Tuesday, May 21, 2013

1830s Dress and Bonnet

About two years ago I started work on my late 1830's dress. I am not overly fond of this time period (being 6 foot tall I do not like to emphasis my height with big puffy shoulders) so I decided to make a dress that is late 1830's by modifying it from the larger earlier sleeve by pleating the top into tacked bands. Anyways, as my heart was not fully into making this dress it took a long time to get around to finally making it. I was mainly prompted to finish it for two events: the anniversary of the birthday of Charles Sturt and for the START children's event for the Turner Exhibition at the Adelaide Art Gallery.

Surprisingly, I had lost about 1" since I made my toile so it fitted with only slight alterations. So I was very happy :-).

These dresses are very easy to construct and fit for people that have prior experience in mid Victorian sewing. The sleeves, however, are a challenge.

 A close up of the bodice. Normally I have Nic to take photos, but he was interstate at the time on a survey.

The bodice is a one piece front with a single dart on each side. The back has hooks and eyes for closure down the CB. It also has SB seems. All of the seems are piped in silk. I chose this for a contrast colour as the fabric is a little too pale for my liking and I was worried about being washed out. I also thought it would help to highlight the features.
 The sleeves that create a lot of drama. These took more time than the rest of the dress put together. I had to pull them apart 3 times to get them to fit. They were made it two pieces. the bottom section and cuff are piped in the silk and lined in plain cotton. The top half of the sleeve is a giant gigot that would normally be a large puffy sleeve. To make the pleats with the fabric required to keep the puff I sectioned the sleeve off and tacked the pleats in place. I then had to make the pleats double in order to ensure it did not pull too much to the front or back (this happened the first time I constructed it, the puff sat to the front and was flat in the back). I then pressed it and hand sewed it in to the armhole. The pressing was important to ensure that the pleats stayed flat as while working on the cross in some sections it was pulling while working down the pleat.  Once it was sewn into the armhole I then hand tacked the sleeve pleats down into the arm bands. The arm bands were just 1 cm wide strips of fabric with silk piping on the sides. Once the gigot sections were in, I then attached the bottom cuffs and whipped the edges to finish them off.
As you can see from this photo of the inside, as long as it looks good on the outside the inside doesn't really matter when you are trying to fit that much fabric into such a small circumference.

 Before I began work on this dress Jessie had given me a matching purple cameo style belt buckle that was the inspiration for my silk colour choice. As I was running late for completing this, the belt was mostly made by Jessie. She is a wonderful help when overwhelmed. 

 The completed dress outside of the Adelaide Art Gallery. I hate how flat the skirt is. I really need more petticoats.

This bonnet I purchased 3 years ago, second hand. It was made for the original 1980's anniversary celebration of our state. The poor bonnet had seen better days. It had a huge tear in the front and was decorated in fluro pink ribbons. The ribbons were the easy part to fix, but I was able to repair the tear as well. I wired the brim and tacked down some shape-well to reinforce the tear. To cover these repairs I had to wire the brim and line the inside to hide the damage. The outside was barely noticeable but I still put a decorative ribbon up over the tear.
 The only visible section of the tear. 
 I am not overly into floral decorations, so I tried to keep it simple with ribbons only. As Jessie offered to tack most of the ribbons down I did give in and let her put a single flower on it.

Anyways these make up two of the challenges for the historical sewing fortnightly.

The Challenge 9# Flora and Fauna - 1836-38 Cotton Dress

Fabric: 100% Printed Cotton
Notions: Cotton string for piping, silk for piping, metal hooks, Vintage Buckle, silk thread
Pattern: None - toiled to my body and the sleeves drafted from Brian Reader's ' Making Costumes of the Eighteen-Thirties'
Year:  1836-38
How historically accurate is it? About 80%, the fabric is natural and printed, there is some machine sewing, construction is similar to dresses in Kay Invererity's original dress collections. (before beginning sewing in 2011, she held a workshop to explore her original garments to gain an understanding of the construction)
Hours to complete: minus the two years sitting on the roll in my wardrobe.... 8 days x 8 hours.... plus extra.... sooo way too many when I should have been working on my ethics proposal.
First worn: 28th April
Total cost: I think the cotton was about $72 and the silk was about $28 and the thread about $5... This is just guess work as I did purchase all of this 2 years ago.

The Challenge 10# Literature - 1830s Straw Bonnet (Inspired by Mrs.Octavia Pole from Cranford)

Fabric: Straw Bonnet form
Notions: Brown Polyester Ribbon, Millinery Wire, Shape-well, Ivory Polyester Satin, Yellow Thread
Pattern: None - I did get inspiration from fashion plates
Year:  1830s
How historically accurate is it? About 50%, the shape of the bonnet is accurate, but I was unable to get around to purchasing non synthetic fabric or ribbon due to time constraints  as as this is not one of my favourite time periods I will probably not change it later.
Hours to complete: about 6 hours
First worn: 28th April by Jessie for Sturt's Birthday and a week later by me at the Art Gallery
Total cost: about $20 for ribbon and fabric


  1. Oh, great job on saving the bonnet! I think the lining is actually something that would have been done with period bonnets anyway.
    And I'm with you on those sleeves - I love the pleated upper look. Plus the buckle - that's just so beautiful; and I'm glad I'm not the only one who wants to match a dress to a buckle. :D (I have a vintage one I got from my grandma that I really want to sew a dress to go with, when I find the right fabric.)

  2. That's fabulous! I love both the hat and the dress! :)

  3. Laaaaaa!!! Your sleeves are a work of art!! I read that they were quite irksome to construct, but I believe that the work was worth it!! Marvelous!!