Making a Floral 1830s Day Dress, Part Two

This is part two of making my floral 1830’s dress, part one can be read here.

Today I’ll talk about making the sleeves and doily headpiece.

The sleeves were easily the most complicated, challenging, and time consuming part of this project. The construction was pretty straight forward, but it took ages, and was a little scary since I didn’t make a mock up or anything. I kind of lucked out, to be honest.

I started with the easiest bits – the bands that would go around the upper arms and the cuffs. These were basic rectangles that had to be hand stitched closed, or hemmed.


 Finished cuffs – I planned to line these later on, so the unfinished edges didn’t matter.


 Finished bands for the upper arms – I whip stitched all of these closed.


 Once that was done I began work on the sleeves. Since the sleeves were pretty tricky I made a lot of notes – this is what my scrap “planning” paper looks like. I ended up doing things differently since I didn’t have enough fabric for my original plan.

I’m a pretty “in my head” type of person but I would highly suggest using scrap paper and sketches to plan things out and mark measurements before cutting.


 I started by making a base for the upper sleeve. This would be cut from muslin, then linen would be pleated over top of it.


After cutting out the pattern I marked where each layer of pleats would be.


Then I set those aside and drafted the gigantic pieces of linen that were going to be pleated down. These were huge – and this is the scaled down pattern, they were originally going to be larger but I didn’t have enough fabric.

DSC_5932 I marked out the rows of pleating on the back of these too. The plan is that once these are gathered down the lines will be identical to the ones on the sleeve base.


After many hours of gathering and pleating they were done! I matched the markings up and sewed the linen panels onto the muslin base.


I set those aside and drafted the remainder of the sleeve. The size of these were very dependent on how much fabric I had left. The shape was really simple and easy to draft, It’s basically a giant rectangle that is slightly larger and rounded at the base (near the cuffs).

This is half the sleeve pattern, it gets cut on a fold.


After the sleeves were cut out I marked out the seams (one inch wide to allow for french seams) and where they would be pleated.

DSC_5940Once I was done pleating and gathering the bottoms of each sleeve I sewed them onto the cuffs.


Then I sewed in the cuff lining, which is a folded strip of muslin.


The tops were gathered too – then these were sewn onto the upper arm panels that I made earlier.


 It looks like it might be done, but it’s not! These still needed to have the bands sewn on.


I decided to change the band placement – as much as I love the original dress, I think the bands are strangely close together, and I like the way they look separated much more.


And then I sewed bias tape onto the very tops, this way once the french seams were done every bit of the sleeve would be finished.


I pinned it onto my dress form to see how it all looked together, and I was very pleased! I had worried it may look like a tortured curtain, so seeing it look like a pretty dress instead was a pleasant surprise.

DSC_6029 The next (and nearly final) step was sewing everything together. The sleeves were stitched on first, then the bodice and skirt were sewn together, and finally the lining was sewn in. This is probably then nicest garment I’ve ever made quality wise – everything is finished really nicely, and i’m quite proud of that!


I stitched in the zipper and it was finished! I realize zippers did not exist back then, but this zipper is sewn in such a way that it is not visible from back of the garment. I went with it for the sake of convenience and overall appearance – I don’t really trust my ability to hide buttons or hooks.





The dress was finished but I felt like something was missing. I wanted to make a matching headpiece, like some sort of bonnet. This was a bit of a challenge considering I had nothing but scraps leftover, and no matching material.

I was clueless over what to do, so I decided to consult one of my birthday gifts – this fantastic book.

I  gave up on my bonnet idea almost instantly when I came across this image (fig. 255) I realize this is from the 1850s but the book (and the bit of research I did) says this style was first worn in 1837 – so hopefully it isn’t too strange and inaccurate wearing something similar with a dress from the late 30’s.


 To make it I started by draping a piece of cotton over a foam wig head.


Then I took it off the wig head, ironed it, and turned it into a very rough paper pattern.


Then I used that as a base for my real pattern, which ended up being seven pieces laid over a two piece base.


I cut the base from a sturdy piece of startched material – i’m pretty sure it’s some sort of cotton sateen.


To get the fabric for the rest of the pieces, I had to do some disassembly! I originally made a ruffle for the bodice, but didn’t care for how it looked. I was really annoyed since I wasted so  much time and fabric on something that would probably get thrown away – but now i’m glad, since the ruffle provided enough fabric to make this.

Each layer was trimmed with small scalloped lace. I like how it looks, but from a distance it almost looks like the fabric is fraying, so it may not have been the best choice.

DSC_6038Then these were sewn onto the sateen base, along with some cotton eyelet trim.


I repeated the process on the other side.


I used my remaining bits of fabric and eyelet trim to make little ruffles, and cotton sateen from another project that kind of (not really) matches to make the ribbon.


Done, yay!


Here are a few worn photos – unfortunately upon trying it on I realized the off the shoulder design restricts mobility just enough that I couldn’t zip myself into it all the way, and it looks a little odd in the bodice because of that.

I also need to make a proper petticoat to make for underneath this dress.  A larger one that can support this amount of fabric.

Once I go that the dress will have a nicer shape, and the hem won’t drag.




Total Cost: $36 – the fabric was thirty-five, and the zipper was one dollar. The lace and muslin were a gift.

Total Time: 28 hours, made in four days – Twenty three of the hours were spent hand sewing, i’m sure.

I think it’s quite lovely! I’m not sure if it’s my favorite thing i’ve ever made, but it’s pretty high up there. Definitely my favorite thing i’ve made so far this year.

Thanks for reading!

13 thoughts on “Making a Floral 1830s Day Dress, Part Two

  1. Ann says:

    I guess you’re lucky no one from the 1830’s is around to be shocked at the headwear ;)). This is such a delicate and sweet dress and the craftsmanship is drool worthy. I don’t know how you can put so much of yourself into these truly incredible gowns and then not have a promenade to stroll down so the peasants could gawk at you. Once again you’ve hit it outta the park.

  2. Karen K. says:

    Just beautiful! Bless you for the patience to hand sew!! I try to avoid it at all costs. You did a remarkable job on this dress, absolutely lovely! I adore the headpiece too!!

  3. Charity says:

    That is beautiful! I love the original, but I like your version even better. I love a garment that is well-finished on the inside, and yours is right up at the top of that list. And with the headpiece… I love it. =)

    • Angela Clayton says:

      If you google the terms “Cartridge pleats” and “knife pleats” you should be able to find tutorials. This is a progress blog, not a how to blog, so I don’t tend to go in depth about the basics.

  4. Frances Fowler says:

    You are truly gifted in a “spatial” sense. People who think like you are very good at being able to see dimensions and how pieces fit and lock together to construct your object of choice 🙂

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