Corsetry is currently experiencing a bit of a revival – which is great ( if you still think they are torturous, rib-breaking, garments-from-hell, please read this first…). However, since they were out of fashion for quite a while, people nowadays … Continue reading
Over the years I have been asked about a variety of problems within historical costuming – and how to avoid them. I have already written a few posts on different aspects such as the look, fabrics, etc – but here … Continue reading
We have recently been doing a few habits, so I thought I put a post about them together:-)
Over the winter I have been working on a bespoke one – based on my 1885 version , but in luscious bottle green superfine wool, with burgundy braid decoration. The colour combination worked very well and suited the client’s colouring ( and the horse’s ) well – and we were lucky enough to grab a few photos when we delivered the habit to sunny Devon.
Another bespoke habit for another client is happening too, I will post the photos as soon as the work is finished and we get some pictures.
In the meantime, let me introduce to our latest batch – somehow earlier habits, destined to become stock items.
It all happened as I was working on a certain secret project ( details soon)- we had a horse booked for a side saddle at Historic Equitation, and the day before I found myself ending the commission work earlier that expected – so had a few hours free, and 6 metres of some rather lovely green cloth…. the temptation was too much! I went for the simplest look I could think of: no decoration, purely utilitarian, roughly 1860 look -with big skirts and plain, short bodice – based on this look.
The cloth was fantastic – it draped beautifully. W e used the habit for the shoot and for some riding, and had a short photoshoot at home too – with and without petticoat ( period solution as either corded petticoat or turkish trousers in the same fabric ( so that when the skirt billowed at speed while riding, the legs would be modestly covered). As you can see, the skirts are very long to cover the legs, and although they look lovely when mounted, they are a bit of a pain while walking. Ladies either carried the skirts, flashing the petticoat, or used buttons t o hitch them up – as shown on this fashion plate from La Mode Illustree
btw, lots of more images on my Pinterest board
I was wearing a corset, white blouse and a velvet ribbon neckband,styled my hair and restyled my top hat a bit to achieve the look:-)
Once we were done with shooting, I shared the photos and put the habit in our online shop – and was flooded with likes, shared, questions etc – and the habit sold within 12 hours, surely a record! not only that, there is now a queue of side saddle ladies awaiting news whether it fits the lady who bought it – just in case she returns it….
As a business minded person, I just couldn’t ignore this situation – and since had a bank holiday looming ahead ( which I had hoped to leave free to rest – silly me…), I decided to act on it. Luckily I was picking some cloth for commissions from my wool merchant, and while at it, I picked a few lengths suitable for habits…
A very busy time with a sewing machine followed – and I just managed to get 2 habits done for another scheduled side saddle session – this time with lovely Jane on her Zara at a very well kept Wakes Manor Livery Yard
I experimented with a slightly later look for these two – the first one was based on a fashion plate from Harper’s Bazar, 1873 ( the sitting lady)
I used the lovely soft dove grey cloth, edged with black and decorated with velvet ribbon.
Work in progress…
The habit is now available in our online shop, at a discounted price -details here
The second habit was based on this one from the MET
I liked the edge treatment and tried to emulate – I used piping and topstitching combination
and it fitted me well – really like the look!
Then it was Jane’s turn – it fitted her well too – and kudos to Jane who wore a corset for the first time – and not only wore it, but rode and jumped in it too ( part of a secret video project I am currently working on..)
and yes, there is a corset underneath all that!
This habit is also available in the shop – Here
I have enjoyed making these – and now have plans over summer to work on a few more models in a few sizes options – I already have nice berry coloured cloth and dark green twill put aside for the purpose:-). Although they are stock items, each habit will be a little bit different, so that each is unique – nothing worse than going into the Historical class and finding another lady wearing the same model! And of course if you want something special there is the bespoke option with fittings ( and a different price bracket too….)
Many thanks to all involved in the project so far – greatly appreciated! And a big thank you to the photographer – images courtesy of Pitcheresque Imagery
In a few days’ time it will be our third wedding anniversary – and to celebrate we decided to make these articles available for free – enjoy!
To be wed in Victorian finery! What can a bride-to-be want more? Well, probably a costumier who would do all the fiddly work for her. Alas I wasn’t that lucky – and the tight budget meant that if I wanted a fancy frock for my wedding, I had to make my own.
Victorian was a fairly new period for me at that time – so in order to allow the time to learn the secrets of Victorian costuming, I decided to make the bridal party frocks first – 4 different styles of Victorian outfits. The reasoning behind that was that by the time I start work on my own outfit, if I was to make any mistakes, I would have made them, and learnt from them before I cut into the hideously expensive bridal satin. The cunning plan worked, and the results will be presented to you in this article, so that, if you wish, you can duplicate the look without having to negotiate such a steep learning curve.
I am going to discuss the layers briefly, and then provide instructions how to make the following: a steel boned bustle, a soft bustle pad and a flounced petticoat, a foundation skirt, apron overskirt and a detachable train; an afternoon and a ball bodice and a veil. Most of the garments have been presented in the individual articles (apart from the bodices); this one deals with all the garments in once place so that it is easier to use it if you wish to replicate any –or all of the items.
Background information and research
The style I wanted for my outfit was around 1883, so just after the Natural Form when the second Bustle style comes into fashion.
I had to consider a few factors: the dress would be worn not only for the ceremony, but for a hack on a side saddle, and then, with the evening bodice, for dancing. The two factors, riding and dancing had a huge impact on the underwear I chose to make.
I already managed to acquire a few antique items I planned to wear – a lovely camisole, a pair of drawers (in the earlier style, but I decided to wear them anyway, since time to prepare the whole bridal trousseaux was short) and a bodiced petticoat.
A corset cover in cotton
A bodiced petticoat
I needed a corset, a bustle pad – to support the skirts for riding, a full, long, steel boned bustle, ideal for supporting the skirts for dancing, and a flounced petticoat to provide the volume.
To take some weight off my shoulders and save me some time – and possibly mistakes, as well, I engaged Cathy Hay from Harman Hay to draft the pattern of the corset and create the mock up. Once that was ready, I was presented with ready pattern pieces and could make the corset myself – a great solution as a perfect compromise, saving me both time and money.
Since I wanted to be using the corset for all kinds of activities, it was essential that I made sure the corset did not restrict my movement. Cathy’s mock up was fully boned and behaving just like the real thing, so I was able to test it in a variety of situations. The mock up fitted almost perfectly while standing and moving around – but it was a different story when I used it for more energetic activities!
I tried it on horseback, and it was evident almost from the start that it needed it to be much shorter than I originally thought as the front busk kept digging in my thigh, and a jump resulted in a spectacular bruise.
Testing the mock up in the saddle- busk is visibly too long
You can also see that the sides and back were just slightly too high for riding – mark my awkward arm position at the jump.
Since it was just a mock up, the alternations were not difficult to reflect on the pattern, and as a result I ended up with a corset that not only fits well, but that also works well for all kinds of activities.
Corset in cotton coutil and taffeta, fully boned – here just testing before adapting the sides, binding and decorating
Almost ready – just flossing to do (done 18months after the wedding! )
The bustle cage (lobster tail) and the petticoat
Testing the layers in the saddle…
The pad or the bustle?
Some skirts can be worn on either, depending on the style and dating. The pad is great for walking and, in my case, I made one for walking down the aisle. I was riding side saddle just after the ceremony and there would be no time to change – so the pad worked very well.
The long bustle was simply amazing for dancing. My wedding gown had a long train which bustled for dancing, but the weight was substantial, and it was still trailing on the ground. The bustle kept the excess fabric away from my legs, making waltzing much less difficult! Despite the steels, the bustle is very comfortable to sit in too – it simply collapses flat!
Victorian wedding gown – skirts and train worn over a pad.
The same gown, though with an evening bodice, worn over the steel boned bustle.
We will discuss the construction and decoration of the skirt, apron skirt and a detachable train suitable for the Victorian fashions of the Second Bustle period – although with small changes the items will also work for the Natural Form era.
My wedding gown is used here as an example – but the items can be rendered in any suitable fabric and used for travelling, visiting, promenading or ball gowns – or Steampunk versions of thereof!
For my wedding attire, simplicity was the main concern. I needed the skirt to be versatile: wide enough to dance and ride in, but without a bulk; also, I wanted it to be worn with a later outfit, late 80ies, maybe even 90ies so any excessive decoration was really not an option.
In the end, and with some help from another costumier, Gini Newton, we decided on a 9 gore skirt, with a slight train. We based our pattern on the skirt discussed in Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 2 – 1882 dinner dress from The London Museum and adapted it accordingly arriving at a pattern very similar to the one of gallery of English Costume C1895, also in Janet Arnold. We did try a number of skirts to see which one would sit best on the bustle and the last one did the job just fine!
The London Museum skirt consists of front panel, front side panels, back sides panels and a back panel. We have added a side side panel as well – it provides a good fit at the upper part of the skirt in front and flares beautifully at the bottom; it can be worn with a bustle or, for later styles, without.
A similar pattern is available from Vena Cava designs:
All the components of the whole wedding outfit were made out of silk Duchesse satin. I bought mine from the Silk Society, and although absolutely stunning, it was also very expensive, retailing at £70 per metre. In the hindsight, I know now I could have obtained a fabric of similar quality but at half the price from James Hare. James Hare’s duchesse satin has also the advantage of coming in a non-curl version – and for anybody who has ever had to deal with the curly satin, the advantages would be obvious!
