The Sunflower Gown : Making a 1830’s Dress

Last Thursday I drove by the prettiest sunflower field, and was overwhelmed with the desire to make something inspired by it.

I also wanted to make something that could be photographed in the field.

Unfortunately, sunflower season is really short and I didn’t expect them to be around for another week.

Which meant I had to make a dress that week.

So I did!

I did the pattern drafting on Friday, and actual construction started on Saturday. I had the dress and a headpiece done and ready to be photographed by Sunday evening.

I think it turned out pretty well for two days of work!


The idea for this was very much shaped by the fabric I had in my stash. In fact, at first I didn’t think I had any fabric that would be suitable for a sunflowery historical gown. I was planning on making a few 1950’s pieces in autumn tones that would suit the backdrop, and that is what I spent a good chunk of Thursday/Friday working on. But the further along I got, the more I wanted to make something historical instead.

So I went through my stash and came across a recently purchased silk shantung. I would lovingly call this fabric baby poop colored…But I still bought it, because it has a very strong gold/green shift, which is striking when light hits it.

It isn’t exactly sunflower colored – but it has yellow, green and black tones in it which is reminiscent.

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This was my original sketch, along with some skirt variations.

I designed this without researching references, but I did look to Costume in Detail* for construction notes regarding 1830’s dresses, which ended up being very helpful!

sunflowers (3 of 36)

The parts I was most excited about (like the big sleeves and gold petal overlays) ended up in the finished dress. But other plans had to be dropped due to fabric and time limitations.

Remember, I only had two days, and six yards of fabric, which isn’t a lot for a historical gown!

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The first idea I dropped, was the plan of having a pleated bertha collar. I decided it took too much fabric and time to create. Instead I draped and off the shoulder bodice which was shaped with gathering at the front and shoulder.

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I made a mockup for this, then got everything transferred to paper. I also drafted the sleeves right away, which is rare for me. I tend to leave sleeves for last (as in, after the whole bodice is done) because I hate them so much. But there was no time to procrastinate!

sunflowers (32 of 36)

sunflowers (31 of 36)

The bodice pattern was cut out twice – once from a floral cotton which will serve as lining, and again from the silk. Boning channels were stitched into the seam allowance at the sides of the lining, and at the center seam.

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I stitched the layers together, with the right sides facing each other, all the way across the neckline.sunflowers (5 of 36)

I ironed the lining inward and stitched around the neckline by hand. At this point the side seams were still left open. And I wanted to leave them open until after sewing the sleeves on. Which meant I had to make sleeves.

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I cut the sleeves out from a layer of black cotton sateen, and a layer of floral embroidered glitter mesh.

I’m SO glad I remembered that I had this fabric in my stash. I don’t own a lot of black material and was quite frantic trying to find something for the sleeves that had a lot of texture, but wasn’t too thick or heavy (my previous candidate was velvet, which is both thick and heavy).

This ended up being perfect, and I had just enough left to work as an overlay.

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The sleeves were gathered down by hand. Originally I wanted these to be pleated, but I thought having pleated sleeves with a gathered bodice would look strange. So I gathered them instead.sunflowers (9 of 36)

I was going to pad these to get the amount of volume I wanted, but I decided to try stitching ribbon in first to see if that would help. I’m not sure what this is called (sleeve stays, maybe?) but it is often shown in sewing books.

The ribbon forces the sleeves to stay a certain length, which prevents them from sliding down the arm and losing their poof. These sleeves were about 13″ long in the center. And the longest piece of ribbon is 7″.

I didn’t have high hopes that this would work based on my test fitting…but it totally did! No need for sleeve pads here!


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But the sleeves weren’t done! I wanted the gold fabric to lay overtop of the puffed portion, almost like flower petals.

These petals were created with half circles of fabric, in various sizes.

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Each half circle was folded in half, and stitched together to form a quarter circle shape. The quarters were turned right side out and ironed. Then the rounded edge was gathered down by hand until it was an inch or two long.

Five of these will be used on each sleeve, which the longest petal at the center of the shoulder.

