December 9, 2015

Short Gown Study III

Hello friends & Happy December!  How it is already well into the new month, I do not know...time sure flies!  Especially, when you're sewing on a tight deadline...In two weeks time, stitching day and most nights, I was able to crank out an entire, new, mid-century outfit for Yuletide 2015 (plenty more on the project to come).  But for now, let's pick up from where we left off in my Ode to Autumn - 1830s Photo Shoot with a look at the construction details.

Photograph Courtesy of Maria M.

As I have mentioned previously in both Short Gown Study I & Study II, working at the Genesee Country Village has certainty inspired an interest in the working class attire of the early 19th century.  That said, I began this series of "short gown studies" not only to expand my historical wardrobe for work, but to draw attention to the beauty of the often overlooked ordinary.  Practical clothing can be just as pretty as high fashion!  

Completed 1830s working wear!

The Short Gown

First, let's take a look at the short gown, or "mantelet" as Old Sturbridge Village calls it:

Constructed from the same pattern as the first 1830s short gown - please do visit Short Gown Study II for the in-depth study of this style short gown - this simple "T" shaped garment features set-in sleeves, much like a fashionable gown.  Furthermore, the small poof provides an economical and practical nod to the fashionable giggot sleeve style of the era.  However, unlike fashionable gowns, the unfitted short gown closes with a drawstring at the waist and pins shut at the top.  

For this particular short gown outfit (intended to be my new chocolate attire for the Agricultural Fair and American Heritage Chocolate demonstrations), I chose a rust-colored reproduction cotton.  The print ended up being darker and a smaller scale than I had anticipated (drawbacks of online ordering), and there was only about two and an eight yards left on the bolt, when I had ordered three (more online purchasing caveats).  However, I managed to eke out the garment and a matching belt!

Matching belt interlined with cotton drill.

Though, the piping (for the sleeve seems, shoulder seems, armscyes, neckline and wrists) needed to be pieced together.  Mostly hand stitched with a combination of spaced back stitches and whip stitched.  Machine stitched two interior seams and piping strips.

Piecing piping strips from the scraps.

As always, for examples of extant garments, please take a look at my 19th Century Short Gown Pinterest Board.

The Petticoat

While the short gown was finished right at the beginning of September, the petticoat sat for nearly a month just needing to be pleated and attached to ties!  (Sad, I know...)  Anyways, it was finished in time for chocolating at the Domestic Symposium.

Made from two, 60" panels of a rather heavy, medium weight, chocolate linen and sturdy, 1" cotton twill tape from Wm. Booth Draper, the straight petticoat was made to tie the 18th century way, rather than close at the center back.  First the back half is tied in the front:

Then the front half is drawn up, with the ties crossed in the back, to tie neatly in the front: (Have I confused you with all the "fronts" and "backs" yet?)

What I like most about this style is that it provides easy access to pockets on the side, which my 19th century work petticoat does not.  If you look closely where the edge has been turned and stitched, that's the slit that provides pocket access: 

Want to make your own now?  There are two tutorials I highly suggest - A Fashionable Frolick's: A "Threaded Bliss" Tutorial on making a standard, straight 18th-century petticoat & The Fashionable Past's (Koshka-the-Cat): An Easy, Authentic Eighteenth Century Petticoat on making a petticoat to go over pocket hoops (or other supports).  Both are fantastic!!

In fact, I based my petticoat on the directions in the first tutorial by A Fashionable Frolick!  The only change really was in the way I pleated mine, with stacked knife pleats and omitting the wider box pleats (I had trouble fitting all of the bulky fabric!).  Though, I still do have a box pleat center front and inverted box pleat center back.

Back with close up of inverted box pleat & directional knife pleats. 

