only a little bit of underskirt visible.

Dress | American | The Met

In the close-up, you can see that a brown lace trim is used, with very small knife pleats underneath.

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A very classy dress. From this distance it’s difficult to see what’s going on.

Mon. Vignon | Dinner dress | French | The Met

Close-up! You see that the main part of the skirt is gathered with five narrow rows of stitching. This create the smocked effect, and creates the gathers in the rest of the fabric. The bottom is ‘finished off’ with two rows of small knife pleats.

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To finish off, a white cotton dress.

Dress | American | The Met

A close up shows that there are small rows of ruffles, with what seems like a knife pleated bottom part, stitched down at the bottom.

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1870’s ballgown bodice

After finishing the skirts for my 1870’s ballgown, it was time to continue with the bodice.

The pattern I used is the same as for my 1860’s velvet ballgown bodice. It still fitted correctly even with my new corset, so that was easy enough!

 

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I did make a mock-up first to check if the fit was still right. Pinning it center-front makes it a lot easier to fit on yourself!

 

The base of the bodice is silk with white cotton interfacing. All pattern pieces were flatlined first, cotton and silk stitched together along the edges.

After flatlining, main construction was pretty straightforward. Simply sew everything together and press open the seams. Two darts are sewn on each side in the front panels. These I left double (didn’t cut them open), because they’re pretty narrow.

 

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Inside view before the darts & shoulder seams are sewn.

 

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Trying it on my dress form after the main construction

 

The top, bottom & sleeve edges of the bodice are finished with piping. One row for the top and sleeves, two rows for the bottom.

To make the piping, I cut 2,5cm bias strips out of the silk fabric. Placing a cord inside & stitching next to the cord finished the piping.

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Drawing bias strips on the fabric. The ruler I still have left from high-school! The little marks I use to place on the previous line to measure the distance to the next line.

 

Applying it was done by stitching it to the right side of the fabric along the edge, the raw edge of the piping facing the edge of the bodice. For the second row, the process was repeated with a second strip closer to the edge. I tried to be careful to stitch as close to the cord as possible, and place the second row of piping as close to the first one as I could.

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Sewing the double row along the bottom edge. It didn’t center as well as I would’ve liked… I did cut the seam allowance of the piping strip right on the sharp point to help it a bit.

 

After stitching, I cut away most of the seam allowance, leaving only the top layer of piping seam allowance. The rest was cut to a couple of mm. The top edge was then folded to the inside twice and stitched down by hand over the seam allowance to make a neat inside finish. The double piping wasn’t perfect, at some places it gaped a little, In those places I made some little stitches to let the rows lie closer together. Especially along the point of the bodice this helped, as that’s the tricky spot due to the strong curve. All in all, I’m pretty pleased with how this turned out as it was a first attempt at double piping.

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Finishing the inside on the sleeves.

 

 

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All done. Adding a couple of stitches helped bring the cords together!

 

The inside of the bodice was further finished by stitching down all seam allowances by hand. The typical flatlining construction of Victorian bodices leaves the allowances visible and stitching them down prevents fraying.

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Piping and general seam allowances stitched down.

 

After this, boning was put in. I used heavy duty cable ties. They’re a lot cheaper and lighter than steel, and a bodice doesn’t really need the extra strength steel gives when worn over a corset. I made cotton fabric tubes to place the boning in and sewed those down by hand. There are 7 bones in the bodice, center front, on the outter darts, side seams and center back. The bones in the center back were entered slightly differently as this was the edge, so I sewed a cotton strip right sides together to the center back sides and turned this over to the inside catching the bone. I don’t know if this is a period solution, but it worked okay.

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Sewing in the boning channels with boning inside.

 

Final step to finishing the base of the bodice was sewing the eyelets. The bodice laces in the back and has 12 eyelets on each side, spaced 2cm apart. The first one I sew is always a bit wonky, and they get more even as I go on. Practise makes perfect right?

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Eyelets in the back

 

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The base lying flat, from the right side

 

The last step was trimming the bodice. I originally planned a pleated bertha, but with all the ruching and lace on the skirts I reconsidered. I had just enough of the broad lace to finish the top edge of the bodice in lace. Because I really wanted to let the lace return in the bodice, I chose this option. I had to piece the lace in 2 different places to get enough and had about 1cm left at the end. It’s a bit narrower in the back, mostly because placing it this way was easiest. I do like the effect this gives though. Because the lace only just fits, I also stitched it down on the center front point to avoid it riding up.

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Lying flat (sorry for the cropped point). It’s a bit difficult to see because of the dark background. Will get pictures on me in the future to show off the contrast better!

 

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Folding it correctly helps a little already

 

I considered putting more trim on the bodice, but I can’t really think of anything that would both look good and retain the ruching/lace theme as seen on the skirts. So I think I’ll keep it like this.

The only thing which might still be added are flowers! My original design features dark red roses along the top skirt and bodice. I still need to pick the exact shade and make these, so that will be the finishing touch!

Bustle design