Historical Costuming: 1840s day dress and bonnet

1840s Day Dress and Bonnet

After what seems like years I’ve finally finished my 1840s costume. I completed the dress months ago but the bonnet languished unfinished until recently.

1840s Day Dress and Bonnet

Underneath all of this, I’m wearing my Victorian undergarments (including four petticoats!), silk stockings and brown leather ballet flats (not exactly period accurate but close enough for now).

Let’s talk about this dress:

1840s Day Dress and Bonnet

The pattern is Laughing Moon Mercantile #114 with some minor adjustments. I made View B but with the flat back of View C. I added velvet ribbon on the sleeves based on some extant dress which I can no longer find online. The sleeves of View B are actually three layers (difficult to see in this print), the uppermost layer is pleated three times, hence three rows of ribbon.

1840s Day Dress and Bonnet

The rose print fabric came from Joann. Is it period accurate? Not exactly, but I have seen red and white cotton extant dresses from the time period.

1840s Day Dress and Bonnet

I also had to sew several more rows of gathers in the center “fan” front at the waist to rein in all that excess fabric. From other reviews I have read, this seems to be a common fix.

1840s Day Dress and Bonnet

Other than that, the dress fit me quite well out of the envelope with the exception of some ripples on the back. Not sure if that is due to my corset or if I simply need to slice off some of the length in the back.

1840s Day Dress and Bonnet

If I were to make this pattern again in View B I would choose a much thinner fabric. The fabric I used was too thick at the armhole seam (this style has very dropped shoulders). With added piping, that seam had 5 layers in it!

1840s Day Dress and Bonnet

The skirt is cartridge pleated. I did this so long ago now, back when I was a beginner at costuming. If I were to do it again, I’d make my pleats smaller and tighter.

1840s Day Dress and Bonnet

The dress closes in back with hooks and eyes so you need help to put it on.

1840s Day Dress and Bonnet

This “coal scuttle” bonnet is what kept me from finishing this costume. It seemed a daunting task to create an entire buckram and wire framed bonnet from scratch but it wasn’t that difficult to sew when I actually sat down to do it. The pattern is Timely Tresses’ Ada Gray mid 1840s bonnet. It’s mostly hand sewn.

1840s Day Dress and Bonnet

The main fabric is ivory silk taffeta from some website I don’t remember now. The ribbon is also from Timely Tresses. The feather and vintage velvet flowers are from Etsy. The body of the bonnet is lined with linen and gathered white lace. The bravolet (the little skirt in back) is lined in net.

1840s Day Dress and Bonnet

The date I was going for with this outfit is 1847 which is right around the time Texas joined the Union. These pics were taken on a short overnight trip to Leakey, Texas on the Frio River in the Texas Hill Country. I might be able to wear this outfit to some kind of Texas history event but for now, it’s just another fun costume to have.

1840s Day Dress and Bonnet

Busy Busy January

I’ve been neglecting the blog in favor of Instagram this month. I haven’t finished many projects but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been sewing. So so much sewing… and drafting and cleaning and planning, etc. As a little re-cap, here are just a few of the things I’ve been working on lately…

Blank Slate Sewing Team

Blank Slate Denver Hack

Earlier this month as part of the Blank Slate Sewing Team I shared my Denver Sweatshirt hack over at MellySews.com. I loved this gold painted knit that I used for my shirt, it’s the perfect mix of sparkly and subdued.

Cleaning Up My Sewing Room

I am the worst when it comes to cleaning my sewing room but it had reached a breaking point. I spent a good day throwing out trash, organizing fabric, and returning long lost pattern pieces to their envelopes.

Then I brought to one of my sewing group meetings several boxes full of patterns, fabric, and old me-made clothes to give away.

All the fabrics were leftovers from previous projects. You know how it goes, the pattern calls for three and a half yards but you manage to squeeze the pieces into two and a quarter. As for the remainder, well, there are only so many Scout Tees a person can make.

goodbyedresses

Sometimes a project doesn’t turn out the way you’d have liked. Other times you find yourself never wearing a garment you made for whatever reason. The worst is when your body changes but your clothes aren’t suited to alterations.

Giving away clothes that I’ve made is always difficult, especially when I don’t know if the people at Goodwill will put my clothes on the rack or send them directly to the cotton recyclers.

I didn’t want that fate to befall some of my beloved dresses so I let my friends have first dibs. Luckily most of my clothes were adopted into loving new homes including the above four dresses. The rest will take their chances at the thrift store.

Vintage Patterns for Sale

vintagepatternscollage

In my effort to organize I’ve come to the conclusion that having a full dresser drawer of vintage patterns isn’t doing me any good, especially if I can’t use them all.

So I’ve reserved some of my favorites and I’m slowly adding patterns to my Etsy shop for sale. They’re mostly 60s and 70s. I have a bunch of 80s patterns that I’ll probably sell as one big lot seeing as most people don’t get that excited over 80s designs.

