It is finished at last!!!! I have loved this plate from ‘Harper’s Bazaar’ for years, and planned to make the jacket almost 2 years ago – now am happy to say that it is complete (well, almost…) I got the … Continue reading
Welcome to another of our tutorials aimed at the folk getting their gear ready for the Victorian Ball. In this one I am going to provide a step by step guide on how to make the iconic round crinoline cage, perfect … Continue reading
In the previous tutorial we dealt with undergarments (drawers, chemise and a petticoat), and the crinoline cage is explained here). So, it is now time to tackle the gown itself! Again, since this series is mostly dedicated to the guests of … Continue reading
Since our next Victorian Ball has a Crinoline theme, I have promised a few tutorials and pattern reviews for the folks who are making their own kit. Sew Curvy joined the fun and now offers very attractively priced patterns and crinoline kits from the era ( just a few left in stock…), so I took advantage of the offer and grabbed a few patterns too.
Normally I don’t bother with commercial patterns much, underwear included as I draft my own, and for Victorian Era the patterns in Francis Grimble’s books are of a great help – so this was a bit of an adventure, trying to actually follow instructions. Which I did, to some extent… 😉 And so, below, a short tutorial on making a set of mid-victorian open drawers, a chemise and a petticoat.
Fabrics: cotton lawn (but any lightweight cotton or linen will do) and cotton lace, 3 buttons.
Finish – I went for modern finish as was squeezing the project in between commissions and stock-making, but it doesnt mean that you have to follow me and use the same techniques – if you have time, do go for a hand finish 🙂
1. find your size on the chart, trace the pattern. I traced it onto paper once, so that I dont have to cut the pattern itself.
2. trace the pattern onto the fabric – fold the lawn in half and you will only have to cut once!
3. once cut, I overlocked the side seams and the facing for the size. I decided to save time and forego front and back facings – not really needed, though they would give a nicer finish! Instead of a self ruffle I used cotton broderie anglaise lace.
4. Follow the directions for working the side openings/facings – they are explained fairly clrealy.
5. Fold the overlocked edges of the crotch opening (or follow instructions for facings there)
6. Gather the legs and top – I gathered mine using a ruffle attachment, but you can pleat or gather on a string, too (lower the thread tension, use the long stitch setting and sew – then just pull the thread to gather)
7. Gather the ruffle – again, several methods are possible, I gathered mine on an overlocker
8. Sew each leg
9. Prepare the leg bands and attach lace to them – the instructions are quite clear about how to do it.
10. Attach the waistbands – again, the instructions are clear!
11. Make buttonholes and attach buttons. Fot this project I used buttons from my secret stash of antique buttons 🙂
Ready! it took me just over 2 hours to complete the project – it would be about 3 – 4 if I wasn’t using an overlocker.
- Trace and cut the pattern according to your size (again, I found it runs a tad too big for my liking – but it is not a huge issue at all – and it is always easier to end up with a chemise an inch or two too big rather than one too small!)
2. Overlock the sides and sew together; (or sew the sides together and finish the seam by hand if you prefer.)
3. Add the shouler strap reinforcement bits. I admit the instructions here were not too clear so I did it my way… I supose as long as the edges are strong enough for a button, etc, that is all that matters
4.Overlock the sleeve (or hand finish) and attach to the armhole. You will need to gather a bit; I did it as I sewed.
5. Prepare the neckline and hem edge (overlock and fold, or hand stitch – up to you)
6. Add lace – I used a narrow broderie anglaise, as I had enough to use on the sleeves, neck and hem!
7. Add buttons and work buttonholes
The chemise is now ready!
I have also made another version of the chemise, too – the same pattern, just with no sleeves, and no buttoned-up staps – I simply sewed the straps together instead. The neckline is finished with an eyelet lace with the ribbon, which controls the neckline as it can be pulled tighter, if needs be.
Next stage was to put one of my corsets on (a suitable corset kit can be bought here: corset kit – the pattern is later but the style works for mid-victorian silhouette and is much easier to make – I have made a mid-victorian corset using a commercial pattern and it wasn’t exactly a success – you can read about it here).
All we need now is a petticoat.
Petticoats are very easy to make – so easy that there is little point in providing an actual pattern. Even ‘Truly Victorian’ provides a diagram and instructions for free – petticoat instructions
I basically used a length of cotton sheeting – a rectangular piece. The length was the circumference of the crinoline cage plus 1m, the lengh – measured on the crinoline, from waist to the ground. If you do not plan flounces, pintucks etc, but a basic one, keep it a bit above the ground. If you want lots of pintucks, make it longer.
This particular one has been made with 5 rows of big pintucks
a few tips:
- dont wast time measuring and cutton your cotton. i usually just ,ark how long i want the piece to be , nicj the fabric and simply tear it. it tears easily and along the grain, you you have a straight line with no hassle. disadvantage – you will get a few hanging thread to deal with. I use the same metod for cutting the flounce
- pintucks – for small, decorarice pintucks you see on chemises etc, I use a seam gauge and a pintuck foot etc – the detail is important. for the petticoats however, where i want my pintucks bigger, and where it doent matter too much if the pintuck is 2mm longer at one side, I save time by not marking them at all – i simply use my finger as a gauge.
(A short video of how to make them fast using your finger as a gauge can be found on my instagram account. ( here)
I also opted for a flounce, also with pintucks and lace 🙂
Once the pintucks and the flounce were on, I simply gathered the wasit (there will be lots of fabric to gather – about 4.5-5m) using the ruffler attachment
Then attach the waistband, buttons, etc, and you are done!