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This was stitched onto the top edge of the sleeve. I also finished the lower edge of the sleeves with matching gold piping.

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The lower edge looks a bit messy from the interior, and the top edge is kind of…uh…girthy? It’s almost a cm thick at points! So I decided not to finish this edge, since any stitching or binding would just add to that.

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Even though it was quite thick, my sewing machine stitched through it like a champ.

Once the sleeves were on, I sewed up the side seams. I also added boning to the front seam (it stops just below the gathering) and the side seams. Leaving me with this!

It looked so much better than I had expected it would – which really got me feeling excited about the project!

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Though the sleeves were the hard part of this project, they were made easier by the fact I had a clear vision. Where my thoughts towards the skirt were murky at best.

I knew I wanted some visual interest on the skirt – I recently made two 1840’s dresses with plain rectangle skirts, and I’m a bit bored with them. Not the shape, just the lack of trimming.

And the 30’s were famous from elaborately trimmed skirts, so I felt this project would be incomplete without something.

My first idea was pintucking the skirt, then decorating it with sunflowers. But the skirt would have been too short if I did that (I was working with the fabrics horizontal width for the skirt, about 45″).

Then I decided to trim the hem with large triangles, made from black velvet and piped with matching shantung. These could be stitched to the underside of the hem and turn outward, like petals. They could also serve as frames for hand made sunflowers. This idea is seen in my original sketch.

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I was pretty committed to this idea, so much so that I wasted 1/2 yard of my precious silk to create the piping. I also cut out a dozen velvet triangles, and  poly shantung for lining.

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The piping was stitched to the lining, with the wrong sides facing outward. Then velvet was pinned on top with the edges tucked inward, covering the frayed edges of the shantung.

These looked OK, but I didn’t love it. The velvet lacked texture since it was so dark, and the piping blended into the skirt. I thought it was too harsh and clashed with the bodice. sunflowers (33 of 36)

So I decided to dress the skirt up with lace instead. I had 12 yards of 7″ wide chantilly lace that I bought on etsy a while back. I figured I could sacrifice a few yards for this, and still have enough leftover for a civil war era gown (which I’m pretty sure was my original intention for it).

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Despite my intentions for something different, the skirt for this was just a rectangle. But I had a reason for it! On top of fabric limitations, this fabric has a very different sheen and coloring depending on the grain line. Cutting the skirt as a rectangle means the grain is the same all the way across, and ensures the sheen will look even.

The rectangle for this was 3.5 yards wide, and the full width of the fabric.

I marked a line two inches away from the selvedge, and ironed the lower edge up so it touched that line.

sunflowers (17 of 36)sunflowers (18 of 36)

Then I hemmed it with a super sloppy, very wide catch stitch.

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The chantilly lace was placed 6.5″ away from the finished hem, and stitched on by hand with running stitches. sunflowers (21 of 36)

The top edge was gathered down by hand to match the waist of the bodice, then stitched on by machine.

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After that, I turned the back edges inward. I had about 1.5″ of allowance on either edge, but I wanted them to overlap so I wouldn’t have to add a modesty panel. I also wanted to stitch boning into both edges without any visible topstitching.

I honestly don’t even remember how I went about doing this, but I know the end result was far from symmetrical and not too pretty in terms of construction. But it looked okay from the outside…which is all I can really ask for when making a dress in two days!

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I stitched hooks and bars into the back to serve as closures.sunflowers (26 of 36)

I also added a belt. I debated about this a lot, but strongly felt the dress needed something to break up the bodice and skirt. I pinned a velvet waistband on first, but wanted something with more texture. So I ended up making a waistband from black cotton sateen, then fussy cutting bits of beaded lace out and stitching them on.

This looks a bit messy up close since the lace has a large wandering floral pattern, and really isn’t made to be cut into tiny pieces. But from a distance it still has visible texture and adds a bit of sparkly!

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Now with my limited fabric and time remaining, I decided to make sunflowers. These were created from dozens of 4″ wide circles. Each one was cut out, then ironed into quarters. Like with the sleeves, the curved edge is gathered down.

