1830s Pelerine

I finished another UFO! When I made my gold 1830’s dress, I also cut out the fabric for a pelerine, as my inspiration original had a matching one. However, I didn’t have occasion to wear my dress outside, nor did I have a hat to do so, so the pelerine didn’t have any urgency. It also had many scallops, so I left it. But I’ve been on a UFO finishing streak and I now have a 1830s bonnet, so it was time to finish the pelerine!

I chose to finish my scallops by lining them instead of binding them as it would cost less fabric and I thought it might be easier. I don’t think it was all that much easier in retrospect, but I’m happy enough with how it turned out. I did add the piping between scallops and the pelerine though!

I tried two versions of the scallops beforehand, and settled on the deeper scallops. In retrospect, I should have drawn them out fully, as the trick to clean scallops is that you can cut the seam allowance all the way to the point. Turns out that’s very difficult if your stitching lines are too close. I did this right in the sample, but in many places in the eventual thing I had to snip some stitching to make it lay nice (and then use fray check, which is definitely not what you’re supposed to do…). Drawing out the scallops would have helped to keep enough space between the stitching lines.

I’ve tried to illustrate this below. Red is how to do it, with the green arrows showing you could cut all the way between the red lines. Blue is how not to do it, as there is a large overlap of the stitching lines of both sides which will make the scallops impossible to turn around.

I like how I now have a pretty versatile set of 1830’s things. I have 2 dresses, one green and one gold. The gold has detachable lower sleeves, so can be worn for both evening (ball) and day wear. The green would work for (non-ball) evening and day activities as well, it’s copied from an evening gown but has long sleeves to work for day. I have a brown/white bonnet which will go with both dresses. I have an antique white cotton pelerine which will go with both (though probably looks best on the green), and I have a gold silk pelerine which would work both with the green and the gold dress. Ideally, I’d have two more additions to this: a white bodice/blouse to wear with the green skirt (as the gold dress doesn’t have a separate skirt/bodice it won’t work with that) and make it more informal; and a coat, for which I actually already have green wool fabric. Those aren’t up next though, because I’ll first be making an 1890s vest of the leftover fabric of my split skirt. I’ve already started on that!

A new hat to start the new year

Happy 2021 everyone! With the new year, it’s time for the looking back & looking forward posts, but I thought I’d start with my first finished project for 2021. A new hat!

I started this 1830s bonnet after finishing my 1830s dress, which I took pictures of with my Regency bonnet. The styles are similar enough to work, but hats did grow a bit more in the 1830s to match the wider skirts and bigger sleeves. For my bonnet, I wanted something that’d work with both my green and my gold dress, and I settled on a white/brown combination of fabrics.

And, I actually used a pattern! That was quite helpful, as bonnets are complicated. Mine was the Romantic period bonnet pattern by Lynn McMasters.

My main inspiration for the trim and look was this bonnet from Costumes Parisiens (1834)

I found some ribbon which was perfect for the style, and set off to work. That took a while, as I don’t particularly enjoy making hats, so I worked on it on and off since October. I made the frame, wired it, mulled it, and covered it, and these last past days I stitched on the trim to finish it.

My bear kindly tried it on for me before I covered it

So now it’s done, which means I have a full 1830s outfit to wear to outside events as well. Hopefully I’ll be able to take these out on a picnic sometime this year!

Back to the 1830s

At the beginning of the year, when I was roughly planning out projects, I decided to work on 1830’s things after the big 1895 project was done. The main reason was a romantic (so, 1830s) weekend in the UK I was hoping to go to. Of course, that weekend got cancelled, but I decided to just go ahead with my plans. My main inspiration was this dress from the Concord museum:

#concordmuseum hashtag on Instagram • Photos and Videos
Satin Dress, 1834-6. Concord Museum. Worn by Harriet Tufts Russell of Arlington to the inaugural ball of Martin van Buren in 1837

I really love the bodice treatment in particular. You see a lot of pleats in 1830’s bodices, but I’d never seen this particular style which creates a diamond shape in the middle. I’ve since looked at fashion plates for something similar, but it seems to have been a fairly unique design.

While I was working on the base of the bodice, I also found a photo of the back. I’d only seen exhibition pictures up to that point, all taken from the front as the back was to a wall. But the museum actually posted the back view on their Instagram, which was super useful! It has this fun little ‘cape’ going around the back, which I never would have seen otherwise.

