1880’s Tennis dress

The 1880’s tennis dress is finished! I already wore it about a month ago, but without all of the trim. I since truly finished it and wore it again last weekend!

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The idea of this dress started last summer, when I realized I did not have any Victorian dresses truly fit for summer weather. And that if you organize Victorian picnics, that is quite a handy thing to have as Dutch weather is most reliable in summer.

I’ve always loved the idea of the ‘sporting’ dresses which you see becoming more popular in the 1880’s. My main inspiration for this project was this dress in the Manchester Art Gallery:

Manchester Art Gallery

 

Although it, unfortunately, does not show any pictures of the back, it does feature a very good description. Including some interesting features. The skirt has boning in it (something also seen in this tennis dress at LACMA), so no separate bustle is necessary. The apron is actually one with the main skirt, while the back bustle is buttoned on over a back-closure. I incorporated all of these features in my skirt as well.

And, of course, I had to have striped fabric for this! Tennis dresses in pictures are nearly always either stripes or a light solid color. I found a lovely thin cotton with blue, red and white stripes, which was perfect for this project. I did line the bodice and skirt, as it is rather thin. The bodice was lined for structure, the skirt to support the weight of the ruffles.

The basic pattern of the skirt is TV261 – 1885 Four-Gore Underskirt. I sewed 3 horizontal bones in the back, and a fourth in a curve, similarly to the TV101 bustle. The bones are sandwiched between the main skirt fabric and lining. The fabric is gathered up to fit the bones, and three ties (one at the end of each bone) keep the curved shape behind the legs, similar to the LACMA dress. The apron I drafted myself, and is caught in the back-side seams of the main skirt. The skirt closes center back, and the slit is actually a bit shorter than I’d normally make it, as it needs to stop right before the first bone.

A close-up of the gathered channels with the boning, and the base skirt (sans hem and waistband at this point.

 

The back drape is very simple, and buttons on the waistband sides and back. I added pockets in the skirt on both sides, the entrance between the first and second horizontal bone. This works okay, but the pocket entry is rather narrow as it needed to fit between the bones. It’s good I have small hands, and I can’t fit very large things in it. It makes me wonder what the original’s pocket looks like, as I’m sure it’d need to be a tad bigger to fit a tennis ball.

The bodice base is TV462 – 1883 Tail Bodice, but without tail. The lining is fitted, while the striped fabric was extended (with a little guidance from Izabella Pritcher’s Victorian Dressmaker book), and gathered to the front. It buttons up front, and has a little lace around the collar and sleeves.

Below a picture of the bodice fronts, and sewing the button holes.

 

I wore the dress for the first time with the main bodice and skirt done, but without all the pleats on the skirts. These are 4 strips, with a 1cm hem and 2 1cm tucks, pleated down. They took a while (it was about 18m unpleated), but do really finish the dress!

I first pleated the strip and pinned it on both sides. Then the pleats were sewn down at the top, leaving the bottom pins in. I then sprayed it with a vinegar/water mix and ironed it. Then took out the bottom pins, sprayed and ironed that bit again. I used some painter’s tape to keep the bottom pleats in tape when sewing on the strips to the dress. They held up okay on wearing! Some of the pleats at the back were a bit mangled, but that was to be expected as I sat on them half of the day, and they were quite good about being ironed back into shape afterwards.

 

The pleats being sewn on, and a little close-up showing the the finished result and the tucks.

 

To finish the ensemble, I cut down the brim of a straw hat I had lying around, slightly curved up the back brim, and sewed on some big bows.

 

To finish off, some more pictures of the final dress on me! I wore it with a simple blue ribbon (leftover from trimming the hat) around the waist, but I might make an embroidered belt as the one on the original in the future.

 

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Victorian tennis dress

It’s been a while! Right after the fancy dress ball, I dove into a new project. However, it’s not quite done yet, and I’ve been away from home for a couple of weeks, so nothing finished to show off yet. So this post will be about some of the inspirations instead!