Except this time they were sewn on to a circular base of interfacing.

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The bases were covered with velvet, and more butchered black lace. I wanted the centers to have a lot of texture to mimic sunflowers, but I didn’t have time (or enough black beads) to embellish the centers fully.

The lace was a way to quickly get the effect I wanted, and it worked perfectly!

The lace had to be stitched on by hand, and while I was at it I stitched on some larger black beads, and some gold sequins. The sequins were a random addition because I love sequins. But I’m so glad I decided to use them, the contrast of the gold against the black makes them look lit up, regardless of the lighting.sunflowers (22 of 36)

I pinned the sunflowers onto the dress while it was on my form, before sewing up the back seam. This way I could remove the dress from the form and stitch the flowers on while the skirt was completely flat.

Even though that made the sewing process easier, I didn’t do the best job of this. They were *really* roughly stitched on with whip stitches at the underside of the fabric. I tried to stitch through the edge of the interfacing centers, since that is the heaviest part of the flowers.

I wish the stitching was cleaner, but I’m actually pleased with the placement of the stitches. Since I didn’t tack down the petals, they flip outward slightly, making them look more natural. sunflowers (29 of 36)sunflowers (28 of 36)

That was the dress done! But I knew I wanted to make a headpiece too.

This ended up consisting of two gathered strips of the black mesh, and a bunch of the small flower “petals”. These were stitched into a a single strip.

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That I hot glued onto a headband and backed with boning and felt. Am I proud of the quantity of hot glue on this? No. But it looked good in photos and took less than 10 minutes to make.

The “finishing touches” included pinning my petticoats so they hung above my ankle. And pinning fabric sunflowers onto my funtasma shoes* so it was less obvious that I don’t have any 1830’s appropriate footwear.

1830’s footwear is supposedly the easiest to fake, since they wore square toed flats. But I do not own a single pair of flats because they make my feet look massive.


And that was it! Also for those curious, this was worn over my recently completed 1840’s corset based on a pattern from Norah Waugh’s Corsets and Crinolines*. I have a couple  photos of this on instagram (here, here, and here) and I can vouch for this pattern being awesome – I love the shape of it, and it is pretty comfy!

For petticoats, I wore a cotton/net full length petti that I made a few years ago. It is full length, so I had to pin it up by about 6″ for this photoshoot. And that was stacked on top of two knee length tulle petticoats (specifically, this one).

I’ve been really unhappy with the volume in my other 40s/30s skirts and I thought this would be a good solution. And I was right, look at that poof!

resizeI’ll post the full photoset tomorrow.

And as always, thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed!


1830’s Plaid Pleated Dress, Photos

Today I have another set of photos to share. Much like the last photos I posted, these have an autumn theme and were taken in a pumpkin patch. I thought it would be make the perfect lighthearted backdrop for a wacky dress like this one, and it did not disappoint!

This was my first time having the whole ensemble on and I was pretty pleased with it – everything fit and was really comfortable. I was a bit concerned the petticoat would show, or that the bonnet would slip around, but neither of those were an issue.

I paired this with my regency stays that I made ages ago, and my “Victorian“* boots. Neither are particularly accurate to this period but helped achieve the silhouette I wanted. I talk more about the petticoats and the construction of this costume in these posts:

Post 1: The Bodice

Post 2: The Sleeves, Skirt, and Bonnet

Before getting into the photos I wanted to mention my last post, where I reviewed a bunch of costume reference books. If you’re interested in any of them this is the time to buy! Amazon has $10 off book purchases, and Barnes & Noble has 15% off your order, which makes the price of those pretty inspiration books a bit easier to manage!

Now onto the photos!










And some muddy boots after a long morning! Luckily none got on the dress.


And that’s it! Thanks for reading!

Making a 1840s Floral Red Dress, Part Two

I’m a few days late but here is the second part of making this floral lacy dress! Part one shows the process of making the bodice and can be read here. Today i’ll be talking about how I made the sleeves and skirt.