The skirt took 3.5 metres of the 140cm wide top fabric and the same amount of lining (in lawn). If you plan to decorate your skirt in more complex and bigger ruffles, add at least 2 metres.
5 metres of crin tape for the hem
The same skirt can be made in plain wools, silk taffetas or satins as well.
Since the satin I had was of the curly variety, I decided to flat line the skirts to stabilise the top fabric – a method commonly used in the period.
- Cut your pieces in lining first, labelling each one as you do so.
- Place the lining pieces on the left side of the top fabric, working one by one and starting from the front
– Place the centre front lining panel on the fabric. Pin the two layers together, than cut out the top fabric. You now have a piece consisting of two layers, securely pinned. Make sure your labelling is visible – best place it next to the seam on the lining – it will be very helpful when assembling the skirt! If your fabric is very slippery, it is worth your time to baste the two layers together.
– Repeat for all the other pieces; it really helps if, after cutting out you place them in the order they will be sewn.
– Cut out the waistband and the placket
- Baste or pin the front and side pieces together. It is not necessary to baste all the way down, at the moment you only want to see if the skirts lies correctly on your belly and hips. The back panels will be pleated into the waistband, so the snugness is not necessary there.
- Try putting the basted pieces around your waist, while wearing your undergarments. This is essential – when you wear your corset the shape of your body changes – even if you do not go for tight lacing, the shape of your waist and belly will be different and that will be reflected in the fit of the skirt. If your skirt is to be always worn under an apron skirt or other drapery, a mistake here will go unnoticed. For later period however, a perfect fit is required.
- If the fit is to your satisfaction, you can sew the pieces. Again start from the front centre panel and add the side centre panels.
- After each panel press the seam flat (or you can do it once all the seams are sewn). You can also finish the raw edges with pinking shears to limit fraying, or finish the stitches by hand.
Flat lined seams from the left side
If your skirts are in wool, or you wish them to be light, without any lining, simply sew the pieces right sides together, press the seam flat and either pink it or finish the edges by hand.
- Remember to leave an opening in the back seam for the placket (or a side seam if your skirt closes at the side instead).
- Arrange the back panels into pleats and pin the skirt to the waistband.
- Try it on, on all your undergarments.
- Tweak any problem areas and if everything is as you desire, sew the waistband to the skirt, placing the two layers right sides together. Fold the waistband over, covering the edges, and hand stitch in place
- Prepare your placket and attach it to the opening on one side. Fold the edges of the opening over and hand stitch, securing them.
- Add a button and a button hole – or hooks and eyes.
- Time to look at the bottom hem now. Try the skirt on, or put it on the stand, worn on all your undergarments and check the line of the hem. Make sure the length is appropriate to the shoes you will be wearing and make necessary adjustments.
- Take the skirt off; flip it on the left side. Pin your crin. There are two ways of working with that, you can either fold the hem and hand stitch it to the lining of the skirt and then place the crin on top , covering the folded hem. Or, hand stitch the crin band to the lining, a little above the hem. Then fold the hem over it and stitch in place. Press. The second method works much better on curly or flimsy fabrics, producing a nice finish to the hem.
Finished skirt without the ruffle
- You can add a short dust ruffle at the bottom as well. I added mine after I have finished all the garments as I wasn’t sure how much fabric I would have left!
- Cut the desired length of the ruffle in top fabric and lining. I realised that for every metre of the finished ruffle I need about 3 metres of fabric.
- Place the top layer and the lining right sides together, and sew. Once sewn, unfold and press the seam, then fold again making sure the top fabric extends a bit on the left side at the bottom hem of the ruffle. Press.
- The upper edge of the ruffle – you can either fold the top part over and stitch o4 fold both layers inside and stitch at the hem.
- You should now have quite a long, narrow strip of fabric. Since it is narrow, you can use a ruffle attachment on the machine to pleat it – it takes minutes instead of hours!
- Once pleated, press the ruffle carefully and pin to the hem – I placed mine over the crinoline strip, completely covering it.
Ruffle being pinned to the skirt
Close up of the ruffle
Stitch the ruffle in place – make the stitches in strong thread but remember that do not need to be tiny – after all you will be taking off the ruffle to be cleaned!
The inside of the skirt showing the ruffle
If you want you can add ruffles , flounces and other decorations to the bottom of your skirts , simply repeat the steps with a ruffle of your choice sewn to the outside of the skirt. A variety of options are possible here – one wider ruffle, few narrower ones, a flounce – the possibilities are endless!
For a simple, unlined ruffle, cut the desired length of the fabric – min 3 times the length of the finished ruffle . Hem on both sides and pleat – using a pleater, or a ruffler, or traditionally, with pins…
Press the finished ruffle with starch – or vinegar solution and sew onto the skirt.
Finished skirt with 2 rows of pleating
You can experiment with the direction, sizes and shape of the pleats too – here’s an example of that!
Alternative knife and box pleats, with the top being shaped as well
And an example of gathered flounces on a Natural Form era skirt, here on one of my bridesmaids
And a combination of a ruffle and a ruching panel on a narrower skirt
The apron skirt
Fabric – 2.5 satin duchesse; again, wool, taffeta, satin etc will work just as well. If you want your skirt lined, the same amount of lining fabric will be needed.
2m of calico for mock up and experimenting
3m of decorative silk fringe
There are several patterns available online – mine was based on this one: http://www.venacavadesign.co.uk/Products/1883_August_Overskirt.html
Since I didn’t actually buy the pattern (a pity since I have no doubt it would shorten the whole process considerably!), I decided to make mine first in calico and experiment.
Experimental method : worth trying if you have never done this skirt before, or simply want to see the possibilities, in particular if you are working with a new fabric. Skip this step if you have a readymade pattern!
Cut two pieces in calico – front and back, both in trapezoid shape, with the back longer. Stitch the sides together and put it on the dummy. Try different kinds of pinning the folds:
Folds pinned facing downwards first. Epic fail
Folds pinned upwards. Better, but not what I was after.
At that point, I took the thing off, re-cut the pieces in calico, this time placing them on the bias. Stitched them together, put the skirt on the dummy.
Folds downwards: not very good, though better than before
Pinned upwards – result!
Just to be on the safe side, I took a length of the satin and pinned it as the front on the dummy, to see it the satin would behave like the calico. It did. Pinned the fringe on, to see if it would work with the heavy trim as well. It did!
The making of the apron skirt proper.
- Cut out the pieces in your fabric (some fabric will require bias cut, some won’t – crispy taffeta looks good both ways!)
- Mark and sew the darts in the upper part
- Sew the pieces together, leaving the top of one seam open. Press the seams open and pink them.
- Cut out the waistband.
- Pleat the back part to fit into the waistband. You can add cotton tapes to the inside – they would control the folds at the back
- Sew the waistband in the same way you did with the skirt, add buttons/hooks and eyes)
- Fold the hem over and secure it with small stitches. Add fringe or any other decoration
- Put the skirt on the dummy and pin the folds carefully.
- Take the skirt off, and secure the folds with stitching – either by hand or by machine.
10 Attach the decoration (optional).
Your apron skirt is now ready – decorated the sides of mine with removable flower bands – more information on making them later!)
Fabric: silk duchesse satin, 4.5m (including the pleated section)
Lining – silk taffeta for the train, 2.5m
Lining for the pleats: 2m of cotton lawn
10 metres of cotton lace
12m of grosgrain ribbon
4 m of cotton tape
9 ivory roses for decoration
The train I had in mind had to serve several functions. It had to be pretty (obvious, really!) and for that I chose the finish I saw on the Worth Evening dress (1881) at the V&A – scallops, pleats and lace.
I also wanted to make it long enough to look spectacular as I walked down the aisle; it also had to be easy to bustle up for dancing or to remove for riding.
That was the easiest part. I cut a rectangle of fabric (220 x 1.35cm) and simply rounded the bottom corners of the train.
- Cut the train in your top fabric and lining.
- Spread the top fabric left side up and draw the scallops
- Cut out the scallops.
- Hem the train by folding the edges in and securing with small stitches; alternatively leave it as it is for the time being – you can do it later by machine as well!
- Place the top fabric on the lining, pin it and cut the scallops in the lining. You can now stitch the lining in by hand. It is possible to do it with a machine, though with scallops it tends to be a bit tricky. I opted for the hand method as it gave the scallops a nice finish.
- Pleat the top of the train and secure the pleats with pins.
- Cut 3 lengths of cotton tape – they will keep the train bustled up. The length of the tapes will depend on how you want to bustle the train, mine end at about a foot off the ground.
- Pin in the tapes to the left side of the pleats – two at about 2 inches from each edge and one in the centre.
- Attach to a waistband. The waistband can go all around the torso, or it can be a short one with tapes for tying it around your waist.
Train pleated to the waistband
Inside of the train showing the placement of the tapes.
The basic shape of the train is now ready, time to add all the embellishments
- Take the lace and the grosgrain ribbon. The ribbon should be long enough to go around all the scallops
- Attach the lace to the ribbon, gathering it slightly as you go. Machine ruffler would be no good here as the lace was too delicate, so the process took some time, but it as an easy and nice job.
- Pin the finished lace frill to the hem of the train and hand sew in place
Train with the lace layer sewn on
The pleated layer
- Cut out the length of fabric in your top fabric. Again the ration of 3:1 works fairly accurately here. The finished length should be the length of the bottom hem of the train, without the scallops, times 3 – or more if you have enough fabric! The width of the piece should be enough to cover the whole scallop and extend beyond it for other few inches. Mine was 14 inches wide (36cm).