I’ve been working on an 1880’s tennis dress. This dress started with the realization that I only owned silk, wool and velvet Victorian dresses. Which are fabrics I love, but they’re not ideal for warm summer days. So I set out to remedy that, and when looking at possible designs for cotton bustle dresses (as I love the 1880’s), I stumbled on tennis dresses.

This is one I’ve always really liked in particular:

Ephemeral Elegance  Cotton Tennis Dress, ca. 1884-86  via Manchester Galleries  http://manchesterartgallery.org/collections/search/collection/?id=1947.4150

Manchester Art gallery

 

But there are some other great existent examples, such as these:

Article Image

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

Tennis Dress 1885 The Metropolitan Museum of Art

MET museum

 

One of the questions I had initially, was what makes these dresses tennis dresses, and not just cotton bustle dresses? Partly, it was probably just that they were made with a specific purpose in mind, but looking at these garments more closely does give some more clues!

The first thing (which I know is a feature of the first two of these dresses, although I’m not sure about the third), is that the boning which creates the bustle shape is actually a part of the dress itself.

This is a feature I first ran into in Izabela Pitcher’s book ‘the Victorian Dressmaker’. She has a yachting dress which features boning in the skirt. The dress from LACMA actually has pictures of the boning structure, and for the Manchester Art Gallery dress you can read about the boning in the description. I’ve also seen this being mentioned for light cotton summer dresses.

Woman's Tennis Dress | LACMA Collections

The inside of the LACMA dress, showing the boning and tapes to create the bustle

 

 

This inclusion of boning in the skirt means that the outfit does not require a separate bustle case, nor a petticoat to go on top of the cage. Although you might still want one petticoat to go underneath, this definitely does cut out at least 2 layers of skirts, making the whole thing lighter, and probably easier to move around in. The Manchester dress even sports an apron in one with the main skirt to reduce layers, and a back overlay which is buttoned on. So the goal definitely seems to reduce weight! This is my own theory, so I am curious to find out if I can feel the difference when wearing the finished dress!

Another feature the tennis dresses seem to have are special pockets to keep the tennis balls in. Although bustle dresses feature pockets more often, these are definitely shaped and sized for tennis balls. Pleats are a popular choice for trimming, otherwise the dresses are relatively simple, with just a little lace. All these examples also feature a bodice which has extra fabric in the front, and which is gathered into a band which sits at the natural waist. Pictures of tennis dresses do show other types of bodices, although the ‘looser’ gathered look does seem to be the most popular.

Some pictures of ladies in tennis outfits:

Victorian Era Tennis | Share

Early 1890s

 

Finally, there’s of course the little references to tennis, such as the embroidery on the belt. These three examples are all made of cotton, although different fabrics such as light wool could probably also be used. And they are all striped! When looking at pictures and prints, you see that most dresses are light colored, and either a solid color or made in stripes.

1888- Tennis

All the stripes!

Tennis outfits

The stripes weren’t just for the ladies either!

 

For my own dress, I’ll be using the Manchester dress as main inspiration. It has a very good description on the website, although the pictures don’t show the back. Main features will be: bustle cage included in the skirt, gathered front bodice, apron sewn in one with the skirt and separate back drapery, a ball pocket, pleated ruffles, and striped cotton fabric!

I’ve now got most of the skirt base and bodice together. It needs some finishing (closures, hem, etc), and then all the ruffles on the skirt. Here’s a little glimpse of the fabric, and the gathered channels which hold the boning for the bustle in the skirt.

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Finally, I also found this lovely article, which has some more info on tennis dresses in the period, including some original source quotes!

Victorian Picnics 2 & 3

About a week ago, we held another Victorian picnic, the 3rd already! That also made me realize I haven’t actually blogged about the second one either, so here’s a post making up for that!

For a little background: about a year ago I got the idea that if I wanted more historical events, I could also organize something myself. I’d have to be fairly low-key though, as I didn’t actually have a lot of time to do so. So I settled on organizing a picnic, where everyone brings their own food. As we have a lot of Regency events here, but not so much Victorian, that became the theme, and we included the often forgotten 1830’s to get a time range of ca. 1830-1900. In august, we held the first picnic at de Haar castle.

