Suiting up – WWI style


 Well, I must say that once we hit the Teens, I start to get bored with the clothes.  But, being in  business means that sometimes you have to stretch beyond your comfort zone – and this suit was just such an exercise….  I am not a tailor – and not particularly eager to become one, so I usually leave the tailoring bits  to those who are trained accordingly. On this occasion, however, since it was a friend who asked, I relented and tried my  hand at a tailored suit  1910-14 style.

 Eleanor knew my attitude to suits so  to make it easier we agreed on a commercial pattern to be used, and we got absolutely stunning check wool and soft linen for lining. The undergarments were made,  measurements taken – it was time to unpack the pattern ( Reconstructing History, 1052) and get down to it – make a mock up.

 And that’s when it started….

 The pattern….. though I usually make my own patterns, I have used commercial patterns before – and  as with everything in life, some are better and some are worse; most require some fiddling with the mock up – there are no miracles after all and nobody is the ideal size.

 Well, this one required the most fiddling I have ever experienced….

 The skirt:   Pattern was simple – but the pieces were marked in a weird way – some upside down….

  1. Image

    if you look carefully, you will see the waist darts at the right side. but the description is reversed on one piece

Not a major thing, though confusing. However, here  the size was the issue. We cut out the required size – only to realize that for some reason it was almost 10 inches too big at the waist… So it needed re-cutting and darts needed re-positioning. again, not a big deal, but a nuisance.


fitting the skirt…. not at least the size is right, fiddling with the darts and hem here


the back

 The jacket.

 Well,   mock up was cut out ( 1 fronts 2 side fronts and 2 backs), and put together – and it became apparent straight away that there are several issues:

* front – the front, princess seam needed re- positioning over the bust curve…


the seam is the original, as pattern shows – had to be moved by 2 inches, making the piece bigger

* the back –  the back was simply cut in 2 big pieces – and they hanged loosely, not fitting at all looking at the picture on the pattern, you sort of see the side back seam, splitting the back piece into two –  alas, the pattern piece did not acknowledge the fact, merging the 2 pieces together….


mark the position of the front seam – and the drawing of the back. the side back seam is not reflected in the pattern – you can add it to the piece as on the drawing, or continue the line from the front, as I did

so a back piece had to be split, and since the front piece had a seam, we decided to continue the seam over the shoulder, splitting the back into two, and providing a better fit over the back and size… the correction is marked on the pattern now.


new seam marked on the pattern

 Once we seam was in place, the whole thing looked much, much better – here on the stand, interlined wool turned outsize, ready for another fitting



and on Eleanor…




back looking much better. mark the asymmetric shoulders – a bit tricky!

 Sleeves were next –  the ones cut according to the pattern were HUGE! looked like elephant’s legs:_)





The second fitting sorted the little kinks out – and I was able to proceed with finishing the thing, lining with linen, adding velvet cuffs and collar, and velvet covered buttons.

The hat was next – and here huge was the target size:-) we had black-watch silk tartan, ostrich feathers, peacock feathers and velvet to decorate it…


 The base is made in buckram, wired, covered in calico and then covered with silk, with edges bound in the silk bias binding,


ready! the bird was optional, in the end we decided to go without it….

Altogether, as far as the pattern was concerned – it is not a beginners thing. If you are  familiar with working with toiles,  you will work your suit out of it, but be prepared for quite a lot of fiddling.

To me it seemed that some of the issues we experienced  were due to a few factor – the size – I suppose a size 10 small chested lass may have the princess seams spot on – but on a curvier sizes it simply didn’t work. Also, i suspect the pattern may have been drawn on a dummy  or a model who was not wearing period correct underwear – and we are still in corsets at that time! Admittedly, long line corsets, mid or underbust too, with bust improvers or not – but the position of the bust is changed nevertheless.

In conclusion – workable pattern, but in the future will another draft my own or experiment with another one. It may work for a more experienced tailor – maybe the issues we had wee also due to the fact that I am no such! 🙂

Still, very pleased with how it turned out in the end –   we did a small shoot in the park on a beautiful spring day and Eleanor looked resplendent in the suit:-) Her layers are – chemise, corset,  princess petticoat, blouse, suit, vintage furs, vintage bag and jewellery. shoes by American Duchess 




jacket off….




The inspiration for the finishing touches and hats –  taken from out pinterest board!

The black dress I am wearing – well,  that is another post altogether! Soon!

photos by Pitcheresque Imagery


6 thoughts on “Suiting up – WWI style

  1. Beautiful results! So sad you don’t like the fashions from the teens. They make every woman look elegant and the details are often so lovely…
    Love your work.

    • thank you so much! I must say that having worn the black mourning 1914 outfit, i have to agree with you. I did not expect it, but I did feel elegant and the style suited me. so not my favourite, but am much more favorably inclined to it now:_) just as well, lots of WWI events, so need to have outfits like that for work!

  2. I wish there was a way to warn the world about Reconstructing History patterns; everyone I talk to has horrible problems with their products.

  3. Pingback: Making a Mid Victorian Ball Gown | A Damsel in This Dress

  4. I agree with you about fashions getting boring starting early twentieth century. There just aren’t as many interesting layers, fancy skirts, (actually, fancy anything!) or pretty silhouettes anymore, in fact a lot of “nineteen-teens” ladies outfits look a lot like modern ladies business wear, quite dull!
    Then after the teens, things get way out of hand…
    But on the whole, I just basically dislike the majority of twentieth century fashions. Dunno why, but I have always preferred eighteenth and nineteenth century clothes (plus a bit before that, not much since I specialize in American costume…and there wasn’t much of an America before that..)

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