Concord Museum on Instagram: “This beautiful white satin gown was once worn to a President's Ball. Tag someone you think would look great in it. Come enjoy more…”
Satin Dress, 1834-6. Concord Museum. Worn by Harriet Tufts Russell of Arlington to the inaugural ball of Martin van Buren in 1837

I started this project in June, and first up was patterning. I wanted to achieve a couple of things with this. First, was to use padding and really strive for the very ‘wide’ off the shoulder silhouette. The second was to pattern everything before I started cutting, including all the pleats. That was mostly because my fabric was only 80cm wide, and even with 8m of it, it was going to be a bit tight.

The pattern gave me some trouble this time, and it took a while to get everything fitting like I wanted to. A big shout-out to the Foundations Revealed community here for helping me out. But, eventually, I got there, and had all the pattern pieces in place!

I opted to use my silk only where visible. So there’s no silk underneath the pleats on the front, nor at the top back which is hidden by the cape. The sleeves had to be pieced, as my fabric wasn’t wide enough otherwise. That’s exactly what they also did in the period due to similarly small widths, so I am actually quite pleased with that.

The blue line is where the join in the sleeve is. The sleeve is cut on the bias, so this blue line runs along the fabric edge. The little red lines show the width of my fabric.

I started sewing with the skirt, which is fairly simple, just rectangles. The front is pleated with knife pleats, the back is cartridge pleated. The whole skirt is lined, as the silk is rather flimsy on it’s own.

Skirt done, it was time to start on the bodice! I only cut those parts that would be visible out of the silk, so the front base is entirely out of cotton, and so is the top of the back. The side panel of the silk actually extends to the front to end where the pleats begin, and the center front ‘diamond’ is a square of silk whose edges are hidden by the pleated panels.

The pleats are stitched down strategically in places by hand, just taking small bits of the silk under a pleat to make sure the attachment wouldn’t be visible.

After the pleats were stitched down, I could add the padding. I’d already made the shapes out of thick flannel layers to fit my bodice pattern over. They were pinned in, and covered by a layer of cotton which I stitched around by hand.

This is the final inside, showing the padding. There is a bit over the bust, but the bulk is above and to the outside to give the smooth round and wide shape

Then came the sleeves. There’s a join in the silk, and the sleeves are again fully lined to give a bit more structure. There was a lot of gathering involved! I tried to get as much volume as possible towards the back, but in the end it’s pretty evenly gathered as tightly as possible all the way around to make it fit. I finished the slits in the sleeves first, by simply laying the lining to the silk right sides together and turning inside out. This gives a neat finish to the edge.

The cape was piped with double piping, which was quite fiddly as it needed to go around all the points. I decided not to line the cape, as I was afraid the lighter cotton would show too much, and I didn’t have enough silk left to fully line them with that. So the piping around the edge is stitched down as small as possible to not show too much on the right side. The cape was stitched onto the neckline first, which was then finished by a row of single piping, with a slightly larger cord. It’s actually important to finish the necklines of these gowns with something non-stretchy, as you don’t want an off-shoulder gown to stretch and slip off.

Final touches were the waistband, boning, and the hooks and bars. The back was finished the same way as my friend Nikki shows in her wonderful video here.

As a quick wrap-up, I made myself some sleeve plumbers from the AD pattern here. These are quite important for keeping the dress in shape, though I think I want to experiment a bit more on how to attach them best to the dress.

And then she was done! This project took some time, mostly as I took long stretches off to wrap my head around what to do next. With the bodice taking a number of drafts, and the layers of silk and cotton and pleating in the bodice all needing some figuring out, it took more brainpower than I had most evenings after work. I’m really happy with how it turned out though, and can’t wait to wear it out when it’s possible to have events again.

Meanwhile, I took it for a brief spin during our holidays near the forest, to get some pictures! I took my antique pelerine and Regency bonnet as accessories, because I’m still working on an 1830’s bonnet. It’s not quite big enough, but has an okay shape.

The pelerine is very pleasant for covering your shoulders, but also effectively hides the most interesting part of the dress: the bodice pleats. So I also took some pictures without.

New-year ball in Ghent

As mentioned in my 1830’s dress post, I wore it to the new-year’s ball in Ghent. The theme was 1830-1860 this year, and it was the perfect excuse to finally make this dress.

The ball is held in the opera of Ghent, in a beautiful baroque style room. This year, there was a dance workshop in the afternoon, which we went to as well.