Shortly after that first picnic, the idea came to go to another castle in autumn. This time, we did not take our own food in case the weather was bad, and decided to eat at the local restaurant instead. The weather turned out to be beautiful, so we had a very nice walk, as well as a lovely visit to Kasteel Zypendaal. Thanks to Martijn van Huffelen, we also got some lovely pictures of the day:

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During the second picnic, someone asked if we couldn’t do a ‘winter’ picnic. This would mean having an indoor location though, but luckily one of our group was able to arrange this. So last weekend, we visited the beautiful Huis Doorn. Again, we were very lucky with the weather, and we again toured both the house and grounds after a lovely lunch. Martijn took some lovely pictures again:

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It’s so nice to see how the group has steadily grown, and to see people come back again for a second or third time. It’s also very inspiring to see all the beautiful costumes, and all days were lovely days out with lovely people. We’ll definitely be doing more of these come spring and summer!

 

Fancy dress

“But, what are we to wear?

This is the first exclamation on receipt of an invitation to a Fancy Ball, and it is to assist in answering such questions that this volume has been compiled”

 

I was quite excited when Shari (from La Rose Soiree & La Rose Passementarie) announced that she would be holding a Victorian fancy dress ball. My first thought was excitement. The second thought is very well described by the quote above. This lovely booklet was pointed out to me by Desiree, and it’s such a treasure! It gives a thorough catalog of all types of options for fancy dress, including quite a lot of grey scale pictures, and a couple full color ones. It’s a lot of fun to read through as well!

In this post, a small selection of some of the gems inside the book.

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The book starts with recommendations on what costumes to wear depending on your coloring and age.

Brunettes could choose, for instance, Autumn, Diana, Fire or Spanish dress, while fair women are more suited to Day, Fairy, Moonlight, Rainbow or Swiss dress. Sisters could go together, and choose costumes such as Salt and Fresh water, Music and Paintings or Oranges and Lemons. Similarly, husband and wife could do Kings and Queens, or Night and Day.

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It also gives some general guidelines, such that: “It is uncomfortable to dance without gloves, so consistency yields to convenience”. And hair styling advice, such that: “With regard to Powdering, it is best, if possible, not to have recourse to wigs, they are heavy and unbecoming. It is far better to powder the hair itself…” 

 

 

Then it’s on to the specific costumes! In alphabetical order, as they are in the book, a favourite for each letter.

 

A: Aquarium: Fashionable evening dress of blue and green tulle, trimmed with marine plants and ornamented with fish and shells, the octopus on one side of the skirt; veil of green tulle; hair floating on shoulders. Bodice trimmed with seaweed and coral; ornaments, silver fish and coral.

B: Butterfly: Short white satin skirt, covered with clouds of brown, pink and blue tulle. Flight of butterflies all over it. Wings of blue gauze, and the antennae in the head-dress. White silk stockings and white shoes. Butterfly on each.

C: Chess: Front breadth, squares of black and white silk, black band at edge of skirt, row of red ribbon above. Black silk train piped with red, caught up with check ribbon, and bordered with checks. Sleeves of black and white squares to wrist, black cuffs piped with red. V-shaped black bodice, with ruff. Coronet of chessmen, larger pieces in front, the same for ornaments, all made of wood.

D: Dresden China: Under this name almost any poudre character may be worn, with or without a saque. It is generally thus rendered: Quilted short skirt, high-heeled shoes and clocked stockings; chintz or brocaded bunched up tunic; muslin apron; low bodice; short sleeves with ruffles; coloured stomacher laced across; bow of ribbon or black velvet around neck; straw hat or muslin cap; powdered hair. A newer rendering has bows of ribbons and flowers on the shoulders, with a tiny china figure in the centre; a satin chapeau bras with mroe flowers springing from centre; crook and high-heeled shoes.

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E: Eve: Dress of white India muslin, trimmed with apples, leaves and blossom; fig-leaves for pockets; out of one peeps a serpent’s head with emerald eyes, out of the other falls a triplet of white lilies; a wreath of small apples, flowers and leaves, necklace, a serpent of gold and silver enamel in red and blue.

