Psychedelic 1830’s Dress Completion and Debut

The fabric has arrived!  Time to begin cutting …

To get the period look with the fabric pattern cut on the diagonal for the fronts and backs, here is a picture of my favorite way to match patterns.  Cut out the first piece, then lay it upside down and match the pattern.  Then cut around it to get 2 pieces that are mirror images of each other:

Matching pattern on the diagonal
Matching pattern on the diagonal

Here is the front sewn together with the matching diagonal pattern:

Bodice Front
Bodice Front

The pattern piece for the fashion fabric front and back included extra for a gathered “bertha” type look – this fabric was too heavy for that design, and I did not feel like figuring out a pleating pattern.  So I cut the bodice the same as the lining.  To give it some character I finished the neckline with double piping (which is made the same way as single piping – just sew a second row of piping after the first.

Here is a great trick with piping – use a 1/2 inch metal stay as a guide to cut the piping strip so that it has exactly 1/2 seam allowance, making it easier to apply.  You do need a rotary cutter to do this:

Using a 1/2 inch metal stay to cut piping seam allowance.
Using a 1/2 inch metal stay to cut piping seam allowance.

Despite buying special piping feet for my machine, I still find it easier to apply piping with a zipper foot:

Sewing piping to waist with a zipper foot - the 1/2 seam allowance makes it easy to line up.
Sewing piping to waist with a zipper foot – the 1/2 seam allowance makes it easy to line up.

I cut interlining for the sleeves out of black cotton organdy, which is thin but stiff and should help the sleeves to poof nicely.

Black cotton organdy sleeve interlining.
Black cotton organdy is stiff, thin, and not scratchy when worn.

When I tried on the bodice I found one alteration – the sides of the neckline were sticking up a bit, so I took in the shoulder seams 1/2 inch on the outside edge.  The other issue I ran into was the sleeves, which I fully admit was my fault!  I did not measure the circumference of the narrow part of the sleeve to make sure it would fit my tree trunk arms.  When I tried it on I could not get them to close.  But it was close, so I will explain how I unfucked the sleeves.

There was length to spare, so I trimmed 1 1/2 inches off the bottom of each sleeve eliminating 1 1/2 inches of not-fitting sleeve.

I reduce the seam allowances to 1/4 inch for the lower part of the sleeve, gradually easing back to the normal 1/2 inch where the full part of the sleeve is.  This added 1/2 inch to the circumference and it just barely fit.

So to prevent gap-osis, I added a placket.  The top side of the sleeve opening is finished with the piping in the sleeve seam:

Piping on sleeve opening.
Piping on sleeve opening.

The under side of the opening would normally be turned under and hemmed.  But there was only 1/4 inch seam allowance there now.  So I cut a piece of fabric the length of the sleeve opening by about 2 inches, folded it in half, and sewed it to the right side of the other sleeve opening, using 1/4 inch seam allowance:

Adding sleeve placket
Adding sleeve placket

The placket is then pressed flat outwards, so that the piping side of the sleeve opening covers it:

Sleeve with placket.
Sleeve with placket.

When closed, you cannot see the placket but it is there, anchoring things and preventing gaps:

Sleeve with opening closed.
Sleeve with opening closed.

Then I finished the bottoms of the sleeves with piping.  1830’s is all about piping.  I piped the sleeve seams, the waistline, the neckline, and the armscye seams.  The bodice closes with hooks and eyes in the back.

The skirt was easy – just cut 2 panels long enough for the hem plus 1/2 seam allowance at the top.    The pattern also had a cutting guide for the top of the front skirt panel, to scoop it out and make the skirt slightly shorter in front.  I find skirts always look better that way, so I took advantage of the template.  I pleated the waist (using Clinton Pleat Maker) and sewed the skirt directly to the bodice, with piping in the seam, per the pattern instructions.

Here are some photos of the finished dress at our event, Christmas At the Village (Old Economy Village) on Dec 12, 2015.  I wore the lace pelerine with it and a large black velvet Romantic era bonnet that I made last year.  The weather was beautiful – it was almost too hot outside for the muff!  Thank you to Janet for the photos!

OEV Christmas At the Village, Pittsburgh Historical Costume Society Outing in the Grainery
OEV Christmas At the Village, Pittsburgh Historical Costume Society Outing in the Grainery
OEV Christmas At the Village, Pittsburgh Historical Costume Society Outing outside of Kitchen
OEV Christmas At the Village, Pittsburgh Historical Costume Society Outing outside of Kitchen

 

Last Minute 1830’s Dress in Psychedelic Cotton Print – Planning and Mock Up

Fabric has arrived!  Now I can take a larger photo of it, to give a better idea of what it really looks like.  This is oriented vertically to show what the pattern will look like once made up into the skirt:

Reproduction 1830's Cotton Print, "Merchant's Wife" line by Terry Thompson for RJR Fabrics
Reproduction 1830’s Cotton Print, “Merchant’s Wife” line by Terry Thompson for RJR Fabrics

Last night I began the struggle of deciding the details.  Really the first part boils down to two decisions:

Decision #1: Which pattern to use.  I have two patterns:

Truly Victorian (TV455) 1830's Romantic Era Dress
Truly Victorian (TV455) 1830’s Romantic Era Dress
Period Impressions (440) 1830's Day Dress and Pelerine
Period Impressions (440) 1830’s Day Dress and Pelerine

The Period Impressions pattern is more of the look I am going for, but the Truly Victorian patterns are much more professionally drafted and take less time to fit.  I did a quick and dirty mockup of the Period Impressions pattern and the fit was quite off – the arm holes were waaaay too big and the neckline bunched up when the back was pinned closed.  It would take time and possibly 2 additional mockups to fit it, so I decided to use the Truly Victorian pattern and alter it to look more like the Period Impressions.  I will also make the pelerine from the Period Impressions pattern, but at a later date since I am pressed for time.  For the first wearing I plan to wear a lace pelerine.

