It is finished at last!!!! I have loved this plate from ‘Harper’s Bazaar’ for years, and planned to make the jacket almost 2 years ago – now am happy to say that it is complete (well, almost…) I got the … Continue reading
Welcome to another of our tutorials aimed at the folk getting their gear ready for the Victorian Ball. In this one I am going to provide a step by step guide on how to make the iconic round crinoline cage, perfect … Continue reading
In the previous tutorial we dealt with undergarments (drawers, chemise and a petticoat), and the crinoline cage is explained here). So, it is now time to tackle the gown itself! Again, since this series is mostly dedicated to the guests of … Continue reading
Since our next Victorian Ball has a Crinoline theme, I have promised a few tutorials and pattern reviews for the folks who are making their own kit. Sew Curvy joined the fun and now offers very attractively priced patterns and crinoline kits from the era ( just a few left in stock…), so I took advantage of the offer and grabbed a few patterns too.
Normally I don’t bother with commercial patterns much, underwear included as I draft my own, and for Victorian Era the patterns in Francis Grimble’s books are of a great help – so this was a bit of an adventure, trying to actually follow instructions. Which I did, to some extent… 😉 And so, below, a short tutorial on making a set of mid-victorian open drawers, a chemise and a petticoat.
Fabrics: cotton lawn (but any lightweight cotton or linen will do) and cotton lace, 3 buttons.
Finish – I went for modern finish as was squeezing the project in between commissions and stock-making, but it doesnt mean that you have to follow me and use the same techniques – if you have time, do go for a hand finish 🙂
1. find your size on the chart, trace the pattern. I traced it onto paper once, so that I dont have to cut the pattern itself.
2. trace the pattern onto the fabric – fold the lawn in half and you will only have to cut once!
3. once cut, I overlocked the side seams and the facing for the size. I decided to save time and forego front and back facings – not really needed, though they would give a nicer finish! Instead of a self ruffle I used cotton broderie anglaise lace.
4. Follow the directions for working the side openings/facings – they are explained fairly clrealy.
5. Fold the overlocked edges of the crotch opening (or follow instructions for facings there)
6. Gather the legs and top – I gathered mine using a ruffle attachment, but you can pleat or gather on a string, too (lower the thread tension, use the long stitch setting and sew – then just pull the thread to gather)
7. Gather the ruffle – again, several methods are possible, I gathered mine on an overlocker
8. Sew each leg
9. Prepare the leg bands and attach lace to them – the instructions are quite clear about how to do it.
10. Attach the waistbands – again, the instructions are clear!
11. Make buttonholes and attach buttons. Fot this project I used buttons from my secret stash of antique buttons 🙂
Ready! it took me just over 2 hours to complete the project – it would be about 3 – 4 if I wasn’t using an overlocker.
- Trace and cut the pattern according to your size (again, I found it runs a tad too big for my liking – but it is not a huge issue at all – and it is always easier to end up with a chemise an inch or two too big rather than one too small!)
2. Overlock the sides and sew together; (or sew the sides together and finish the seam by hand if you prefer.)
3. Add the shouler strap reinforcement bits. I admit the instructions here were not too clear so I did it my way… I supose as long as the edges are strong enough for a button, etc, that is all that matters
4.Overlock the sleeve (or hand finish) and attach to the armhole. You will need to gather a bit; I did it as I sewed.
5. Prepare the neckline and hem edge (overlock and fold, or hand stitch – up to you)
6. Add lace – I used a narrow broderie anglaise, as I had enough to use on the sleeves, neck and hem!
7. Add buttons and work buttonholes
The chemise is now ready!
I have also made another version of the chemise, too – the same pattern, just with no sleeves, and no buttoned-up staps – I simply sewed the straps together instead. The neckline is finished with an eyelet lace with the ribbon, which controls the neckline as it can be pulled tighter, if needs be.
Next stage was to put one of my corsets on (a suitable corset kit can be bought here: corset kit – the pattern is later but the style works for mid-victorian silhouette and is much easier to make – I have made a mid-victorian corset using a commercial pattern and it wasn’t exactly a success – you can read about it here).
All we need now is a petticoat.
Petticoats are very easy to make – so easy that there is little point in providing an actual pattern. Even ‘Truly Victorian’ provides a diagram and instructions for free – petticoat instructions
I basically used a length of cotton sheeting – a rectangular piece. The length was the circumference of the crinoline cage plus 1m, the lengh – measured on the crinoline, from waist to the ground. If you do not plan flounces, pintucks etc, but a basic one, keep it a bit above the ground. If you want lots of pintucks, make it longer.
This particular one has been made with 5 rows of big pintucks
a few tips:
- dont wast time measuring and cutton your cotton. i usually just ,ark how long i want the piece to be , nicj the fabric and simply tear it. it tears easily and along the grain, you you have a straight line with no hassle. disadvantage – you will get a few hanging thread to deal with. I use the same metod for cutting the flounce
- pintucks – for small, decorarice pintucks you see on chemises etc, I use a seam gauge and a pintuck foot etc – the detail is important. for the petticoats however, where i want my pintucks bigger, and where it doent matter too much if the pintuck is 2mm longer at one side, I save time by not marking them at all – i simply use my finger as a gauge.
(A short video of how to make them fast using your finger as a gauge can be found on my instagram account. ( here)
I also opted for a flounce, also with pintucks and lace 🙂
Once the pintucks and the flounce were on, I simply gathered the wasit (there will be lots of fabric to gather – about 4.5-5m) using the ruffler attachment
Then attach the waistband, buttons, etc, and you are done!
If you are wondering why pintucks and flounces instead of a simple petticoat, well, they do have a function! PIntucks were used a lot on children’s clothing – as they grew up, the tucks were released and garment lengthened, here however the tucks are not only a decorative feature, but a practical one – they hide the shape of the cage and they stiffen the edge a bit more, hanging better; the flounce has the same function – this fills in the empty space between the cage’s end and the ground, preventing the ‘lampshade effect 🙂
There are a few beautiful petticoats still surving – you can fing some on my pinterest page
Now you are ready for a skirt and a bodice – or a gown. I have already written a post on a day dress – here.
I hope you found this little tutorial useful, the tutorial on how to make a gow bodice and skirt is here
Oh, and if you dont sew, dont worry,:-) chemises, petticoats, corsets and whole outfirs are now available in our online shop ! There are already a couple of nice dresses and a few petticoats there, more undergarments will be added shortly
And a few outtakes:-) i knew the chamber put would come in useful!
OK, so I do have a bit of an reputation for being a fast sewer. And because of that I have been exposed to a variety of opinions ranging from ‘ Wow, you sew so fast, you must be good!’ to ‘ It really must be crap, nobody can make it properly in that time’.
The fact is, however – neither of these sentiments are always true. You may be labouring on one item for ages – but that in itself doesn’t mean that the finished item will be a masterpiece – it may still be ill-fittng, badly stitched etc. Similarly – you can make items fast – and that in itself doesn’t mean they are poorly made. There are exceptions to every rule, but the most important thing is –
FIND THE PACE THAT SUITS YOU
To produce a quality garments you need to be working at a pace you are comfortable with. If you rush it – it will be reflected in the final look; but if you procrastinate too much, you may loose interest/heart to the project , get bored – and that will show in sloppy work too.
If you are in the comfortable position of sewing just for yourself, as leisure, do take your time. Unless, off course there is an unexpected event this weekend and suddenly you have an urgent need of a new frock… If you are earning your bread sewing things, you will need to find a pace you are the most efficient at without compromising the quality.
I get asked a lot, how I can make things quickly – and the answer is – not every item is made quickly – this simply depends on the purpose of the garment, the client’s purse and my own private time constraints . The most important factors are the purpose – and the quantity you are making.
The purpose of the garments will considerably influence the speed at which you can produce an item -. If you are aiming at historically accurate garments and are making everything by hand ( the ‘before Singer’ eras) because your garments will be shown to the public etc – it will take much longer than a garments that looks fine, has handfinished details but inside seams machined. But if you are making modern clothing and are free to use sewing machine, overlocker etc – that would cut the timing considerably.
a few examples
1. – 2 17th century gowns, one handmade ( 1660 style, in green silk); and a 1634 in blue satin with machined innards and the rest handfinished. The handmade took me 5 solid days of stitching; the other one only 3. But can you spot a difference ? unless you look very, very closely, you cannot… (more on making the blue gown and construction details here)
2. Tudor gowns – this one is completely handstitched – petticoat, kirtle, gown – every single stitch. Took 2 solid weeks
These two were made using a machine, with hand finish – all inside seams are machined, but lining is inserted by hand, all visible seams, eyelets etc are hand stitched. Each took about a week.
