1870s Day/dinner Bodice

After I finished my 1870’s ballgown, I started thinking on making a day bodice to go with it. A fair number of existent dresses come with a bodice for day and one for evening. This way you basically have two dresses for different occasions, but only need one skirt! As skirts take up a lot of fabric, they would also have costed quite a lot. Having two bodices means you get more use out of it. For me, making my own dresses, it means I only need to make an extra bodice to open up a whole array of occasions to wear the skirts.

An existent example of day/dinner/evening dress combinations.

My design for the bodice was based around a couple of things. First, I knew I wanted a low, square neckline. These are more for dinner, or visiting dresses than for outside walking. However, you can add a gilet or chemisette to fill in the neckline and still wear it outside (as shown in the first existent dress of this post). I like versatility, so wanted to go this route. Because I owned the Truly Victorian 400 pattern, that decided the shape of the front, and I also used the peplum back.

This resulted in the base bodice! I flatlined the silk in white cotton first. Then I sewed the main seams and the darts. That’s where it went slightly wrong, because I hadn’t pinned the darts properly. After sewing, it became apparent that the silk had shifted and not all fabric was caught in te darts as should be. So, out came the seam ripper, and I took them out again. To prevent this from happening again, I first basted the darts this time. This fixed the problem. You can see how far off I was in this picture, the old puncture marks are where the first dart was, while the basting is a couple of mm inside the line of where it should be…

After getting this fixed, I could put in the sleeves and finish all the edges. The center front is finished by folding over the silk to the inside, the top and bottom I finished with bias binding. This was a first for me, before I always turned over the outer fabric to the inside. However, I’ll say that the bias facing is definitely easier, as it goes along the curves way better, so I’ll probably be doing this in the future!

The finished plain bodice:

foto van Atelier Nostalgia.

And an inside view. All the seams are tacked in place to prevent fraying.

foto van Atelier Nostalgia.

For trim, I had some lace left I’d used on the over skirt. I was further inspired by this dress:

Wedding dress, English, ca. 1869-70. Two pieces. Blue silk grosgrain with white lace trimming around edge of bodice and cuffs.:

I really love the cuffs, which seem to be fake, made out of trim only. I ended up making my fabric trim slighlty narrower, but it was made using a similar technique. I tried out something new for this trim, so the seams on the end of the fabric wouldn’t show. Don’t know if this is period, but it does give a nice result! It is best used for narrow trim though, as it’ll eat fabric when you make it very wide.

I started cutting strips of fabric, a little over 2x as wide as my eventual trim would need to be. I wanted 3cm wide trim, so I cut 7cm strips. I then folded the strip and hemmed the edge with a narrow hem. The next step was to iron the strip flat, so that the seam was in the center. I then sewed gathers along the top and bottom edge of the strip. And the final step is to gather the strip both top and bottom!

foto van Atelier Nostalgia.

 

This trim still has a raw edge on the back, but as I’d be sewing it to the dress both top and bottom, this didn’t matter overly much. You could, in theory, turn the strip inside out before ironing and gathering. Mine were rather narrow though, so it would’ve been a bit of a pain and so I didn’t bother.

With the trim made, it was time to plan where to put it! I knew I wanted the cuffs and lace and trim around the neckline. Ideally also around the bottom, but I didn’t know if I’d have enough lace for that. I pinned the cuffs and neckline first, to see what was left.

 

 

In the end, I didn’t have enough lace to fully go around the bottom. I did really want it there as well though, if only to visually separate the bodice from the same-colored overskirt. So I ended up cutting the lace in half horizontally, and stitching the fabric trim on top to hide the edge. This makes for slighly more narrow lace at the bottom, but it worked! After pinning down everything, I spent a full day stitching it all down top and bottom. My fingers were rather sore afterwards from stitching through all those layers of densly woven silk. The result is definitely worth it though!

To finish the bodice, I covered some buttons with black silk I had a little of. The bodice closes with hooks and eyes, so the buttons are just there for visual interest. They do really add a nice touch I think!

Finished:

foto van Atelier Nostalgia.

foto van Atelier Nostalgia.

foto van Atelier Nostalgia.

And some detail shots:

foto van Atelier Nostalgia.

foto van Atelier Nostalgia.

foto van Atelier Nostalgia.

Let’s hope it stays dry this weekend, because there’s an event I’d love to wear this to. Pictures with the whole day-version of the dress will follow when that happens!