After the workshop, it was time to eat, and then prep for the evening! I started on my hair, as I’d never done 1830’s hair before. I tried to photograph the process, maybe it’s helpful!

As I don’t have any hair shorter than hip length, I used fake hair for the side curls. This is such a typical thing for the era, I didn’t want to do without. These are real-hair extensions which I modified, and I’d curled them with rollers (wet-set) before.

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My other piece of fake hair was a very long weft. I used this to supplement the braid. Although my hair is very long, it’s not very thick, so I can usually use a little extra volume.

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Firs step was making the typical v-shaped parting. I then put everything up in a very high ponytail.

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Next was clipping in the front extensions. I then took two pieces from my ponytail and made two small rope braids, which go over the line of the extensions to hide them. (A quick note: this took a lot of fiddling and even more pins, I really want to find a quicker way to do this…)

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The front done, I pinned the weft into my ponytail and braided the whole lot. I then wrapped it into a bun, taking care to wrap the second time on top of the existing braid to create height. I then hid the ends and elastic inside the bun.

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And done! To finish it, I clipped in two huge flowers to the side of the bun. For another tutorial (including the famous loops), my friend Nikki has a wonderful tutorial on her youtube channel here.

The ball itself was really nice. There was a lot of dancing, and swooping crinolines. I quite liked my corded petticoat, it was definitely easier to dance in than a hoop!

 

 

In-between dancing there was social time with friends, taking pictures, and just looking at all the other lovely people. Some pictures!

The golden girls, with Josselin (my partner in crime for the weekend) and Corina. Gold was quite a popular color in this era! I love how we’re slightly chronological, early 1840’s, midway 1830’s and early 1830’s.  (It shows beautifully in the hem length!)

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We did a 1830’s group picture at the end. It took a while to get us in order, but eventually we managed to behave.

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Some more pictures of my finished dress

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1830s dress

I started thinking about a 1830s dress quite a while back, mostly inspired by the wonderful Nikki, who does this era so well. About half a year ago, the theme for the new-years ball in Ghent was announced to be 1830-1860, and I figured that this would be the perfect excuse to finally start this dress.

I already had the fabric, a wonderful pale gold figured silk. So I started looking at pictures, and was immediately drawn to the pleated sleeves you see appear around 1836. The 1830’s is known for the huge sleeves, and I do like those, but I love the pleats, so that’s what I went for. (When in doubt: do what excites you most). I looked at quite a lot of originals (online) in the MET museum, and eventually settled on this dress:

Jan historical - gold 1830s gown

 

I love the sleeves on this dress, how they still have the fabric fullness, but also the pleats. I also quite liked the shape of the bertha, and the little rosettes. Extra bonus was that I figured I could make the ‘sleeve bands’ removable, and make the dress more versatile this way. It also has removable undersleeves, and a pelerine which transforms it into a day dress. I’m all for versatility, so that’s great.

Ensemble, silk, AmericanEnsemble, silk, American

 

In making this dress, I tried to copy it as much as possible. That meant lots of piping, and double piping, which was quite a bit of work, but definitely worth it.

The process of making double piping I found in the 1876 ‘Guide to dressmaking ‘, which can be found online (page 30). Basically, you take a bias strip, put a cord in one half, then a cord in the other half, then fold double to get a double cord.

 

The bertha was made following Janet Arnold’s ca. 1840 dress. It has a cotton canvas base, and the silk are bias strips which are stitched on top. It looks like pleats when finished, but the construction is quite different.

 

For this dress, I also really wanted to try out padding, inspired by a talk by Luca Costigliolio on padding in 19th century bodices. (The gist: it’s extremely common, for all types of figures, through the eras. Sometimes visible, sometimes hidden.). The silhouette in this era is quite wide, and I can use a little help in the bust era in general. I made my padding of cotton quilting sheets. Cutting in layers of 2, I cut 4 circles in increasing diameter.

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I ended up taking off the smallest one, and folding it up to fill in the space above the bust a bit. This is a place you often see padding in originals as well. The padding was placed quite wide in the end, as the main goal was to increase width. I really love how it ended up, the effect is subtle enough that you don’t immediately think it’s padded, but it helps the whole shape so much.

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I sewed a cotton ‘lining’ to the padding before sewing the whole thing into the bodice. This is the final shape.

 

The sleeves are pleated towards the middle at the top, and then stitched a bit further down as well. The armhole is piped, and the shoulder seam as well. For the final sleeves, I made sleeve bands which are pinned around the fullest part of the sleeve.