The other deviation is in the way I've chosen to finish the hem.  As Rebecca discussed in the tutorial:
"Rolling the hem twice is the most common (and easiest) way to finish it, but if you're working with thicker fabric (wool or a quilted or marseilles fabric), or if you need to eek out as much length as you can, you could also bind the raw edges of the hem...Your third period option is to face the hem, typically with a light-weight silk; this treatment is almost always reserved for silk petticoats and silk gown skirts, though it is seen on expensive cotton gowns as well." 
 And since mine is none of the above - I applied a three and a half inch facing out of a dark brown, cotton broadcloth on a linen petticoat - my hem should have been turned.  Now I know!

The Accessories 

Nothing completes an outfit better than the accessories!  And for working class wear, I've found that this is where the fun begins.  The opportunities are limitless - go wild with the colors, prints and scales!

For this short gown outfit, I made a new bibbed apron from a large purple & cream checked cotton and paired it with a small, light green & white checked kerchief.  Both were entirely hand stitched.

Detail shot of the kerchief with 1/16" rolled hems.

The Colour Challenge: Brown  

Back in September when I started the project, I had intended it to be my September entry in the 2015 Historical Sew Monthly hosted by the Dreamstress...however, pleating that petticoat (as well as photographing it) sure held up the process!  While it is several months later, I guess now is better than never!  So onto the details...

The Challenge: #9 Brown - it’s not the most exciting colour by modern standards, but brown has been one of the most common, and popular, colours throughout history. Make something brown.

Fabric: Rust-colored reproduction cotton (I consider rust in the brown family), chocolate-colored linen

Pattern: Short gown from a diagram provided by Old Sturbridge Village, petticoat based on directions from A Fashionable Frolick's: A "Threaded Bliss" Tutorial

Year: 1830s, with the petticoat leaning more towards the late 18th century based on style.

Notions: Matching threads, crochet cotton for piping, cotton twill tapes

How historically accurate is it?  Very high 90% for the short gown; fairly 75% for the petticoat with a subtraction on the facing.

Hours to complete:  Unfortunately, I didn't keep track.

First worn:  For the Genesee Country Village & Museum's second annual Domestic Skills Symposium!  In short, it was absolutely fantastic!!  There were historians and enthusiasts from living history museums in six states (incuding Colonial Williamsburg!) and Canada.  Three days chock-full of symposium lectures (featuring Lynne Belluscio of the LeRoy House, Jonathan Townsend of Jas Townsend and Son, Inc., Rabbit Goody of Thistle Hill Weavers & Patricia Tice of the John L. Wehle Gallery) & workshops (I even had the chance to take a cordage workshop)!

It was a huge pleasure and privilege to be allowed to help and to represent the museum's craft in the village program!  On the Saturday of the actual symposium lectures, I was asked to wear 1830s attire to promote and hand out samples of American Heritage Chocolate.  All in all, I had quite the time discussing everything form historical sewing, to 19th century fiber arts, to favorite museum programs and to American Heritage Chocolate and confections with the attendees!

I even snapped a few pictures of the crafts-in-the-village tables to share:

Some of our crafts from the village!

A year's worth of spinning & dyeing (or at least what was left on the third day).
Just look at those vibrant colors!

Berlin work purses, made by one of my very talented friends!

We also had entire table devoted to 19th century confections!
There were hundreds of gingerbreads, shortbreads, Amelia Simmons Christmas cookies,
speculaas, marzipan, gum paste flowers, candies of all sorts, and, our most popular,
orange springerle cookies!

More beautiful orange springerle cookies!
These represent four nations of the British Isles with the English rose,
Scottish thistle, Welsh leek & Irish shamrock.

What a weekend!  Thanks for reading!


  1. Oh how wonderful your new pieces look! I am loving the rust colored reproduction cotton and the apron and kerchief! I totally agree with you saying that everyday/work clothing was as beautiful as fancy clothing. You just have to know what to look at! The colors, textures and prints make my eyes happy! Your events sound so very fun and I would so love to attend!

    1. Thank you, Gina!! Working class can be so much fun - the wilder the colors, textures & prints, the better! Sure hope you get to make it out to our village sometime! :)

  2. I have nominated you for the Liebster Blog Award! See here:

    1. Wow! What a wonderful surprise & honor, Chelsea, thank you for thinking of me!! :)


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