3. Napoleonic bling – military lace sewn by hand ( 6 hours each side)
and on a machine, with hand finishing – 3 hours each side
A short tutorial on the machine style is here
The other factor is the quantity – how many items of the same sort you make. In short – experience. The more doublets/corsets/bustles you make, the easier it will get and the faster you will become. This is mostly down to the fact that if you are making a new piece of clothing, you do take your time considering the best way of putting it together, you make mistakes – but this is a very valuable time, as with every mistake, ever minute spent pondering on how on earth do these two bits fit in, you learn. My first corset took 3 days as I was just experimenting with techniques. Nowadays I can make simple corset in 3-4 hours, and if anything, is is better and much more structurally sound than the one I made in 3 days…
With that in mind, if you feel you would like to speed up your sewing, these are the tips I found worked for me:
* quality sewing machine and tools. The machine doesn’t have to be expensive, but it needs to be reliable. You don’t need an industrial model straight away – though I love my semi industrial Janome for its speed – just make sure it does its job consistently and without mishaps. Also – do that the advantage of the many different attachments. I love my ruffler for example – without it it would take me much longer to make flounced petticoats, gathered chemises etc.
It is worth investing in some specific machinery if you make lots of similar items -for example, for corsetmaking getting an eyelet setting press meant shaving at least 30min off the complete making time.
*take notes. If you are working on a new project, just jot down bits that caused you problems – next time you wont have to work it out from the very beginning. I admit I had problems working our suspenders production – and since i wasn’t making a lot of corsets with suspenders , the first couple of times i had to work out how to make the things, made mistakes and wasted time. Once I started making a lot of them – I simply made a sample one and pinned it on a board, within reach if i ever need to be reminded how to put the thing together. Sorted, no more wasted time. you can always take photos and scribble on them too 🙂
* Practice – basically that’s where the experience kicks in. The more you make, the better you can get at it ( practice makes perfect!) but remember to practice only the bits that worked – repeating the mistakes again and again wont do you much good, o matter how long you spent practicing it :-(. The more you sew, the more you will learn about how different fabrics behave, which stitches, needles, setting to use – almost automatically, without sitting there and looking for the manual.
* if you are making clothes mostly for yourself, save the mock ups and make them into generic patterns, you can then adjust them ( neckline, hems, sleeve length etc) to fit in with a new project – and it will save you at least an hour or two on making a mock up from a scratch. The same applies to your repeat clients; or, if you are making a lot of stock items, a few graded hard patterns will not only speed the work up, but also ensure consistent sizing.
* Neat work environment. Well, this actually doesn’t work for me at all, by work space is consistently chaotic, cluttered -some would call it messy, even… but I generally know what is where. I have attempted a neat work environment, works for about 2 days and then get s back to its original chaotic state. But if you are a person who can tame the chaos, and organize the space well – that would help too!
* plan ahead. Time management is essential, especially if you are running a business – I have written a whole post on just this issue – here
*outsourcing. Sometimes it is simply easier and faster to rely on others who are better at certain things. I can make handwoven braid, lace, etc – but I know I cannot make the braid as fast as those who specialize in it. So when time is an issue, I buy my braid, points, laces from people who are expert. Money well spent!
* limit procrastination. Yes, I am guilty here too… when time is of an essence and I know I need to concentrate I simply try to eliminate the procrastination sources – switch off facebook, usually.:-)… I answer my emails once a day in the morning, then switch off the outlook too, so no notification, pings etc distract me. It is not always possible, but when it is, it is great. I found I work much faster when I go to my Stitch and Bitch sessions at Julia, at Sew Curvy – I haven’t got a laptop with me, I put the phone aside, and all I can do is work ( and chat) – and am at my most productive.
* set a time limit. If you like competing against yourself and enjoy a challenge – set a deadline. I work best when on a tight deadline, it motivates me far more than anything else – and I love it. Not everybody’s cup of tea as some people find it stressful – though there is a way around it, if you are willing to have a go. If you set a deadline on a bit of sewing that is not hugely important and failing it won’t influence your work in general, you can see whether you enjoy the challenge. And if you don’t – back to time management and planning….
*music. Again, different music works better for different projects – so find out which tunes motivate you, jeep you alert and happy. Similarly, for hand sewing I love audio books and learning languages. while stitching hems is pretty boring, listening to the Game of Thrones etc makes the task not only enjoyable, keeping your mind occupied and stopping if from looking for distractions, but you will sew faster too.
Having said all that – remember it is not always a race. I do often have to rush things for myself, as I ‘squeeze ; private projects in between the commissions ( best example , a ballgown in 24hours here_)- but I also have a few long term bits I work on and I enjoy taking my time – I am just finishing a lace making project I started about 3 years ago, for example:-)
So find your own pace, the pace that works for you, and stitch happy ! 🙂
I have been wanting to have a go at the early mantua for quite some time – but since the end of the 17th century is relatively underrepresented here in the UK, with no events at which to wear it, the project was just simmering on the edges of inspiration. Then, out of the blue, we were asked to provide accessories for a shoot inspired by the famous, (or rather infamous) “La Maupin” – this was a lingerie shoot for Kiss Me Deadly, in a lavish London location – and we were told that we could come and shoot some historical stuff there too. Well, that was enough to get me going…. ( and the post on the shoot itself is here)
Fabrics were bought, research conducted and ideas considered – and we were ready to go.
The items I needed to make were – a petticoat, mantua and fontage headdress
Inspiration board – http://www.pinterest.com/priorattire/1670-1700-dress-more-or-less-/
Grosgrain silk (gold on top, olive on the other side) – 5m; gold lace – 8m, bullion fringe – 5m, button. ( pic.1)
Pattern – my own, based on the instructions in the Nora Waugh book – a very simple affair, a rectangle of fabric, with the grain going horizontally.
Again, a very simple construction – Cut the rectangle of fabric (the original petticoat is 124”, mine is 130”), the front length will depend on your height and shoes. The back can be trained slightly (as it is in the original, or cut to an even length. I adjusted the length on the waist, so that the bottom hem has the grain running horizontally all around.
Sew the ends together, leaving an opening at the top – about 3-4 inches. Finish the seam (hand stich, securing the edges and press)
Hem the skirt and apply any planned decoration as wished – in my case this was a band of the same fabric but with the olive side showing, framed by the metallic lace and, at the very hem, the bullion fringe.
Cut out the waistband to the desired length, and pleat the skirt to fit it – the original has 13 pleats on each side, and I aimed for the same number.
Attach the pleated skirt to the waistband. Finish the waistband, add a button and work a button hole – and the petticoat is ready.
8m of silk taffeta,
20m of wide metallic lace,
10m of narrow metallic braid,
Hooks for the train,
Pins for the stomacher
Linen (0.5-1m) and reeds for the stomacher.
If you are lining your mantua, you will need the same amount of lining as the top fabric…. Some mantuas are lined, some unlined, if you have a fabric that has a different shade on the other side (like my petticoat), that would work very well too.
For sewing I used silk thread.
Again, Norah Waugh’s pattern – I even used the same measurements on all the pieces.
Cut out all the pieces in silk. Put the sleeves, revers and neck pieces aside for the time being and deal with the main parts of the gown first.
Back piece – sew the skirts together at the CB (unless you cut on fold) and mark the pleating lines. Fold the fabric in the recommended direction on every pleat and pin. Experiment with the depths of pins until the back measurement of the gown matches your own – the easiest way to do so is to use your block, or to try to pin on a mannequin of your size.
Once you are satisfied with the pleats, secure them with hand stitching
Repeat the same process on the front pieces – experiment with the pleats on a dummy, or on yourself if you have help. Make sure to wear the undergarments that you will be wearing – in my case it was fully boned stays. Without the foundation provided by the stays, the pleating will not only result in the wrong silhouette, but will also be much more difficult – remember that a modern bra will give bust a natural round shape, very different from the flat, straight lines created by rigid stays of the era.
Again, once you have tweaked your pleats, secure them with hand stitching.
Prepare your revers – sew in the dart, sew lining (I used the same fabric) and pin onto the front. Again, experiment with the exact positioning and the shape of the front edge, and once happy with it, stitch together.
That’s the most difficult and fiddly part done, really. Yes, there will be a lot of hemming and hand stitching later, but the crucial fitting is mostly over
Next step – connect the front parts with the back –at the shoulders and the sides. Follow the directions in the book – part of the side seams are stitched wrong-sides together so that they won’t show too much when the train is hooked up in the back! Stitch, secure, and press.
Prepare the sleeves – work the seam, secure the raw edges, add the cuff. Pleat the top, if applicable, and insert into the armscythe.
Hem the thing…. This will take quite some time as the train is very long, but if you plan to show it, do it by hand. If you plan to stitch decoration over, then a machine finish will be fine.
Neck pieces next. Tidy and secure the back neck edge, then attach the neck pieces, matching the centre back seam. Stitch carefully
. Your mantua is now ready to be decorated.
Decoration time. I used a fine metallic lace and applied it, well, everywhere really… On the cuffs and all around the gown. The inside of the skirts sports a narrow metallic braid, which finishes it nicely once the skirts are arranged.
. For arranging the train – attach hooks as indicated on the pattern. They simply hook up to the belt at the back
Stomacher next – I made mine out of 2 layers of linen buckram, fully boned in reed, then covered in the taffeta and lined it.
Your mantua is now ready!
