Research is a long drawn out process. I have been scanning fashion magazines and photos, drafting scale patterns and EVEN attempting reproduction of the fabrics on my extant gowns. I was starting to go cross-eyed and decided a bit of sewing was in order to ground me.
I chose a wrapper that I had recently drafted for "Domestic Lady's Dressmaker- Volume 1". I suspect this wrapper is right around 1870-73. The shoulders are cut long so that the armscye drops off the shoulder but the shoulder seam itself runs mostly along the top of the shoulder. This particular dress is cotton, and is completely unlined.
Instead of trying to make the original pattern fit me, I used my master sloper patterns from the early bustle era, put them back together as they would have been just after drafting, and redrew the lines where they would match up better to the original dress. With my new sloper pattern that I already knew would fit me in hand I proceeded to draft out the dress in a reproduction print I felt would give the same "feel" to the gown.
I knew this dress would make up quickly because it had no front darts, and used many speed sewing techniques that appeared with the advent of the sewing machine. No lining also helped keep the fussiness to a minimum.
The hem is machine sewn, as is the bottom of the main dress. The flounce is then overlayed over the hemmed upper dress and stitched down.
The sleeves are a very simple cut and gathered into a cuff and the placket for the sleeves is simply hemmed on the seam line.
From cutting it out to putting it on I probably have a day's worth of work in it. I did overestimate how much longer I wanted to make it, as I have my standard dress length recorded as the heel height I usually wear for the 1880's (about 2.5 inches) and yesterday I didn't' bother to put on my shoes to try on my new gown.
The dress is easy to move in, and I am modeling it with my corded corset, and not quite enough petticoats. (memo to self- I need new early bustle petticoats) Tara my daughter's dog decided to help me show how well I could bend over in this photo.
The front hangs straight down from bustpoint. Since my slopers already allowed for my full bustline, my finished dress is fairly smooth to the armscye. I chose vegetable ivory buttons from my stash to finish it off. The original had buttons placed a whopping 5 1/2 inches from center to center, and while I put mine closer than that, if I make it again I will probably go for a 3-3 1/2 inch center. The the original dress showed no sign of fasteners for the cuffs, so I chose to use matching buttons only smaller in size. Since Dear Daughter took photos for me yesterday, I have decided to also make a self fabric belt which will close with hook and eyes. I may even do one of the cute rosette sash belts with the little tabs that were so popular in that time frame. I may also later do a nice black grograin belt as well.
At any rate I think it will be a comfortable dress for housework. Now off to do a bit more research for its place in my upcoming book "Domestic Lady's Dressmaker"!
Some time back I created a museum exhibit for the Chisholm Trail Museum.
The display was called "No Lady of Leisure" and it featured some of the work dresses and wrappers from my personal collection.
The problem was the small museum did not have enough display pieces for the dresses and the ones that they did have were entirely too large for most of the dresses to fit without causing strain.
We started pricing mannequins and display pieces to realize that the cost was going to be extremely prohibitive to properly showcase more than a dress or two. I needed a way to be able to display more than a dozen dresses at a reasonable cost for a short term basis.
After a couple of adjustments I created a display mannequin that was small enough to showcase my dresses, had a general form similar to a corseted body, and was fairly cheap to make. The pattern features easy to obtain materials, is quick to make and has built in shoulder/upper arm support. The Bust measure is around 30" and waist around 22" depending on how firmly it is stuffed.
I have now released the pattern I developed to the public.
To assist museums and historical sites with their never ending budget crunch, this pattern is free by request
to non-profit organizations
Please email me your:
name, museum name, address, and email-
I will email you back a PDF copy of this pattern.
For personal use I have made the pattern available
in my etsy shop as a digital download for $5.
Painfully obsessed clothing historian,