- Cut the same piece in lining, but make it 2 inches narrower.
- Place the two layers right sides together and sew along the length of the upper and lower part. Leave the short sides open.
- Flip the piece right sides out and press carefully, making sure the edges are even. Secure the ends by folding the fabric inside and stitching the layers together.
- The next step requires a great deal of patience and even a greater deal of pins. Decide on the size of the pleats – ( mine were just over an inch) and pleat the strip, securing each pleat at both ends
- Once pleated, sew near the top of the pleats, securing them – you can stitch over a grosgrain ribbon as I did. Keep the pins in the bottom part as they are
- Press carefully.
- Put your pleated ruffle left side up, spread it slightly to reflect the curve of the train and place another length of the ribbon in the centre. Stitch it on by hand; it will make sure that the pleats will stay together and the ruffle won’t lose shape.
Adding the support ribbon
Finished ruffle, right side view.
- Place the ruffle on the left side of the train ( right side of the ruffle to the left side of the train), pin and hand stitch – make sure the stitches catch only the lining and the tiniest bit of the top fabric between the scallops, and that the stitches at the deepest part of the scallop are the strongest – they won’t be visible since there will be roses on top of them, and they will be the ones responsible of holding the ruffle in place.
Ruffle pinned to the train
Pleated layer stitched to the body of the train
- Sew in the roses or any other decorations.
The train is almost finished – all it needs now is a balayeuse.
Cotton twill, lawn or silk – here silk was used – 3m. Cotton would be a much more practical version, but for the wedding dress silk just looked better. Plus, having washed the silk in the machine on low temperature setting it looked as if the washing didn’t do much harm, and indeed I have washed my balayeuse since then and it did survive the experience
Broderie anglaise lace trim. – 10 m
Buttons – 14
Determine the size and shape of your balayeuse by noticing how much train will be lying on the floor. Mine is a semicircle, with the straight line reaching across the train from the first scallop on both sides.
- Cut the base out, hem the edges.
- Cut the flounces – there will be a lot of them!
- Make the flounces just as you did the ruffles for the skirts: hem the fabric (hemming foot was a blessing here), add the broderie anglaise or any other lace, then pleat the ruffles (again the ruffle saved tons of time!)
- Attach the ruffles to the base.
- Make buttonholes on the straight line and along the bottom.
- Mark the position of the buttonholes on the train proper. Sew small buttons onto the train.
- Button up the balayeuse to the train.
Balayeuse attached to the train
All that need to be done is putting hooks and eyes (or buttons – in the hindsight, buttons work better, as hooks tend to unhook!) onto the bustling tapes and onto the train. Do experiment with it, making sure the placement of the hooks creates the effect you want.
I also used bands with flowers to keep the train bustled up – the same band were used to decorate the apron skirt and, later on, the evening bodice.
fabric roses – 30
bunches of small paper roses -25
Strips of fabric to attach the flowers to
- Prepare 5 strips of silk – two to go on the sides of the apron skirt, 2 to be used for the train.
- I used 4 inch strips, which I folded in half stitched on the left sides, turned, finished the edges and pressed.
- Attach the decoration. Pin the big roses in first, sewing them to the strip to ensure they faced the right direction and then place the small bunches around, securing their wiry stems around the big rose. Stitch them all down carefully.
- Once ready, stitch the bands on their appropriate places – the apron skirts ones went just over the side seams of the apron skirt.
- The train bands were given loops at each side and decorative buttons were sewn onto the apron skirt next to the decoration – the bands simply button in place
The train in its full glory: unbustled:
And showing the train bustled up for dancing.
In the part 2t I will talk about making the two bodices – and all the accessories:-)
One of the articles ( well, two in one, actually) I originally wrote for Your Wardrobe Unlock’d – It is a long and a detailed tutorial, hopefully targeted at folks who would like to make their own stuff… I do make historical habits as commissions, if you are interested, please check my website!
1885 Riding habit – jacket
I have wanted that habit since I first clasped my eyes on it – the one from Victorian and Albert museum. The jacket has been on my to-do list for ages, in fact I had hoped I could wear it for the wedding hack, but somehow ran out of time to make it. Still, its time has finally come and in the present article we will have a closer look at how to make one as well as the skirt and the riding trousers !
As remarked in the article on the Regency riding habit, some significant changes were afoot. Due to the fencing off the countryside, it has become unavoidable that to follow a hunt, one will have to jump all the fences and hedges in the way. Not much of a problem for all the gentlemen, but a serious issue for the lady riders.
A bit of side saddle history should cast some light on it: the saddles used so far for the ladies had only one pommel, over which the lady would hook her leg. This has enabled her to sit facing forwards – a technique believed to have been invented by Catherine de Medici , though there is an engraving by Durer (pic.a)that predates the French Queen’s time, showing a lady facing forward as well.
Whoever could be credited with the invention, it was a huge improvement – before ladies either sat on a saddle facing completely sideways, with a planchette to rest the feet on, with little control of the steady palfrey which was often led by a groom (http://thesidesaddlemuseum.com/detail17thcenthermessaddle.html). Or, for a faster ride, they sat behind a man riding pillion (still practiced in Tudor times). Neither way was completely comfortable and neither allowed the freedom of movement. However, with the side saddles with a pommel, it was possible for a lady to ride independently.
And it was all fine until one had to jump. Bolder Regency ladies would strap themselves to the saddles to ensure you would stay on over the fences – but it was dangerous as in case of a horse falling, the rider would be easily crushed. But with the invention of the second pommel, the leaping head, it has suddenly become possible to stay on, quite comfortably so, over all kinds of jumps, fences or ditches. The equestrian minded ladies, for the first time in history, were able to ride independently in all conditions, keeping up with the men – but still looking elegant and ladylike. Indeed the sport became very popular, with several famous equestriennes performing all kind of tricks on the side saddle.
The riding habits reflected the changes in the saddle design, especially as far as the cut of the skirts was concerned. I remarked in the previous article how difficult it was to arrange my regency skirts on a later Victorian saddle – the skirt would simply not lie properly as the leaping head was in the way, hooking the fabric. So firstly the skirts were cut much fuller – not a problem in the crinoline age skirts – but that still didn’t completely solve the problem as the skirts would bulk up and get tangled around the rider’s legs .
Later Victorian skirts are cut very differently – they are much more fitted, hugging the hips, and having darts at the knee, shaping the garment to match the shape the rider’s right thigh would assume on horseback. It was still not completely safe as in case of a fall a lady could still catch her skirts and be dragged behind the horse – but it was the first step towards the later much safer apron skirts which are still worn today.
The bodice changed as well, though here the changes simply reflected the changes of fashions. A few things remained constant however: the cut was simple, utilitarian, resembling man’s jackets and uniforms – and the braiding so popular on men’s attire was no less popular amongst the ladies. The riding habits were worn on shirts or chemisettes, and corsets. Indeed a ‘riding’ or a sport corsets were used – shorter, with hips cut much higher to allow the rider to sit comfortably. The corset, boned either lightly or more heavily depending on the rider’s requirements does not restrict the movement – if anything, it provides a terrific back support.
There is quite a lot of extant habits to be found online- I compiled quit e a lot of images of the habits throughout the ages on my Pinterest board
Background information and research.
Well, not much here on this habit apart from the images from the V&A – there are a few photos of the same jacket on the web but in different light, so although it is difficult to be precise about the hue of the jacket and the braid, it is at the same time easier to see some details more clearly.
The original shows the jacket in grey/blue fabric with a grey braid decoration – as the description says, ‘Flannel trimmed with mohair, and lined with sateen’. Indeed the style of the jacket is described as ‘Hungarian’ or ‘Polish’, so I found it very fitting, considering my Polish origins! It was made by Messrs Redfern and Co. For May Primrose Littledale.
1.5m of the top fabric – flannel, broadcloth, superfine would be best. Here broadcloth is used. ( for great cloth have a look here)
1.5m of lining fabric- cotton, sateen, silk, linen. I used flax linen.
If you are using thinner fabrics, interlining is recommended.
3m of narrow cotton bias binding
17 buttons – here lovely silk wrapped buttons by Gina Barrett
Hooks and eyes – optional, I used mine to secure the underside front
A strip of buckram for lining the collar
4 bones and bone castings
15m of braid – I made my own out of cotton yarn. Simply couldn’t find one that would work well as most of the braids nowadays contain rayon etc. Still, if authenticity is not the priority, there are a few that would do – there are excellent links in Gina’s article on frogging. I had originally planned to make mine out of silk yarn, but I didn’t have enough and couldn’t find the same colour anywhere. Still, the cotton seems to work!
Tracing paper to transfer the pattern
Calico for mock up
Well, for once, it was a bit easier. I used the pattern and the mock up from my wedding bodice – the sleeves, back and sides. All I had to do was to experiment with the asymmetric front. Easier said than done – the experimenting did take some time!
A similar pattern can be found on Vena Cava website:
I actually bought this one, as the skirt and trousers will be based on that – and maybe one day I can have a go at another jacket too!
Cut your pieces in calico and sew them together. As mentioned, I used my existing mock up, and simply drafted an overlapping right front on a calico instead of an original part.
- Try it on, making sure you wear the underwear you intend to wear it with – in this case a corset. Not so good here -needs a few adjustments on the front.