To finish the look however, I need a headdress – the famous “fontage”. After some brief research I stumbled upon this little tutorial – and followed it more or less directly:
I tried it first in calico, as a mock-up
Once I was happy with the size and shape, I cut it in linen, hemmed the crescents, applied lace and pleated it. I then pressed and starched it and inserted the boning (reed), then stitched the pleats closed at the back.
Next, the bag was attached, (a simple circle gathered onto a band), and the long wide lace lappets finished the look
On the day of the shoot, I wore the following items:
Silk stockings (American Duchess) and C17th shoes
Linen chemise with lace cuffs,
Fully boned stays
Silk petticoat (in red)
Decorated petticoat with the fringe
Fontage (worn over my own hair and curly hairpieces)
Jewellery by Gemmeus
I was surprised to notice that the stomacher needed only a very, very basic pinning at the top – as once the train is hooked up to the belt (here a length of wide metallic braid) at the back, the tension keeps the belt taunt, and stomacher in place. The whole outfit looked far better that I had ever hoped – as, let’s face it, a fontage is a bit of a silly thing to wear on your head! But once everything was on, it all fell into place, and it all felt not only comfortable, but also correct and entirely in keeping in with the environs. Needless to say, I felt great – and didn’t want to take the thing off…..
We arrived on the location in a good time and managed to shoot our stuff way before we were overcome by glamorously bewigged girls in sexy lingerie, brandishing swords, fans and rapiers…. More information on the shoot can be found here: https://adamselindisdress.wordpress.com/2014/04/06/early-mantua-and-la-maupin-style-shoot/
1876 February ensemble
It all started innocently enough – ‘Historical Sewing’ posted a fashion plate on their timeline – February 1876, from Englishwomen’s Domestic Magazine
I liked it, and pinned it to my Pinterest board, stored away on a wish list of items to make one day – there were already too many other things to be worked on. Over the last few months I got the fabrics bit by bit, so that everything would be ready for when I eventually decided to go for it – no hurry, no pressure.
But then, due to a sudden change of plans it turned out that we would be attending a Victorian Christmas Market at Stoke Rochford Hall, near Grantham. In itself, noting extraordinary here, until it was pointed out to me that there would be a skating rink on site! That was all I needed to get my imagination going and I immediately saw myself gliding effortlessly across the ice, swathed in that lovely February attire.
The timing was tricky – I had commissions to work on first of all, but I reckoned if I got them sorted out and could have a day to get most of the work done with the machine, then I could spend Saturday at the market hand finishing the last bits, and Sunday would see me wearing the completed outfit. Just about doable…
As a matter of fact, I managed to finish the commissions early enough, so had half of Thursday at my disposal – it almost seemed too good to be true, so I embarked upon the project. And it was indeed too good to be true – my new machine threw a wobbler, and as a result it was sent back for servicing/repairs… meaning that I ended up with a brand new semi industrial machine in its place! So don’t be surprised if you see different machines in the pictures.
I did manage to do all of the machine work on the Friday and took the lot to be hand finished at the event.
Anyway – a step by step account below, should you wish to recreate the outfit for yourself!
Wool (with nap, so limits the direction of cutting) – 6m (5-5.5 would probably do the trick if using plain fabric with no nap)
Black silk for the bodice front insert – 0.5m
Lining – cotton, 5m, two varieties (I used up left over bits)
Fur trim – 12 yards (an Etsy find)
Velvet ribbon, narrow – 25 m
Double sided velvet ribbon, wide – 15m
Bits of black silk velvet for binding,
Buttons, covered with black velvet – 20
Waist stay – cotton tape
Hooks and eyes for the waist stay,
Boning for the bodice and tape to form boning channels
Total cost of the materials – Fabrics ( wool and lining) £115, trims, notions etc – £ 130 ( fur trim was a bit pricey… )
The skirt and the overskirt.
In the original the skirt is trained, but since I wanted to use the ensemble for winter sports, a train would probably be a bit of a hindrance– so a walking skirt length was required instead. As such, I simply used one of the patterns that I have been using for my walking bustle-skirts.
The overskirt pattern was a bit of an adventure – given the limited time allowance, I sketched the shape more or less, cut it out, and it sort of worked. On second thoughts I think I should have made the hem more curved – a suggested improvement is marked on the drawing. Mind you, keeping the shape rectangular makes sewing the ribbon trim rather easier than following curved lines – if you plan the trim, it is easier to change the upper part of the piece – (also marked on the drawing)
- Cut out your pieces in top fabric and lining. The skirt will be flatlined, so pin or baste each piece together (front top fabric to front lining) before assembly.
- Mark and pin the darts in the front piece. Sew the darts
- Assemble – sew the side pieces to the front piece.
- Decide where you want the opening to be – centre back, if you are not cutting the back piece on fold, or side back, as I did.
- Stitch the back piece(s) at the side panels. Press the seams open, if you can (not advisable on my napped wool – heat flattens the nap and leaves marks )
- Pleat the pack of the skirt so that it matches the length of the waistband.
- Place the waistband on the skirt (right sides together), pin and stitch.
- Grade the seam, reducing the bulk of the pleats, then flip the waistband over and secure it with small stitches (or run the stich on the sewing machine). Since my fabric was quite bulky, I cut the waistband with the selvage – so that I didn’t have to turn it under and create another layer of volume
- Add a button hole and a button.
- Place the skirt on the dummy, over the undergarments that you plan to wear. Adjust the hem, marking any corrections. Just to be absolutely sure, try the skirt on – again with the undergarments on, and the boots you will be wearing.
- Once you are satisfied with the length all around, finish the hem. You have a few options here – you can bind it; you can fold the hem over, secure it with stitching and then add a tape-over to straighten it (see my previous article on how to make a walking dress ). You can use a facing too. Here, I simply folded the allowance under, basted it and then, on the right side, sewed on the velvet ribbon. A tape stitched to the inside hides the machine stitches and protects the hem too.
- Finish the interior seams – trim them, making sure the lining seams are shorter. Secure the seam allowances with small stitches, sewing them open, to the lining
- The skirt is now ready.
The front part.
- Cut out the piece in top fabric and lining. Assembly will depend upon the amount of time and the kind of fur available. With ready trim, either hem the piece, stitch the trim on and then add the lining, or, do it all in one go, treating the fur trim like a piping. This can be tricky, but saves time . If you are working using fur trim cut out from a plate, baste the two layers first and then bind them using the fur strip as binding.
- Mark and sew the darts
and the front is ready!
The back piece.
- Mark the position of the ribbon trims, (or use your machine’s guidelines). Sew the 3 rows of ribbon trim.
- Hem the piece
- Stitch the fur trim onto the hem. Pin the lining and sew it alongside the fur trim.
- Again, if using fur strips from plates, binding the piece will be easier and less time-consuming.
Pleat the panel and to the desired width and pin it onto the waistband. Pin the front piece onto the waistband – it should overlap at the sides. Try it on a dummy to see if the overlap is sufficient.
Adjust as necessary, and sew the waistband on in the same way as you did the skirt’s waistband
All you need to do now is to finish your overskirt is to add the decoration – but that can wait until you have bodice made, as it is then easier to judge the best position for the bows. Here shown already decorated
Pattern – again, I simply adapted my template bodice pattern by making it slightly longer in front, and adding a bit of fullness at panel 2 to mirror the shape on the fashion plate. The back pieces are substantially longer and flare quite dramatically . Neckline was adapted too.
Normally I would have made a mock up, but with the time constraint I decided to risk it – after all I know the pattern fits me well as I have made a few bodices based on it – so in theory it would be fine! Still, if you have time – do make a mock up…..
- Cut out the pieces in top fabric and lining. Pin or baste the wool and lining pieces together – if authenticity is not a priority, you can overlock (serge) the pieces – much easier to work with and will save you hours of hand finishing the seams.
- Pin and sew the front darts
- Assemble to bodice – sew the front piece to the side, then add side back (leave the seam from the waist to the hem open between the side-front and side-back panels) and back. Repeat on the other side and lastly, sew the two halves together at the back-centre seam.
- Sew the shoulder seams. The mini bodice is now assembled
- Try it on. There is still time to check the fit, and make adjustments. In my case it was evident that the front darts were too short – and the shoulder seam needed taking in.
- Once that was sorted I only needed to reduce the flare in the front panels at the hem – just half an inch less did the trick
- Once satisfied with the fit, press the seams open (if your fabric allows for it!) and you can start working on the sleeve. I did cut mine with a loose fitted cuff and pinned it on my arm to make sure that it looked correct
- Sew the sleeve parts together along the back seam. Before you sew it to the front one, sew the ribbon decoration onto the cuff – this is much easier than dealing with a closed sleeve!
- Decoration on, complete assembling the sleeve. Pin it into the arms, matching the back seams, and ease it in. (you can do that after decorating the bodice itself – easier to manoeuvre the bodice without the sleeves!)
- Bodice decoration – apply the ribbon trim to the required parts of the bodice.The original here didn’t have any ribbon on the front part – since I had some left over ribbon at that point, I added it there too. Next, add the fur trim.
