Tag Archive | taffeta

Late 1820s Day Dress

So although my mind is still spinning with thoughts and memories of revwar reenacting and 1770s dressmaking, I particularly like the Day 5 CoBloWriMo prompt (write about a favorite project you’ve done in the past) and it brings to mind a very plain day dress I reproduced a few years ago.

osv 1820s

Posing (and even smiling) in the Towne House Garden Arbor at Old Sturbridge Village. And yes, I have fixed the hem since this picture was taken!

The blue-grey cotton dress in the photo is loosely copied from one in the collection of the Andover Historical Society.

front detail sm

Detail of the original silk dress with interesting pleating at waist and sleeves.

The original dress dates to right about 1830, maybe a tad earlier, and is made of lightweight brown silk taffeta. My favorite construction detail is the skirt pleating with the stacked box pleats.

From a fashion history standpoint it straddles the 1820s & 1830s by being able to hang relatively straight rather than being gathered all around the waist. The skirts of both the original and the reproduction do form a slight bell shape if enough petticoats are worn or displayed underneath to give it a more 1830s feel.

The detail at the top of the sleeves is more typical of the 1830s with rows of parallel knife pleats to control the fullness before being released into full gigot sleeves.

For my repro, I was a bit limited on fabric and was also trying to create an 1825 appropriate look for a particular event I was attending. I reduced the fullness of the gigot sleeve and skipped the pleating at the top of the shoulder but I did retain the false cuff detail. My false cuff falls straight across the sleeve rather than at an angle like the original, but I still like the overall effect.

sleeve detail

Sleeve detail

Only the bodice of the original dress is lined and it’s a lightweight unbleached linen or cotton that acts as support for the fan pleating/gathering at the waist and neckline. The neckline on the original is piped as are the back bodice seams. It closes with hooks and eyes at the center back with only the lining being fully closed. The silk fabric is gathered in such a way that it meets when the lining is hooked shut.

I did the same (lining, piping & back closure) on my cotton version. The fabric I used has much greater drape than the original and may in fact have some rayon or even silk blended in. I don’t recall purchasing it with that knowledge but after years of wearing it, I’m not convinced it’s 100% cotton. In any case, it’s been one of my go-to dresses for working in an 1820’s historic house, attending events at Old Sturbridge Village, or going to other big-sleeved costume outings!

osv chickens

Sometimes I even get to hang out with chickens while wearing it! And for the record, this is probably the best detail shot of that bonnet that I have ;o)


1780 Silk Taffeta Zone Gown – Part Four

HPIM0729Another full day of sewing! I cut out new sleeves, this time with the stripes running vertically down the arm. That should match the original gown a bit better. A bit of time was spent on the trim today as well. Once the sleeves were cut, I had 1.75 yards of silk remaining. It took a bit of math but I finally figured out a way to to cut the remaining fabric into the the two layers of trim required for the petticoat. The under-flounce was cut in two pieces – each measuring 22.5″ x 40″. The upper-flounce was cut in six pieces (the only way I could make it work!) – each measuring 7.5″ x 23″. Piecing allowed the stripes to remain symmetrical at the center front. I used a rotary pinking tool to pink all the edges of the flounce, except for the under-flounce hem. That will be cut off to match the petticoat length later.

I decided to make the finished petticoat trim approximately 50″ wide, since that was almost half the petticoat width and seemed to match the gown photo pretty well. I started with the upper-flounce and gathered each section to about 8.25″ inches. The gathering stitch (running stitch) was centered along the length of the flounce, approximately 3.75″ from top and bottom. This was one time it helped to have so much piecing… it kept the gathering pretty even along the length of the flounce. I ended up with an upper-flounce that was about 50″ long. Keeping the center front pinned to the upper-flounce, I then gathered the under-flounce to match it. The gathering stitch on the under-flounce ran 3.75″ from the upper edge. This kept the top edges of both flounces more or less even. I used a large spaced backstitch along the gathering line to stay the gathers and sew the flounces together.

HPIM0735Ahh… the sleeve again. This time
with the stripe in the correct direction!

HPIM0748Here are the upper & under flounces,
individually gathered and pinned together.

A close-up of the pinked and gathered flounces.
The under-flounce will be shortened later.

And that’s still not enough for one day… I also cut the skirting piece in half and created a seam at center back – again to allow symmetry of the stripes. This was then knife pleated at the upper edge with approximately 1/4″ pleats, each individually pinned. The pleats were pinned again about 6″ below that to hold the pleats in place. The skirting was then placed on the dress form under the bodice and the seam line was marked with pins. I managed to get one half of the bodice sewn to the skirting before I gave up for the night. I folded the lower edge of the bodice & lining to the inside and whipped the folded edge to the stitching line marked on the skirting. That’s enough for one day!

One half of the gown skirting has been pleated.
The lower set of pins will help hold the pleats in line.

The entire waist has been pleated. The curved
line of pins marks where the bodice will be attached.