F: Fairy: Short tulle diaphanous dress, with low full bodice, covered with silver spangles; silver belt at waist; wings of gauze on wire attached to back; hair floating; a silver circlet on the head. Or, for a Fairy queen; a crown, the wand, to be carried in hand, becoming a sceptre. Stars should be introduced on the dress and on the satin shoes.

G: the Gloaming: Dress of grey tulle, or muslin, or gauze over satin, made as an ordinary evening dress, or in classic fashion; a veil of the same material; fireflies imprisoned int he tulle; bat fastened on one shoulder, an owl on the other; silver and smoked pearl ornaments.

H: the Hornet: Short black or brown dress of velvet or satin; boots to match; tunic pointed back and front, with gold stripes; satin bodice of black or brown with gold gauze wings; cap of velvet with eyes and antennae of insect

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I: Ice maiden: White gauze dress; pointed tulle cap and veil fastened with wreath of icicles or ice-flowers spangled with powdered glass; long gloves; bracelets and chains of icicles; girdle of falling icicles made of glass.

J: Joan of Arc: White painted cashmere skirt; a suit of armour, with helmet and plume, mailed feet, gloves; red cloak at shoulder. The sout of armour may be of silver, burnished steel or what is called scale armour. But it can also be made by cutting out in strong brown paper the vaious pieces required, copied from any illustrated history, …, pated over with silvered paper. Round the edges inside strips of linen should be pasted to strengthen them, so that tapes may be sewn in with which to tie them on…

L: Lorelei: Dress of watered silk, shot with silver, draped with green, and caught up with water lilies, coral and diamonds; veil to match; sometimes soft muslin is draped in classic fashion; the hair flowing; a coronet of silver on the head; an old fashioned lyre carried in the hand.

M: Magpie. The front of skirt is striped black and white satin plaited; the bodice cut in one with long side revers of black, lined and turned back with white ruching to the hem of the skirt, opening down back to show full plaited skirt. The black bodice bordered with white; low striped vest; magpie on the shoulder and in hair; which may be powdered or not, or half powdered.

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N: Needles and pins: This dress is after the mother Hubbard order. A quilted skirt, with chintz train; low black velvet bodice, fichu; powdered hair; cap and pointed velvet hat. In front of the dress every kind of needle and pin is inserted. Pins forming the motto “Needles and pins, needles and pins; when a man marries his troubles begin,” on the train.

O: October: … with trimmings of leaves variegated with all the rich reds and browns of the autumn tints. A classic cream dress would show such trimmings to advantage. Or, an evening dress of cream and gold satin introducing acorns, with the leaves applied to dress and head-dress

P: Planets: White satin short skirt, bordered with a blue silk band and dotted with silver stars; white gauze over-skirt and plaited low bodice bespangled with stars; long wing-like sleeves to match; blue satin Swiss belt cut in points, a star on each; blue coronet with stars; long veil with stars; necklace and bracelets of the same.

Q: Quicksilver. Fashionable black evening dress made of tulle, and trimmed with silver.

R: Ruben’s wife: Yellow and brown silk and violet velvet, the skirt of the velvet touching the ground; the bodice a low square with square ruff, lace edged; the hair in curls; the bodice, which has a broad rounded point, has jewels in front of a yellow stomacher; the sleeves have an upper puff of violet, an elbow puff slashed with brown and yellow, puffs of yellow to wrist, with turn-back cuffs; the colours are blended into the trimmings on the skirt mixed with jewels; a feather fan is carried in the hand; a large-brimmed, low-crowned hat, turned up on one side with ostrich plumes and jewel

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S: Sunbeam: White tulle dress, flounced to waist, each flounce edged with rows of gold braid; a large sash round the waist with gold fringe, a gold chatelaine bag at side; head-dress, veil of gold tissue, enveloping the figure and glittering at every moment; ornament, gold.

T:  Twenty-four o’clock: New clock dial on chest and forehead, with hours from one to twenty-four; at back of head a pendulum swinging; short costume of black and white satin.

U: Universe: Short blue and white dress made of cashmere or soft silk in classic fashion, or in gauze or twill as an evening gown, with stars and spheres for ornaments; star-spangled veil.