- The front part – I simply bound the front edge in silk velvet strip.
- The mock vest – this step can be skipped if you plan to wear a blouse or a chemisette underneath. I had just about sufficient scraps of silk taffeta and decided to go for it.
- Trace the shape of the piece onto a scrap of calico and adapt it until you get a result you are happy with – I used 2 calico mock ups to arrive at the piece with a collar pointing downwards.
- Cut your pieces in silk – you will need 4. Sew them with right sides together, alongside the collar edge. Trim seams allowances, turn inside out, and press. Apply ribbon to your liking
- Before you mount the piece onto the bodice, finish the neckline of the bodice – hem it, and apply the fur trim. Add fur onto the cuffs too.
- Pin the insert in and stitch it in place. Try it on to see if the position is satisfactory, and whether you need to put in hooks and eyes. Trying to emulate the original, I also added a wide ribbon trim going from the shoulder to the centre front, with a bow conveniently hiding the hook and eye closure.
- Add lace frill if desired.
- Next step – add buttons and buttonholes, or settle for hook and eye closures. I admit I did neither – since the straight stitch machine doesn’t do buttonholes and I had no time to stitch them by hand, I settled for buttons and hidden loops – once I have my proper machine back, (or more time on my hands to fiddle with hand stitched buttonholes), I will remove the loops. It will also make the jacket a little better fitted)
- Finishing the seams – unless you have overlocked them, you now need to deal with the insides of the jacket – as I bet it is looking pretty messy! Trim the lining seam allowances, as you did with the skirt, and then shape the top fabric allowances to reduce bulk, then finish the seams by hand. Armholes – trim and bind in cotton tape
- Make boning channels out of tape ( or, if your seam allowances are big enough, you can actually place your bones inside the seam allowance and stitch it closed – (a good post of that by Historical sewing – http://historicalsewing.com/boning-in-bustle-bodices), insert the bones and secure the boning to their corresponding seams
- Stitch your waist tape to the centre back, and to the seams, over the boning – it will reduce pull on the buttons.
Last thing to do – decorations!
Put the whole ensemble onto a dummy and plan the decoration placement.
I had sufficient buttons to go on the apron front and lots of bows made out of double-sided ribbon to go on the bodice and overskirt
How to make bows – beautifully explained here (http://historicalsewing.com/how-to-make-ribbon-bows-for-victorian-costumes).
Stitch on the decoration , and you are done!
Now, only a muff, hat, gloves – and we are ready for a winter outing. Alas, no skating – the ice rink at the event turned out to be a tiny affair with plastic ice. I tried it out on Saturday with a friend, and my skates did manage a bit of a glide, but the ones for hire there were hopeless – plus, the plastic ice was sticky.
We just took a few pictures and decided to have a proper skating photo-shoot later on in the winter, on real ice. So instead, it was promenading on the lovely grounds -:-)
Things to change – make a better hat, for once. I have also learnt that the ready made fur trim is stiff and that stiffness translates onto the garment. Next time, I will save for a few high quality plates and work with them to achieve a wider and softer trim.
The skirts – looking at the pictures the lines are not exactly right – the original’s overskirt is a bit more slanted. Easy to remedy though – will fiddle with the length of the pieces at the waistband as indicated on the pattern.
Working with wool – sheer pleasure. It is the second Victorian outfit I have done in wool and I love it. It doesn’t fray, has just a little tiny bit of stretch in it to make fitting easy and wrinkle – free, and is a pleasure to wear too.
hope you enjoyed the post:-)
and a few more pictures from the day – the place was a heaven for photographers!
French hoods, the bejewelled headpieces of the Tudor era, seem to be one of the most mysterious and difficult to recreate items – a real challenge for any Tudor re-enactor wanting to portray an upper class persona. Throughout the last few decades a number of patterns and a number of ideas has been employed to recreate the look – some more successful than the others, some less. The main problems lies in the lack of evidence other than pictorial one – to my knowledge, not one of the headdresses we now call French hoods has survived to our times. There are surviving examples of the wire base used for the gable hoods, but not a single one that would cast some illuminating light on the construction of the French ones. The only way then, it seems, is to rely on the portraits and accounts of the era, which, though immensely helpful, seem to be insufficient to resolve the burning issue once and for all – how were the things made and how they stayed on the heads!
In the present article I will briefly discuss the origins or the history of the hoods and then proceed to show how Prior Attire hoods are made. I do not pretend to come up with the pattern I have been using, and a full credit is given to the ones who did, nor will I claim that the method we employ is the best ever – I am confident it is only one of many, and it just happens that it has worked best for me and my customers. The purpose of the article is to show, step by step, how to achieve the creation – and for that you may want to buy the commercial pattern, as it will help you a great deal, but it is by no means necessary.
In my career I have come across several different solutions to the problem, and indeed a few of them seem to be working just fine. The two most popular for the last two years have been the following:
- All elements ( coif, paste, veil, crescent) are separate and are pinned together on the wearer’s head – and the method has been discussed in great detail in an excellent article by another costumier, Sarah Lorraine (http://yourwardrobeunlockd.com/articles/historicalperiods/medievalrenaissance/280-reconstructing-the-french-hood-by-sarah-lorraine) )
- The Tudor Tailor’s way – the elements are stitched together in a sturdy headdress – with a few items being removable as needs be (coif, bongrace, separate billiment). The idea is not new, as I managed to dig out the references to it in an earlier publication by Denise Dreher, but is now enjoying a well deserved revival.
I believe that in the 16th century there wasn’t just one pattern for the hood – ladies were making do with different arrangements, striving to achieve the fashionable look by a variety of means and no doubt women across the world are doing the same nowadays. For me the latter way really worked as a way of making a headdress that is historically correct, easy to wear, looks good and most importantly, stays on my head.
The genesis of the French hood.
It is becoming more and more evident how the English, or gable hood evolved on the UK, transforming from the open hoods into bonnets with paste and frontlets, and then in the most iconic form known from the portraits of Jane Seymour or the More family.
Similarly, it is possible to trace the evolution of the French hood – though it must be noted that its origins seem to be developed on the continent rather than in England. Although they derive from the same ancestor, an open hood worn in the last decades of the 15th century, the evolution took the headdress two separate ways. In England, the front of the hood became stiffened, and started to fold in the middle over the forehead, creating a point (style also worn with some hennins). With further stiffening and additional decoration of the brim, the gable shape started to emerge – first with the long frontlet, laying on a stiffened and decorated paste, then with the paste shortened, frontlets folded back and pinned to the crown and divided veils.
On the continent, the hood was also changing at the time, but the emphasis was on the roundness – the stiffened and decorated part of the hood followed the shape of the head, eliminating any possibility of the rectangular shape of the English bonnet. The beginnings can be seen in the portraits of Anne of Brittany or even Katherine of Aragon, who, contrary to common misconception, did wear the early version of the French hood as well.
Katherine of Aragon, Michael Sittow,
Anne of Brittany, Jean Perreal
Margaret aged ten by Jean Hey,
With time, various elements were added and new styles were developed – ornaments and basic shapes of the crescent changed, the veil changed through the decades and the hairstyles changed as well – but the most recognizable style of the French hood seems to have persevered through many decades, starting as a simple hood and transforming into one of the most complex headdresses.
Buckram (linen or hessian) 0.5m
Wire – 2m
White linen – 1m
Veil – black velvet or satin, 0.5m
Silk for the paste and the crescent, can be the same colour, can be different. Silk taffetas, satins and velvets work best. The most common colours were white, black, tawny-gold, though reds and colours coordinated with the gown were also in evidence. You will need very little; 0.5m for both in the same colour is ample.
Silk organza – a thin strip (fine linen also works)
Linen and silk threads
Ornaments – freshwater pearls, lass beads, metal beads, gems – depends on style.
Thimble, pliers, wire cutters, different size needles, including a curved one
A scrap of silk velvet or wool for cushioning the inside of the paste.
A bit of cardboard for mock up
I used an adapted pattern from the Tudor tailor book. The pattern is available in hard copy http://www.tudortailor.com/patternshop.shtml
It is a good idea to make a mock up of the pattern in cardboard or stiff paper – just to see how it lies on your head. The paste part is the most important as it provides the base for the whole construction. It should sit on your head snugly, with the front parts resting just below your cheekbones, and the back ‘wings’ cradling your head. Remember to make sure your hair is coiled in a bun or a plaited into one at the top back of your head- it provides additional support for the hood. If your hair is short, it is worthwhile to get a basic plait extension – coiled and pinned, it will do the job just as well. Depending on the shape of your head that should be sufficient to keep the hood on very securely. For very heavy hoods with lots of bling on them, I find I need to pin them just over the ears as well.
Experiment with the mock up till you find the best fit and adapt your pattern accordingly.
- Cut out the pattern shapes for the paste and the crescent in buckram. No seam allowances are necessary.
The paste cut out.
- Cut out the pieces : in linen – 2 of each, with an inch seam allowance all around; in silk, 1 of each, with the same seam allowance
- Put the fabric pieces aside for the time being- the buckram pieces need to be wired first.
