Thursday, 10 July 2014

1830's dress

 I knew I would need an 1830's dress when I started working at the 1830's inn at Westfield.  Their costume department only had dresses for tall people and there was no way to conveniently and temporarily hem up 4 - 6 inches on a dress for a one time use. Last fall I was hunting around at a warehouse fabric store in the quilting department.  They have the reproduction prints shoved in with all sorts of other prints.  At least they are sorted by manufacturer though, so I had a starting point.  I found this madder/turkey red, 1830's roller print reproduction.  It was obviously discounted as it was just $7 a yard.   I really didn't care if I loved it or not.  At that price, a dress length came home with me.  I actually did like it well enough though.   I washed it, hung it out on the line and when it was dried, it had no wrinkles, so I rolled it up on a cardboard fabric tube, and set it in a corner.

Finally this spring, once the main part of the laundry room was done, I could move my sewing machine back to it's lovely little, brightly lit corner.  After my first day working at the Lockhart house, an 1830's farm house, I decided I needed my dress for the next weekend, when I would be there again.   I'd spent a few days researching extant examples.   Most but not all of the bodices had some sort of pleating or gathering on the front and the skirts could be either cartridge or knife pleated to the bodice.  There were a lot of boat necklines, but a few regular ones as well, especially on the few work dresses that I found.  I knew that I needed big, pouffy gigot sleeves. The gigot sleeves would take about a yard each. I knew I'd need that much because the 1838 copy of The Workwoman's Guide, had direction for making a variety of sleeves, most of which said to start with a square 15 nails on the cross, which turns out to be 33 3/4 inches, a nail being 2.25 inches.

I drafted out several different sleeves.   I was going to go with my second choice, a slightly less puffy sleeve, which I thought would be suitable for a farm wife to wear.  However, I couldn't get the numbers to work.   A much larger sleeve drafted out perfectly though and I settled on a third option which said it was included because it worked up so nicely.   It drafted out perfectly but I had to do a bit of thinking as it was almost a full circle of fabric to pleat into the armscye.

I assembled the lining of the gown as a mock up draft.  Then I tried 3 different methods of knife pleating the sleeve into the armscye.  There was no way around it.  I was going to have to cartridge pleat the sleeves.. ick..   I ripped apart the lining and reassembled the bodices, flat lining as the originals were done.   After sewing the sleeve and lining together at the bottom and underarm,  I found the only thick and sturdy thread I had on hand, a lurid purple buttonhole twist and started running my gathering stitches.  I did two rows of gathering stitches and I eyeballed it for regularity instead of marking them all.   It was close enough.  After gathering up the pleat, the sleeve fit in the armscye perfectly.  I stitched in each pleat by hand, although I only used 2 stitches per pleat instead of 4 as I'd have done for a cartridge pleated skirt.   7 hours later, I had 2
sleeves stitched into the bodice.  It took 3 1/2 hours per sleeve.  I did it over an afternoon, took a break and finished up the second one the next morning.   It was a lot of work, but the sleeves took spectacular.  I lined them and many of the sleeves weren't lined, but used a framework around the arm to support them.  Since that wasn't on my list of stuff to make, the lining adds enough support to hold the sleeves out.  The disadvantage though is that it adds a fair bit of warmth to the dress.  That will be appreciated in the cooler weather, but not so much when it's 30 C and humid!  It's bearable though and does look pretty spiffy, if I do say so myself.

Now to make a new day cap.  The old one is a wearable mockup.  I don't like it.  It's in some sort of cheap broadcloth, probably a poly/cotton blend.  I've a nice, half-white cotton muslin which will make a lovely cap.  I'll get the pattern from the Workwoman's guide, since they have a number of cutting diagrams and assembly instructions.

When worn, these sleeves puff up to a nice ball on the upper arm, with the lower arm being cut tight and form fitting.   Several other striped gowns, in similar patterns had the sleeves on the bias like that.  It was such a nice look I added it.  Not remembering how much fabric I'd originally purchased and not knowing if I could get more, I left off any pleating for the bodice.   There is always next time though :)





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