October 21, 2020

Inside & Out: 1830s Striped Dress

Before dust starts collecting on this dress hung in the back of the costume closet, I thought I'd feature it one last time on the blog.  This inside & out post completes the series on the red striped dress, detailing its construction and all of the fun, self-fabric trimmings.  The completed project appears in two previous posts, including the official photoshoot: Wake the Heart & Stir the Soul - 1830s Photoshoot, and was worn for the Historical Fashion Program: 1830s Get Ready With Me + 4 Antique Pelerines.  

Inside & Out: 1830s Striped Dress Construction
Here are the completed bodice and skirt ready to be attached!

Historical Inspiration

When designing my historical costumes, I first look to period sources, including fashion plates, paintings (and photographs when they become available), and extant examples from museum collections.  The main inspiration for my 1830s striped dress was this favorite from the Snowshill Wade Costume Collection, via the National Trust.  I've always admired the use of the roller print and playing with the direction of the stripes, as some are on the bias and others on the straight of grain.  

Dress, c.1825-30
Snowshill Wade Costume Collection
Source: National Trust Collections (NT 1349130)

Here's another example of bias cut trim on the skirt from a November 1827 issue of Ackermann's Repository (Series no. 3, volume 10):

Morning Dress from Ackermann's Repository, November 1827.
(Source: "Regency Era Fashions," EKDuncan and My Fanciful Muse)

Rather than gathering the front of the bodice, I wanted to make use of the bias again and create this period chevron effect.  Here's an example from the Susan Greene Collection that I liked, notice how strategically changing the direction of the stripes on the belt creates a lovely, decorative effect.

Dress with gigot sleeves, c.1825-1830.
Susan Greene Costume Collection.
(Source: image via pinterest)

Construction Details

The journey from design and sourcing the fabric to making and finally finishing the dress was a long, complicated one.  In fact, it languished incomplete in the stash for so long, that the initial bodice no longer fit, and required the assistance of my very talented, seamstress friend, Kaela, to refit the shoulders and back.  (My guess is that my original pattern did not account for the weight and pull of the sleeves, so the next time I make an 1830s dress, I definitely won't skip the mockup with a sleeve over the proper supports.)  Anyways, fitting issues aside, the dress was eventually completed, and I'm really happy with some of the construction techniques and design details that I'll highlight below:

First, a look at the front of the bodice from the outside.  The front features the period bateau or boat neckline often seen in daywear, and is finished with a narrow, piped facing.  The "chevron" effect is created by cutting each side on the bias and joining them at the center with piping at the seam (piping serves both a decorative and functional purpose by ensuring the sides won't stretch and stabilizing the seam).  Two darts on each side provide fitting, and the waistline is finished with a band cut on the straight of grain.  

Front view of the bodice from the outside.

Here's a close up of the center front, notice how the darts distort the print further creating an illusion of a smaller waist.  I love the play between the directions on the bodice, waistband, and skirt! 

The chevron effect is created by cutting two, front sides on the bias and joining them at the center front.
Even the piping in the seam is pattern matched - it's the little details that make me happy!

And the same view, from the inside showing the center seam, darts, and finishing with both a piped facing at the neckline and folded waistband.  Neat and tidy interiors also make me happy! 

Detail of the front bodice from the inside.

The dress closes in the back with each side constructed in the same way - two pieces with a curved seam and turned under facing.  It's attached to the front at the shoulder, with piping at both seams and armscyes for added stability.  Seven metal hooks - five down the back and two on the waistband - with corresponding thread eyes were used for closures. 

Back view of the bodice from the outside.

Back view of the bodice from the inside.
Seven metal hooks and thread eyes serve as closures.

Detail of the piping in the shoulder seam, armscye, center front seam, and neckline facing. 