- Cut a length of wire – should be enough to go all around the paste, with a little overlap. Sew on the wire to the edge of the buckram – you can do it by hand, with a strong linen thread, or on a machine. If using the machine, set it to a wide zig-zag stitch and sew, slowly and carefully, making sure the needle goes down on both sides of the wire, and not into it. Do not hasten the process– it will most likely result in broken needles…
- As you near any corner, use the pliers to bend the wire around it.
Paste with the wire sewn on by a machine
And the crescent with the wire
- Pin the back ends of the paste together and try it on. You will most likely notice that the buckram squashes your ears or at least feels unpleasant – take note of the areas and mark them on the buckram – they are the places that will need some cushioning to make the hood comfortable to wear.
- Cur small rectangles of wool or velvet – any thick and smooth fabric will work well. Fold it and stitch it to the inside of the buckram where your ears will be.
The ‘ear protectors’ stitched in to the inside of the paste
- You are now ready to cover the outside of the paste with linen. Pin the linen layer to the paste, folding the seam allowances over onto the inside. Stitch around, keeping the fabric taut and secure – remember that it will not be seen as the silk layer will go over it, but if your silk is thin, try to keep your stitches small so that they do not show through it.
The paste covered with linen
- Once the linen base is in place, you can cover the outside with your fashion fabric – it can be silk taffeta, velvet or satin. Again, fold the seam allowances under and stitch carefully, ensuring the fabric lies smooth on the curved surfaces and that the corners are well defined.
Paste covered with black velvet
- Next step – pleated frill. You can skip it if you plan to wear a coif with a frill. If your coif has plain edges, you can add the pleated strip to the hood.
- Cut a length or organza (utilising the selvage, if you can – if not, you will need to hem it) and pleat it in even knife or small box pleats, securing each pleat with a pin.
Once you have enough to fill in the front of the hood, secure the pleats with a simple stitch, pin the trip onto the ironing board and set it with steam. Do test the fabric first to see if you can iron it – if yes, go ahead, if no, just steam.
- Pin the strip to the inside of the paste, so that only about half an inch extends beyond the paste. Sew it onto to paste, at the back, and carefully, at the front, making sure you catch the fabric folded under but not going all the way through all the layers.
Frill pinned and stitched on
- Leave the paste aside for the time being – it is easier to line it later on, once the crescent is attached.
Time to work on the crescent.
- Cover the outside of the wired crescent first with linen, and then with your fashion fabric, just like you did with the paste.
Crescent covered – outside view
If you plan to decorate the crescent by sewing the ornamentation directly, do it now.
Decoration options: you can stitch each individual bead and pearl directly – useful particularly if you are planning a more elaborate decoration option. Alternatively, if your embellishment is just a single row, you can string all of the beads etc on one thread, and then simply stitch between them, securing the string onto the crescent.
Once the decoration is attached, line the crescent with the other piece of linen. Pin the piece around and stitch carefully so that it doesn’t peek from the underside
Stitching the lining to the crescent
You are now ready to tackle the most difficult task of all: attaching the crescent onto the paste,
If you have vice, it may come useful, but a spare pair of hands or long pins could do the job just as well.
Mark the centre points on both paste and crescent. Pin them together, and continue pinning at the sides so that the crescent is in position.
Sew with needle (curved ones are best for the purpose) threaded with strong thread, catching both items. It helps if you first place a few strong stitches at both sides of the crescent – hidden by the decoration, they will not be seam, but they will go through all the layers of the crescent and the paste. They are the main anchor. Continue along the edge of the crescent, catching the crescent’s fabrics and going through the paste, the stitches will show a bit – but you can cover them later with more decoration.
Using normal needle – and a curved one, below
- The two pieces are now in place – so the worst part is done! You can now decorate the paste with your choice of embellishment –braid, pearls etc.
Pearls sewn onto the paste, covering the stitches.
- Line the paste with the last bit of linen. The stitching will have to be careful and require some dexterity since the shape of the hood is now slowly emerging and you have to deal with concave and convex surfaces – again, a vice or a third hand can be useful. Pin the lining in first:
Then sew with small stitches
- Time to connect the back ends of the hood; pin them first, so that they overlap a bit, and try the hood on. Again, remember to arrange your hair as described previously. Make any necessary arrangements until the hood feels secure. Once satisfied, take it off and sew with strong thread, connecting the two parts. Since you will be going through all the layers doubled, you will need a thicker and stronger needle, and possibly pliers too, to help you draw the needle through.
Trying the hood on
Last bit – the veil.
Cut the veil in silk satin, silk velvet or taffeta. Sew the back seam and hem the edges.
Pin the veil to the hood – mark the centre top first and pin that first, then pin the sides onto the crescent. Where the crescent merges with the paste, pin the veil onto the past, so that it goes smoothly in one circle.
Pinning the bottom centres together
Sew with small stitches – again, a bit of manual acrobatics will be necessary, but it can be done – with experience you will work out which way of holding the hood works for you. Again, a curved needle is a blessing!
Sewing the veil on…
And the hood is ready!
Optional: if you plan to sew the crescent billiment onto a separate base, you can do it as the last step.
Cut a narrow strip of buckram, mirroring the shape of the upper edge of the crescent. Wire it, cover with lining and fashion fabric just like the other items before. Attach any decoration and pin the billiment onto the hood – it can sit on the top of the veil too. Attach the billiment.
Hood in silk velvet with a separate billiment:
Other examples of hoods:
Silk taffeta base and crescent, silk satin veil, freshwater pearls and metal beads decoration on the upper billiment, gold metal braid on the lower
Silk satin base and crescent, freshwater pearl and garnet beads decoration, silk satin veil
Silk velvet base and taffeta crescent, satin veil, freshwater pearls and gold braid decoration
your turn now! :-0
Boucher, François. A History of Costume in the West, Thames & Hudson; Enlarged edition (23 Sep 1996)
Mikhaila, Ninya and Malcolm-Davies, Jane. The Tudor Tailor: Reconstructing sixteenth–century dress. London: Batsford, 2006.
Caroline Johnson, The Queen’s servants, Fat Goose Press, 2011
Hayward, Maria. Dress at the Court of King Henry VIII. Leeds: Maney, 2007.
Boucher François, A history of Costume in the West, Thames & Hudson; Enlarged edition edition (23 Sep 1996)
Denise Dreher, Fromm the Neck up; An illustrated guide to hat making, Madhatter Press
Mikhaila, Ninya and Malcolm-Davies, Jane. The Tudor Tailor: Reconstructing sixteenth–century dress. London: Batsford, 2006.
Caroline Johnson, The Queen’s servants, Fat Goose Press, 2011
Hayward, Maria. Dress at the Court of King Henry VIII. Leeds: Maney, 2007.
Medieval & Renaissance
Well, as much as I love flowing trains swishing behind me, there is no denying the sheer elegance and practicality of a walking-length costume. Considering that we do quite a lot of Victorian interpretation work in all seasons, particularly the muddy ones, I had to consider making one that would not suffer damage when working on muddy floors or streets. Last winter we were hired again for Victorian Christmas celebrations at Holkham Hall, this time for 4 days; although I had already decided to make a nice winter polonaise with a train, I simply needed another outfit – and a practical one too.
A perfect excuse to make a walking dress, if I ever saw one, and since I had picked up some interesting silks at a recent market, the decision was made.
The inspiration – Harper’s Bazaar, Autumn costume 1883
Cotton for lining, 6m
Silk brocade 5m
Silk twill 3m
Interlining for the waistband/front vest
Cotton tape (5m)
Velvet ribbon (2m – but cotton tape can be used here as well)
Bodice: my own – well, I did adapt my wedding bodice pattern (again), experimenting with how to best achieve the front with the ‘false vest’ effect . A similar pattern is available from Vena Cava (http://www.venacavadesign.co.uk/Products/1884_French_Vest_Bodice.html)
Skirts – again, I have adapted the pattern from my wedding skirt, simply by making it shorter at the back, so that with the bustle it was an even length. Similar pattern of a plain underskirt can be found here – http://www.venacavadesign.co.uk/Products/1885_Four-Gore_Underskirt.html
Apron front – adapted from: http://www.venacavadesign.co.uk/Products/1886_Autumn_Overskirt.html
If this is the first Victorian skirt you have ever made, then I recommended that you make a simple toile in calico, just to get the length, darts etc right. It is much easier to get the desired even hem when draping it on a dummy than when trying to wrestle with maths. Also, you can use the calico pieces as a template for future skirts, saving you loads of time.
- Cut out your pieces (in my case: front, 2 sides, 2 backs, plus waistband) in top fabric.
- Place the pieces on lining and pin together. (You can cut the lining first and then the top fabric – up to you!)
- Cut carefully, but DO NOT unpin – leave the pieces as they are, pinned together. If your fabric is ‘slithery’, baste the two layers together.
- Sew in the darts on the front piece, and press.
- Place the side panel onto the front, right sides together, and sew through all 5 layers. Repeat for all the other panels, making sure you leave the back seam open a little at the back – that’s your placket opening.