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Of ballgowns and trains

The early 1870’s fashion absolutely loved its trained gowns. I followed that when designing the train for my own ball gown, I knew I really wanted to have one.

foto van Atelier Nostalgia.

My train

 

Although practical and train-less dresses do exist they are a lot more difficult to find than their trained counterparts. Small trains were even worn for morning wear, and there’s plenty examples of walking dressed (obviously meant to wear out of the house), still with a small train. And you can be sure those wouldn’t always only be worn on perfectly clean pavements!

Just to avoid those images which might have the label ‘walking dress’ stuck to them without provenance, an example with the text next to the fashion plate. A walking dress for winter, you can be sure that train didn’t keep clean!

Winter walking dress and bag c. 1874:

 

You can imagine that if an informal morning dress has a train, that an evening dress or ball gown would practically always be trained. For a formal event, or attending the opera that’d be fine, but for a ball one needs to be able to dance. In a waltz, that includes being able to step backwards without tripping over your dress.

This train is stunning, but there’s no way I’d be able to waltz in this as it is.

Met Museum

 

So two questions arise: how do you keep your train clean, and how do you avoid stepping on it? Both questions are now rather relevant for me, as I’m wearing my 1870s ballgown to a ball this May, and I definitely want to dance!

The first answer to keeping your train clean, is to add a balayeuse. Or, in English, a dust ruffler. A balayeuse is basically a separate piece of fabric, attached to the underside of the train. It makes sure the train fabric itself doesn’t touch the floor, and it gets dirty instead. The idea is that it’s detachable, either by buttons or just unpicking some stitches, so you can wash the balayeuse without having to wash your train.

This image is from the late 1870’s, but it shows the general idea. A separate panel attaches to the underside of the train. This one seems to have a lace layer ‘on top’ between the balayeuse and the floor.

Tygodnik Mód 1877.: Trains' detachable balayeuse.:

 

Not all balayeuses were totally practical, especially for evening dresses they could be made of layers of lace, peeking out underneath the hem. After all, your ballgown is generally only worn inside, so it wouldn’t get quite as dirty as outside.

So that takes care of the dirt, but what about the dancing?

First thing to keep in mind is that not all evening occasions would be balls, so it wasn’t always necessary for an evening gown to be fit for dancing. However, if it needed to be, the practical solution was to simply bustle up the train!

Now, annoyingly, I couldn’t actually find period images of the same dress (either fashion plate or existant) with either a long train or a bustled up one. I’m pretty sure they did this though, so if anyone has a source I’d love to know!

I rather suspect this dress though, but alas, only one photo I know of exists…

Gown, 1874, Charles Frederick Worth, Medium: purple silk faille and is trimmed with silk lace, silk fringe, and velvet bows:

Worth dress, Kyoto fashion institute

 

Aside from bustling up the whole train, one could also use a ‘loop’ to hold it up while dancing. I found this wonderful image showing the process.

SAGE GREEN BUSTLE EVENING DRESS, 1880s 2-piece silk faille, red velvet panels, ecru embroidered lace trim:

Sold by Augusta Auctions

 

So, back to my own gown! In the end, I decided to make both a balayeuse and a method to bustle up my train. The way I ended up bustling it it still drags just a little bit, so the balayeuse protects the edge on the ground.

The balayeuse I made is rather simple, I just traced the part which was on the ground in white cotton, and then made ruffled strips of pinked fabric to stitch onto it in half circles. Credit for the method goes to Prior Attire, who has a tutorial here.

foto van Atelier Nostalgia.

 

It attaches to the train with buttons. The button holes are on the balayeuse, the buttons on the underside on the train. (Obviously, as otherwise there’d be holes in my train).

To bustle up the train I played around with the fabric a bit. In the end, I attached two small strips with button holes to the sides of the train. These attach to a button at the sides of my overskirt. Since my train is attached to the overskirt in the first place, this is a good way to pull up the sides. For the center I sewed a strip of cotton tape to the middle with button holes. I then sewed buttons to the train, spaced wider than the holes in the strip. This way the train bustles up evenly in the center.

The proper look:

foto van Atelier Nostalgia.

 

And because I love inside-out views, one of the train. Left two are bustled up, right is let down. That weird ‘swag’ on the side is hidden by the overskirt when worn right.

foto van Atelier Nostalgia.

 

 

A bustle dress for Marije – Progress

Around summer last time, I decided that I really wanted to go to the Victorian ball in Bath coming May. But I was hesitant to go alone, so I called a friend and asked her if she’d like to join me. We’ve been to a couple of Regency-themed events together, but she’s not a seamstress, so I offered to help her with her dress. She agreed, so we’ll be going on holiday together, and plans started on the dress!