 

I also followed Janet Arnold for the skirt, taking inspiration for the skirt fullness, and gathering the very back, then pleating the rest forwards, as the original also shows. I choose not to fully line the skirt, as my original shows a line of stitching where the facing is attached, so I faced the hem as well.

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Hem facing. The long stitches are to catch the silk where it’s folded double, so the hem is basically 2 layers of silk and one of cotton.

I sewed all invisible seams by machine for this dress, but all the finishing is by hand, as usual. The dress closes with hooks in the back, and the final touch are the little rosettes. One to hide the endpoints of the bertha, one on each sleeve band and one in the back. They are made by covering a button, and then gathering a folded strip of bias to form a circle.

 

I managed to finish the whole dress just in time for the new years ball last weekend. I’d counted on skipping the sleeve band, or not finishing the insides, due to lack of time, but it was done! I made this in about 5 weeks, (2 of which were holiday), which I think is a record for me. I also managed to finish without rushing through anything, which I’m really pleased with. Now I just have to make under sleeves and a pelerine with a whole number of small petals….

So, some finished pictures of the dress on me! More on the ball itself in a next post!

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A corset for the late 1830’s (sort of)

When I started my 1830s project (which up to now just consisted of a petticoat), I knew I also wanted a new corset.

I’ve got a somewhat slimmer corset which I’ve used for my 1870’s dress, and a curvier one for the 1880s. And I’ve got a pair of regency short stays, which actually act more like stays in that they ‘lift’ more than ‘separate’. For the 1830’s, the goal is a high, still slightly separated bust, though not as high as regency.

Most ‘typical’ 1830’s corsets are transitional, meaning that they are somewhere between the soft, cupped, corded regency stays, and the more waist-defining corsets of the 1840’s.

Something between these:

regency long stay

Kyoto costume insititute

And this:

Corset, dated "1839–41," American or European. Medium: silk. Met # C.I.38.23.10b–d. Ten views available. An early strapless design.

MET museum, 1839-1840

 

This was a very transitional period, so you get a lot of different styles which are a bit difficult to date. Many original pieces are dated something like ‘1815-1840’, so quite a long range.

Somewhere in the 1830’s, corsets start losing their straps, and gain a defined waist. This one is a nice example of the transition:

An incredible original 1830s ladys ivory sateen corset with its original blue steel busk in its front pocket. Elaborately hand quilted and embroidered, top stitch reinforced, with woven braces tied in place, and at the busk pocket. A drawstring cord at the top front and early ringed brass eyelets at the lace up back closure.

 

In the end, I decided to base my corset on the ca. 1840 example from the MET shown above. I did not want straps, as they can show underneath a dress. And I wanted to, ideally, be able to wear this corset for 1840’s, and possibly 1850’s stuff as well. The main difference is the waist definition which gets more pronounced, but a more pronounced waist is not a problem for an 1830s dress. The only other thing which slightly changes  is that the bust drops a little, but given my shape that would not really be noticeable. I also wanted a defined hip-spring, as I need a large difference between waist and hips naturally, so the more ‘straight’ shapes wouldn’t work very well on me in any case.

I chose to make one more concession to accuracy for practicality reasons. In the late 1830’s, all corsets had a wooden busk, and spiral lacing. The split busk was invented in the 1850’s, and with it came the ‘typical’ straight lacing you see on corsets to today. The split busk makes it a lot easier and quicker to get into a corset by yourself, so I decided to add one.

Technically, this makes my corset more like the 1850’s and early 1860’s styles, which are actually cut very similarly, but with a split busk.

Like this one, which has the same wide hip panel:

Corset, 1864  The Victoria & Albert Museum

1850’s, V&A

 

The 1840 one from the MET does not have bust gores, which is actually quite unusual for the time, I think. However, I definitely don’t need them (they’re mostly handy for larger busts), so that was not an issue. And I really like the ‘hip’ panel, as that gives a lot of room for a large hip spring. A final advantage was that this piece was photographed really well, so I could actually see where the seams were, and figure out what the panels should sort of look like.

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Drawing lines on seams.

 

I ended up drawing the pattern from what I saw shape wise, and then made a number of mock-ups to actually make it work for my body. It took some trial and error, and no very systematic process was followed, but I ended up with something workable.