If I haven't already mentioned it, I like neatly finished interiors.  Modern garments tend to use a technique called "bag lining," where the fashion fabric and lining are assembled individually and then stitched together afterwards.  Period garments, however, tend to be flat lined - that is treating the fashion fabric and lining as one.  (Here my fashion fabric is the red stripe, and the lining is cotton muslin).  I prefer flat lining (because it's faster!), and if the raw edges start to ravel, they can be overcast by hand, pinked, or even overlocked using a modern serger.  

Another detail worth mentioning is how the sleeve supports are attached.  As seen in period examples, mine are simply tied in place at the armsyces using cotton tapes.  This makes them somewhat adjustable as they can be raised or lowered to sit correctly off the shoulder.  It's also a convenient solution for storage and reuse with other dresses! 

Interior view of the bodice.
Cotton tape ties hold the sleeve supports in place.

Once the bodice was assembled, it was time to shift the focus onto the sleeves!  The side seams were finished with piping, and the wrists with a narrow piped facing.  Basically, in the 1830s, if there was seam, they piped it!  I also echoed the trim of the skirt, applying both a bias cut and horizontal band at the wrists.  Unfortunately, I think these details tend to get lost in the business of the print when worn...but here's a picture to prove they're there:

Detail of the sleeve hems - notice the piping along the side seams, piped wrist facings,
and both bias cut and horizontal bands of trim.

Moving along to the skirt, after some debate, I ended up pleating the front panels into large, double-stacked box pleats (which were not fun to stitch through), and gauging the back panels.  I really liked the effect this had, both in playing with the print at the front, and they way it distributed all of the fullness.  The skirt is balanced so that the back is longer than the front (for an even hem over the skirt supports and petticoats), and is finished with a contrasting hem facing.  

Skirt detail featuring double-stacked box pleats in the front and gauging in the back.
Tiny whip stitches secure the skirt to the bodice waistband.

Making skirt trim!  To save time, I did use a machine to construct the trim, stacking bands of bias-cut strips to those following the horizontal stripe, which were cut on the grain.  Once these were assembled and pressed, I used a machine to stitch the upper edge to the skirt hem following my 1/2" allowance as marked in pencil.  The trim was then pressed down and top stitched by hand using tiny running stitches.  Of course, in the period, every stitch would have been done by hand; however, in my historical garments, I use a combination of machine and hand stitching.  Any and all stitching that might be visible from the outside (as well as techniques that are just not possible by machine like gauging and attaching a skirt) are done by hand.  Though, I will use a machine for convenience and time saving on interior seams or, again, details that won't be visible from the outside. 

Assembling the skirt trim.

Attaching the top edge of the trim by machine to save time.
The lower edge was pressed under a 1/2" and top stitched by hand using tiny running stitches.
When constructing my personal historical costumes, I do use a combination of machine and hand stitching -
it's just faster for me to machine interior seams, though any and all stitching
that could be visible on the outside is done exclusively by hand.

The finished skirt trim.

Contrasting hem facing.

And I think that's it as far as construction notes - if I missed anything or if you have questions, feel free to write them in the comments below!

Since this is an inside & out post, I'll include a picture of the new chemise & drawers set I made specifically for the second wearing, which was for that historical get-ready-with-me program.  I won't go into the details of all of the layers (as there's a whole video on getting dressed in the 1830s in the last post), but for my own sewing documentation purposes, these were the new pieces:

In the true spirit of inside & out...
New chemise & drawers + my favorite boots!

Completed Project Pictures

Here's a look at the finished striped dress worn over the proper undergarments.  I think it's pretty even without all of the extra accessories.  The self-fabric trim and directional print seems to provide enough contrast to keep visual interest.  Though, if you're interested in seeing the entire outfit with all of the finishing touches, do check out the official photoshoot: Wake the Heart & Stir the Soul - 1830s Photoshoot, and the Historical Fashion Program: 1830s Get Ready With Me posts. 

Fully accessorized & seated in the front parlor at the Foster-Tufts House: 

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