A 1890s ladies vest

About a month ago I posted about my vest project, in which I’m making a 1890’s ladies vest from the leftover wool of my split skirt. That post finished with the mock-up done, and the pocket practiced. I had to wait a bit for my lining and back fabric to arrive, but after that I could finally get started on making this. I finished it last week, and wore it for a photoshoot this weekend!

Photographer: Martijn van Huffelen

I started the sewing with the basic construction of the back, which is a single layer of black cotton. This also means that the seams are finished nicely, as this bit won’t have lining. Basically, one edge of the seam allowance gets trimmed away, and the other edge is folded over and in, to hide the raw edge. Then it’s topstitched in place. In this picture I’m ironing it in place.

The fronts were where the main work lay. I interlined my wool to give it just a little bit of extra body. The pocket was made right after. A scary part, but it went well!

Then there was the canvas structure layer, which was pad stitched to the wool/cotton layer, and tailor’s tape was attached in certain areas to avoid it stretching. I totally applied the tape first, and did the pad stitching after, which is not what you’re supposed to do. I’d luckily taken into account the turn of cloth when stitching on the tape, so I was fine. My pad stitching was a little unnecessary, but something I wanted to try out. I do better understand how it works now, so I call that success enough! I also completely forgot to take pictures here, of course. So here’s one after the facing was already in place, but showing a peek at the layers.

The canvas, tailors tape and pad stitching are what help shape the garment. When those were attached, I could stitch the fronts to the back, and do a final fitting to double check the size.

Fitting time, it looks good!

Then, there was attaching the facing (basically the part of the collar that you can see) and then finally the lining. Final step was to attach the buttons and sew the button holes. I debated closing it left over right, instead of the (modern) ‘normal’ for ladies garments right over left. In the end, I left it as on the pattern though. My buttons were ordered, I normally try to pick those out in person but of course shops were closed. I ended up ordering 4 different styles just to be able to check the color and size. Hopefully I’ll be able to use the other buttons some time in the future!

Last weekend I got dressed up, as I had a photoshoot! The photographer I usually collaborate with contacted me, as we’re still allowed to meet 1 on 1 outside, so with the current measures such small shoots are pretty much the only costumy thing we can do. I wore the vest with my 1890s sports blouse, the split skirt, American Duchess Balmoral boots and an antique boater I bought this summer. I added a watch with a chain to the pocket. I really loved wearing this outfit, it makes you feel a little like a late 19th century explorer :).

I already got some pictures, which are really lovely. Thanks to Martijn van Huffelen for these:

18 thoughts on “A 1890s ladies vest

  1. So smart and snappy. The vest works so well with the blouse, split skirt and boater. I truly love getting your blog posts. I’ll never be ambitious enough to actually enter the world of historical reproduction dress making, but I like to fantasize.

  2. I have no desire to ever attempt anything as complex or tailored as your vest but I greatly admire your talent and dedication. Terrific job, as always and a stunning ensemble.

  3. Lovely photos! I like how Martin captured the light on the leaves–they look quite orange/bronze, which is a nice contrast to your wool vest. And of course the vest is wonderful, too! Cute shape and I think all of your tailoring details really help elevate the finished product. 🙂


  4. Wow, that looks so pretty! You are so talented. Hope I’ll be able to make things that fit me that well someday– it might help if i bought a mannequin… 😉 Anyway, I love your outfit. Everything you make always looks so nice on you! What are you planning to work on next?

    • Thank you! My mannequin is no help to be honest, it’s not shaped exactly like me ;). I use it to design and display, but all fitting happens on myself. The key really just is practice and patience. I’ve definitely had to learn the patience part, but taking the time to make mock-ups can make a large difference on getting things to fit.
      Up next is a blouse! 🙂

  5. You’re right about the patience part. I just finished the fifth mock-up for a set of Regency short stays, and they finally fit! I’m definitely pleased. I’ve seen adjustable mannequins for sale in my local fabric shop; maybe I’ll have to save up… Anyway, Ihope your blouse goes good– I bet it’ll be gorgeous! What time period is it?

    • Exciting, time to start the real thing! I have had an adjustable dummy, but honestly even then it’s difficult to get all the proportions right. The vertical measurements were still off for me, and the one where the bust went small enough could not have the hips wide enough to mimic me ;).
      Thanks! It’ll be a 1910’s one, so something new for me period wise!

  6. Will be cutting it out tomorrow!! Oh, I never thought about of that part of adjustable mannequins… 😬 Ah well, not many Regency women had them, so I’m sure I can suffer! 1910’s will be cool, I can’t wait to see it! I also had a question: have you ever tried any of Laughing Moon Mercantile’s Regency patterns? I’m looking into getting the fall-front round gown pattern but I wanted to see if anyone had any thoughts on the patterns when it comes to good fit, etc.

  7. Pingback: 2021 year in review | Atelier Nostalgia

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