- Once you are satisfied with the fit, transfer the changes to the pattern and cut the jacket in top fabric and lining. There are a two options as to the method of lining – you can either flat line it, or make the lining and the top separately. I decided to flat line mine as it gives a bit more stability, seems to be more accurate for the period, and it is easier to attach any bones if needs be. So I placed my top pieces on top of lining, pinned them together even before I started cutting the lining out – as a result they are ready for sewing the moment you finish cutting
- Start with the darts in the front parts. Pin them together and sew through all layers of the fabric. If your fabric is flimsy, it is a good idea to baste the layers together first.
- With the darts sewn, trim the lining to reduce bulk and press
- Sew the rest of the bodice together – start at the back and add part by part, making sure the seams lie flat – careful pinning or basting is recommended, especially on the curved seams. If you need, draw the seam line on the lining – will help if you don’t want to rely on the machine’s gauge
- Trim the lining along the seams to reduce the bulk. Notch them too – the seam, especially any curved seam will work better. It is also easier to iron them flat.
- Try the bodice on – there is still time for adjustment, and in fact, mine needed a few! Back needed taking in more and the front didn’t look fantastic either The front was an inch too high and it turned out that it was necessary to insert a horizontal dart to facilitate the transition between the bulk of the bust and the neck area. Darts like that were used in 18th century riding bodices and in some Victorian bodices too – so I decided to insert on here too. And it worked nicely.
- Once all the alternations are done, press the seams open and either pink the seams allowance, or couch them down.
- Sleeves next. Again, pin the two parts together and sew. Reduce the seam bulk and press the seams – not an easy task but can be achieved with the help of the tailor’s ham and sleeve ironing board
- Insert the sleeve into the armhole, pin it safely – and if you plan to have the sleeve head slightly gathered (like mine – gives me that little extra freedom of movement!), secure the gathers with a thread. Sew, then treat the seam like all the others – trim the lining seam allowance and notch on the curve. Repeat with the other sleeve.
- Tidy all the edges of the bodice, preparing for binding. Pin or baste the layers together and then pin on the bias binding’
- Sew the binding on. Trim the edges to match the edge of the binding Encase the edge with the binding, pin and hand stitch. ) Press the finished edges flat. Repeat on the sleeves.
- The collar – pin the layers together (here 2 layers of wool and 2 of interlining) and sew. Grade the seam allowances to reduce the bulk and trim the edges inside
- Pin to the bodice and try on, ensuring that the collar is even on both sides. Sew, right sides together, through the bodice and collar layers (all except the collar’s lining). Grade the seam allowances.
- Secure the collar’s lining – i used the same fabric as the top fabric here) and hand stitch in place
- Buttonholes. Mark the buttonholes on the overlapping fabric – the original had 17 buttons, and it so happened that mine was a perfect length for it – a button every inchJ work the buttonholes either by hand or machine.
- Add the bones. Use either ready-made bone casings or make your own in your fabric. Then stitch the bones to the seams and the front darts.
- Back pleats – pin the pleats in desired place and secure with stitches – all you can add a bit of fabric to strengthen the place.
The bodice is basically finished, it simply needs some decoration.
I followed Gina’s advice on the type of braid and made mine out of cotton yarn. It is easy to make (7 strand braid – I have done 8 and 5 strands before), but the required length meant there were some complications. Usually, if a short length was required, I would prepare my threads by tying the excess length in little bundles. It works, but the threads tangle quite a lot. So for the rest of the braid, I simply used lace making bobbins – the braid can be much longer now and plaiting is smoother.
Eons later, once you have all your braid ready (or if you are less of a martyr and bought some nice readymade one!) the real fun begins – applying the braid. Again, I used Gina’s instructions from her excellent article on frogging. I drew the pattern on the paper, based it to the fabric, sew the braid on and then removed the paper. Note though – removing the paper from those tiny nooks and spaces between the braid took ages – many thanks to my husband who spent at least an hour with tweezers…).
Repeat for all the other decorations – on the sleeves, back and collar.
Add the buttons and the jacket is ready to wear!
Skirt and trousers
The original jacket is displayed with a plain black skirt. I have decided to go a bit further and get a skirt in matching wool. As pointed out in the previous article, the skirts for the equestriennes have been undergoing substantial changes in the period. By 1880 gone were the full skirts of the earlier periods – they did look lovely, draping on the side in a gentle curve, but they could also be uncomfortable and dangerous: the fabric would bulk up and in case of falls, the folds of the skirts could be easily caught on the pommels of the saddle, dragging the unlucky rider. The new generation of skirts featured a completely different construction; it was asymmetrical, with the shape of the skirt reflecting closely the shape the amazon’s body would assume on horseback. Although not as safe as later apron skirts, this type of skirt was safer and more comfortable for riding than the previous models, and they also enjoyed the benefit of being elegant, and easy to adapt for walking.
The trousers, based on men’s garments, were sometimes worn underneath. They provided a valuable layer for winter hunting, and, if a fall occurred, they kept the lady decent. I wasn’t really sure if wearing 2 layers of wool would be comfortable, but since I got the patterns for both, I decided to give it a try as well and experiment with the layers, trying to find the safest and most comfortable way of dressing a Victorian Amazone.
3.5m of wool (broadcloth, twill, etc, medium to heavy weight) colour – blues, greens, black and greys were favoured, with lighter colours being worn in summer or in hotter climates.
3m of mock up fabric – cheap cotton, calico etc
2m of lining – here cotton/linen mix
7 – 10 buttons
1m or tape for waistband
1m of tape for loops
0.5 elastic for the stirrup
Pattern: as mentioned before the one from Past Patterns
Note: the pattern provides instructions, but I admit I found some of them tricky to follow and employed alternative solutions – hope you will find them useful!
Preparing the pattern and mock up.
- Trace the size you require on a pattern paper. If you are making the pattern only for yourself and will not need other sizes later, you can simply cut the pattern in your size straight from the commercial pattern. Piece the pattern pieces together (front skirt upper and lower, back skirt upper and lower)
- Transfer the pattern onto your mock up fabric. Mark the darts and notches carefully, it also helps to write on each piece which is front side left or right side, which is back, again, left or right. I know, how can you confuse 2 pieces, but trust me, you can.
- Cut out mock up fabric – do not worry about facings at the time. If you cut the darts on mock up, it is easier to transfer them onto the patter/top fabric later.
- Sew up the darts on both parts first, then sew the side seams.
- Try it on. Make sure you try it on either the same or similar undergarments you will be wearing your habit on. If you are planning to wear the trousers, either make the trousers first, or wear trousers of similar weight and shape under your mock up. Essential – do wear your corset. The pattern is cut to modern sizes and does not take corseted waits into consideration, you may find you need to make the darts bigger and take in the side seams to fit a corseted waist.
- Mark any adjustments on the mock up, both in standing position and in sitting, side saddle position. If you are lucky enough to have a saddle and a horse handy, do get on and check the fit on the real thing – will work great on your hem line as well. Here, alas, I only had a sofa readily accessible…
- Transfer any adjustments on the pattern if you plan to use it in the future ( you can also save and use the mock up for that purpose)
- Trace your pattern on the top fabric and cut – cut out the two main pieces plus the facings. Make sure you marked all the darts and notches clearly on the left side.
- Cut out the lining pieces (front, back and the pocket). Again, transfer the darts and notches on the lining’s right side. Pink the bottom of each lining piece.
- Place the lining on the wool, left sides together. Match the dart lines and pin.
- Baste the two layers together, including running a stitch through the middle of each dart, stopping about half an inch before the darts ‘point. You can baste on a machine or by hand, hand basted shown here. On the back piece, at the top opening, pink the wool, then top stitch the lining
- Sew the darts on each piece.
- Slice the darts open (all but one- the big horizontal dart on the back should stay shut), trim the bigger darts, press and hem the edges. Press the horizontal dart down.
The side facing–
Put the facing strip on the front piece, right sides together. Sew, press the seam open, flip it over the seam onto the wrong side. If not using the selvage, pink the edge and secure it to the lining with regular stitches.
Put the pocket facing along the straight line of the pocket piece. Sew, press, fold over the seam and secure.
Repeat on the other piece.
Place both pieces together with the facings outside sew around the pocket.
Turn inside out – the facing will be inside the pocket
Place the pocket on the facing, half an inch below the top line. Stitch to the facing using strong thread. Remember to leave the facing part open!
Assemble the skirt
Place the skirt parts tight sides together, pin and sew the side seams. Press the seams open (you will need a tailor’s ham for the knee part seam!) and either pink them or overcast the edges.
Turn the skirt on its right side. Try it on again – make sure the waistline sits snugly – if you need to adjust the darts, you can still do it at that stage.
Finish the top
Connect the facing parts by placing them right sides together and sewing. Open and press the seam. Pink the bottom part of the facing and pin the facing on the left side of the skirt, left sides together. Run a basting stitch half an inch from the top.
You can place the top of the pocket on the facing, or enclose it between the facing and the pocket. Here I decided to keep the pocket between the layers, looks nicer.
Take your tape and pin it to the right side of the skirt, slightly below the line of the basting. Sew.
Trim the seam, cutting notches ion the curved part, then fold the tape over the seam and stitch it onto the facing.
Here fabric covered buttons were used – cut a circle of fabric bigger than your button, run a stitch around the edges, place the button in and pull the thread. Secure with stitching and attach the button to the skirt.
