August 27, 2019

Extant Garment: An Embroidered Petticoat

Having recently made another over-the-hoop petticoat for my mid-19th century wardrobe, I thought this exquisitely embroidered extant example from the Point Park University Collection would make for a wonderful 200th blog post - enjoy!

A mid-19th century embroidered petticoat with scalloped hem detail.
Point Park University Collection

Before diving into a brief background on mid-19th century petticoats, specifically those meant to be seen under a morning dress or wrapper, I'd like to share a little story of happy coincidences.  When I began this blog, one of the main goals was to document the experiences of my costume internship where I deconstructed and reproduced an original 1870s wrapper.  Two years later, I published my 100th post which celebrated the completed project; and now, as the 200th post, we're full circle once again with an extant garment intended for wear under a wrapper.  Some posts are just meant to be! 

Historical Context

The term wrapper refers to a semi-fitted or loose dressing gown that women would often wear in the morning or evening over undergarments.  While often following the details of fashionable dress, these garments were considered informal, best worn in the privacy of ones home "for breakfast, or in the exercise of domestic duties," as explained by Florence Hartley in her Ladies' Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness, first published in 1860.  In fact, Hartley continues, stating that wrappers are "not suitable for the parlor when receiving visits of ceremony in the morning," unless an acquaintance "call[s] at an unusually early hour, or some unexpected demand upon [the lady's] time makes it impossible to changer her dress after breakfast" (27-28). 

Often fastened from the top at the neckline to the waist only, the skirts of the wrapper could be worn open to reveal a decorative underskirt.  As Hartley suggests, wrappers made with "handsome trimming, open over a pretty white skirt, may be worn with propriety" (28).  Extant examples of this fashion from my pinterest board: 19th Century Wrappers, as well as the following period plates and manuals clearly illustrate the popular pairing:

Blue wrapper trimmed in brown silk
The Graceful Lady: Underpinnings - Including Wrappers

Interestingly, this next piece was advertised as an original, "wearable," "maternity wrapper," with an interior drawstring to fit the skirts at the back, while allowing for adjustments in the front to accommodate the figure.  It does have "tiny pearl buttons all the way to the hem," but is shown open from the waist down over a beautifully embroidered petticoat from the same period:

Civil War Era Wrapper
(Image via: Ebay)

As described in Godey's, 1859: "The [wrapper] material is of plaid cashmere, silk, or poplin, the upper part fitting closely to the figure, though the trimming is continued from the open front breadths over the shoulder.  It is of a broad embossed black velvet ribbon; and the same surrounds the loose wide sleeves; plaited frill of cambric about the throat; wide cambric undersleeves gathered into a band at the wrist, from which a plaiting turns back...cap of muslin and Valenciennes, with a torsade of ribbon; under-skirt of alternate tucks and embroidery."
Morning Wrapper from Godey's Ladies' Book, 1859
Google Books: Godey's Magazine, Volumes 58-59

As described in Peterson's, 1863: "Breakfast dress of lilac cashmere, trimmed with quillings of ribbon and large mould buttons covered with lilac silk. The skirt is open in front, and shows a handsomely embroidered and ruffled skirt. Cap of white lace, trimmed with lace and roses."

Fashion Plate from Peterson's Magazine, 1863
Los Angeles Public Library 

Here are a few more extant examples of the embroidered petticoats suitable for wear under morning wrappers:  All of them feature the elaborate eyelet or whitework embroidery commonly referred to as "Broderie Anglaise" during the period, which creates patterns through cut holes or "eyelets" that are overcast (or buttonhole stitched), as well as areas of satin stitched designs.

Embroidered Petticoat, 1860s
Notice the center front panel & scalloped hem -
decorated with "leaves, berry clusters, blossoms & 3 large birds"
Augusta Auctions, Lot 463 

White Cotton Hand Embroidered Petticoat, c.1863
Antique Dress, #7027

Petticoat, 1860-1865
Featuring "whimsical eyelet embroidery with birds, the form of which
is inspired by folk embroidery, and fruit on the vine"
Metropolitan Museum of Art
(Accession Number: 2009.300.3177)

Point Park Collection: Embroidered Petticoat 

And now to share the mid-19th century embroidered petticoat that I came across when I was given permission to study and photograph pieces from the university's collection!  (More details here: project background)  The following images may be shared and saved for educational and personal reference, only, and must credit the "Point Park University Collection" - thank you!