V: Vandyke: Full plain skirt; muslin apron; edged with pointed lace; godice with revers; sleeves to wrist; hair in curls

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W: Witch: Short quilted skirt of red satin, with cats and lizards in black velvet; gold satin panier tunic; black velvet bodice laced over an old-gold crepe bodice; small cat on right shoulder, a broom in the hand, with owl; tall pointed velvet cap; shoes with buckles

Y: New Year: Radiant young girl in heyday of youth wearing plain long full satin skirt, with hours in silver round it; silver cord about waist; bodice full; pendent sleeves from elbow, caught up with roses; wreath of roses and veil in hair.

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To close:

“There are few occasions when a woman has a better opportunity of showing her charms to advantage than at a Fancy Ball.”

Victorian Picnic

At the beginning of the year, one of my goals was to visit more costuming events. So far that’s been quite successful, I’ve already been to three historical balls, which is two more than last year!

However, I figured that I could, of course, also contribute myself by organizing something. I needed to be relatively easy to organize due to time, so I settled on a picnic. And, as there seems to be a bit of a lack of Victorian events, it became a Victorian picnic!

The location was the castle de Haar, where I’ve been a volunteer for years. Having contacts at the location helps for letting them know of your plans, as just showing up with a group in costume isn’t always welcome. With advance notice though, we were welcome to picnic in the gardens!

It’s a very beautiful place, the castle was rebuilt from a medieval ruin around 1900, and the gardens stem from the same time.

Castel the Haar at Haarzuilens at Utrecht

 

We held the picnic halfway through August, and were quite lucky with the weather. It’s been very hot all summer, and right before and after the weekend there was some rain. However, on the day itself, it was a bit overcast but dry, and overall, the temperature was comfortable.

We’d decided to include the 1830’s as those often get lost between the Regency and Victorian era, and we nicely spanned the whole time period. Everyone looked really wonderful!

So we had some lovely 1830’s people.

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Picture by Nikki

 

Some 1870’s bustles.

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Picture by Nikki

 

And some representation of the very end of the century.

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Picture by Nikki

 

Everyone brought some food, we chatted, some walks were taken, and even some tennis played.

Pictures by Martijn, Jessie, Martijn, Nikki, Martijn & Jessie resp.

 

At the end, a group also decided to visit the castle as well, which was a perfect closure of the day.

Pictures by Nikki, Jessie & Nikki resp.

 

Also, Nikki made a vlog about the day, which you can find here!

 

Thanks to everyone who came for the lovely day, everyone looked fabulous!

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Picture by Nikki

Inspiration – Victorian summer dresses

It’s been unusually warm and dry here in the Netherlands (and in most of Europe, I believe). That’s gotten me thinking of light, summer style dresses. I don’t have any at the moment, all of mine are either silk, velvet or wool. So one of these might have to go onto the (long) list of things I want to make one day…

Last year I did a post on summer dresses of the period just before the Victorian age, so for this post, let’s look at some Victorian examples!

These dresses are all made of very light cotton. They protect the skin from the sun, and the white is relatively cool. The cotton is rather thin, and breathes well. Of course, a fashionable lady would still seek out the shade, and wear a bonnet and parasol as well to protect from the sun.

Some crinoline styles. In this era, flowers on white seem tho have been quite popular!

COTTON DRESS with STRAWBERRY PRINT, 1863

 

I particularly like the pin-tucks on this bodice.

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Some nice stripy contrast!

Day dress, late 1860′s From the John Bright Historic Costume Collection

 

PRINTED DIMITY DAY DRESS, 1860s 1-piece, white, windowpane-woven w/ small red flower print, self fabric belt, trained skirt.

 

Organza dress ca. 1865. Bodice has muslin foundation trimmed in needlelace accented with bows. Time Travelers Estate Sales

 

Some solid white, as we’re moving into the bustle era.

Dress, ca. 1870

 

But dots are nice too!