I went back and forth about what type of sleeves to make for this dress. I love huge frilly sleeves but the neckline of this dress has so much detail that big sleeves would take away from it. So instead I settled on small sleeves with a little bit of lace, which ended up being very similar to the ones shown in the painting I used for inspiration!

To create a pattern I measured the arm hole, measured my arm, and used a lot  of guess work when it came to the length and slopes.

I made a mock up from broadcloth and liked how they looked enough to turn them into a paper pattern which was used to cut them from my floral fabric!


I also cut the pattern from muslin. I pinned the muslin and floral fabric together, then sewed around the top and sides. This created three finished edges and saved me from making bias tape and sewing french seams later on.


I folded the fabrics inward by a half inch on the lowest edge to create the appearance of a finished edge and pressed them in place. Then I pinned lace in between the two layers.


Then the lace was into place, this is what the sleeve interior looks like! I usually don’t make sleeves that allow for this method (It can’t be done on puffy sleeves without adding a lot of bulk) which sucks because it’s so easy and looks so nice.


I did up the only remaining seam and the sleeves were done!


I sewed them in place with small straight stitches, then went around the outside with a whip stitch to make sure they are secure.


After the sleeves were done I sewed together my lining and pinned it in place. Aside from attaching the panel of buttons I think this is the only machine sewing on this costume.


The lining was completely hand sewn in place. Once that was done the bodice was finished! The lining on this isn’t perfect but it’s pretty close, it’s the damn basque waist that always screws me up.




Since the bodice is done it’s time to talk about the skirt! Like my last two 19th century dresses, the skirt is made up of one big rectangle. Because I didn’t have that much fabric this skirt is only one hundred inches wide, which makes it look a little weird over petticoats.


I marked out the hem line in pen.


I did a sort of strange hem on this dress, the selvage was rolled over and basted in place, then the new edge of the fabric was rolled over to create a two inch hem. I used a cross stitch for securing this hem, since it’s kind of fun to do and you don’t see any stitches from the exterior of the garment!


Then I gathered the top of the skirt. They aren’t large enough to be called cartridge pleats, but I used the same method just with quarter inch wide stitches. There are two rows of gathers, each a half inch apart. I left sixteen inches ungathered in the front, which was turned into a four inch wide box pleat.


I pinned the skirt onto the bodice and sewed it in place with a whip stitch. This took ages and I ran into so many problems, my  thread was so tangly and broke a half dozen times during this process.


After the skirt was stitched on I sewed it up with a french seam, I left a six inch opening in the back to make this dress easy to get into. The opening closes with five small snaps.

Once the back was all figured out the dress was done! I’m really pleased with this dress. It’s so girly and lacy, just looking at it makes me smile. I’m also proud that I managed to make this dress from start to finish in forty eight hours, without sacrificing the quality of the finished garment.

I think I might do more forty eight hour challenges in the future, hopefully they will all be as satisfying as this one!

I have a whole bunch of photos of this dress laying flat, but no worn images just yet. I’ll post those next week along with a write up on how I made a matching headpiece.





Thanks for reading!

Making a 1840s Floral Red Dress, Part One

This project was really spontaneous. Usually i’m a planner and I think about things for days or weeks before starting on them, but this project is an exception. I was feeling overwhelmed by other projects and wanted a break, but I still wanted to be productive. So I decided to make something new, and to try and make it from start to finish in forty eight hours!

I succeeded and in two days I had a fabulous [18]40’s dress.

The dress is a bit odd. Probably because I made it on a whim and spent about five minutes planning it before I got to drafting. The skirt and fabric choices are the type you would see on a day dress, but it’s an evening style bodice, so it’s kind of all over the place. However I still think it’s really lovely and I adore the end result because it’s so girly and delicate!

The original inspiration was this painting, I really loved the neckline and sleeves with the lace trim. I chose to use the floral home decor fabric I got many months ago in April, along with the matching buttons and a few yards of lace I bought on etsy over two years ago.


I started by pleating a panel of fabric for the collar, then draped everything around that.




