Hi there, friends!
Long time, no see. I do have a non-historical costuming post coming up next week, so for those who may not being into costumes, just know that this isn’t turning into a solely costuming blog. I am admittedly very slow about getting blog posts written lately and I have a lot of projects waiting in the wings — some photographed and some not. I hope to get back to regular blogging in 2019. This year I have spent more time sewing and embroidering than photographing and blogging. Even right now, I’m sitting here dreaming about sewing up the dress that I have on my dressform. 🙂
For this dress, I used Laughing Moon #114, a 1840’s-1852 Ladies’ Round Dress pattern. I used this same pattern for my last 1840’s dress (not blogged yet as I haven’t properly photographed it) and it’s a pretty quick pattern to sew once you figure out what it entails. The longest part is probably cutting it out as you’re working with a lot of yardage, although the cartridge pleats do take a bit of time.
I made View C with the mancherons and the pagoda sleeves. Initially, I had planned to use the high neck, but I really hated how uncomfortable it was, so I cut the neckline to a v-neck. This view has the option for pleating or gathering the bodice’s fan front. I did the gathering on my last version of this (again, apologies for not sharing it yet) and I loved it, but on this one it went a little awry which you can see much more on this plaid than with other prints. If I done the pleats, I would have had a little more control with the placement. I do admit that I was on a bit of a time crunch (as usual….), so I could have gone back and fixed my mistake. I just decided to live with it and be happy with it. 🙂
The fabric for my dress is a 100% cotton from Joann’s in a plaid from this year’s Christmas collection. I made this dress to wear to the Dickens Christmas Fair in San Francisco, but I also planned to wear it to the museum that I volunteer at. Initially I planned to make this out of silk, but as I will also wear this for living history events, I figured that cotton was a better way to go than silk as I would actually be “working” in this dress and with cotton, I can just throw this in the washing machine. I had a little trouble finding enough yardage of this print to make this dress and ended up having to go to two Joann’s about 60 miles apart. This fabric wasn’t available online and the price was so inexpensive (plus, I LOVE this plaid) that I was okay with traveling for fabric.
I do remember attempting to plaid match when I cut this out, but when I got the bodice back, I noticed that it was way off. I’ve seen so many versions of extant dresses without any plaid matching that I decided to just leave it as is. I was out of fabric anyway and couldn’t get anymore, so it really didn’t matter. There is an added placket on the back as when I was plaid matching on the front and sewing the bodice to the lining, my bodice got smaller, so that’s how I fixed it with added fabric.
I failed to take photos of the inside of this dress, but it’s lined with white muslin and the bust is padded. I non-historically finished the seams with my serger. I was also in a huge rush and topstitched the hems on the sleeves and the skirt — two things I generally would have hand-stitched. I said at the time that I would go back and hand-stitch, but that ain’t gonna happen. 😉
I really wanted to make a dress with pagoda sleeves, but I discovered that although they are beautiful and fine for wandering around the Dickens Fair or attending a costuming event, that they are not practical for living history. I often show kids (and adults) how a 1850’s and a 1890’s printing press works and these sleeves get caught in the handles. They definitely AREN’T for working.
The undersleeve pattern is also from this pattern. I used white dotted swiss cotton to make them. At first I had ribbon to tie them on (they fasten at the elbow), but I found how impossible it was to tie these on myself without the help of my ladies’ maid (my husband 🙂 ), so I made certain to insert elastic in the channels for the next time I wore this dress.
I didn’t seem to take many detail shots, but there is self-fabric piping on the armscyes and at the waist. It’s both decorative and helps hold all of this fabric together. As a historical sewing newbie, I was a little apprehensive of tackling the aforementioned cartridge pleats on the skirt in my first go of this pattern, but I felt like a pro when I sewed them on this dress. They are actually my favorite part of sewing this pattern.
As far as alterations go, I did a swayback adjustment to the back bodice, a full bicep adjustment for the mancheron (upper sleeve), added some width for the pagoda sleeve and added an extra panel to the skirt (I didn’t feel that there was enough width for this skirt according to the pattern guidelines). I should have the bodice fitting tighter and my first version fits more like it’s “supposed to”, but I can actually hooks the hooks and bars on the back of this dress by myself, whereas with my first version I need help to do it, so the ease in the bodice for me is about practicality. I do plan to make the front closing version of this pattern next year for my docent gig and that will alleviate the need for help fastening it. I should also shorten the bodice’s length and will probably do that for the next one.
With this ensemble, I also made my first bonnet! I used the Lynn McMaster’s 1840’s/50’s Bonnet pattern in View B. I think it turned out pretty well for the first time, although I have made some hats already, I consider myself a beginner-intermediate milliner. I used nearly all items from my stash, which were mostly remnants from other projects. I didn’t really plan ahead and I was out of buckram, so I used plastic canvas from JoAnn’s to make the form. Buckram is so much better, but this works as I can’t get buckram without driving 150 miles to get some. The plastic canvas is covered in batting with wire (I was out of millinery wire, so I used floral wire) sewn around the edges for shaping. After that, it is covered with silk faille and there is a silk dupioni lining. I made some trim out of the faille and then attached a silk satin ribbon. I’d like my ribbon to be a little longer, but once again — I was using stash supplies and didn’t plan ahead. I did pick up some ribbon at Joann’s, but it just looked cheap against the silk bonnet, so I was lucky to have this silk ribbon.
I really liked making this bonnet and plan to make another one next month. I already picked up some silk moire for it when I was at the Dickens Fair and will be sure to order some buckram, millinery wire and ribbon before starting my next version.
This is how I wore it at the Dickens Fair a few weeks ago with my husband. I also have on the wool pelerine from my last post. My husband has the coat and vest on that I made him last year. I fixed the issues I had with his frock coat before he wore it again. He also bought a top hat at Dickens which will be very useful for many decades when we go to costuming events.
And here’s another photo of me at Dickens. It was our first time attending and I really recommend going if you live in the area. I’d probably go again if I didn’t have a full calendar already due to the holidays.
Here’s a “daguerreotype” of me at my museum in the newspaper building. The building dates back to 1854 and has the original presses in it. I’m standing in front of the 1857 Washington Press. I learned how to use the Washington Press and the 1898 jobber and demonstrate how those presses were used. I like to wear California Gold Rush era dresses when I’m in the newspaper building. Sometimes I am in the restored 1850’s-1920’s house next door and I wear 1890’s-1920’s usually when I’m in there. They are both historic outbuildings at our museum. When I’m in the main museum building I generally just wear my regular clothes unless I’m giving tours.
I still have a few things to make for my Gold Rush era impressions that I haven’t got to. I need a chemisette, a cap and a corded petticoat. I also would like a neck tie, a shawl, a muff and some nice gloves. You can’t see (and I didn’t photograph it), but I have on my American Duchess Renoir boots under this and all of the proper underpinnings. So at least I have most of it!
- Dress: Laughing Moon #114 in cotton, made by me
- Bonnet: Lynn McMasters’ 1840’s/50’s bonnet in silk faille and silk dupioni, made by me