Making Bias Tape from Scraps

biastapesAmong my leftover fabric were several scraps under half a yard that seemed unusable. But then I got an idea – bias tape!

Most of the fabrics were so cut up that I couldn’t get a good size square or rectangle to do continuous bias tape so I had to do it the old fashioned way – cutting long strips and sewing the short ends together.

I wrapped three yard lengths around pieces of cut up gift boxes and now they’re for sale at Me & Ewe. I made 20+ bundles and still have tons more fabric I could use.

Historical Costuming – Late 1880s Bustle Dress

lobstertail_bustle

But this is the big project that’s taken up so much of my time.

If when I complete it, this will be my fastest costume make to date. A full outfit from the ground up in less than a month (well, I’m cheating, I already had the chemise and corset) including a gigantic bustle, petticoat, underskirt, overskirt, fully lined bodice and trimmed hat!

I’m already off to a good start. One day I made my lobster tail bustle. The next I made the petticoat to go over it. The third day I tested the fit of my bodice then redrafted the pieces into a new design.

bustledress_progress

At this point I’ve cut all the pieces that I can from the fabric I have and I am now waiting on my velvet to arrive for the trim.

Oh, and did I mention that I still have to make a hat!??!?

I keep reminding myself, “It will be finished. It will be beautiful. It will be finished. It will…”

Late 1780s Robe en Chemise Costume

1780s Chemise a la reine

When I tell people I like making historical costumes they always ask me, “Where are you going to wear that?” Well, guess what? I finally wore a costume to an event! I went to Dallas for the DFW Costumer’s Guild‘s annual Georgian Picnic. It’s a gathering of costuming enthusiasts where we dress up in 18th-century through Regency era clothes, eat, play games, socialize, and generally have a fun time.

22918496420_25d49b55c0_k(from Festive Attyre’s Flickr album)

Here’s everyone at the picnic arranged in a general timeline – earlier styles on the left, later on the right. I’m right in the middle.

Normally autumn weather in Texas is mild but this year the day turned out to be quite chilly. Unfortunately the costume I chose to make and wear was more of a summer dress: the soft, breezy, classic white Robe en Chemise (or chemise dress or chemise a la reine).

marie-antoinette-vigee-le-brun1

A quick history lesson: when the French public first saw this portrait of Marie Antoinette by Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun in the early 1780s it caused quite a scandal. People thought she was in her underwear because the fluffy white dress resembled a chemise (hence the name “the queen’s chemise”).

But the style caught on — with variations of course. The earliest incarnations consisted of long rectangles of cotton muslin gathered on drawstrings and tied with a sash or ribbon belt. Later they often had fixed gathers into a waistband, long slim sleeves, a structured back bodice, and sometimes they were made in other fabrics like silk or stripes.

P133-2T

The chemise dress was transitional style between the time of the extreme rococo dresses earlier in the century and the sleek, columnar dresses post-French revolution.

If you’d like to see some examples check out my Pinterest board.

My Dress:

1780s Chemise a la reine

I used the Robe en Chemise pattern from Laughing Moon Mercantile.

The fabric is some cheap cotton I bought from Fabric Wholesale Direct. It’s certainly not the best quality but it is light, loosely woven, and semi-sheer.

I made the version with the full gathers in front and back, low neckline, long sleeves, and no train. I added double ruffles at the neckline for maximum floofiness.

It is mostly machine sewn with the exception of hand blind hems on the sleeves and skirt, and rolled hems on the ruffles.

I bought some taffeta from Pure Silks that I ripped it into 6in wide strips and sewed a sash that’s about 5 yards long.

Under layers:

Underneath the dress I’m wearing two 18th century style white muslin petticoats (like the middle one I’m wearing here).

1780s Chemise a la reine

Below that are my 18th-century strapless stays and my regency era chemise.

Accessories:

I made a short, coral bead necklace — a popular accessory in the late 18th/early 19th century.

1780s Chemise a la reine

I also have on ivory silk stockings and these American Duchess shoes with buckles.

1780s Chemise a la reine

I had decorated a cheap straw hat to go with the outfit, but I don’t love it. It’s too heavy and limp to keep its shape and because of the windy weather, the feathers kept falling out even though I had stitched down both them and the matching blue sash. I ditched it for most of the picnic.

Hair and make-up:

1780s Chemise a la reine

I bought a wonderful cosmetic “starter set” from Litttle Bits on Etsy. They recreate actual cosmetic recipes from the era.

For hair, I attempted to do a “hedgehog” style which is basically an 18th-century white girl afro. I slept in foam rollers to curl my hair, then teased the hell out of it. I used the Litttle Bits pomatum and powder to add texture and lighten the color, pinned my hair up in back a bit, and doused my whole head in enough hairspray to light a house on fire.

1780s Chemise a la reine

It’s not as big as I would like. For once my hair is actually a little too long to do a historical hairstyle properly.

Well, this post is long enough so I’ll wrap it up. Thanks to all the DFWCG people who were so nice and welcoming to me. I had a great time and I’m already looking forward to future events.