1840’s Dotted Dress – Part Three

Today I have the final post about making my orange 1840’s dress to share! I planned on this going up sooner…but we all know how my blog plans go (the don’t).

However I can promise that this post will be followed by one with photos of the finished garment when worn!

The last post ended with a finished bodice – (if you missed that post, it can be read here) but there was more work to be done! Like making the skirt, and a matching headpiece.

Because you need a matching headpiece.

The skirt was really easy – it’s just three 42″ wide panels seamed together, hemmed, and gathered down to match the waist measurement of the bodice.

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After stitching the pieces together I folded the bottom edge inward by a half inch.

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Then I folded the bottom edge inward by three inches, and stitched it down by hand to avoid visible topstitching.

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Since the skirt was three panels, and evenly gathered, a seam didn’t fall at the center back. So I had to slash one of the panels and finish the opening with bias binding. This will line up with the back opening of the bodice and allow me to easily get the dress on and off.

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The top edge was gathered down.

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I turned the bottom edge of the bodice inward by a half inch. Then topstitched the skirt to the right side of the bodice. The raw edges were all hidden by a band stitched to the outside of the bodice. This was visible on the extant garment I referenced, which is why I chose to do it this way.

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I ended up sewing the skirt on kind of unevenly – but it was intentional! this way it rests a little higher at the front.

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That finished off the dress! Overall, I’m happy with this. However the fit could use some work (I would say it is a full inch too big) and it really needs a modesty panel. Since I used hooks and loops, my foundations were slightly visible at the back.

But as I said in my last post, I’m going to resolve that by swapping the loops out with bars, and having the back edge overlap by an inch (this will fix the fit, too!).

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I think my favorite part of this dress are the gathers – I love the effect of hand stitched, dense gathers, and they are plentiful on this dress!

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I’m also happy that I’ve finally (somewhat) successfully executed the tiny piping which was so popular during this period. It makes me feel more confident about some 1810-1820s pieces I’ve wanted to make for a while!

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And here is the hem after being ironed!

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As far as headwear, I decided this dress needed a bonnet. I based mine on a few references…but I won’t share them, because it looks nothing like them!

I decided to use a cheap straw hat as a base (this one, to be exact), which meant the design had to conform to the existing shapes of the hat.

I used the cap for the back of the bonnet.

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And cut down the brim to form the front.

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I stitched wire into the edges of the pieces to make them posable. This was a nightmare, the straw kept cracking and it killed my fingers. I don’t think I will ever attempt hand sewing with this straw ever again.

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I lined it with a peachy colored silk dupioni. This wasn’t fun either, but there was less tension pulling on the silk so it was slightly more forgiving on my fingers.

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I used a rectangle of silk to make lining for the cap, too.

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Here the cap is attached to the brim – I mostly used glue for this, since my hand stitching kept tearing out.

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I added ties and flowers, and the bonnet was done! Visually this is fine, and it suits the costume well. But I despised making this. It sucked having to alter my vision to the shape of the straw, and the straw was so difficult to work with. I had to glue a lot of elements and the end result is less durable than I would have liked.

But it is cute. So there is that!

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Here is everything worn together! And as I said, a full post of photos will be up soon.

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Thanks for reading!

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1840’s Dotted Dress – Part Two

Today I have the second post about my 1840’s dress to share! This piece is made from a dotted cotton and based on an extant garment.

If you missed part one, it can be read here. We left off with a partially assembled bodice, and some fit problems in the shoulder.

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My solution for the problem was a patch that is about 2″ wide. All of its edges are piped, and its curvature matches the armscye so it doesn’t stick out *too* badly. This gave me enough room to easily get my arms into the bodice – with a bit of space to spare for the sleeves!

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With the pieces fully connected, I stitched piping into the armscye. Unlike the other methods used for this bodice, this time I sewed the piping to the bodice with the right sides facing each other. Then I turned the seam allowance of the piping inward and whip stitched it to the lining.

The raw edges were covered later on with bias binding.

I also stitched piping around the neckline, using the same method.