Use as many buttons as you want on the side of the skirt- I used 6 big buttons.
Make one button for adjusting the skirt for walking. Sew it on at the bottom of the lower knee dart, on the back piece.
Cut your tapes to form loops – 2 loops will be used for hanging the garments, one loop, placed at the centre back dart, will be used to hook the knee button onto.
The original skirt also has 2 pearl buttons at the back darts – they were used to secure the skirt to the jacket (the jacket would have 3 small loops at the waistline)
Note – it might me more convenient to place a loop at the knee dart and a button at the centre back. Both arrangements were used at the time.
Work the buttonholes on the other side of the opening,
Try the skirt on again, and mark the correct hem position, if you can, on the horse.
Mark the hem depth with a line – the hem should be at least 4 inches deep. Press the edge inwards – it will make sewing the hem up easier later.
Place your weights in the positions indicated by the pattern. Stitch on either by hand or on a machine
Fold the hem inside, along the marked line. Secure to the fabric with small stitches, just catching enough fabric to be secure, without leaving a big mark on the right side. There will be some excess fabric – simply fold it into shallow darts and stitch them on.
Press the hem.
Take the elastic for the stirrup, form a loop big enough for your foot to get in, secure the loop with stitching.
Place the ready stirrup at the place marked on the pattern and sew it on. You can later adjust the length and position as necessary.
Your skirt is now ready!
I believe a warning is necessary here: these equestrienne trousers will not make you look pretty. They are the scariest pair of pants I own, and I do have a few. If you ever ask yourself whether your posterior looks big, be prepared that in these scary pants, it will. Big time. It will be noticeable with the skirts on too…. Having said so, they were not worn on their own and are very comfortable for riding, so a good trade-off here.
1.5m of wool
1.5 of lining ( cotton or linen, here linen)
1.5m of calico for mock up
Elastic for the stirrups
- Trace the pattern on your mock up fabric, marking all the darts and notches.
- Sew the darts.
- Place the front pieces over the back. Sew on the outside leg leaving marked opening on the right side), inside legs and outside the other leg.
- Now sew the centre back and centre front seams.
- Try the mock up on. Mark the length, waist size (the same notes as with the skirt apply here – if wearing a corset, you will need to make bigger darts!)
- Mark any corrections on the pattern
Making the trousers
- Trace the pattern on your top fabric and lining, making sure you mark the darts and notches. Also mark clearly which leg it is, as right leg will be longer!
- Cut the parts out.
- Place the lining parts on the corresponding parts of the top fabric, pin and baste together, as you did with the skirt.
- Sew the darts on each leg, using the same method as the darts on the skirt: sew, open, trim, press, overcast.
- Place the facing over the right front leg piece, right sides together, on the outside seam
- . Sew, trim the seam, flip the facing onto the inside and secure.
Assemble the trousers
The instructions will tell you to sew all the seams together and then press them. I prefer to sew seam by seam and press as I go – much easier for the outside seams pressing!
- Right leg: place the front piece on the back piece, right sides together.
- Sew the outside seam up to the facing.
- Press the seam open and either pink or overcast. Pink the back opening( opposite the facing part)
- Sew the inside seam, press (you will need a sleeve ironing board for that), finish the seam
- Repeat on the other leg
- You should now have two separate legs. Turn one leg out, on the right side. You now have one leg with the lining on top, the other one with the wool on top.
- Place the wool on top leg inside the other, so that the right sides are together. Pin the crotch seam, and sew from back to front.
- Take the leg out – you now have the trousers on the left side. Finish the seams
- Fold the hem of ach leg in, secure with stitching.
- Cut elastic and secure the stirrup as indicated on the pattern. You may have to adjust their length later on, but primarily they are to prevent the trousers riding up.
- Prepare the waistband – fold in half, length wise and press. To prevent rolling, either stiffen the inside of the waistband with iron on fusible, or baste in a tape.
- Place the waistband on the trousers, right sides together, matching the balance points.
- Sew together, open the seam and press.
- Fold the ends in and whipstitch together, then proceed to stitching the waistband to the inside of the trousers, hiding the seam.
- Add hanging loops at the centre back and front.
- Add buttons and buttonholes on the right side.
The trousers are ready!
They are really meant to be worn with riding shoes, not boots, but since I didn’t have shoes, boots had to do. The trousers just about fitted inside the boots, and, surprisingly, that improved their look, at least to our modern sensibilities, giving them a rather steampunk look
They do make your posterior look big but I found out, once you have the entire outfit on, you completely forget about them. I didn’t feel any hindrance while walking or for riding, everything worked exceptionally well.
The whole outfit looks rather impressive and is comfortable: it is easy to adjust the skirt to walking length and the get on and arrange it on the saddle. The saddle we used for the photo shoot was an antique and didn’t fit the horse at all, so we did not dare do more than a walk, but the seat felt secure. There was no extra fabric bunching up around the pommels that would interfere with the grip – something that was proving a problem with my regency habit. I would be happy to canter around and jump without worrying too much about what the skirt is doing. Definitely a winner!
and a few pics from another occasion, showing the habit in motion..
Victoria and Albert Museum online archive
Lucy Johnson, 19th Century Fashion in Detail, V&A Publishing, 2009
Rhonda C. Watts Hettinger The Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Sidesaddle, Sidesaddle Source, Wilton, New Hampshire, 2009
Vena Cava Design, http://www.venacavadesign.co.uk/Products/1880s-1890s_Riding_Habit_Ensemble.html?q=riding habit
Victoria and Albert Museum online archive
Gina Barrett, Making braids and Cords, DVD
Gina Barrett, Continuous Frog Fasteners, Your Wardrobe Unlock’d, 2012; http://yourwardrobeunlockd.com/costumemaking/fabricsamaterials/601-continuous-frog-fasteners
Jill Salen, Corset: historical patterns and construction; Batsford, 2008
Lucy Johnson, 19th Century Fashion in Detail, V&A Publishing, 2009
Rhonda C. Watts Hettinger The Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Sidesaddle, Sidesaddle Source, Wilton, New Hampshire, 2009
1810 Riding habit.
Today we are looking at yet anothern of my favourites, a Regency riding habit, closely based on the exhibit from the Kyoto Costume Institute ( if you have the book, it is on page171-173, inv AC5313, 86-2AB – or simply find it here. I am not really a fan of Regency fashions as they are not exactly flattering for my figure, but this habit did catch my eye and my imagination because of its simple elegance and surprisingly, not such a high waistline. And so, after craving it for the last two years or so, the time had come for me to tackle the project about 2 years ago – and if you fancy having a go as well, I hope you find the information and the instructions below useful.
Background information and research.
Those two photos were all I really had to go with. I did write to the Institute asking if it was possible to obtain more information regarding the cloth, lining or the buttons – or maybe just a few more images, but was very politely told that the museum did not provide that service. So all I had was a short description stating that it is ‘a Riding Suit, c.1810; black wool broadcloth; set of tailored jacket and a skirt of appropriate length for horse riding’.
Not much then – but a start.
The decoration on the front of the jacket is very similar to another item from the institute, a hunting Jacket – a spencer (INV.AC3187 80-8-1, dated 1815). The length of the spencer is also reminiscent of the one of the riding jacket.
The back of the jacket closely resembles that of the riding habit in Salisbury museum described in detail by Janet Arnold in her Patterns of Fashion 1 (page 46). The Salisbury museum skirt features there would also be suitable for my project – there are differences between the original I had in mind, but after careful deliberation, I decided to stick on to the well documented source and pattern instead of doing more improvising.
The idea was then to use the pattern from Janet Arnold for the skirt and the back of the bodice, and improvise the front of the jacket – and as i have discovered a little bit later on, exactly what another excellent costumier had done before – though she seemed to have opted for the hunting spencer front instead (http://www.koshka-the-cat.com/riding_habit.html).
Black broadcloth wool – 3.5m;
Silk taffeta (lining of the jacket, plus skirts bodice) – 1.5m
Linen (lining for the skirt bodice (0.5m)
40 Wooden moulds for the jacket buttons (or just use ordinary buttons)
2 small and 4 tiny buttons or moulds for the skirt bodice closure
A strip of buckram for lining the collar
Black and white linen thread,
Beige silk thread
2m of linen tape for the skirt ties
Hooks and eyes if you plan to attach your jacket to the skirt
The skirt is attached to a small silk bodice, lined with linen. There is no mention of the skirt being lined at all – not surprisingly though, since lining the skirt with silk or even linen, would render it even more slippery and compromise the rider’s grip. My 18th century habit has a skirt lined with silk, as that’s what the original had for lining, and whereas it rides well and I wouldn’t have problems riding in a show in it, I would not take it out hunting. Considering the fact that in the Regency period side saddles were not the safest contraptions (the leaping head that provides so much more secure grip was yet to be invented), and taking into the account the fact that due to the fencing off the countryside jumping the fences became a necessity, a spirited lady who wished to follow the hunt needed all the help she could get. Indeed, it is believed that some were even strapping themselves to the saddles to help them over the fences – not the safest idea really. All things considered, it looked as the lack of lining made sense – many thanks to Gini Newton and Becca Holland for helping me out with this issue! )
The pattern – Janet Arnold. I scaled the bodice pattern to fit me, but left the skirt as it was without any changes.
The skirt bodice construction:
1. Cut out the pieces in calico or linen to form a mock up. If you are lucky and your mock up doesn’t require any serious changes, your linen mock up can serve as the lining.