When I was happy with that I removed it from the dress form and made a proper paper pattern. I’m really pleased that I managed to draft this without any seams in the front…even though front seams are more historically accurate I like how it looks without them so much more.


The first piece I tackled was the pleated neckline, because I knew it would be the most difficult part.


After cutting it out I marked all the pleat lines with a colored pencil.

DSC_8929Then pinned them into place.


I used my iron on the highest setting and a very potent starch/water mixture to make sure these would stay in place.

DSC_8933When the pleats were finished I cut each panel down to match the “finished collar size” pattern, which will be used to cut out the lining later on.

I sewed across the front edge of the panels to keep the pleats in place when sewing the front seam.


To make sure they would line up I pinned them very carefully, then used a pen and ruler to mark exactly where the seam needed to be.


I hand basted across the line I drew.


And they lined up perfectly, yay!


I repinned the panels together, then sewed the seam with my machine.  I pressed the seam “open” from the front and back to make everything really flat.


And they looked pretty damn good! Not completely perfect but pretty close.

I set aside the collar and moved on to the main part of the bodice, which is made up of three pieces.


On the back panels I sewed in loops of ribbon, my plan was that the bodice could be laced up, then closed with a false front of buttons and snaps.


Once all the pieces were sewn together the ribbon became encased in the seams.


I set my bodice aside and resumed work on the collar. The next step involved tacking the pleats down. I do this by marking out lines every three inches and pinning the pleats in place.


Then using a matching thread color and tiny whip stitches I secure the pleats together. If done right the stitches should not be visible from the front.


Once the tacking was finished I hemmed both edges.


I also hemmed the lower edge and arm holes on the bodice.


Before attaching my collar I added the lace. This lace was originally a pure, bright, blue toned white that didn’t match at all. I put it in a plastic bag with hot water and two tea bags for ten minutes until it was the ivory tone I wanted.

I draped and pinned it to the neckline until I liked how it looked, then trimmed it and repeated the process on the other side.


Here is how it looks cleaned up, just before it was sewn down.


 After the lace was sewn down I attached the pleated neckline.



Lastly I attached buttons and snaps to two strips of floral material. These serve as the closures on the bodice and were stitched on to the center back.


On the finished bodice they look like this!


Next week I’ll talk about adding the lining, making sleeves, and the skirt.

Thanks for reading!

Making a 1830’s Bonnet


For my last project (the 1837 floral dress) I really wanted to make a bonnet but didn’t have enough material. Which is why for my red dress I made sure to buy two extra yards just to make sure I had plenty left over for a fancy bonnet!

I looked all over the internet for photos of bonnets I liked  and came up with over two dozen pictures. But none of them were quite right, they were all filled with flowers, ribbons, and piled with ruffles, more flowers, and ruched panels. They were way too ornate to go with the simple dress I had created, so I decided to make up my own design!

I had no idea whatsoever how to draft a bonnet pattern so I decided to do what I usually do – drape. I set out my wig head and went at it with newsprint and tape. The end result was something like this.


Okay so it doesn’t quite look like a fantastic, elegant, bonnet that a lovely lady from the 1800s would wear. But I was somewhat confident it would all work out.

I turned that into a proper pattern, and only had to make a  few alterations to ensure everything would fit together properly.

The pattern looked really, super strange. I’m glad I didn’t try to flat draft it because the end result would have been awful!


I copied my pattern onto medium weight buckram, then very carefully cut each piece out.


I set my buckram pieces onto cotton sateen and cut roughly around them – since I was adding lining later on I wasn’t very concerned about my edges being even and precise.


I trimmed all the edges to to be around half an inch, then hand sewed the material to the underside of the buckram. This was a really terrible process and by the end of it my fingers were really sore and kind of bloody. I think buckram won this battle.


I assembled the two back pieces – luckily everything lined up really nicely and I was actually super happy with the end result! I sewed a lace ruffle onto the back of this, and used a light cotton sateen to line the interior. Unfortunately I forgot to take photos.


Then I moved on to the largest panel, and the most prominent since it’s at the front.

