Friday, January 4, 2013

The 1880 Book Dress: UPDATED--Notes, Photos and Final Bits

In hindsight, a bigger bustle would have been better.

My lovely and elegant friend and I.

"Borrowed" Gentelmen

Well, I made it to high tea, left the house for San Francisco at noon but was still sewing at 11:30, made the hat up the night before (I will blog about my glue gun hat), feeling very under the weather and quite pasty, and the dress not done but doable with a number of straight pins to hold me all together.  It was a lovely event.  I have an entire album at "Tfirah Costuming" on Facebook which can easily be viewed.

Our Guild really did an amazing job!  The Palace hotel was so so lovely.  And the ladies and gentlemen were spectacular! 

High tea participants..such a lovely group.

01.06.13  HAPPY BELATED NEW YEAR. Here are some more photos and thoughts about finishing the gown:

SLEEVES:  I'll begin by saying that I wish I had seen the following tutorial the night I was trying to get the sleeves onto the dress.  Jennifer Rosbrugh of Historical Sewing provided the following wonderful tutorial on how to deal with too much sleeve cap --

Here are my pictures, you can compare these to the above photos, although I wish I would have made the sleeve cap even I know how.
All that poof on top was not period correct and after basting the sleeves in twice and ripping it out twice I finally pulled out a different pattern and traced that sleeve cap (see below).
I know now that this isn't the best way but it worked.

COLLAR:  The other challenge was the collar.  I have a pencil neck...there I said it.  So my first try at a collar was dismal.  I ended up pinching quite a bit of fabric at the back of my neck.  My first thought was to be quick (I was pressed for time) so I made a seam.  That was a disaster, although it did give me a template for a more curved collar which I needed (see finished dress).  Here is the not so great attempt --

LAPELS:  I drafted the lapel shape with scrap fabric, then made a paper pattern.  My first try was to make a single lapel that was double faced with fashion fabric, but it turned out that it was much too thick.  I decided to make only a single layer, serge the edges and then turn them under once to avoid bulk and hand stitch the edges down.  This approach greatly reduced the bulk and once I partially stitched the lapels down to the bodice you could not tell they were unlined.

DECIDING ON UNDER SUPPORT:  Initially I was going to wear an antique bustle cage under my dress.  I decided in the end not too although I wish I had a bigger bustle to wear under the dress when the final pics came in.  I decided against the bustle cage because it gave too much of an 1870s silhouette to the project.  Below you will see the bustle and petticoat with and without the cage.  The photo with the cage shows how the front silhouette with the cage is too 1870s instead of the flatter 1880s front.  It is a small detail but one that made a big difference to me when I was constructing an 1880s dress.

ATTACHING THE SKIRT AND BODICE:  I borrowed from historical photos (and previous experience) the necessary idea of attaching hooks and eyes to the skirt and bodice.  I wasn't able to get all of them on before the Tea but I was able to get a few sewn in which were necessary to keep the heavy skirt from sagging down and showing the waist band.  Below is an antique skirt showing an example of where the bodice would have attached.  I personally prefer to use the hook piece along with a flat bar eye rather than the curved ones.  I find that I get better placement.  I also used silver hooks and eyes to be able to see the connection points easier than if I had used black ones.:

HAT:  I will blog a separate entry for the "duct tape - glue gun" hat I threw together the night before, but here are some close up photos:

I ended up tucking up the peacock feather up a bit to better flow with the black feathers


  1. Wow! It is perfect! It looks JUST like the fashion plate. I am very impressed!

  2. Beautiful dress.
    This post is really useful as I'm just embarking on my first ever bustle era dress. I didn't know about the eyes on the skirt thing...where on the bodice are the hooks placed?