A Mid-19th Century Petticoat with Broderie Anglaise
Point Park University Collection 

At the height of fashion, luxury, and artistry, this hand-embroidered, cotton petticoat from the mid-19th century would have looked stunning when revealed by the open skirts of a morning wrapper worn by a lady of propriety.  Measuring 38" at the center front, the fullness of the underskirt is controlled with stroked gathers and attached to a 2" deep by 23.5" wide waistband:

Detail of the waistband with stroked gathers, front.
The waistband measures 2" wide by 23.5" long.

Five-petal flowers and climbing vines form the large, central motif and centers of each scallop along the hem:

Front panel embroidery.

Detail of a large flower motif and vines.

The petticoat measures 38" at the center front, and 39.75" at the center back.  The total circumference at the hem is 155": 

Full front view, measuring 38" at CF.

Full back view, measuring 39.75" at CB.

There is no evidence of closures (buttons or hooks and eyes), aside from ties that were cut off.  Also, the petticoat may have been deaccessioned from a museum as the numbers "20089/64" are written on the inside of the waistband:

Interior view from the back.
Possibly a deaccessioned museum piece with the
previous accession number at CF reading: "20089/64"

Around the hem, the embroidery measures approximately 7" from the topmost eyelet to the bottom edge of each scallop:  

Detail of the scalloped edge and embroidery at the hem.
The total petticoat circumference measures 155". 

Please visit the Extant Garments page if you're interested in more collection items, and feel free to leave a comment if you'd like to see more posts like this in the future - thanks for reading!   

August 9, 2019

A Pink Sateen Corset with Pearl Flossing

"Properly constructed, corsets are, as articles of dress, 
the most beneficial that can be constructed" 
~ Madam Roxey A. Caplin, 
Health and Beauty:Women and Her Clothing (1864)

Time replace the old corset with a new one of blush pink sateen with pearl satin floss!

Construction Details

Like my previous model, I began with the pattern pieces from Past Patterns #708 and made modifications as necessary.  I was also able to apply some of the construction techniques that I learned in my independent study in theatrical corsetry.  From the most basic grading of seam allowances to reduce bulk, to pressing over a ham to mold the gussets (preventing those ugly wrinkles when wearing), and a better method of laying in gussets, being neat in every step of the making does count! 

Corset exterior (left) and interior (right)

For this corset, I chose to use a sturdy cotton drill with a blush colored cotton sateen as the fashion fabric.  Each individual piece was cut three times, twice from the drill for an inner and outer lining, and once from the sateen with an extra quarter inch seam allowance.  The outer layer of drill and sateen were then flat lined and basted together so that they would act as one piece.

I also added a modified "waist stay" by edge stitching a piece of twill tape to the inner lining pieces, which should help take any strain from lacing.  Next time, I would add a true waist stay, which would be a continuous piece of twill tape, usually held in by the boning tape (not needed in a double-layer corset).

The pictures above show one of the back hip gussets.  After thread tracing the stitch lines, the seam allowances were pressed under, slashing at the point, and then the gussets were top stitched into place.  This particular method of setting in gussets was a major "ah ha" moment for me during my independent study - no more ugly tucks or puckers at the points, yay!  The process was repeated for all sixteen gussets and all of the seam allowances were further graded to reduce bulk.  

Next, I installed the slot and stud busk at the front and size 00 grommets at the back, cleanly and conveniently joining the inner and outer pieces.  The sides were "log cabin" seamed, which encases the seam allowances, to finish the interior, and eight flat steel bones were added for support.  The top and bottom were bound with self-fabric bias tape and securely whip stitched in place.  

Finally, for the finishing touches, I flossed the corset with a shimmery, pearl-colored satin floss.  Flossing is a functional embroidery traditionally used to help hold corset bones in place.  This floss, however, shredded with every stitch, so I ended up switching to a cotton DMC floss for the gusset points (otherwise I'd still be fighting with that terrible satin floss!)  All that aside, I think the finished product turned out nicely!

Completed Project Pictures

Front view.

Front exterior view.

Back exterior view.

Back view.

Close up of the front with busk and flossing details. 

Now onto make a new chemise and drawers to complete the set! 

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