2. Pin or baste the pieces together, leaving it open on the right side. Try on – either on yourself or on a pre-prepared dummy. Make sure you try it on the underwear you are planning to wear with it – especially if you are wearing Regency stays – the bust position is very different to the one the modern bra gives – particularly true for more ample bosoms.
3. Adjust as necessary till you are satisfied with the outcome. Unpin the pieces and use them to draw the pattern.
4. Cut out the bodice in your top fabric and lining.
5. Sew the top pieces together: first insert the little gussets in the front pieces, and then sew the back pieces and left front together. Add the shoulder straps. The right piece with the gusset is on its own for the time being, it will be stitched directly to the waistband of the skirt later. Press the seams open. Repeat the same steps with the lining pieces
4. Fold the top edges of the silk and stitch it down. Snip the curves and notch to avoiding bulk- the fabric should lay flat on the curves
5. Pin the lining to the top pieces and stitch them together. Press.
Note: if you prefer to save time and use the sewing machine, simply skip the step 4 and 5: pin the lining and top fabric right sides together and sew alongside the top edges. Turn outside out and press.
You now have the bodice ready, time for the other components – the skirt, bustle pad and the pocket.
- Cut the fabric according to the pattern.
- Sew the pieces together.
- Hem the skirt – an inch wide hem seems to work fine, giving it enough weight, but smooth finish too.
- Place the skirt on a flat surface and pin the tapes into position.I used the same position as in the original, but do try it out first to make sure that the tied up skirt is not too short or too long. Stitch them securely, but make sure the stitches do not show too much on the right side.
- Cut small tabs and place them on the hem directly below the individual ties. Stitch firmly into position – only at the short sides, making sure the tapes can pass under them freely
- Cut out the waistband – it should be long enough to go around your high waist with a small overlap, and quite narrow.
- If you plan to have a watch pocket , cut it out now in two layers of silk or linen – it should be big enough to accommodate your watch (or a ph0ne….). Place right sides together, sew, turn out and press.
It is time to put all the pieces together – and it is not an easy task!
- Pin the bodice parts onto the waistband. Try to waistband on and make sure the pieces are in the right position. You might discover it is easier to simply put the waistband on the dummy, then pin the pieces onto it – saves time. Mark the final position of the bodice on the waistband and sew – make sure you sew only through the top layer of the bodice.
- Pin the skirt onto the waistband– the front part is mostly lying flat, the back will be cartridge pleated. At that stage you are simply making sure where to start the pleating!
- If you are happy with the position and know how much fabric has to be pleated into how much space, prepare a needle with a long and strong thread and sew a running stitch through the skirt to be pleated. The pleats should be small – depending on how much fabric you have, you should have your stitches around 1cm long. Draw the thread to see if the pleated section matches its place on the waistband. If it does, tie a strong knot in the thread to make sure the pleats stay together.
- Sew the skirt onto the waistband – use the machine for the front parts where the skirt lies flat, and then, with a strong thread attach the cartridge pleats
- Try the skirt on – again a dummy is a good option as well.You can now mark the position of the buttons on the shoulder straps – do not do it earlier on as the weight of the skirt will change the position of the bodice a bit!
- If everything fits snugly, attach the pocket to the waistband. Then sew the lining onto the waistband, covering its insides
- Cut out the little bustle pieces, place right sides together and sew along the outside edges, leaving part of the inside open. Turn inside out and stuff with some scraps. Pin or sew shut and stitch to the waistband at the back of the skirt
- All that needs to be done now is to sew the buttons on ( I covered mine with taffeta, using tiny ones on the shoulder straps and bigger ones at the side closure then make the buttonholes.
The skirt is ready now! Here worn tied up to facilitate walking around..
As mentioned before, I decided to use the pattern for the back from Janet Arnold and to improvise the front.
- Cut the back pieces in calico using a scaled pattern from J. Arnold. Cut all the back pieces including the peplum gussets etc. Also, cut out the sleeve.
- Draw a simple piece or the front – the important measurements here are the width – front to side seam at the bust and the waist level, the shoulder seam and the front length.
- Pin the parts together and put the jacket on the dummy. Pin the back piece onto the dummy and start working on your experimental piece. Mark the waist position, the length in front, back and sides. Mark the darts. Once the front starts to resemble a piece of clothing, take it off the dummy, adjust the corrections, and sew the mock up parts together.
- Put it on the dummy again – if the back and sides are ok when the front is closed, you can now work on the shape of the lapels. Mark how long you want them to be, where is the best place to attach the collar, how high you want it to button up. Draft a collar pattern and experiment with that too.
- Adjust as many times as necessary till you are satisfied with the look. Then take the mock up off the dummy – it is a good idea to try it on now on your own body too.
Note – it hugely helps if you have another person who knows her/his way around patterning helping – then you can skip the dummy process and have the patterns adjusted directly on yourself.
- Unpick the seams, perform any necessary corrections and voila! You have a pattern. You can now use your calico pieces as a stock pattern or use them to copy the pattern on a paper.
- Cut out the pieces in your lining fabric
- Just on the safe side (if you are not lucky enough to have another costumier at hand…) pin the lining together and try it on your stays and skirt. Any corrections here should be small, but better to see them on the lining than on the top fabric. Here, although the mock up seemed fine, I discovered the shoulder seams still needed adjusting
- Adjust if necessary , transfer any corrections onto the pattern and then and sew the lining pieces together
- Cut out the top fabric pieces. Stitch the darts in the front parts first. Sew in the back gusset, then the front pieces and then the little side and back peplum pieces. Sew the shoulder seam.
- For authentic looking finish – and if your fabric is difficult to open seam press, couch the seams down with linen or silk thread. Fold the edges and stitch them down.
- The sleeves – sew the top fabric sleeves – you can leave the cuff part open, or closed. Couch down the seam. The lining: stitch the cuffs to the lining of the sleeves first then sew them shut.
- Insert the sleeves into the armscythes. Pin carefully from underside first. When you reach the top part of the shoulder, you will see there is some fabric left. Either form it into small pleats to fit the armhole, or, as I did, use a strong thread to sew a running stitch near the edge and gather the pleats as you would have done for cartridge pleating – though here is simply helps to control the tiny pleats. Pin the section in place. Sew the sleeve in and repeat for the second sleeve and for the lining sleeves.
- Time for the collar. You should have the pieces cut out – both top side and lining in wool
- Take the top fabric piece and attach a small piece of buckram using parallel rows of stitching.
- Sew the reinforced collar onto the jacket.
- Put the lining in. Pin it carefully to the bodice and sew. Once you have done the bottom hem, and attached the lining in front and upper parts, do the same do the wool cuffs at the sleeves
- For the front, I have decided to use a facing. Cut the facing part big enough for the front part of the jacket, you will need 2 pieces. Stitch them carefully to the front, upper and lower edge of the jacket – and to the lining near the dart.
- Pin and stitch the collar lining into place. Mark the position of the front buttonholes than set to work on them – either on a machine or by hand.
- If you are lucky enough to have appropriate buttons ready – all that remains is to sew the buttons on. If not – make the buttons using moulds and bits of your top fabric.
- Sew the buttons to the front edge, then proceed to add the decorative ones on both sides of the bodice, at the cuffs (if you want to have buttoned cuffs, that is), and at the peplum
Your habit is now ready!
The whole outfit is worn over a chemise and stays (here once made using a Mantua Makers pattern – minus the lacing on the hip gussets. The others I had with lacing on tended to dig into the flesh when riding…).
Then a linen petticoat, and a habit shirt with frilled cuffs, with a simple silk stock.
My hat here is a simple silk topper with some rooster feathers attached.
and the result – photos on foot – from an event in Hereford
And with a mount..
Side saddle pictured here is of a Victorian design – much safer to ride in than the Regency ones, and the skirt works reasonably well, although it has to be said that without a help of a groom who would hoist me into the saddle and help the skirt lie flat over the pommels, it was very difficult to get the folds lie correctly and to adjust the length. Still, the skirt seemed to be reasonably secure to be ridden in, though the cut means it is not perfect for the Victorian saddle. but more about the Victorian habit in a few days time…. 🙂
Janet Arnold, Patterns of Fashion, Macmillan, New York, 1984
The Collection of the Kyoto Costume Institute; Fashion, a History from the 18th to the 20th century, Taschen, 2002
Digital Archives of Kyoto Costume Institute: http://www.kci.or.jp/archives/index_e.html [Accessed 8/01/2012]
I have always admired the simple elegance of 18th and 19th century riding habits. They were practical, sturdy garments but with undeniable air of sophistication and grandeur. Especially the 18th century ones- How can a girl resist one of these?
More habit pictures across the ages on the Pinterest board…
So when I stared learning how to ride side-saddle, I thought that would be a perfect opportunity to make one. My heart was set on the later 18th century one, found in Victoria and Albert museum.
It was made in glazed red wool, lined with glazed linen and faced with wool.
Since I intend to use my habit for hunting, red wasn’t the best option – too similar to the pink coats of the hunt service folks! Dark green was the second best choice.
The materials I used were:
Thick wool for the jacket – 2 m- I chose to make the jacket thicker than the skirt mostly because of the temperatures one faces during winter hunting
2 metres of left over wool for toile
4 metres of regular wool for the skirt and waistcoat
6 metres of silk taffeta
0.5 metre of linen for the waistcoat
16 buttons for the waistcoat
35 buttons for the jacket
Gold metallic braid for the decoration ( I used up about 6 metres)
Gold metallic thread and some embroidery silks
Silk and linen threads for stitching.
