Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Early 1880s beige print dress

At long last, completely finished. I've been wearing the skirt and overskirt without the bodice for, what, almost a year? In my defense, it's been worn at all hot-weather events, and despite it being all cotton, it's really not a very light-weight cotton. This bodice will be too warm to wear if it's much over 80F, which is why I made the Ugly Shirtwaist in the first place! So even if the bodice had been done, I wouldn't have had a chance to wear it yet.
I look fairly miserable (very Victorian of me!) but I'm actually happy with the outfit.

The bodice is made of cotton print, lined in (green, ahem) cotton broadcloth, and boned with artificial whalebone. It closes with hooks and bars up the front; the buttons are just for show! Collar and cuffs are strips of voile, knife-pleated up to strips of cotton/twill tape, and tacked in. Collars and especially cuffs are tiny things that often get left off reproductions, but if you look at plates and photos, women almost always have cuffs and collars on their dresses. (I almost left cuffs off, because it's been really hot ironing the past few days and I didn't want to iron any more! but I'm glad I suffered through a bit more ironing.)
The overskirt and skirt are fairly self-evident; if you want some detail on them, here's my first post about the outfit, from last fall.
So, this bodice has a bit of a back story. Feel free to skim if you're only here for the pretty pictures...but if you want a story of Trials and Travails of A Seamstress, read on! Part of the reason I didn't bother finishing it for Belvidere last fall was because in the week before the event, the weather forecast was in the mid-90s for the day we were going, and I knew this bodice would be far too hot for that temperature.
The other that it didn't fit. Too small across the bust point, too big in the waist, and weird in the shoulders. I didn't take any photos documenting how badly it didn't fit, but I promise it was Not Good. And I knew it wasn't going together well, but I pretended it would be okay if I just trimmed here and there, took the second dart out, etc. etc. So I had it just about finished - really, everything done but finishing the front edges and putting in closures - and I put it on, looked in the mirror, and I probably could have stuck a tiny piece in the CF to allow enough room for fastenings, but I knew I'd dislike the thing and never want to wear it if I did that.
So...taking the bodice apart it was! Well, first it was putting it away and ignoring it for three-quarters of a year, haha. I was not quite in the frame of mind to deal with it at that point. But a few weeks ago I pulled it back out, and steeled myself to unpick a good part of it! At that point I was wishing I hadn't been quite so diligent in whipping down all the seam allowances, and trimming them, too...
Look next to the 3rd bone from the right...yeah, that's a seam.
The original problem was that I used a mockup that stretched...2+ years ago. I used that mockup without drawing it off onto paper and refitting it, so the front pieces were the main problem, that ended up too small. The best option would have been to just redo the fronts completely, but I didn't have enough fabric, so it really wasn't an option! I could also have pieced into the CFs, but figured a wedge under the arms would be less obvious. Thankfully it's really not very noticeable in the print!
With the wacky pieced-in bits outlined in red for you all.
I decided the best plan of attack would be to finish the CF and put fastenings in, redo the second bust dart, and then refit the sides. Which is what I did! Very fussy. Awkward angle to fit on yourself! A solid few hours of taking-off-and-putting-back-on. And since the sleeves had basically no ease in the sleeve head, I had to stick a wedge in them, too, to get them to fit in the redone armscye.
And it's still nowhere near perfect - the fit at the back shoulders is still a bit off (I originally had a low standing collar of the dress fabric, and it fit so horribly I couldn't in good conscience put it back on there), and losing most of the original seam allowance on the sleeves and the armscyes made it just a hair too tight across the upper chest, so there are stress wrinkles at certain angles. It's still a little too loose in the waist-abdomen in the front, and I will also note that I somehow made the back waistline about 1/2" too high.
However! All that said...I am pretty pleased with how I managed to wrangle this bodice into decency. It's nowhere near perfect, and I should have done better work from the outset, but since I didn't? I did my best at fixin's, so I am content with it! I guess it's not too bad for a home sewer in 1880, right? ;)
And I do very much like that skirt!
I'll take this moment to reiterate how grateful I am to live in an area that still has a decent amount of surviving 19thc buildings to take pictures in front of! This one's Croft Farm in Cherry Hill.

And bonus video! Since I remembered my camera takes video (wow 2008 technology), and I enjoy how the skirt pleats move while I walk. 
 And a few photos from an event at Fort Mott over the weekend. Not with the bodice, just the shirtwaist, but it was an enjoyable afternoon. Despite being quite humid (I sweated right through my corset in places...ew)! Wore my Dorky Straw Hat tied behind instead of under the chin, and I think it looked marginally less dorky, so I think that will continue.
Keep that fan moving!
Trying to look cool.
Yes...very cool.
Pics from Fort Mott nicked from Robin of SewLoud.


  1. It's a lovely ensemble, and I wouldn't have noticed the fit issues from the pictures! Also good job on picking it up again! I have a blouse currently in a basket somewhere, which is waiting to get unpicked as the shoulders are too narrow... Sometimes things just need to go away for a while before they can be re-addressed, but your finished dress is very pretty!

    1. Thank you! I'm usually awful about picking up pieces that need to be fixed (or mended, for that matter), so I'm really very pleased I found the motivation to finish this one. :)

  2. Ah, the feeling of accomplishment that's doubly earned when you make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. Seriously, I've been wanting one of these simple cotton day dresses for years, and this is beautiful. The skirts are perfect!

    1. Thank you! :) It *is* more satisfying than a project that goes perfectly beginning to end...not that I would know anything about that, haha.

  3. It looks great. I didn't notice any fitting issues from the photos. you did an outstanding job fixing the issues