Tag Archive | pattern

Girls 1830s Dress

I’m looking to the past a bit for today’s feature while I do my best to play into the #CoBloWriMo Day 7 prompt: Made for Someone Else. I actually spent this past Friday at Old Sturbridge Village where I introduced my 9-year old niece to the joys of a living history museum. On the ride home I asked her what she would tell her parents about our visit. Her words?

This was one of the best days of my life!

The charming Miss M wearing her frock, petticoat, and pantelets as she volunteered with me at a living history event in Andover in September 2015.

Well, you ain’t seen nothing yet kid! (And I’m pretty sure I scored some good-auntie points…)

Neither she nor I are quite ready to attend events together, but I do happen to have a lovely 1830s girls ensemble that was made for the delightful Miss M two years ago and is now just the right size for my young niece, Miss S! I shared numerous pics on Facebook and Instagram but I’m just now getting to write a bit about the outfit.

This dress was made from a combination of two patterns: Sense & Sensibility’s Girls’ Romantic Era Dress and Rocking Horse Farms’ Dress with Pantelets – plus a bit of pattern mashing & redrafting to get the exact size and shape I wanted. The frock fabric is still one of my favorites and is from the Mill Book Series Collection by Howard Marcus fabrics. Its worn over a loose bodiced petticoat and pantelets, both made of plain white cotton. The petticoat and the frock both button at the center back between the waistline and neckline.

As is typical of most of my made-for-others costuming efforts, the interior seam were sewn by hand but all hemming and seam finishes were completed by hand. In this case, that meant miles of narrow hemmed ruffles and self-fabric binding at the neck, among other details. Since this was being worn to an event that had historically seen hot weather, the frock is unlined, and the cotton for the petticoat and pantelets was quite lightweight.

A close-up of the neckline and sleeve with a small bit of the miles of ruffling.

So much hemming… But also a great close-up of the fabric.

Ruffes! And more ruffles… and more… and more!

And while a small number of original children’s gowns do exist in museum and private collections, it’s also fun to peruse fashion plates to look for the occasional appearance of younger models among the well-dressed adults, like this one:

Aren’t they both charming? This rather extravagant scene dates to 1833 and is from a French fashion illustration.

I still need to work on accessorizing our ensemble with a child size bonnet, some boots, and perhaps a dainty collar, but Miss M looked lovely just as she was for our event two years ago!

Later this summer, I’ll do a photoshoot with my niece and really test out her potential to be a mini-me at upcoming living history events. On a related note, I’m taking it as a good sign that she enjoyed our visit to OSV last week, and that she even found the museum display of children’s items interesting – even though there wasn’t actually anything interactive in that building!

And what was her favorite part of the display, you ask?

A mid-1830s childs gown, on display at Old Sturbridge Village


Original origins

Today we find ourselves concluding Day 5 of #CoBloWriMo and the prompt is Origin Story. Well, for better or worse, everyone was given a rather hefty dose of my beginnings in my Intro post earlier this week. Still haven’t had enough, you say? Well, here’s a tad more…

I had a unique sense of fashion starting at a young age. And an early (and still ongoing) obsession with hats… We were living in San Jose when this was taken – I often wonder what would have happened if I’d grown up as a California girl. This picture makes me a bit glad I didn’t!

What feels like a long time ago, in a town not so far, I learned to sew. Hardly shocking, but my interest in sewing, and learning to sew, has always been driven in part by wanting to make historical costumes. Admittedly, I love just about all types of costume (maybe except the dripping in fake-gore kind) but I have always been drawn to historical clothing – Victorian bustles, Civil War era hoop skirts, Colonial powdered wigs, Titanic era hats, corsets of all types and as many different types of petticoats as you can cram in a steamer trunk.

I tried my hand at acting in grade school and middle school and the ‘dress like a character‘ assignments were always my favorite type of book reports. When I got to high school, the directors for the Drama Club shows weren’t particularly encouraging towards my acting ability or singing voice so I took the hint and figured out the next best way to wear the pretty clothing was to be part of the costume design team that was making it!

My dressmaking classes started at the same time I joined the Drama Club (Coincidence? I think not.) When I was done learning the basics, I quickly progressed to working on costumes for shows in my free time and making semi-formal and prom dresses during class time. Apparently shiny fabrics have also always held some allure! Musicals I worked on included Damn Yankees, Bells are Ringing, and an itty-bit of costuming for The King and I. There were also a number of non-musical dramas and comedies, but as I wasn’t a cast member and they were done on a high school budget in the early 1990s… I couldn’t tell you the name of a single one! I did have a passable alto voice (or at least enough to show up to class and get a passing grade) as a member of our newly created Show Choir. (This was way before the tv show Glee made that stuff cool.) Despite some really terrible (but fun-to-sew and typical of the time) costumes, I still love to sing and I’m pretty sure I’ll never be able to unlearn Under the Sea from The Little Mermaid as a result of all those rehearsals.