DSC_6277I wanted the lining of this panel to be pleated so it would match the dress, so I got to work and pleated down a long length of fabric to the right size.


I ironed them all down, then marked out the size of the piece of buckram. I sewed around the piece of buckram to make sure none of the pleats would move and set this aside.


I sewed a strip of hooping wire into the brim so I could control the shape of the bonnet and how closely it framed my face. Then I covered the outside of the buckram with cotton sateen.


I sewed in the pleated lining and a strip of eyelet lace. It all looked quite lovely but the hooping wire had caused the buckram to take on a wobbly shape which I didn’t like. I steamed the whole thing, then used binder clips with hopes it would sooth it out.


It didn’t really work, but I used the words “good enough” and sewed the large brim piece onto the back hat like portion.

It looked nice but it was still missing something, so I decided to make a pleated band to cover up the seam between the brim and hat.

I hemmed the edges then once again did a whole bunch of knife pleats.


I sewed the pleats down, and then stitched down a one inch wide strip of cotton sateen which would serve as the ties. The strip was created by sewing a three inch wide strip in half, then turning it right side out.


And tah dah! My lovely bonnet was done!


I still felt like the look was missing something – since I had gone for a simple bonnet design I decided to jazz up the hairstyle with some plastic flowers and a pearl headband.


I wore these with a crudely styled with from the seller cosplaywig.

And that was that! I really adore how this came together. There were points where I didn’t like this dress at all so seeing the ensemble come together just the way I had imagined was wonderful!

DSC_635732 DSC_6425resiz

Thank you for reading!


Making a Red 1830s Day Dress, Part Two

Sorry for the lack of updates! I have been doing a lot of blog stuff, but I somehow forgot to write actual posts.

I’m currently in the process of updating my blog format, so the sidebar will be really wonky and there may be dead links all over the place for the next few days.

I’m trying to separate cosplay/historical stuff, and get all my posts into proper categories. In addition to that I want to get a FAQ and About Me page written. It’s all been quite a bit more time consuming then I had expected, but hopefully by the end of the week everything will be sorted out and much more current!


This is the second post on how i’m making my red pleated front dress. Post one can be read here!

Today i’m talking about making the sleeves, skirt and basic assembly.

I started by making the sleeves, I knew the pattern for these needed to be giant but I wasn’t sure how giant so these took a bit of fiddling and several re-drafts before I was finally happy with them. My sleeves ended up being a full sixy inches wide before they were pleated down.


I cut my sleeves out, marked out all the pleats, then spend two hours pinning them all in place. Once that was done I sewed them down and I was left with something that resembled a sleeve!


I set that aside for the time being and began work on the cuff. After I created a pattern that fit me, this really wasn’t difficult. Unfortunately I made the sleeves too short, so I added the lace to make this less obvious!


The lace was sewn down.


Then I sewed those to my giant poofy, freshly pleated sleeves.


I’d left enough room to french seam the sides of my sleeves, but not enough at the top. To finish it off nicely I made bias tape from the cotton I used for lining, then sewed that on.


Once that was finished I cut my cuff pattern out of cotton, this would serve as lining. I hand sewed the lining in, and aside from the back seam, my sleeves were done!


I did up the back seam, then stitched the sleeves onto the bodice.


After that was done the bodice was completely finished, and it was time to work on the skirt!

The skirt ended up being almost four yards of cotton sateen that I cut to be fifty seven inches long.


I hand stitched a 1.5 inch rolled hem and the length ended up being perfect – something that pleased me a lot since my last dress was way too long.



Then I went ahead and pleated the whole thing down to twenty seven inches. Oddly enough, this took much longer then the hemming!


I sewed across the top to keep all the pleats in place, then I sewed the bodice on…and that was it! I have sewn a zipper in for fitting purposes but I will replace this with lacing or buttons before taking proper pictures of it.

I think this dress would look really lovely in a rose garden…future dream photoshoot, I suppose!

My next blog post will be talking about the thing that really finishes off the look – the bonnet!



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!