The Early 1840s Dress, Part 1

1840s dress p1

This week I’ve been busy working on my 1840s dress. It’s been a frustrating, long process, and everything that could have gone wrong, has. However, in the end, I’m actually not hating the final product, so all’s well that ends well! Through a process of trial and error, I managed to make something at I am actually pretty proud of. This post will cover making the bodice and undergarments. I was actually pretty good about photographing this process, so this post is very picture heavy!

I started this dress with a lot of research, and did a rough sketch of what I wanted to do. I wanted it to be based off the dress from the late 1830’s and early 1840s. The first thing I did was make the undergarments that the actual dress would sit on top of. They consisted of three petticoats, and a bustle pad.

The bustle pad was made of cotton fabric stuffed with plush stuffing, or the kind you often find in stuffed toys. I drew out a pattern that resembled a smiley face, and cut this piece out twice. I then sewed the sides together, flipped them inside out, and sewed in two pieces of ribbon to act as ties. I left a small hole, which I then stuffed full and then closed.

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On top of this came a gathered petticoat on a waistband.

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I then made two more petticoats, with drawstring waists. Essentially, I cut two 45″ panels of white cotton, sewed them together, and hemmed the bottom edge. Then, I folded over the top edge, sewed it, and threaded through the ribbon or cord.

In the end, they looked like this:

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I starched each petticoat, which made a huge difference to the shape – above in unstarched (left) versus starched (right).

Starch v No Starch

After I finished these, I was able to move onto the bodice. I made two mock-ups for this – one that failed miserably, and another which turned out fairly well.

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I turned this second mock-up into pattern pieces, and cut them out of lining, the actual fabric, and the top pieces out of interfacing for support. My outside fabric is a really pretty floral which is yellow, with peach and orange-y flowers.

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I sewed the seams together, of the base bodice first, leaving the shoulder pieces for last.

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Then, I interfaced the shoulder pieces, and sewed the lining to the floral on what would be the top edge. This process was filled with unpicking and messing with seams, because I messed up some of the original shoulder seams and had to change them all.

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Finally, when all the pieces were sewed together, it ended up looking like this! In other news, it is incredibly hard to hold the back of a shirt together and try to take pictures with your arm movement restricted, so excuse the bad picture.

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The next post will cover the skirt and sleeves for this dress, and will include better photos of the bodice, hopefully!

Inara

 

 

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