The whole outfit was hand stitched – but obviously if you prefer modern techniques, machine can be used to save up on time!
That was the easiest part. . I made mine out of a big rectangle of fabric, lined with silk and cartridge pleated to a narrow waistband. You can fins detailed instructions in my article on the 17th cent banqueting gown – I used the very same techniques – though I made the hem folded deeper and lining is shorter. (http://yourwardrobeunlockd.com/historicalperiods/medievalrenaissance/417-a-banqueting-gown
I could not actually see much of the waistcoat worn with the original habit, but I found images of a very similar one and used them as my inspiration. Apart from the collar, both waistcoats seem to be double breasted and the cut wouldn’t be that different.
It was relatively easy to work out the pattern from the pictures I cut toile first, experimented with it and amended it till I was satisfied with the fit. I wanted mine to fit me with or without stays, which was a bit tricky. I decided to line the front layer with wool as well – as it can get quite cold on longer rides! The back is made of two layers as well, though this time of linen .
I started work on the back first – stitched the top and lining layer together at centre back ( leaving about 4 inches undone – that’s when the two parts will be joined later) and bottom hem, turned over and pressed. Repeat on the other half of the back. Once ready, stitch them together at the top and worked the eyelets in linen thread. Lace them together – it is easier to work with the bits being laced instead of flapping around.
Next, add the two fronts on each side – only the top layer first, on both sides. Try it on and make sure the front is flat and the lapels are even.
Add the collar – I interlined mine with buckram to make sure it looks and is as still as the original seems to be, and lined it with wool. Once the collar is in place, you can line the front with another wool layer. Finish off the inside seams and the hem, put it on and mark the position of the buttons and buttonholes.
Buttons are a story into itself.
I couldn’t find any decent metal buttons that would be correct for the period, so decided to cover and embroider my buttons for both the waistcoat and the jacket. In the hindsight, I should probably have allowed for a more time – they do take quite some time!
I used the same cloth I made the waistcoat and skirts from. I divided it into small squares, each big enough to cover the button plus some extra, and stretched it on a tapestry frame
I worked in stages
- Make a loop using a thick gold thread – make several in one go. My loop was long enough to go around the button twice.
- Couch the loop down with silk thread – took me ages!
- Embroider the stems with green silk thread
- Embroider the flower in yellow silk thread
I worked on several buttons at the same time – I would make around 6 or 7 and then start the process all again.
When the embroidery is finished, detach the fabric from the frame and cut the fabric along the lines. You now have lots of squares with embroidered bit on it. Put your button (I used flat wooden ones) on the left side of the square, covering the embroidered bit. Trim the rest of the fabric so that there is enough left to cover the button. Now you have a circle of fabric – use it on other square pieces so that you do not need to measure things up every time. To cover the button, sew a running stitch near the edge, place the button inside and pull on the thread. Stitch the edges together. More detailed instructions can be found here:
Work the buttonholes and sew the buttons, and the waistcoat is ready.
I had to be bit creative with the pattern. I did not have access to a detailed pattern for a habit from that period, so decided to adapt the slightly earlier one from Janet Arnold. I simply changed the front by adding lapels and adapting the shape of the skirt.
I must add that originally, working strictly from the picture, I couldn’t see any waist seam – so I cut my jacket without one. However, 400 Years of Fashion, presenting the V&A collection states that there is a waist seam… which means I will have to remodel the jacket. Oh well…. If you want to make skirts separate, just follow the pattern from Janet Arnold!
As always, cut out the toile first. – I this instance it was even more important than usual, as I wasn’t using a pattern I was familiar with or a commercial pattern – I had to check if the fabric hung and fitted correctly. That was why I decided to use a thicker fabric for the toile – calico toile would no doubt make it easy to see the fit, however it could not mimic the behaviour of heavy and stiff wool. To achieve that, I used bits of older, low quality wool I had. And it worked! I basted the pieces together – I included the sleeves since I wanted them to fit closely but somehow allow me quite a lot of freedom of movement – and checked the fit. It needed some adjustments, so I undid the relevant seams, corrected the cut and basted the seams again. I had to repeat the procedure twice before I was satisfied, and then I simply undid the basting and used it as a template for cutting out the top layer and the lining.
I started with top layer, stitching first the back and then the sides and the shoulder seams. I left the skirts un-pleated – I will do the pleating once the lining is in place.
Lapels- you have a choice how you want your lapels and buttons done: you can either have real buttonholes on them and sew the buttons to the jacket, so that they do button back – or have a fake buttonhole/button arrangement and secure the lapels with hooks and eyes. Mine are the former.
I market the buttonholes and the line for the braid decoration. I cut the line – just enough to allow for the button – and worked around it to prevent fraying. Then I added the gold braid decoration. Having finished with the lapels, you can now sew on the buttons.
The next step was to make and add the sleeves I stitched the two part sleeve together, right sides together, leaving the cuff part unstitched at that point. I turned the sleeve out, with right sides up, and then finished the cuff – so that when it is turned back, the good side of the seam shows. Proceed to add the buttonholes/button decoration – again, you can have either false ones or the functional option and I opted for the functional way – real buttonholes and buttons on the main sleeve. Repeat on the other sleeve and when finished, set it into the armhole.
The pockets were next. Start with the pocket itself – mines are from silk. Cut out and stitch the two layers together. (pic.26) Mark the position of the pocket on the skirts, and cut the opening matching the opening of the pocket. Turn the pocket out, so that the left side is out, and set it into the slit, carefully securing the silk to the wool
Pocket flaps – cut them out, making sure they are a bit longer than the actual pocket slit, line them, it you want to, and add the buttonhole/ decoration. Pin it in place and stitch them to the skirts with a strong linen thread.
Lining – stitch all the lining together – back first, then front and sleeves and set into the jacket. Pin carefully and let it hang together for a while. Adjust the pining at the hem if necessary and sew it in – at the front, neck hem, the cuffs (or rather before the turn back cuffs start).
Collar was next – again, I made a mock up collar first and experimented with it until i was satisfied with the way it looked together with the lapels. I stitched it to the jacket, lined with another layer of wool and worked the buttonholes so that it buttons down to the jacket.
All that remains now is pleating the vents – I did it precisely as shown in Janet Arnold, and secured them with the buttons and then added buttons at the top, purely for decoration.
Your habit is now ready – all you need it the undergarments, boots, gloves and a tricorn – and a –hunting you can go!
Here pictured at End Audley Hall – it was rather frosty on the day, with minus temperatures, and yet the wool kept me warm and snug.
This article was originally published in Your Wardrobe Unlock’d over a two years ago – and looking back at it from the time perspective I think i need to make another one, updated…. maybe the earlier version? still have enough of the green wool to make a 1760 jacket…. 🙂
Janet Arnold, Patterns of Fashion, Macmillan, New York, 1984
400 Years of Fashion, V&A Publishing, London, 2010
Craftpudding, http://www.craftpudding.com/2007/06/covered-button-tutorial.html [accessed 28/01/11]
V&A museum online: http://collections.vam.ac.uk/ [accessed 28/01/11]
1884 patent by C.W. Higby; US Patent #294620
Now this one was a true adventure – and an intrepid one, for someone with my limited corsetry experience! But when the challenge was announced on FB by the corsetry website, Foundations Revealed, I simply couldn’t say ‘no’ to it as I liked the lines of the particular corset in question. I must admit I regretted that decision a few times as the date for the article got closer – but my regrets stopped the moment I started working on it.
So, to take the things from the beginning. As I said, I am not a particularly experienced corsetiere – I have made in total maybe around 30 corsets or so, and about 20 of those in the last year – but in these cases I was working from a selection of ready patterns. Yes, they needed adjustments and tweaking, but generally the proportions and scale were there. I have never made a corset pattern on my own, though I have made loads for historical outfits and especially for the bridal side of my business – bodices, skirts, coats etc.
This one was a very different proposition. All I had was a drawing of the corset, a drawing of the pattern and an explanation of the patent online – http://www.google.com/patents/US294620. That’s it. The rest was up to me.
Knowing that my own experience might not be enough, and also that I would need help with fitting the corset onto myself, I came up with a very cunning plan and decided to work on the item during one of my visits to Julia Bremble – a friend who runs ‘Sew Curvy’, a corset making and corsetry selling company in Oxfordshire. Her studio is great, both spacious and peaceful, and we seem to work well together, “stitching and bitching”. Also, since Julia is a professional corsetiere, I would have an expert on hand to nudge me in the right direction. So, one lovely morning in May, I packed my sewing case and drove over to Oxfordshire, and the work began…
What we know from the patent’s description:
- The most visible feature was the lacing at the sides – I have seen corsets with side lacing, like the maternity ones, but the lacing was usually vertical. Here the side lacing is diagonal, curving gently.
- The inventor states his aims clearly: the corset is to fit well and comfortably, allow for easy movement of the body and for adjustments, all the while being able to support as required of a corset.
- Boning – diagonal cording or boning or any other suitable method is encouraged. From the picture it looks like boning /cording is placed more or less in the middle of each main section, and at the edges of the lacing parts.
- No mention of the waist tape.
What we don’t know – or at least things that were not apparent for me:
- How many layers? 2, 3, or 4 including decorative fabrics? Possibly much depends on the individual – and lining was not always present in the historical corsets, mainly because they were worn on a chemise anyway. I decided to go with 2 layers of coutil, so that the boning/cording is sandwiched between the layers, with a lining added later.