- Press the seams open. You can pink the seam allowances to limit for fraying before couching them down – or simply fold under and secure them with small stitches. For the placket opening, simply fold the edges under and stitch on the machine – even easier if you are using the selvage as I did
- Put the skirt on the dummy. Make sure the dummy is wearing correct undergarments – a bustle cage or pad, and a petticoat. Pleat the back panel: knife pleats towards the back work best in my opinion. Pin the pleats in place and take the skirt off.
- Prepare the waistband – either baste in the interfacing material, of if using a fusible one, fuse with the top fabric.
- Pin the waistband into the skirt, right sides together, and sew. Press, flip it over, securing the edges of the skirt and pin on the other side – then fold the raw edges of the waistband under and sew – either by hand or by machine.
- Work the button hole and sew on the button.
- You can add a proper placket – a piece of fabric to cover the opening; since my skirt is to be worn under the apron, the opening will not be visible anyway, so I decided not to bother in this case…
- Put the skirt on the dummy again –this time you are working on the hem. Play with the arrangement of the skirt itself, as well – more often than not it will need tapes attaching at the side/back so that the fullness is contained over the bustle and not at the sides. Only once you are satisfied with the fullness distribution/tape arrangement should you have a look at the hem.
- Adjust the hem length as necessary, making it even all around. To finish it, fold the hem under and stitch. You can also add ruffles etc.
- Since my skirt was to be used a lot, I decided to reinforce the hem by using a strong cotton tape. A ruffle would go on outside of the skirt, (though you can also attach it on the inside – both work 🙂
- Ruffle – mine is of the silk twill, with cotton lining. Cut the ruffle (3 times the length of the hem usually works for me). Place the top fabric and the lining right-sides together and sew along one edge.
- Flip on the other side and press, positioning the seam not on the very edge, but slightly up on the wrong side, so that the lining is now longer at the top. Stitch the top edge together, cutting out the excess lining.
- Pleat – Either pin every pleat, or cut corners- use machine ruffler (I love mine!) or a pleater.
- Press and starch.
- Once ready, pin and sew your pleats onto the skirt, right sides together.
- Fold down and press. You may further secure the ruffle by stitching it to the hem by hand,
- Your skirt is now ready! 😉 – here the inside view
- Cut out the pieces in fabric (and the lining, if you are lining it).
- Sew the darts into the front section
- Hem the pieces and add ruffle or any decoration you would like to use
- Mark the pleats at the sides and sew the pleats in place.
- The back – hem this, including the placket opening. Pleat according to the diagram on the pattern, then pin.
- You now have the apron, the back, and the waistband. Try the pieces on, pinning them to the dummy, or on yourself; Check that the pleats look the way you want them to . If all is ok, sew the back pleats and add the waistband.
- Position the back and front pieces on the waistband and pin in place. It will overlap a bit with the back piece on top, this is ok. Try it on yourself, or on the dummy, to ensure that the fabric hangs properly. If necessary, you can still change the position of the pleats.
- Sew on the waistband, and finish as with the waist on the skirt. Finish all buttons and buttonholes.
- The front pieces will require a tape, as they will pull the apron into position. Stitch a length of tape (enough to tie over the bustle) at each side as indicated by the pattern.
- Your overskirt is now ready!
Again, if it is your first bodice, do make a mock-up – do not rely on the pattern to fit perfectly well onto your corseted form! Needless to say, wear your corset for all fittings. I made a mock up with two different fronts – one sported one dart and the vest part sewn along the second one , and the other had 2 darts and a vest added in a third seam. The first option worked much better for me, so I tweaked this side and used the pieces as a pattern for the proper bodice.
- Cut out your pieces in top fabric.
- Place the pieces on the lining, pin together and cut. Do not unpin – treat as one layer. If the top fabric is slippery, baste the pieces together. Again, you can cut in reverse order as I did – lining first,
- Prepare the vest part – I decided to interline the silk twill to make the buttonholes sturdier. I also used the silk brocade as a lining for the twill. Sew the piece right-sides together along the front edge and bottom, press open, poke the corner, and flip onto the right side, press again. Pin or baste the other edges together and treat as a single piece.
- Sew the darts onto the front piece first.
- Sew all pieces of the bodice together, (don’t worry about the sleeves or collar for the moment), and try it on. This is the last opportunity to make changes to the fit, neck or arm scythe shape, so DO take your time checking the fit.
- Time to work on the sleeves – sew the parts together, hem the cuffs and add ruffle, decoration, etc as required. Pin into the bodice and try on.
- Once everything is in order, sew the sleeves into place.
- Press all seams open, or to one side; pink the seam allowances ( or fold over and secure with stitching)As for the seam connecting the sleeves to the bodice – use a cotton tape to enclose the seam, a simple, neat and period technique.
- Collar – place both parts (plus interlining) right sides together, sew along the top edge.
- Trim seam allowances, turn over, poke the corners out and press.
- Pin the collar into the bodice,( the top fabric and interlining but not the lining part) and sew. Fold over the lining and stitch, hiding the seam.
- Now for the edges – either pipe them, or bind them – I made binding in the brocade and bound all edges apart from the vest part. Sew the binding first, right sides together , flip open, press and fold over the seams, then sew the inside by hand.
- Mark the buttonholes and work them – either on the machine or by hand
- Sew on the buttons.
- Pleat the peplum as indicated on the diagram , or as desired – and secure it with a few stitches (or a piece of tape)
- Cut a piece of ribbon for your waist tape, ( grosgrain is best, but other tight-woven ribbons about 1inch wide will work as well), and stitch this at the back seam. Pin the tape at your waist, at the seams. Attach hooks and eyes in front – the tape will take some of the strain from the buttonsJ you can also attach the tape over the bones – will work just as well.
- Mark how long you want your boning to be and cut the bones. File the ends and enclose the boning in the channel (here I used a few readymade ones).
- Sew the channels onto the seams, placing the boning over the tape . An excellent article on the boning and waist tape position in the bustle bodices can be found here- http://historicalsewing.com/boning-in-bustle-bodices
- Your bodice is ready!
One of the articles ( well, two in one, actually) I originally wrote for Your Wardrobe Unlock’d – It is a long and a detailed tutorial, hopefully targeted at folks who would like to make their own stuff… I do make historical habits as commissions, if you are interested, please check my website!
1885 Riding habit – jacket
I have wanted that habit since I first clasped my eyes on it – the one from Victorian and Albert museum. The jacket has been on my to-do list for ages, in fact I had hoped I could wear it for the wedding hack, but somehow ran out of time to make it. Still, its time has finally come and in the present article we will have a closer look at how to make one as well as the skirt and the riding trousers !
As remarked in the article on the Regency riding habit, some significant changes were afoot. Due to the fencing off the countryside, it has become unavoidable that to follow a hunt, one will have to jump all the fences and hedges in the way. Not much of a problem for all the gentlemen, but a serious issue for the lady riders.
A bit of side saddle history should cast some light on it: the saddles used so far for the ladies had only one pommel, over which the lady would hook her leg. This has enabled her to sit facing forwards – a technique believed to have been invented by Catherine de Medici , though there is an engraving by Durer (pic.a)that predates the French Queen’s time, showing a lady facing forward as well.
Whoever could be credited with the invention, it was a huge improvement – before ladies either sat on a saddle facing completely sideways, with a planchette to rest the feet on, with little control of the steady palfrey which was often led by a groom (http://thesidesaddlemuseum.com/detail17thcenthermessaddle.html). Or, for a faster ride, they sat behind a man riding pillion (still practiced in Tudor times). Neither way was completely comfortable and neither allowed the freedom of movement. However, with the side saddles with a pommel, it was possible for a lady to ride independently.
And it was all fine until one had to jump. Bolder Regency ladies would strap themselves to the saddles to ensure you would stay on over the fences – but it was dangerous as in case of a horse falling, the rider would be easily crushed. But with the invention of the second pommel, the leaping head, it has suddenly become possible to stay on, quite comfortably so, over all kinds of jumps, fences or ditches. The equestrian minded ladies, for the first time in history, were able to ride independently in all conditions, keeping up with the men – but still looking elegant and ladylike. Indeed the sport became very popular, with several famous equestriennes performing all kind of tricks on the side saddle.
The riding habits reflected the changes in the saddle design, especially as far as the cut of the skirts was concerned. I remarked in the previous article how difficult it was to arrange my regency skirts on a later Victorian saddle – the skirt would simply not lie properly as the leaping head was in the way, hooking the fabric. So firstly the skirts were cut much fuller – not a problem in the crinoline age skirts – but that still didn’t completely solve the problem as the skirts would bulk up and get tangled around the rider’s legs .
Later Victorian skirts are cut very differently – they are much more fitted, hugging the hips, and having darts at the knee, shaping the garment to match the shape the rider’s right thigh would assume on horseback. It was still not completely safe as in case of a fall a lady could still catch her skirts and be dragged behind the horse – but it was the first step towards the later much safer apron skirts which are still worn today.