For construction, I used two layers, one cotton canvas and one plain cotton. I first inserted the busk, and then attached both lining and canvas layer of the second piece to the first, at the same time. By laying the canvas layer on the canvas layer (right sides together), and the lining to the lining (right sides together), and then stitching the seam in one go, you get the seams ‘within’ the corset. This gives a clean finish, and provides extra layers as strength for the boning. I think this was also the way the original was finished, as it shows the same clean interior, and the top-stitching, although I cannot be sure from pictures alone. In any case, it worked!

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Finished insides

 

I opted to cut the hip panel on the bias, to give some flexibility there, and just to experiment. I tried to see the grain on the original, but the weave of the fabric makes it impossible to see despite the high resolution. It does pull a bit, creating a bit of a wrinkle, so I’m not fully sold on this method yet, but otherwise it works.

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It’s very curvy when just taking it off the body!

 

I did not really take many construction pictures, as the corset was made during quite a busy time, with low light in the evenings, but I’m actually quite happy with how long it took me to make. It’s boned on the seams with synthetic whalebone, plus two bones in the side/hip panel all the way down, and extra bones in the back, as in the original. I’ve got one steel bone to support the eyelets center back.

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Diagonal bones in the back, and extra bone casing on the inside

 

It’s quite curvy, which is something I’m really happy about. I feel like this might be the first corset I made where I didn’t have too little room in the hips/bust in the end. I tend to underestimate the hip spring I need because I need to always increase this, and I tend to overestimate how much I need to take in the bust. But a corset works best if it actually leaves room at the top and bottom, and only reduces in the waist. This corset actually does that, which is nice!

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A gore at the back to allow room for the hips

 

It’s not the prettiest thing I’ve ever made, being of quite utilitarian fabric, but it works, and the shape is good. I might floss it at some point in the future, but for now, it’s time to start looking towards actually making a dress to go on top! (Which, if you’ve been following my instagram, you’ve already seen some peaks of. It’s looking good so far!

Some pictures of the corset on me!

 

Corded petticoat

I’ve mentioned a couple of times that my next big project will be a late 1830’s dress. As this is a completely new period for me, that meant new underwear!

The World of Fashion and Continental Feuilletons 1836 Plate 23 by CharmaineZoe, via Flickr

You don’t get a shape like this without some help! (The World of Fashion and Continental Feuilletons 1836 Plate 23)

 

The 1830’s see the rise of the big round skirt. It’s before cage crinolines were invented, though, and so the silhouette was achieved through many layers of petticoats instead. This was made a little easier through structuring the petticoats, making them stand out. Most noticeably, through running cords through petticoats. The cords stop the fabric from folding up, and so the skirts stand out more. Add starch, and a couple of extra layers on top, and you get a pretty big skirt!

Ah ha ha I love seeing the superstructure under Romantic Era fashion of the 1830's.  :)  Someday I'll recreate this ridiculousness.

An existant petticoat from the MET museum

 

For my corded petticoat, I roughly followed the guidelines in Izabella Pritcher’s book the Victorian dressmaker. I found fabric which was 3.2m wide, and decided to just use the full width. This makes my skirt on the wide side, but I figured I might be able to wear it with 1840s as well this way (as the skirts keep growing!). I cut the whole skirt in a double layer, so it’s two layers of fabric. The cords are then stitched between these.

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I did get neater as I got along…

 

I started with 5 rows, and then did another 5 rows. Above that, I switched to 3 layers, all the way up to my full hip. There’s no ‘rules’ for how to cord your petticoat, although more on the bottom than at the top, and stop at hip-level seems to hold for most existent petticoats I’ve seen.

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The seam to the side. Extra stitches along side to keep the cords in the seam allowance flat

 

I ended up buying not nearly enough cord, and again the second time, and the third, so I think I’ve got at least 4 different types of cord in there. All roughly the same size though, so it truly doesn’t matter. What I’ve learned: you need a lot of cord for these! I did 28 rows in the end, for 3,20 wide fabric, so that’s almost 90m of cord…

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Loads of little rows…

 

I’ve heard a lot of horror stories about cording, but I actually quite liked the process of making this. I just did a couple of rows in the evening, not trying to finish it all in one go. It helps that cording is about the most mindless activity in sewing you can think of, and after a full work day of focusing that was actually pretty nice.

 

 

I hope to make at least 2 more petticoats to go on top of this one. Maybe one other with just a couple of cords at the bottom, and pin tucks. And at least one ‘prettier’ one with tucks and lace to go on top.

First up for this project is a new corset though, stay tuned for that!