Monday, September 12, 2016

Early 1880s print dress

Not quite displayed as originally intended, but that's alright! I (and my usual costumer-partners-in-crime) decided we wanted natural form dresses to match a friend's most excellent 1882 Egyptian campaign setup at Belvidere Victorian Days this year.

My plan up til about this past Tuesday was for a normal matching set of skirt, overskirt, and basque bodice, when the weather forecast of about 95F for Saturday seemed unwilling to budge - and my almost-finished high-necked, boned, lined, tight-fitting basque (all cotton, but still) didn't seem as appealing! (I think the heat index was around 100...hence my red face in most of the pictures!)

 I decided I wanted to make a shirtwaist instead - and couldn't find any, in fashion plates or in photographs. Not a single solitary one. There are shirtwaists in the 1860s, and shirtwaists again starting around 1890, but apparently none in between! Now, I'd be very surprised if no one wore a shirtwaist from 1870-1889, as they're very practical things, both for extremely hot weather (that's me) and maternity wear (that's not me), but I have no proof and they were at least very unfashionable during that point, since they don't show up. So please don't use me as your justification for a natural form shirtwaist, is what I'm saying!
Aesthetically it's extremely displeasing, but practically I'm very glad I made it! It's hideously dumpy, but that's alright, I survived it. ;) We spent a good portion of the day relaxing in the shade and staying hydrated, so I really, honestly don't think I was much hotter than I would have been in modern clothes. Once you hit a heat index of 100, everybody's hot! (Although the gentlemen in their coats were definitely suffering a bit more than the ladies...) Handkerchiefs and fans were much in evidence.
Since the basque's almost finished, I do want to get it done and out of the way before I clean up from this project (bits of printed cotton hanging out everywhere, etc), so hopefully I can get that photographed this week and put up here.
So let's break it down, as most everything I'm wearing is new!
Originally I was inspired by an 1880-82 dress from Nancy Bradfield's Costume in Detail (p.245). I did end up traveling fairly far from that original (it's one piece and back-buttoning, which I prefer to avoid when I can!), but I kept my favorite part of it: the knife-pleated flounces at the hem, with the red cotton flounce just peeking out. I thought it was a fun touch! Everything was mostly sewn by machine, although I did hand finishings where it was necessary or too obvious to do machine stitching!

Underkirt: Made from the pattern pieces of the Truly Victorian natural form underskirt (TV221), although I think I put the ties in differently. (I haven't looked at the instructions in a couple years so I can't be sure!) Lining of green cotton, top fabric is beige-ground cotton print with little red and blue flowers, which only goes down to just below the flounces. I don't have any ideas that green cotton lining is very period, only I acquired a lot of it for $1.20/yd, so... Bottom flounce is bright red cotton. Tied back with one drawstring behind the knees, and one grosgrain tie just under the bum.
Underskirt, inside out.
Overskirt: Based on the overskirt from the embroidered cloth dress on p.405 of Fashions of the Gilded Age, Vol. 1 (I didn't actually scale it up, just peered at the overall shape, took some approximate measurements, and made it work). Made of the cotton print fabric, with no lining, and held back with three elastic tapes.
I find I've taken no progress pictures of the overskirt. Sorry!
Shirtwaist: Made in haste, and not particularly carefully! Although I did flat-fell the sleeve seams by hand, because I can't fit a fitted sleeve under my sewing machine, it gets too wadded-up at the wrist. There's a yoked bodice pattern in FotGA1, that is essentially the top part of a bodice for the fitted yoke, and the lower part just a rectangle of fabric pleated or gathered in, with a shaped armscye. So I used my fitted bodice pattern for the yoke, and just tore panels for the body. Sleeves are from my 1878 wool dress, just tweaked to have one seam. White cotton voile with shell buttons, and narrow lace on the collar and cuffs.
Really really unflattering when worn untucked/alone!
Corset cover: When I decided to make a voile shirtwaist, I knew I'd need a corset cover, as my corset is sky blue, and voile is sheer! I just used my natural form bodice pattern (darted front, side back, and back pieces), added a little bit of ease, and cut it to hit a little below the waist. Nothing fancy but I did put eyelet on, as plain Late Victorian undies seems to be practically a felony offense. ;) I used white 4.7oz linen instead of cotton, mainly because I have a heap of linen sitting around, and couldn't find the plain white cotton I know I have somewhere!
My combinations have sleeves but my tank top that day didn't...
And the hat is new as well: from TV's 1880s tapered hat pattern, with the short crown. I've made it before and I think it's quite adorable! This one is a wired buckram frame covered with toffee-colored silk taffeta, and trimmed with a band of olive green silk shantung and fake flowers. (Can you tell I really wanted fall weather by the colors I made my hat?? Didn't work...)
Silly face!
Nice hat tho.
Robin of SewLoud is responsible for a good part of these extremely flattering pictures of me. ;)
I am making the most horrible face in our group shot...there was a tintype taken at almost the same time in which I still look miserable (I wasn't, promise!) but at least my eyes were open!
Basically an excellent time, no one came down with heat exhaustion, and we're already scheming for next year! Maybe it won't be above 90 next year and I'll actually get to wear my not-horribly-unflattering bodice...a girl can dream!


  1. I really do NOT know what you're talking about. I adore your shirtwaist.

  2. Truly Victorian has two blouse patterns (from 1870's and 1880's) and Ageless Patterns has one from 1888. I think that your rendition is plausible as not everyone could/wanted to keep up with changing fashions. Plus it looks like a perfect outfit for a country visit to me.