The bodice changed as well, though here the changes simply reflected the changes of fashions. A few things remained constant however: the cut was simple, utilitarian, resembling man’s jackets and uniforms – and the braiding so popular on men’s attire was no less popular amongst the ladies. The riding habits were worn on shirts or chemisettes, and corsets. Indeed a ‘riding’ or a sport corsets were used – shorter, with hips cut much higher to allow the rider to sit comfortably. The corset, boned either lightly or more heavily depending on the rider’s requirements does not restrict the movement – if anything, it provides a terrific back support.
There is quite a lot of extant habits to be found online- I compiled quit e a lot of images of the habits throughout the ages on my Pinterest board
Background information and research.
Well, not much here on this habit apart from the images from the V&A – there are a few photos of the same jacket on the web but in different light, so although it is difficult to be precise about the hue of the jacket and the braid, it is at the same time easier to see some details more clearly.
The original shows the jacket in grey/blue fabric with a grey braid decoration – as the description says, ‘Flannel trimmed with mohair, and lined with sateen’. Indeed the style of the jacket is described as ‘Hungarian’ or ‘Polish’, so I found it very fitting, considering my Polish origins! It was made by Messrs Redfern and Co. For May Primrose Littledale.
1.5m of the top fabric – flannel, broadcloth, superfine would be best. Here broadcloth is used. ( for great cloth have a look here)
1.5m of lining fabric- cotton, sateen, silk, linen. I used flax linen.
If you are using thinner fabrics, interlining is recommended.
3m of narrow cotton bias binding
17 buttons – here lovely silk wrapped buttons by Gina Barrett
Hooks and eyes – optional, I used mine to secure the underside front
A strip of buckram for lining the collar
4 bones and bone castings
15m of braid – I made my own out of cotton yarn. Simply couldn’t find one that would work well as most of the braids nowadays contain rayon etc. Still, if authenticity is not the priority, there are a few that would do – there are excellent links in Gina’s article on frogging. I had originally planned to make mine out of silk yarn, but I didn’t have enough and couldn’t find the same colour anywhere. Still, the cotton seems to work!
Tracing paper to transfer the pattern
Calico for mock up
Well, for once, it was a bit easier. I used the pattern and the mock up from my wedding bodice – the sleeves, back and sides. All I had to do was to experiment with the asymmetric front. Easier said than done – the experimenting did take some time!
A similar pattern can be found on Vena Cava website:
I actually bought this one, as the skirt and trousers will be based on that – and maybe one day I can have a go at another jacket too!
Cut your pieces in calico and sew them together. As mentioned, I used my existing mock up, and simply drafted an overlapping right front on a calico instead of an original part.
- Try it on, making sure you wear the underwear you intend to wear it with – in this case a corset. Not so good here -needs a few adjustments on the front.
- Once you are satisfied with the fit, transfer the changes to the pattern and cut the jacket in top fabric and lining. There are a two options as to the method of lining – you can either flat line it, or make the lining and the top separately. I decided to flat line mine as it gives a bit more stability, seems to be more accurate for the period, and it is easier to attach any bones if needs be. So I placed my top pieces on top of lining, pinned them together even before I started cutting the lining out – as a result they are ready for sewing the moment you finish cutting
- Start with the darts in the front parts. Pin them together and sew through all layers of the fabric. If your fabric is flimsy, it is a good idea to baste the layers together first.
- With the darts sewn, trim the lining to reduce bulk and press
- Sew the rest of the bodice together – start at the back and add part by part, making sure the seams lie flat – careful pinning or basting is recommended, especially on the curved seams. If you need, draw the seam line on the lining – will help if you don’t want to rely on the machine’s gauge
- Trim the lining along the seams to reduce the bulk. Notch them too – the seam, especially any curved seam will work better. It is also easier to iron them flat.
- Try the bodice on – there is still time for adjustment, and in fact, mine needed a few! Back needed taking in more and the front didn’t look fantastic either The front was an inch too high and it turned out that it was necessary to insert a horizontal dart to facilitate the transition between the bulk of the bust and the neck area. Darts like that were used in 18th century riding bodices and in some Victorian bodices too – so I decided to insert on here too. And it worked nicely.
- Once all the alternations are done, press the seams open and either pink the seams allowance, or couch them down.
- Sleeves next. Again, pin the two parts together and sew. Reduce the seam bulk and press the seams – not an easy task but can be achieved with the help of the tailor’s ham and sleeve ironing board
- Insert the sleeve into the armhole, pin it safely – and if you plan to have the sleeve head slightly gathered (like mine – gives me that little extra freedom of movement!), secure the gathers with a thread. Sew, then treat the seam like all the others – trim the lining seam allowance and notch on the curve. Repeat with the other sleeve.
- Tidy all the edges of the bodice, preparing for binding. Pin or baste the layers together and then pin on the bias binding’
- Sew the binding on. Trim the edges to match the edge of the binding Encase the edge with the binding, pin and hand stitch. ) Press the finished edges flat. Repeat on the sleeves.
- The collar – pin the layers together (here 2 layers of wool and 2 of interlining) and sew. Grade the seam allowances to reduce the bulk and trim the edges inside
- Pin to the bodice and try on, ensuring that the collar is even on both sides. Sew, right sides together, through the bodice and collar layers (all except the collar’s lining). Grade the seam allowances.
- Secure the collar’s lining – i used the same fabric as the top fabric here) and hand stitch in place
- Buttonholes. Mark the buttonholes on the overlapping fabric – the original had 17 buttons, and it so happened that mine was a perfect length for it – a button every inchJ work the buttonholes either by hand or machine.
- Add the bones. Use either ready-made bone casings or make your own in your fabric. Then stitch the bones to the seams and the front darts.
- Back pleats – pin the pleats in desired place and secure with stitches – all you can add a bit of fabric to strengthen the place.
The bodice is basically finished, it simply needs some decoration.
I followed Gina’s advice on the type of braid and made mine out of cotton yarn. It is easy to make (7 strand braid – I have done 8 and 5 strands before), but the required length meant there were some complications. Usually, if a short length was required, I would prepare my threads by tying the excess length in little bundles. It works, but the threads tangle quite a lot. So for the rest of the braid, I simply used lace making bobbins – the braid can be much longer now and plaiting is smoother.
Eons later, once you have all your braid ready (or if you are less of a martyr and bought some nice readymade one!) the real fun begins – applying the braid. Again, I used Gina’s instructions from her excellent article on frogging. I drew the pattern on the paper, based it to the fabric, sew the braid on and then removed the paper. Note though – removing the paper from those tiny nooks and spaces between the braid took ages – many thanks to my husband who spent at least an hour with tweezers…).
Repeat for all the other decorations – on the sleeves, back and collar.
Add the buttons and the jacket is ready to wear!
Skirt and trousers
The original jacket is displayed with a plain black skirt. I have decided to go a bit further and get a skirt in matching wool. As pointed out in the previous article, the skirts for the equestriennes have been undergoing substantial changes in the period. By 1880 gone were the full skirts of the earlier periods – they did look lovely, draping on the side in a gentle curve, but they could also be uncomfortable and dangerous: the fabric would bulk up and in case of falls, the folds of the skirts could be easily caught on the pommels of the saddle, dragging the unlucky rider. The new generation of skirts featured a completely different construction; it was asymmetrical, with the shape of the skirt reflecting closely the shape the amazon’s body would assume on horseback. Although not as safe as later apron skirts, this type of skirt was safer and more comfortable for riding than the previous models, and they also enjoyed the benefit of being elegant, and easy to adapt for walking.
The trousers, based on men’s garments, were sometimes worn underneath. They provided a valuable layer for winter hunting, and, if a fall occurred, they kept the lady decent. I wasn’t really sure if wearing 2 layers of wool would be comfortable, but since I got the patterns for both, I decided to give it a try as well and experiment with the layers, trying to find the safest and most comfortable way of dressing a Victorian Amazone.
3.5m of wool (broadcloth, twill, etc, medium to heavy weight) colour – blues, greens, black and greys were favoured, with lighter colours being worn in summer or in hotter climates.
3m of mock up fabric – cheap cotton, calico etc
2m of lining – here cotton/linen mix
7 – 10 buttons
1m or tape for waistband
1m of tape for loops
0.5 elastic for the stirrup
Pattern: as mentioned before the one from Past Patterns
Note: the pattern provides instructions, but I admit I found some of them tricky to follow and employed alternative solutions – hope you will find them useful!
Preparing the pattern and mock up.
- Trace the size you require on a pattern paper. If you are making the pattern only for yourself and will not need other sizes later, you can simply cut the pattern in your size straight from the commercial pattern. Piece the pattern pieces together (front skirt upper and lower, back skirt upper and lower)
- Transfer the pattern onto your mock up fabric. Mark the darts and notches carefully, it also helps to write on each piece which is front side left or right side, which is back, again, left or right. I know, how can you confuse 2 pieces, but trust me, you can.
- Cut out mock up fabric – do not worry about facings at the time. If you cut the darts on mock up, it is easier to transfer them onto the patter/top fabric later.
- Sew up the darts on both parts first, then sew the side seams.