Day dress, American (attrib.), ca. 1873-77. White cotton printed with red circles. Bodice: fitted over hips, ruffled edge, long sleeves. Skirt: bustle with white cotton and red trim. Overskirt: as draped apron. Kent State Univ. Museum

Two afternoon dresses in printed cotton, ca. 1875. Part of the Jacoba de Jonge collection, which is now owned by the Mode Museum in Antwerp. Filep Motwary blog

 

And, to finish, two more solid white dresses from the 1880’s this time

Dress, European, ca. 1885. Cotton plain weave with cotton cutwork embroidery (broderie anglaise) & cotton needle lace. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Rebecca Thelin/Flickr, and thecourtesanblue/Flickr

Dress ca. 1885 via The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

1880s Winter bustle – pictures

Yesterday I wore my 1880’s dress for the first time, to the Midwinter Fair. It was really nice to wear, and even though it was rainy I had a good time.

Because of said rain, we only took some pictures inside. By this time my curls had started to sag a bit, but I was quite happy with how my hair turned out. Not having bangs, I flipped two curls towards the front and pinned them in place underneath the hat. Looks ridiculous without the hat, but with hat you’d never know!

 

Today it’s been snowing all day. Snow doesn’t happen that much around here, and when it does it usually disappears very quickly again. So I thought I’d take advantage, and dragged my boyfriend outdoors for a couple of minutes to take some more pictures. I didn’t curl my hair this time, too much effort, but the braid this way also works okay. And the dress looks really pretty in the snow!

 

You can’t really see it in these pictures above, but I’m wearing my winter boots with them! Very nicely warm and comfy.

 

 

Some more pictures!

 

Construction post is here!

1880s Winter bustle – construction

If you’ve been following this blog you might remember that when I got the Victoria winter boots from American Duchess, it got me thinking of wintery wool bustle dresses.

The shoes. I’m still in love (and they’re so comfy and warm!)

 

So when I was making sewing plans in September, an 1880’s winter wool bustle dress was put on the list next to the golden 1660’s gown. I had an event to wear it to in December, so a good deadline as well!

I decided on making it in burgundy, with black faux fur and black trim. This was the plan.

Winter bustle

 

It’s strongly inspired by fashion plates and pictures. The main inspiration was this one, mainly for the shape and fur placement.

1880s winter ensembles

 

But as I also really love the loopy trim that became popular, I wanted to incorporate that.

This plate is awsome as well.

early 1880s winter ensemble

 

And this is a great example of swirly trim.

Close up of 1880s photograph depicting a Victorian jacket with beautiful soutache decoration, embellishments. Passementerie. Detail.

 

The fabric I’m using is a wool/polyester mix. Not accurate of course, but it is a nice quality fabric still and has the advantage of being a bit cheaper than full wool. The fur trim is black faux fur.

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Main construction was relatively straight forward. I used the 1880’s underskirt from Truly Victorian, which came together really quickly. Only change was that I added the pocket from the 1870’s underskirt, because pockets are awesome.

Pleating the back. They’re cartridge pleats, so much width had to be fit into the back normal pleats wouldn’t have worked. Pretty!

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The bodice pattern was adapted from the 1883 tail bodice from TV. I took away the pleats in the back and lengthened it a bit. That lengthening caused it not to close in the bottom (I should’ve also added more width), but I actually really liked the look, so I kept it. Make a mistake and like the result anyway: just pretend it was done on purpose.

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Fitting the bodice. Another mistake: making the mock-up of cotton instead of wool, which makes it looser. The wool version was a bit smaller, oops. It worked out in the end though.

 

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The eventual shape of the bodice, falling open at the bottom. We’ll just pretend I planned it that way.

The overskirt I ended up draping myself, because I wanted that particular shape seen in the fashion plate. Took some fiddling with old sheets, but I’m quite happy with how it turned out.

Rather bad lighting, but the base of the under and overskirt together.

 

 

Then it was time for button holes! I spaced them really closely together, as seen on the photo I showed above. I didn’t have much overlap, so needed small buttons, and those always look better without too much space between them.

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With the fur trim on it already looks almost done, but I wanted more trim, and loops, and more loops. I eventually got 50m of the cotton cord for a bargain, because I needed 30 and the whole roll was 50 and the seller didn’t really feel like unrolling so much.