She’d seen some images online, and had a particular color palette in mind, so that was our starting point. I ended up taking the 1870-71 day/evening dress from Janet Arnold’s patterns of fashion as main inspiration, as it was close to her inspiration images. This is the original dress with the ball bodice.

Manchester City Galleries

 

Back in autumn, I found fabric for her at the market, and with that choice made created the following design.

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The corset and bustle cage would be made by someone else, as I felt that was a bit too much to take on. The only thing I’ve ever made for someone else before now was a pleated rectangle skirt, so I wanted to be a bit less ambitious. We started back in November with the underskirt, as I had a bustle she could try on and waist size wasn’t too important for the skirt. We used the Truly Victorian 201 underskirt pattern. I’d used this before, and as we’d be making the skirt together I thought using a pattern might be a good idea. At the end of that day, we had the basic very nearly done, only the hem left.

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At the end of the day, wearing the skirt on top of my bustle and a substitory underbust corset.

 

For the rest, we divided the labor. My friend really wanted pleats on the skirt, so I suggested that she make those. It’s not very difficult to do, just time consuming, so perfect for someone with less sewing experience. I would make the overskirt base using the Janet Arnold pattern. I’d also make the bodice, including bertha and the basque (belt-thing). The overskirt base was made sometime in January, scaling up the pattern worked out quite nicely! I took the original waistsize and the one I wanted, and the original length and the new one which would give the same proportions. From that, I scaled the width/height. The back was gathered instead of cartridge pleated, to save some time. The only other change I made was to the closure. Because I didn’t yet know the exact finished waistsize it’d need to be (no corset yet), I made a split at the side. The front is still open, but it always needs to close at exactly the same point to look good. A split in the side will be far less noticable than center front.

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Fast-forward to end of February, when her corset was done! This meant we could start on the bodice, so she came to my place another time. She’d already sent me her corseted measurements and I’d cut out the bodice lining with a very generous seam allowance to use for fitting. In that day, I managed to fit and construct the whole bodice, and pattern and cut the bertha and basque.

 

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Fitting time! Second fitting was for marking the final waistline and neckline.

 

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Trying on everything together at the end of the day. It still closes with pins, but we’re starting to see it come together!

 

She spent all day cutting out strips for the pleats, and managed to seam a lot of it and get started on the pleating. We’ll need 6m of pleated trim, which means there’s 18m of fabric to seam (on both sides) and pleat. (This was the point where she wondered what she’d gotten herself into 😉 ).

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The next couple of weeks I spent time making up the bertha & basque, finishing the bodice by hand-sewing all the edges and putting in boning, and trimming everything.

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Boning, made of heavy-duty zip ties sewn into bias tape channels.

 

The bertha and basque are both trimmed in small pleats, first roll-hemmed and then box pleated. Those for the bertha were 3cm wide when cut out, for the basque I made them 4cm. After hemming, I sewed them on in the middle of the pleat, which gives a nice 3D effect. For the bodice I made the mistake of pressing them slightly before sewing them on, which slightly kills the effect. I figured it’d be easier to sew on this way, but in the end it wasn’t worth it. They’ll fluff back in time, but just for anyone trying this type of trim; it works best without any pressing.

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The pleats really set off the bertha. It’s nearly invisible without them, but they give a nice contrast.

 

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The same goes for the basque, which is also lined in the light blue.

 

The finishing touch for the bodice & overskirt were the fabric covered buttons. I opted to do them the modern way, for practicality’s sake. The buttons are all decorative, everything actually closes with hooks and eyes. I saw that the original had this on the overskirt and decided it’d be a lot easier than sewing all those button holes by hand. It also makes slight re-fitting more easy, moving hooks & eyes is simpler than moving a button hole!

For the overskirt & bertha I used metal hooks & eyes. The bertha is left open on one side, and sewn to the bodice on both shoulder seams. The front part hangs loose and is attached to the shoulder with hooks and eyes. For for the bodice I decided to do the eyes with thread. This shows a bit less on the right side of the fabric.

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Closure of the bodice, metal hooks with thread eyes.

 

So this is where we are now! The bodice & bertha & basque are done. The overskirt only needs the pleated trim. Pictures were taken on my too small dress form for now, pinned to the back to fit, so only a front view. Pictures of the full outfit worn will follow when everything is complete!

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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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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