- Seams – somehow it appeared to me that lapped seams would work better on the curved lines of this corset – as they do on the Edwardian corsets, yet I wasn’t sure if they were used in 1884. So lapped or standard seams? In the end, and after a longish discussion with Julia, I opted for lapping it.
I printed out the pattern from Google and had it blown up to more or less half my measurements. Btw – this was almost entirely the only bit of maths I did, and it was probably a dodgy one anyway… I drew the lines on the original printout, where I predicted the waist to be (the point of the hip gore was my reference). I measured each piece on the line, added the numbers up and had ½ waist measurements of the piece. From that I realized that to match my measurements we would have to blow it about 4 times bigger. So for the ‘mini me’ version, 200 percent bigger would just do the trick
The idea was to cut the pattern out, put it together and see if the pieces actually matched up. I traced the pieces onto patterning paper,
cut them out and used masking tape to attach them all together. A useful tip – cut the paper with the seam allowance, it will be easier to glue it!
What became evident was that the pieces matched well, but not perfectly – a few pieces in the front section were either a tad too long or too short to match smoothly – but not drastically. In principle, however, it worked.
The next stage was to cut out the corset in calico – but bigger so that it would fit a human being – I was not concerned about the precise fit, I simply wanted to see how the pieces worked together as fabric, on a scale I was a bit more familiar with. And so, I simply worked out that by making the pieces about half as big again, they should fit an adult human being. This meant adding about 2cm all around to every piece.
Fortunately at that time Julia was too preoccupied with her own work (she was working on a lovely bridal skirt), or she would possibly have suffered a coronary seeing my ‘intuitive’ grading and sizing method. I must admit that maths and I are not the best of friends, and we try to avoid each other – for historical dressmaking this is just fine, and I love working with toiles, sculpturing the fabric to fit a body and then using the toile to adapt the original pattern. This method does not always work, however, and corsetry is one of those precise arts that do need at least some maths, so it is a bit of a trade-off. Here however, as I was just playing, I decided to give it a go.
I stitched all the pieces together, using ready-made eyelet tape at the sides, or punching the holes in calico – at the back I used an eyelet and bones tape that enabled me to have the back stabilized enough for the sake of the experiment.
I held it against my body (as you do…) and realized that it was just a bit too big for me – but not too badly!
A miracle! I actually had a proper toile there! I quickly stitched up the centre panel, taking an inch off it, moved the back eyelet tapes in by another inch as well, attached wide flat steel in the front, (a masking tape job), and asked Julia to lace me in. It was still too big, but it was possible for us to work on it – marking the areas where we needed more room and the ones where we needed less…
At the same time, the shape created by the long lacing strip in front suggested that the pattern may be adapted and made into a nice modern corset, or maybe a steampunk one. So we left one half of the pattern as it was, true to its Victorian original, and started to play with the other half, eventually coming up with an overbust shape that looks like a big heart in front .
What I learnt from the toile:
*The side back lacing panels need to be longer.
* It is still too big at the waist, but the back top and the hip could do with more space (1/2 an inch more at the top back and an inch at the hip).
* The sweeping curves are rather pretty….
Next step – adapting the pattern slightly and tracing it on the coutil, to make the sample corset in my size.
Planning boning channels too– I decided to go for boning as opposed to cording, and bone the corset in 4mm spiral wire in the middle of the pieces, with the 5mm going in the lacing at the sides, and flat bones at the back lacing.
Once traced, I cut the pieces out, pinned them together and started sewing….
Channels first – I sewed them on the a and b pieces.
The side lacing strips were sewn along the edges on the wrong side, flipped over, pressed and a channel was stitched just next to the edge.
Busk was inserted into the front pieces and laid aside.
Pieces were stitched together using lapped seams (for a detailed tutorial I do recommend Sew Curvy’s DVD on corsetry – worked a treat for me!). This involved careful pressing on each piece’s seam allowance, then aligning and pinning – but though time consuming, it was a relatively hassle-free procedure.
Side lacing piece and busk piece were connected last – and we have the first quarter ready!
The process was repeated on the other side piece
A and b pieces and the side lacing strip were sewn together first.
With the back panel, the long a piece needs to be boned before attaching the back lacing panel – it is the only piece with the boning channels closed up during the construction. Once that is done, the back lacing piece is attached. And the whole is repeated on the other side.
There are now 4 pieces – and they all need to be boned.
The boning I used, as mentioned before, were lovely 4mm and 5m spiral steels, and flats for the back lacing piece
Once I had all 4 pieces boned, it was time for some eyelets. Quite a lot of them actually, as I used about 90 of them. Since it was an experimental sample I didn’t want to waste that many proper eyelets on something that might not work, so I dug out a little pouch of 100 yellow eyelets that looked funky and could go to waste.
Once that was done, the sides could be laced – and I simply had to go for the yellow Russia braid I had handy on the mock up…
The moment had arrived – I could actually try the thing on!
The first impressions:
- Very light and comfortable
- Definitely not giving me my usual 27” waist – here only a slight reduction, to 29-30”
- It picked up the asymmetrical features much more than usual – I very rarely have to adapt the corset patterns because of my slight asymmetry, but here it showed more, especially at the back –my slightly asymmetric back muscles meant some of the boning at the back was a bit too low (see the back view ). So channels will have to be undone and re- stitched a bit lower in that piece.
- The corset had a bigger wrinkle at the back/side – I put it down to the lack of any boning along the seam of the two a pieces at the back – and decided to add 2 channels running parallel to the seam there.
- Hips felt a bit too tight and constricted when the side lacings were laced up – but loosening the laces resulted in a much better fit, and looked better too!
Not too bad. I readjusted the boning channels on the side and hip, and stitched additional ones on both sides of the seam between the two back a pieces
Next step – flossing. At that stage I rather liked with black and yellow combination, so flossing was done in dark yellow cotton thread.
I also decided to add lining – since it looks as if the thing may actually be wearable, I might as well make sure it feels nice if I decide to wear it outside the Victorian setting, (it does have a certain steampunk look to it, even in its original form!) so cotton lining was stitched to every part of the corset
Then there was only binding left to do – and adding some yellow lace I found in my stock. It was ready to wear!
Impressions – as stated before, very comfortable, providing lots of support, but not giving as much pronounced waist as my usual corset does; Still, a perfect choice to wear around the house, for country dancing or for riding too. – I have since used it for a Steampunk Amazones shoot , for riding sidesaddle and it worked perfectly!
The side-adjustment lacing is useful as the corset can be adjusted for a more energetic activity in seconds. It may also be used during pregnancy, I suppose, but since I have never been pregnant, I have no experience with which to compare…
Although made as a prototype sample, I think it is more than wearable – though for that purpose I will need to get better laces than Russia braid – I will either use black laces or white ones (and dye them yellow…. 🙂
What I have learned and would do differently next time.
- The spiral boning works well, but more is needed at the back than is indicated on the original drawings.
- Chatting when marking boning channels can result in wonky channels – the front channels are slightly offset as a result…
- I would use silk for flossing
- …I would use better eyelets too; (The ones used here were without washers)
- If I want to keep the side lacing laced up, I will need to add another inch on each hip…
Having said that, the next project will be making the steampunk version of this corset, so I may employ some different techniques and materials…
Many thanks for Julia from Sew Curvy for help with fitting and expertise! 🙂
exactly what is says in the title – a collection of what was happening here in the last 12 months! enjoy – and- Have a lovely New Year!
the first event of the year – Katherine of Aragon festival in Peterborough…
and did a Summer Bride shoot too…
more markets followed – ILHF and TORM
in November we also shot the Autumn Bride…
Over the year we also enjoyed a few good Stitch and Bitch sessions with Julia from Sew Curvy – it is great to have friends you can work side by side with – rather rare for me, so thanks Julia for your friendship!
Alas the year didn’t end on a good note – we had a garage fire on the 28th – in which most of my stock, fabrics, dresses etc was damaged.. 😦 lots of private re-enactment , camping and sport equipment also vanished:-( still, we were insured, so hoping some of it can be rebuilt – it will take a while though! 😦
mind you, some of the charred, sticky, smelly items may have just one more chance to take to the stage – we plan a postapocalyptic shoot… it is not everyday you have a beautifully charred wall in your garage, is it?
and so – that’s it – goodbye 2013, welcome 2014! bad or good, it will no doubt be interesting – Happy New Year everyone!
As promised in my previous post, the present entry is to honour the awesomeness that is Paul Mockford. I felt the photos deserved a post on their own and they clearly do – very, very happy with them! Let me detain you no longer, simply relax and enjoy….
and a few shots of the location and the owners!
more photos here:
and the credits…
Photography: Paul Mockford : http://www.shearsmockford,com;
facebook page: Mockford Photography
make up and hair – Sarah Dunn: http://www.sarahsdoowopdos.wordpress.com
own styling and modelling – Miss Lilian Love https://www.facebook.com/MissLillianLove?fref=ts
clothing – Prior Attire’s branch – https://www.facebook.com/OffTheRailsPriorAttireSteampunkBazaar?fref=ts
location – http://www.thurleighequestriancentre.co.uk/
models – Anett Novak and Adrienne Renarde
Many thanks to everybody involved – you rock guys!
And I just cannot leave you without at least one of the outtakes – a cheeky photo of Miss Lilian Love at her lunch break…