The overskirt first got a velvet ribbon next to the fur, and then the cotton cord next to that, with a knot in the corners.

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The inspiration for the knot:

Military Braid, Gold Lace, and Other Trimmings for Uniforms and Decorative Accents

 

The underskirt also got a velvet ribbon, but then more loopy trim and another cord above that. I made a template for this one to get the sizing the same everywhere. And it miraculously almost fitted around the whole skirt without weird overlaps being necessary! (I’d like to pretend that was measured out and done on purpose, but I was too lazy do do that so it was pure luck)

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Template and chalk marks.

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Done!

 

For the bodice I took the photo of the original bodice shown above as inspiration, but omitted some loops as my cord was a bit on the thick side.

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Playing with the trim to settle on the design.

 

Finally, I trimmed the sleeves, and then decided the back was too empty, so I trimmed the back of the bodice as well.

 

And then it was done! I’ll be wearing the dress next weekend, so proper pictures of everything finished and worn will follow!

1880s corset

The mid-1880’s are all about the dramatic silhouette. The bustle is back in full force, and the fashion is for a small waist, full bust and relatively broad shoulders. In fashion plates you can clearly see this fashionable shape, which is of course exaggerated to near impossible proportions.

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I’ve started working on my first 1880’s dress, which will be a burgundy wool winter gown. Although I already have a 1870’s corset, I wanted to try to approximate the fashionable shape of the 1880’s a bit more. In my case that meant padding in the bust area, as there’s no way I can achieve (or even approximate) it naturally…

That’s when the idea for a new corset started, to be patterned on top of a padded bra. In my previous post I showed the process of patterning, and afterwards I could finally start making the corset!

It’s a single layer coutil corset, so there’s no extra lining or fashion layer. First order of business was inserting the busk. Because there’s no extra lining, I cut a facing for the center front, and the bust is inserted between the facing and outer layer.

 

 

 

I really love cording on corsets, and wanted to incorporate it in this one as well. As first I was wondering if it’d be possible with a single layer, but then I saw this corset on a visit to Stockholm. As you can see, there’s an extra piece of fabric placed on top of the main fabric to serve as corded panel.

Corset ca. 1860-90  From the Nordiska Museet

 

I decided to copy this method. Using small pieces of black taffeta, I stitched 15 thin cords onto the two front panels (on each side). As in the example above, I left the bottom and top piece of the taffeta uncorded.

I made a test piece first. cm next to it to see the tiny cords.

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After that, I corded the actual corset panels.

 

 

 

Construction was done after the cording, and was pretty straight-forward, I didn’t take a lot of pictures of these steps. All pieces were stitched with wrong sides together, leaving the seam allowances on the outside.

The boning channels were made from a cotton polyester mix, leftover fabric from my red spencer. The red with the black gives a lot of extra drama, and you do see contrasting boning channels in the 1880’s quite a bit, such as this yellow-black combination.

Corset, 1880-93

 

5cm wide strips were cut and sewn into tunnels with a 5mm allowance, creating 2cm wide tunnels. Those were then stitched on top of the (trimmed) seam allowances and stitched on in the center and to the side. This created space for 2 5mm wide bones (synthethic whalebone) in each channel. The center back also has a facing, creating 2 layers for the eyelets and an extra channel next to the bones. I also added one more boning channel for 1 bone next to the eyelets. Both this one and the center back were flat steel bones for extra strength.

 

 

 

After the boning channels the boning was cut, the edges molten (plastic is so much easier to finish than steel!), and inserted into the corset. The binding was machine stitched on, I used regular black cotton bias tape.

 

 

 

The final big step was the flossing. I love the fancy decorative flossing you see so often in the 1880’s. I looked around for inspiration, and eventually settled on the design of the corset below. I like the flowers, and how it covers 2 bones.

Terminology: What’s the difference between stays, jumps & a corset | The Dreamstress

 

I made a little prick-template so I could place dots on strategic places of the embroidery pattern. This way, all the bones will have the same size and proportion flossing. I adapted the pattern slightly to also floss the single bones in the center back.