- Try it on. Make sure you try it on either the same or similar undergarments you will be wearing your habit on. If you are planning to wear the trousers, either make the trousers first, or wear trousers of similar weight and shape under your mock up. Essential – do wear your corset. The pattern is cut to modern sizes and does not take corseted waits into consideration, you may find you need to make the darts bigger and take in the side seams to fit a corseted waist.
- Mark any adjustments on the mock up, both in standing position and in sitting, side saddle position. If you are lucky enough to have a saddle and a horse handy, do get on and check the fit on the real thing – will work great on your hem line as well. Here, alas, I only had a sofa readily accessible…
- Transfer any adjustments on the pattern if you plan to use it in the future ( you can also save and use the mock up for that purpose)
- Trace your pattern on the top fabric and cut – cut out the two main pieces plus the facings. Make sure you marked all the darts and notches clearly on the left side.
- Cut out the lining pieces (front, back and the pocket). Again, transfer the darts and notches on the lining’s right side. Pink the bottom of each lining piece.
- Place the lining on the wool, left sides together. Match the dart lines and pin.
- Baste the two layers together, including running a stitch through the middle of each dart, stopping about half an inch before the darts ‘point. You can baste on a machine or by hand, hand basted shown here. On the back piece, at the top opening, pink the wool, then top stitch the lining
- Sew the darts on each piece.
- Slice the darts open (all but one- the big horizontal dart on the back should stay shut), trim the bigger darts, press and hem the edges. Press the horizontal dart down.
The side facing–
Put the facing strip on the front piece, right sides together. Sew, press the seam open, flip it over the seam onto the wrong side. If not using the selvage, pink the edge and secure it to the lining with regular stitches.
Put the pocket facing along the straight line of the pocket piece. Sew, press, fold over the seam and secure.
Repeat on the other piece.
Place both pieces together with the facings outside sew around the pocket.
Turn inside out – the facing will be inside the pocket
Place the pocket on the facing, half an inch below the top line. Stitch to the facing using strong thread. Remember to leave the facing part open!
Assemble the skirt
Place the skirt parts tight sides together, pin and sew the side seams. Press the seams open (you will need a tailor’s ham for the knee part seam!) and either pink them or overcast the edges.
Turn the skirt on its right side. Try it on again – make sure the waistline sits snugly – if you need to adjust the darts, you can still do it at that stage.
Finish the top
Connect the facing parts by placing them right sides together and sewing. Open and press the seam. Pink the bottom part of the facing and pin the facing on the left side of the skirt, left sides together. Run a basting stitch half an inch from the top.
You can place the top of the pocket on the facing, or enclose it between the facing and the pocket. Here I decided to keep the pocket between the layers, looks nicer.
Take your tape and pin it to the right side of the skirt, slightly below the line of the basting. Sew.
Trim the seam, cutting notches ion the curved part, then fold the tape over the seam and stitch it onto the facing.
Here fabric covered buttons were used – cut a circle of fabric bigger than your button, run a stitch around the edges, place the button in and pull the thread. Secure with stitching and attach the button to the skirt.
Use as many buttons as you want on the side of the skirt- I used 6 big buttons.
Make one button for adjusting the skirt for walking. Sew it on at the bottom of the lower knee dart, on the back piece.
Cut your tapes to form loops – 2 loops will be used for hanging the garments, one loop, placed at the centre back dart, will be used to hook the knee button onto.
The original skirt also has 2 pearl buttons at the back darts – they were used to secure the skirt to the jacket (the jacket would have 3 small loops at the waistline)
Note – it might me more convenient to place a loop at the knee dart and a button at the centre back. Both arrangements were used at the time.
Work the buttonholes on the other side of the opening,
Try the skirt on again, and mark the correct hem position, if you can, on the horse.
Mark the hem depth with a line – the hem should be at least 4 inches deep. Press the edge inwards – it will make sewing the hem up easier later.
Place your weights in the positions indicated by the pattern. Stitch on either by hand or on a machine
Fold the hem inside, along the marked line. Secure to the fabric with small stitches, just catching enough fabric to be secure, without leaving a big mark on the right side. There will be some excess fabric – simply fold it into shallow darts and stitch them on.
Press the hem.
Take the elastic for the stirrup, form a loop big enough for your foot to get in, secure the loop with stitching.
Place the ready stirrup at the place marked on the pattern and sew it on. You can later adjust the length and position as necessary.
Your skirt is now ready!
I believe a warning is necessary here: these equestrienne trousers will not make you look pretty. They are the scariest pair of pants I own, and I do have a few. If you ever ask yourself whether your posterior looks big, be prepared that in these scary pants, it will. Big time. It will be noticeable with the skirts on too…. Having said so, they were not worn on their own and are very comfortable for riding, so a good trade-off here.
1.5m of wool
1.5 of lining ( cotton or linen, here linen)
1.5m of calico for mock up
Elastic for the stirrups
- Trace the pattern on your mock up fabric, marking all the darts and notches.
- Sew the darts.
- Place the front pieces over the back. Sew on the outside leg leaving marked opening on the right side), inside legs and outside the other leg.
- Now sew the centre back and centre front seams.
- Try the mock up on. Mark the length, waist size (the same notes as with the skirt apply here – if wearing a corset, you will need to make bigger darts!)
- Mark any corrections on the pattern
Making the trousers
- Trace the pattern on your top fabric and lining, making sure you mark the darts and notches. Also mark clearly which leg it is, as right leg will be longer!
- Cut the parts out.
- Place the lining parts on the corresponding parts of the top fabric, pin and baste together, as you did with the skirt.
- Sew the darts on each leg, using the same method as the darts on the skirt: sew, open, trim, press, overcast.
- Place the facing over the right front leg piece, right sides together, on the outside seam
- . Sew, trim the seam, flip the facing onto the inside and secure.
Assemble the trousers
The instructions will tell you to sew all the seams together and then press them. I prefer to sew seam by seam and press as I go – much easier for the outside seams pressing!
- Right leg: place the front piece on the back piece, right sides together.
- Sew the outside seam up to the facing.
- Press the seam open and either pink or overcast. Pink the back opening( opposite the facing part)
- Sew the inside seam, press (you will need a sleeve ironing board for that), finish the seam
- Repeat on the other leg
- You should now have two separate legs. Turn one leg out, on the right side. You now have one leg with the lining on top, the other one with the wool on top.
- Place the wool on top leg inside the other, so that the right sides are together. Pin the crotch seam, and sew from back to front.
- Take the leg out – you now have the trousers on the left side. Finish the seams
- Fold the hem of ach leg in, secure with stitching.
- Cut elastic and secure the stirrup as indicated on the pattern. You may have to adjust their length later on, but primarily they are to prevent the trousers riding up.
- Prepare the waistband – fold in half, length wise and press. To prevent rolling, either stiffen the inside of the waistband with iron on fusible, or baste in a tape.
- Place the waistband on the trousers, right sides together, matching the balance points.
- Sew together, open the seam and press.
- Fold the ends in and whipstitch together, then proceed to stitching the waistband to the inside of the trousers, hiding the seam.
- Add hanging loops at the centre back and front.
- Add buttons and buttonholes on the right side.
The trousers are ready!
They are really meant to be worn with riding shoes, not boots, but since I didn’t have shoes, boots had to do. The trousers just about fitted inside the boots, and, surprisingly, that improved their look, at least to our modern sensibilities, giving them a rather steampunk look
They do make your posterior look big but I found out, once you have the entire outfit on, you completely forget about them. I didn’t feel any hindrance while walking or for riding, everything worked exceptionally well.
The whole outfit looks rather impressive and is comfortable: it is easy to adjust the skirt to walking length and the get on and arrange it on the saddle. The saddle we used for the photo shoot was an antique and didn’t fit the horse at all, so we did not dare do more than a walk, but the seat felt secure. There was no extra fabric bunching up around the pommels that would interfere with the grip – something that was proving a problem with my regency habit. I would be happy to canter around and jump without worrying too much about what the skirt is doing. Definitely a winner!
and a few pics from another occasion, showing the habit in motion..
Victoria and Albert Museum online archive
Lucy Johnson, 19th Century Fashion in Detail, V&A Publishing, 2009
Rhonda C. Watts Hettinger The Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Sidesaddle, Sidesaddle Source, Wilton, New Hampshire, 2009
Vena Cava Design, http://www.venacavadesign.co.uk/Products/1880s-1890s_Riding_Habit_Ensemble.html?q=riding habit
Victoria and Albert Museum online archive
Gina Barrett, Making braids and Cords, DVD
Gina Barrett, Continuous Frog Fasteners, Your Wardrobe Unlock’d, 2012; http://yourwardrobeunlockd.com/costumemaking/fabricsamaterials/601-continuous-frog-fasteners
Jill Salen, Corset: historical patterns and construction; Batsford, 2008
Lucy Johnson, 19th Century Fashion in Detail, V&A Publishing, 2009
Rhonda C. Watts Hettinger The Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Sidesaddle, Sidesaddle Source, Wilton, New Hampshire, 2009