The primary issue with the Truly Victorian pattern is the waistline.  The pattern has two possible waistlines – either at the natural waist or a pointed V.  My understanding has always been that 1830’s dresses were slightly above the natural waistline.  After looking at a lot of originals on Pinterest I came to the conclusion that the higher waistline is the early part of the decade – like 1830 – 1832, and after that the waistlines dropped to the natural waist as drafted in the pattern.  Since my other two 1830’s dresses have high waistlines I think I will do this one with a more natural waistline.  I want to wear a solid color dark belt with it to visually demarcate the place where the waist ends and the sleeves begin.  I debated whether or not I should add a waistband, but the end decided to just leave it as a straight piped waistline.  I shortened the waist 1/2 inch, and added 1/2 to the neckline in the back and on the sides (the front was fine).  That is all I am changing on the pattern.

Decision #2 – Which Corset to Fit Over

If it were not for the fact that we are going English Country Dancing that night, it would be an easy decision.  I would fit over a regular Victorian corset since I don’t actually have a waist.  A waist is a terrible thing to waste, and I don’t have one without a good fitting corset.  On the other hand, my regency corset made recently in Jennifer Rosbrugh’s Regency Corset class is correct for this era and it is so comfortable – it feels like pajamas!  But the trade off is it does not provide any waist reduction.  This is not an issue wearing Regency and other high waisted styles.  I just hesitate to plan this dress in a way that I know I will be unhappy with in the end.  So right now I am thinking of a compromise – fit with the Victorian corset laced more loosely than I normally wear it.

When I fitted the mockup I made an odd discovery!  On Friday I went to a Civil War event and wore this same corset, a new one I made recently covered in pink silk (I love this corset BTW, and will feature it in an upcoming “battle of the corsets).  Since I was expecting some fitting issues with my dress I laced it down as tightly as I dared in a relatively new corset, and still felt like a stuffed sausage in the dress.  I barely got it hooked.  My waist measured 35”.  Fast forward to Sunday, when I put the corset on again and laced it so that it felt stable but not tight.  I measured the waist – 34″!  The only explanation I can think of is water retention.  Maybe I will try taking a mild diuretic the morning before the next event.

On another tangent – as I looked at these gowns I was struck by the similarity in shape to the 1630’s.  There are many periods of history where the basic silhouette is the same as another era (Regency/Edwardian, 1780s bustle / 1880s bustle) but I didn’t register this one until I was deep in the design phase of this project:

1830 vs 1630
1830 vs 1630
Left Image:  Dress 1832, American, made of cotton at Met Museum.
Right Image: Wenceslaus Hollar (European-born English artist, 1607-1677) Ornatus Muliebris Anglicanus; Print made by 1640. British Library.

Last Minute 1830’s Dress in Psychedelic Cotton Print

We are planning an 1830’s Christmas event on Dec 12 for our costume group at Old Economy Village.  Afterwards we are going English Country Dancing!  Several ladies are making new dresses for this, and all the talk about fabrics has sucked me in.  I have two 1830’s dresses and both are over 17 years old.  I think it is time for a new one.

I started by looking over my Pinterest board for 1830’s.  Also I saved a link from Samantha’s blog (Couture Courtesan) with a dress I really like from this period.  It is more late 1820’s, but the basic design idea still applies:

Beautiful reproduction 1820s Dress by Couture Courtesan
Beautiful reproduction 1820s Dress by Couture Courtesan

What I like about this dress – the striped fabric, the bodice cut on the diagonal, and the trim around the bottom of the skirt.  I really like the striped gowns – here are some originals:

Circa 1836 cotton dress, England. Via National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.
Circa 1836 cotton dress, England. Via National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.
Dress 1832, American, made of cotton at Met Museum
Dress 1832, American, made of cotton at Met Museum

So what fabric to buy?  Nothing modest or matronly will do, I want to be as loud as the wallpaper in the Rapp House …

Rapp House wallpaper from Adelphi - YES you can have this in your living room too!!!
Rapp House wallpaper from Adelphi – YES you can have this in your living room too!!!

These prints are so ugly they’re beautiful!  While looking for some fabric ideas for a friend, I blew 45 minutes on Sunday looking at Reproduction Fabrics and I found it: the loudest 1830’s print I think I have ever seen:

Reproduction 1830's Cotton Print, "Merchant's Wife" line by Terry Thompson for RJR Fabrics
Reproduction 1830’s Cotton Print, “Merchant’s Wife” line by Terry Thompson for RJR Fabrics

I can make up this dress fast as a print that busy doesn’t really need any trim!  I am thinking of wearing a lace pelerine with it, like this:

Wool dress, England 1836 - 1838 at Victoria and Albert Museum
Wool dress, England 1836 – 1838 at Victoria and Albert Museum

This is the one I have – hopefully it will look good:

My lace pelerine
My lace pelerine

For the pattern, I have this great 1830’s pattern from Truly Victorian that I have not used yet:

TV455

Not sure how that pleated bertha collar will work with this fabric – we will have to wait and see!