It was also about this same time that I discovered the Newport Mansions after a day trip with some girl friends and started to imagine wearing historical costumes away from any curtained stage. And for resources, having a theatrical shop in the center of my hometown didn’t hurt either and I still have two of my high-school era purchases:

Cover of book: Patterns for Theatrical Costumes by Katherine Strand Holkeboer 1890s ballgown pattern

Katherine Strand Holkeboer’s book, Patterns for Theatrical Costumes, got lots of use over the past 25+ years although not quite as much in recent days. On the other hand, the Old World Enterprise’s 1890’s Ballgown pattern is still uncut in its envelope and I still believe someday it will be made up into the amazing dream gown I dreamed of as wistfully-romantic and costume-dreaming sixteen year old. Is two and half decades too long to wait? I think not… perhaps 2017 is the magic year!

1830s Pantry Apron – Part One

Much of my late night sewing lately has revolved around the 1820s and 1830s… not necessarily because I find these decades particularly appealing, but rather because the museum I work at is expanding (and improving) its collection of reproduction clothing for the volunteers. Since the programs are mostly based in the 182os… well, you can figure out the rest! With the spring season of programs about to begin, the 2013 sewing list is as follows:

  • 2 men’s shirts
  • 3 men’s aprons
  • 2 waistcoats
  • 3 women’s aprons
  • 6 caps
  • 6 pelerines and/or chemisettes
  • plus petticoats and dresses as needed for new volunteers

The recent Workwoman’s Guide cap that I completed was a test run for new caps and now that I have that behind me, I’m turning my attention to the men. 5 yards of coarse brown linen was procured for three aprons and once again I turned to The Workwoman’s Guide. Plate 11 Fig. 15 illustrates ‘A Pantry Apron’ and the here’s the accompanying description.

We’ll be using some of the IL090 unbleached linen from Fabrics-store.com and that’s currently in the midst of being laundered to get the expected shrinkage out of the way. A sewing day is scheduled for volunteers on April 6th so at this point I’m just drafting patterns and then cutting things out to have ready for our cadres of sewers!

Here’s what I’ll be using for cutting dimensions:

Width: 40″ wide
Length: 44″ long
Tape for neck: 22.5-25″ (tape width will depend on what I have on hand)
Pocket: 15″x9″

In case you haven’t been following the math… 1 nail = 2.5″

As a result… once all this is hemmed, the corners will be turned down 13.75″… shown as the A-B measurement in the illustration. That will leave about that same width covering the chest where the neck ties are attached. Interestingly, no ties are shown for this apron which makes me wonder if this served more like a smock and the fullness of the apron would be splayed out over the lap while seated and doing the messy chores mentioned in the description – trimming lamps, cleaning shoes and knives, etc. 40″ seems pretty wide for an apron but regardless of who ends up wearing it – they’ll need ties to keep it on since the volunteers are on the move during their programs. No seated interpretation here!

Based on the dimensions I calculated, each apron will take 1 1/8 yard of 60″ linen. As soon as I get one or two of those cut out, I’ll be moving on to “Gentleman’s Workshop Apron” which is Fig. 16 on the same Plate. As a parting note, I just have to mention how amusing the lack of scale is on these illustrations! The workshop apron is one nail narrower but drawn nearly 50% wider… go figure!

Workwoman’s Guide – Fig. 28 Cap: Part Two

IMAG1093And we’re done! Well…. almost. I need to go a-hunting through my trimming stash to find that roll of narrow tape I purchased last summer so that I can cut a few pieces to become cap ties. But other than that – this charming little cap is complete. I probably spent another 3 hours on the cap, all the gathering and then backstitching to attach the ruffle was fairly tedious but I’m happy with the result. Although this cap won’t see hard use, it will likely need to be laundered so I also overcast all the seams and that added a nice finishing touch. A hit with the iron wouldn’t hurt either!

I haven’t decided if I’m going to keep it or add it to the volunteer costumes at work but I’m pretty sure it won’t be the last cap I make from this pattern in either case.

IMAG1094I’m so sure of that I went ahead a created a printable version of the pattern to be printed on 11″x17″ paper. Hardly perfect, but the measurements and lines are darn close! Here’s the download: Workwomans Guide – Cap 27

More interesting photos will likely follow in future posts but since I was at work at an ungodly hour this morning, I have neither the patience nor the time to whip my hair into anything resembling an 1820s hairstyle. However, I have been enjoying my reading of The Lady’s Stratagem: A Repository of 1820s Directions for the Toilet, Mantua-Making, Stay-Making, Millinery & Etiquette by Frances Grimble and there are actually some really usable styling techniques described. So here’s hoping I’ll find some time and motivation soon!