A 1830s dress with 3m of fabric in 3 days

Good morning or afternoon or evening everyone! Today I have a new little project for you, which was not planned at all but was a lot of fun to make.
I’m still enjoying my free time after my master craftsman examination and my internship at Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna. Since jobs in my field are pretty much non-existent right now due to Covid-19 I decided to work a bit on my portfolio and enjoy having a bit of free time and do what I like most.
Going to museums, visiting famous places in austria, going for walks in the city and the nature in and around vienna and meeting up with friends and travel a bit inside austria.

But now let’s talk 1830s! A few days ago I was digging through my (way too big) fabric stash and found a beautiful cotton plaid I used a few years ago to make my first ever regency dress. I knew right away that I want to use this fabric to make something 1830s-ish and pulled it out and measured what I had left. And it was only 3,20 m which is very little for a dress with big sleeves. And since it’s plaid it’s even more difficult to squeeze a dress out of this fabric. But I wanted to use up the fabric to and sat down, started calculating and decided to give the dress a shot. And what can I say? It worked out. Somehow.

As always: Construction seams were made by machine, visible seams by hand!

The Skirt

This was the easiest part of the dress. Since I’m only 1,61m I got away with cutting the skirt panels 108 cm long since I wanted to make my dress ankle-length which was pretty common in the 1830s! I also looked at surviving 1830s gowns and patterns in The cut of women’s clothes and Patterns of fashion and saw that most dresses had a hem circumference of about 3 m. So two widths of my fabric were plenty!
I sewed the sides shut, hadn’t to finish the seams because I used the selvedge and made a 2cm wide hem on the bottom. I then made a slit as an opening for the center back closure, finished that by hand and then gathered the skirt to fit a waistband with piping!
This was done super fast and since I was talking with Laura (Goldkehlchen20 on youtube) it was super fun and I didn’t even notice that I’m not the biggest fan of handsewing hems. 😀

1830s skirt + waistband with piping

The Sleeves

My least favourite part of every dress. I really don’t know why because they almost always work out on the first try…such a mystery
Well, I decided to base my sleeves on very late 1820s sleeves because I had such a small yardage to work with. I I used the sleeve of the Evening dress c.1825, Gallery of English Costume, Manchester in The cut of women’s clothes from Norah Waugh, and made them as much bigger as I could fit on my fabric to make it more 1830s.
I fully lined the sleeve with a black poly-cotton blend and attached a layer of silk-organza to the lining to give the sleeve head more puffiness. The silk-organza ends in the middle of the sleeve.

Sleeve head with silk organza lining, sewn down to seam allowance

The Bodice

This part was the most tricky one of the whole dress. I wanted to use the plaid of the fabric in a pretty way and decided to cut it on the bias and I think it turned out very pretty.
The construction was simple. I flatlined every piece with the black cotton-poly blend and constructed the bodice like every other bodice. Since I used piping at the waistband I decided to also use piping on the neckline and in the shoulder seam and also the sleeve itself to make it a bit less boring since I couldn’t do any extra embelishment on the bodice.

And then it was time to assemble all the pieces together. I first set the sleeves into the bodice and then attached the bodice to the skirt.

1830s dress, ready to assemble

I finished the dress including pattern making, cutting and finishing everything in 3 days which makes me super happy. To be honest, after school I lost a bit of love for sewing, probably because I was practicing so much and was a bit burned out. But this dress really helped me overcome that and I can’t wait to sew more, use up fabrics and also wear my new dresses!

1830s dress without any underpinnings on my mannequin

After finishing the dress I had a tiny bit of fabric left and decided to make a mask out of it to use as much up of the fabric as I could because I didn’t want to keep the scraps. I even had to piece one layer of the mask because it was so little left! Since we’re still in a global pandemic and wearing a mask when you walk into cafes and restaurants is still a necessity I wanted to have a matching one if I decided to go somewhere when I’m in costume. And safety always comes first!

When this was also done I tried to decide what to wear under and over my dress and decided that I need a huge bonnet to go with so I dug out my leftover hatfelt from the millinery course from school and made a hat while skyping with costuming friends. It took me only 7-8 hours from drafting the pattern to finishing it but to be honest, I used theatre-techniques which involved a good bit of glue.

1830s bonnet without decoration

And now the one thing I had left was taking pictures. And then it started raining in vienna. It’s been three days and I’m sitting here, writing, while rain is still falling from the sky.
This means I will have stop here and I hope to show you pictures of the decorated hat with my complete outfit in the next weeks…if the rain ever stops.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s