August 18, 2016

Inside & Out: 1820s-for-20-Years Project

Right around this time last month, I put the finishing touches on my 1820s-for-20 years project.  It was meant to be completed by my birthday, which we celebrate on the 4th or 5th, however, fit issues with the bodice held me up.  Ignoring the perfectionist within, I finally added a panel to the back and called it finished!  So, tonight's post, as promised earlier, will detail constructing the project, inside and out.  (You can view the completed photo shoot here: The Flower - 1820s Photo Shoot.)

Starting with the inside...After researching (extant garments, historical sources, Pinterest for lots of pretty pictures), my first step for any new project is to look at the foundational garments.  Just as a building cannot stand without the proper, carefully measured and cut under-structure, no historical recreation would be complete without its undergarments.  For this late-1820s project, the first layer was a new shift using Sense & Sensibility's Regency Underthings Pattern:  Made from 100% cotton muslin.  

What made the pattern so useful was its directions on underarm gussets, specifically the order in which to flat fell the seams.  The underarm gussets really make a difference, allowing for a greater range of movement (compared to my mid-century yoked chemises).  I think I need to make several more of these now!

Sleeve and underarm gusset from the outside.

Flat felled gusset from the inside.

Flat felled gusset and sleeve from the inside.
Success to me is when the inside looks as nice as the outside!

The rest of my undergarments - corset, two tucked petticoats and a corded petticoat - were borrowed from my mid-century wardrobe.  However, unique to the late-20s and early-30s are the sleeve plumpers!  No day dress would be complete without the quirky fashion, sleeve puffs for the win!

Small plumpers of my own pattern, based off a basic sleeve shape.

Stuffed with cotton batting...They began to remind me of croissants!

Anyone else see the remarkable resemblance?!
(Image via: Wikimedia Commons)

They each feature a flat felled arm seam and three twill tape ties (stitched inside) that attach at the dress' sleeve seam:  

A puff right side up...

...And a puff upside down!

Then, onto the dress:  Made from a lightweight polka-dotted cotton (based on wear I'm wondering if there is some poly in it...sad face), lined in 100% cotton muslin and hem faced with left over tan cotton.  Combination of hand and machine stitched - machined interior bodice and long skirt seams.  

Here's one of several inspiration dresses:

Day dress of roller and block printed cotton, c.1830
(Image via: Cora Ginsburg, Pinterest)

So, I drafted the pattern for the dress myself, and some of it turned okay, and other parts not so much...feeling ambitious, I wanted a smoothly fitting, darted lining with a gathered front.  Sounds simple enough, right?  Well, not so much...

The lining went together well.  I was so proud of those darts!  But then I realized that the bodice was much to long, especially with a wide I chopped off two inches all the way around:

The results after draping the darts on myself.

But, somehow between the mock up and the fashion fabric, something went awry!  The fashion front didn't want to gather the way I had hoped, and may have been too long for the lining because it pigeons out oddly.  Fail.   

Dress front: The bodice is gathered at the waist and at the neckline,
which features a piped facing to bind the edge.

Dress front lining.  But hey, those darts look nice!

And, worst of all, the bodice somehow shrunk!  It ended up being too small, grrr, so I added a small flap to extend the back.  Fail.  

Dress back: note also that the shoulder seams are piped.

The back closes with seven metal hooks and thread eyes.

The skirt (about 130" around) is gauged and whipped onto the waistband.

Moving onto the sleeves, they ended up a bit snug, but do the job!

Sleeve: armseye and long sleeve seam are piped.
The wrist opening is split and finished with a piped facing.

Inside: Tapes are added at the armseyes to tie the sleeve plumpers in place.
Also provides a good look at the back extension piece.

And finally, the hem facing!  I like adding deep hem facings, they're easy, relaxing, and never fail you:

Ending with accessories:  Often overlooked, accessories can make or break an outfit!  Or in this case, hide the panel extension in the back...For this project, I ended up making a pelerine, wide silk belt, and beribboned cap (featured in a post to come). 

The pelerine was simple:  Flat lined in tan cotton, bound with bias from the fashion fabric.  The neckline is bound with a rectangle ripped on the grain and closed with a hook and thread eye.  Entirely hand stitched. 

Pelerine front: note that the top had to be pieced.

Pelerine back. 

The belt was also a satisfying project:  Made from striped silk taffeta, flat lined with bleached cotton muslin, and interlined with cotton drill.  Closes with two metal hooks and thread eyes, entirely hand stitched.

And, just for fun, I noticed for the first time when I wore the dress in the Foster-Tufts House that this lady wore a belt much like mine!

Portrait in the Foster-Tufts House parlor. 

And, that should do it for tonight's post and look inside and out at the construction of the 1820s-for-20-years project!  Now, onto the next dress...

Thank you for reading!


  1. It's a lovely dress! Thanks for showing the sleeve supports, they look great. I also love the pleating on the skirt and piping around the sleeves, the details are lovely!

    1. Thank you so much, Ateliernostalgia! The late-1820s through early-30s are such a fun style to wear. Sleeve puffs for the win! I hope to see more costumers (like you!) tackle the gigot fashion in the future!

  2. A fantastic job, as usual! Don't forget that each fail is also a valuable learning tool. I've learned more from my failures than I could ever count.

    1. Thank you, Deanna! Some very wise words! Through writing about my costuming fails, I hope that it saves others from making the same mistakes; and, I know exactly what I want to change in my pattern for late-1820s-dress-take-two! Thankfully, fabric is a very forgiving medium.

  3. Such a sweet outfit! I love it!