 

 

 

Before you begin flossing it feels like you’re almost done, but I think the embroidery might’ve taken as much time as all the rest of construction… I did 20 double bone motifs and 4 single bone, the double bone ones took about 25 minutes to complete each. And that’s without the test sample.

But, it’s done! I’m really happy with how this came out and I really love the shape. If I ever find some narrow antique black lace I might decorate the top, but as I don’t have that in the stash for now I’m calling it done.

The front and side:

 

 

And side-front and back:

 

Corset patterning

I’ve started a new corset, 1880’s this time. My goal for this one was two-fold, firstly to try to pattern it on top of a padded bra to give a little more curve. Corsets tend to flatten me a bit up top, and while fashionable in some periods, the 1880’s were all about the hourglass. The second goal was to take a little more time patterning to get it just right.

I haven’t even cut the coutil I’ll be using yet, but that first step of patterning is done. I thought it might be interesting to see the process of slowly adapting the pattern to fit.

I should also give a shout-out to the corset making community of ‘Foundations Revealed’, a online magazine/coaching subscription website including facebook group, where I got some great feedback on my progress.

I started with the 1880’s pattern from Corsets & Crinolines by Nora Waugh.

1880 waugh

 

I didn’t have a scanner, so I eyeballed the pattern onto gridded mm paper until I had the height and waist measurement about right, and the pattern pieces had the same proportions as in the book. I then copied the pattern to full size cm paper and started from there.

The black lines were the pattern as roughly copied from the book. I measured it and found it small, so the red lines are the added width for the first mock-up.

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When fitting, I found I shouldn’t have added the extra space, the corset was too big. So the second mock-up went back to the black lines. Additionally, I found that the corset was too short on me. So I lengthened the pattern by adding a couple of cm above the waist line. This picture shows that pattern, laid out on top of the original.

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This one was much better, starting to fit. It was still short, so I added some more length to the pattern. I also added a little room to the hips on the side, and took some away from the bust and center front bottom curve, as those were too big.

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This was the first one I made a mock-up off in sturdy fabric, including busk and lacing, but no boning yet. The overall fit wasn’t bad, but the busk was tilting quite badly. I’ve had this happen on previous corsets, and thought it might just be me not lacing it straight, but it was too extreme to be a coincidence.  I also didn’t really like the inverted ‘c’ shape the third panel was making over the hip.

Mockup1

 

I suspected the tilting was because I wasn’t symmetrical, so to test this I took a picture of myself, standing solidly on 2 feet. I then traced my outlines on both sides, and then copied the lines to overlap on the other side. As you can see quite clearly, one hip is both a little higher and wider than the other. The things you learn about yourself when sewing…

Bodyshape

 

So, for the next mock-up I made a left and right version. Basically, I added some hip space for the right-hand version. I also transferred some hip room from panel 3 to 4 to make the pattern shape a bit nicer, and I added 1cm at the top. I’d added that in the previous mock-up and it was still a bit low, so I figured 1cm extra room at least would be good.

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This next mock-up I also boned, which makes quite a difference. Also: the hip fixes worked, as it wasn’t tilting anymore, yay! The whole corset was still a bit low at the top though, and I still had too much room center front bottom.

Mockup2.jpg

 

I added even more space up top, and took away a bit of the bottom. I also took away more of the curve on the bottom of panel 2.

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The final mock-up was really close. The height is finally good here, and it’s curving quite nicely. It was a slightly sturdier fabric than the previous one, and I noticed that made it a little tight in the hips.

Mockup3.jpg

 

So the only things I changed for the last draft was to add a little more hip room, mostly on panel 5 as that didn’t have much flare yet. In this picture you can see the final pattern, laying on top of the one I started with!

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The main changes were that I added some length above the waist, and above the original bustline, lengthening the corset quite extensively. I took away some bust and tummy space, and added space for my hips. Finally, I made a left and right hand version to accommodate my own asymmetry.

Now it’s time to cut the coutil, and start planning the boning channels and cording. It’ll be a single layer black coutil corset with red external channels.