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Then I put the bodice on my dress form – with the the wrong side facing out. And I pinned the yoke lining into the bodice. This is the BEST way to line fitted garments that have some shape to them.

After removing it from the form I slip stitched the lining into position.

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Now onto sleeves! Sleeves are usually my nemesis, but the design for these doesn’t require a lot of fitting, so it was relatively painless.

Here you can see my mockup (top piece) and the two part pattern I ended up with. The top piece attaches to the bodice, and has ruffles stitched to the bottom edge. The second piece supports the second tier of ruffles.

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Speaking of ruffles – these were made from 42″ x 4.5″ strips of the cotton. I hemmed them by hand with slip stitches.

I had to hem four of these strips in total (two for each sleeve). But it was fun! I hadn’t had a simple hand sewing project in a long time, I really enjoyed zoning out in front of the tv while doing this.

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The ruffles were also gathered down by hand.

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Here is the top portion of the sleeve attached to the first ruffle. Piping was inserted into top piece of the sleeve before stitching the ruffles on…because that is the 1840’s for ya!

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Ruffle two sewn on to the second piece of the sleeve.

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The side seams for each piece were done independently, so they layers can move freely.

After stitching the side seams I whip stitched the pieces together from the inside.

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And that is the process of making pretty, ruffly sleeves. These were actually my favorite part of the project – I never thought I’d see the day when I say that about SLEEVES! But I guess if there are enough ruffles I’ll enjoy making anything.

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These were stitched on to the bodice by hand, and the seam allowance was whip stitched down.

The (almost) finished bodice looked like this!

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At some point along the way I turned the back edge inward, and stitched in hooks/eyes.

But I’m going to redo this at some point, since I realized after photographing this project that the bodice is too big.  I’m going to switch the hooks out with bars, and have the back edge overlap by 3/4″.

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And that is going to be the end of another post! I’m trying to keep these short so I can space them out somewhat. Next time I’ll talk a bit about the skirt and the matching bonnet!

Thanks for reading – and for the response to my first post about this dress. I appreciate the patience regarding my lack of updates!

1840’s Dotted Dress – Part One

Surprise, I’m not dead! And I have an explanation (kind of).

I have been sewing, and I have been writing, but I’ve been documenting the process over on Patreon and my YouTube channel.

This year I’ve tried to make my social media presence (if you can call it that) a little more profitable to justify the amount of time I devote to it. And unfortunately for my blog, that has meant focusing on platforms that allow monetization. So I’ve been making a lot of simpler garments which allow me to keep a more regular video schedule.

This has meant my time for elaborate historical things is limited. And there isn’t a whole lot to write about/document when making more modern items or simpler pieces.

But I’m trying to find more balance – (It’s hard when you work from home and every hour can be a work hour) and find the time to focus on projects I’m really excited about. Projects that have enough substance to them that I can actually blog about them.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever be as regular about posting as I was in 2015-2016, but do want to try to write when I can.

That’s not an excuse or anything! It’s an explanation, totally different.

Now onto the true topic of todays post – a new dress!

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Last month I had a spare week or two that I could devote to projects of my own choosing. And I decided that two weeks was enough time to make a summery  dress.

I was kind of creatively exhausted and didn’t want to make anything *too* complicated, so I decided to make a pair of mid 1800s dresses based on extant examples.

This specific design was  based on two dresses from the Met. And when researching it further I found several other examples (take a scroll through this) which are almost identical. I always find it interesting when fashion trends are so obvious in historical pieces.

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More photos here and here.

I think I was drawn to this style since It’s kind of the opposite of projects I’ve made before, while still being really similar. I’m used to the ruched/pleated/gathered portions of a bodice being around the neckline, with a fitted bodice to the waist. Where this has a fitted yoke, and gathering around the bust. I thought it was just different enough to be a fun challenge for me, without actually being challenging (creatively burnt out, remember?)

And I was right! I like this dress, and I loved working on it.

The main material for this dress is a dotted cotton with a reddish orange base. It’s a nice quality quilting cotton which I purchased in Lancaster for $4.99/yd. I had eight yards of it, and I ended up using a matching apparel fabric purchased on the same trip to trim the bonnet.

I like this fabric, but the colors remind me of condiments. A ketchup base with dollops of mustard, relish, and a sprinkle of pepper. It’s like elegant hot dog fabric. Mmm…

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Now let’s talk construction! I started by (not so professionally) draping the pattern. This was harder than I expected. The extant example I was imitating had a very high, modest neckline…but also nearly fell of the mannequins shoulder! Which is pretty contradictory.

This is what I ended up with.

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I transferred that to paper, then made it into a mockup. I was being obnoxiously lazy and actually fitted this over a 1950’s girdle instead of my 1830’s stays.

BUT IN MY DEFENSE, they have a really similar effect of lightly shaping the body to the waist, and separating/lifting the chest. 10/10 would recommend if you are too lazy to lace up regency stays.

Now you might be able to tell that I made some slight alterations. The gathered portion was really droopy, and needed to be lifted by over an inch. It fit well over the shoulder, but the neckline was really low and arched. I raised and flattened it by quite a lot.

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However, in general I was pretty pleased with this. I’ve had some bad experiences with gathering and bodice patterns. Unless there is a lot of tension on the gathering, it poofs out and can look really silly. So this gave me confidence moving forward!

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After making the pattern alterations,  I could get to work! And step one was making piping. All the piping. Something I don’t love about the mid 1800s is the quantity of tiny pointless piping that borders EVERY edge of the garment. What purpose does adding piping around the armscye have? None. And usually, matching piping was used, so you could barely see it!

But it is a staple for this period, and something I’m determined to improve at. So I used some cording from home depot, tiny bias cut strips of fabric, and my piping foot to create a dozen yards of it.

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In the past I’ve done this with silk and had horrible, very puckered results. But it went really well this time – and after a quick iron my piping was ready to be used!

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The first place it is featured is in the seams of the back panel.

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I stitched the piping onto the rounded edge of the side panel by machine.

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Then I stitched a half inch away from the edge of the back panel, and used that line of stitching as a guide for ironing the edge inward.

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The folded edge was pinned to the edge of the piping.

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Then I stitched the pieces together by hand, using a backstitch.

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Onto the front panel! I cut this out, then marked lines 2″ and 3″ away from the bottom edge. The bodice was gathered down by hand at these points, with the bottom row of gathering being 6″ wide, second row 6.5″ wide, and the final row 7″ wide.

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I did this all by hand so the gathers would be all cute and precise. The top edge was also gathered down by hand.

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The bottom edge of the bodice will be covered with a 3″ wide band, and I didn’t want the bulk of gathers to be visible underneath it. So the gathered panel was sewn to a 3″ wide strip before being sewn to the other bodice pieces.

This was sewn by machine to the side panels – this might be the only seam on this thing that doesn’t involve piping.

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But it DID involve boning! I was worried the gathered portion would ride up and poof out, so I stitched the seam allowance together to form a boning channel. Then I added a plastic bone on either side. This worked really well in keeping it positioned – I’m so glad I chose to do this.

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Then I cut lining from a very lightweight cotton. Every part of the bodice is lined except for the gathered portion. Traditionally this probably would have had a pieced lining to offer more support, but I didn’t think that was necessary to achieve the shape I wanted.

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I stitched piping onto the top edge of the main bodice piece by machine, then hand stitched the yoke on top of that.

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The same process was repeated for the shoulder seam.

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Except I goofed up and made the shoulder allowance too small, so I couldn’t actually get my arm through the armscye. Gotta love off the shoulder pieces which have ONE inch of difference between “Too small to get on/move in” and “Too big, falls off”.

Luckily this piece didn’t have a lot of decoration on the collar/yoke, so I managed to figure out a fix for it. After a several hour long break, of course.

Since this is when I took a break in the project, it seems like a natural breaking point in this post!

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So I think this is where I’m going to end this post and todays musings. But the dress is done, and all the progress photos are edited. So I should have more updates soon.

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Thanks for reading!