If you are wondering why pintucks and flounces instead of a simple petticoat, well, they do have a function! PIntucks were used a lot on children’s clothing – as they grew up, the tucks were released and garment lengthened, here however the tucks are not only a decorative feature, but a practical one – they hide the shape of the cage and they stiffen the edge a bit more, hanging better; the flounce has the same function – this fills in the empty space between the cage’s end and the ground, preventing the ‘lampshade effect 🙂
There are a few beautiful petticoats still surving – you can fing some on my pinterest page
Now you are ready for a skirt and a bodice – or a gown. I have already written a post on a day dress – here.
I hope you found this little tutorial useful, the tutorial on how to make a gow bodice and skirt is here
Oh, and if you dont sew, dont worry,:-) chemises, petticoats, corsets and whole outfirs are now available in our online shop ! There are already a couple of nice dresses and a few petticoats there, more undergarments will be added shortly
And a few outtakes:-) i knew the chamber put would come in useful!
OK, so I do have a bit of an reputation for being a fast sewer. And because of that I have been exposed to a variety of opinions ranging from ‘ Wow, you sew so fast, you must be good!’ to ‘ It really must be crap, nobody can make it properly in that time’.
The fact is, however – neither of these sentiments are always true. You may be labouring on one item for ages – but that in itself doesn’t mean that the finished item will be a masterpiece – it may still be ill-fittng, badly stitched etc. Similarly – you can make items fast – and that in itself doesn’t mean they are poorly made. There are exceptions to every rule, but the most important thing is –
FIND THE PACE THAT SUITS YOU
To produce a quality garments you need to be working at a pace you are comfortable with. If you rush it – it will be reflected in the final look; but if you procrastinate too much, you may loose interest/heart to the project , get bored – and that will show in sloppy work too.
If you are in the comfortable position of sewing just for yourself, as leisure, do take your time. Unless, off course there is an unexpected event this weekend and suddenly you have an urgent need of a new frock… If you are earning your bread sewing things, you will need to find a pace you are the most efficient at without compromising the quality.
I get asked a lot, how I can make things quickly – and the answer is – not every item is made quickly – this simply depends on the purpose of the garment, the client’s purse and my own private time constraints . The most important factors are the purpose – and the quantity you are making.
The purpose of the garments will considerably influence the speed at which you can produce an item -. If you are aiming at historically accurate garments and are making everything by hand ( the ‘before Singer’ eras) because your garments will be shown to the public etc – it will take much longer than a garments that looks fine, has handfinished details but inside seams machined. But if you are making modern clothing and are free to use sewing machine, overlocker etc – that would cut the timing considerably.
a few examples
1. – 2 17th century gowns, one handmade ( 1660 style, in green silk); and a 1634 in blue satin with machined innards and the rest handfinished. The handmade took me 5 solid days of stitching; the other one only 3. But can you spot a difference ? unless you look very, very closely, you cannot… (more on making the blue gown and construction details here)
2. Tudor gowns – this one is completely handstitched – petticoat, kirtle, gown – every single stitch. Took 2 solid weeks
These two were made using a machine, with hand finish – all inside seams are machined, but lining is inserted by hand, all visible seams, eyelets etc are hand stitched. Each took about a week.
3. Napoleonic bling – military lace sewn by hand ( 6 hours each side)
and on a machine, with hand finishing – 3 hours each side
A short tutorial on the machine style is here
The other factor is the quantity – how many items of the same sort you make. In short – experience. The more doublets/corsets/bustles you make, the easier it will get and the faster you will become. This is mostly down to the fact that if you are making a new piece of clothing, you do take your time considering the best way of putting it together, you make mistakes – but this is a very valuable time, as with every mistake, ever minute spent pondering on how on earth do these two bits fit in, you learn. My first corset took 3 days as I was just experimenting with techniques. Nowadays I can make simple corset in 3-4 hours, and if anything, is is better and much more structurally sound than the one I made in 3 days…
With that in mind, if you feel you would like to speed up your sewing, these are the tips I found worked for me:
* quality sewing machine and tools. The machine doesn’t have to be expensive, but it needs to be reliable. You don’t need an industrial model straight away – though I love my semi industrial Janome for its speed – just make sure it does its job consistently and without mishaps. Also – do that the advantage of the many different attachments. I love my ruffler for example – without it it would take me much longer to make flounced petticoats, gathered chemises etc.
It is worth investing in some specific machinery if you make lots of similar items -for example, for corsetmaking getting an eyelet setting press meant shaving at least 30min off the complete making time.
*take notes. If you are working on a new project, just jot down bits that caused you problems – next time you wont have to work it out from the very beginning. I admit I had problems working our suspenders production – and since i wasn’t making a lot of corsets with suspenders , the first couple of times i had to work out how to make the things, made mistakes and wasted time. Once I started making a lot of them – I simply made a sample one and pinned it on a board, within reach if i ever need to be reminded how to put the thing together. Sorted, no more wasted time. you can always take photos and scribble on them too 🙂
* Practice – basically that’s where the experience kicks in. The more you make, the better you can get at it ( practice makes perfect!) but remember to practice only the bits that worked – repeating the mistakes again and again wont do you much good, o matter how long you spent practicing it :-(. The more you sew, the more you will learn about how different fabrics behave, which stitches, needles, setting to use – almost automatically, without sitting there and looking for the manual.
* if you are making clothes mostly for yourself, save the mock ups and make them into generic patterns, you can then adjust them ( neckline, hems, sleeve length etc) to fit in with a new project – and it will save you at least an hour or two on making a mock up from a scratch. The same applies to your repeat clients; or, if you are making a lot of stock items, a few graded hard patterns will not only speed the work up, but also ensure consistent sizing.
* Neat work environment. Well, this actually doesn’t work for me at all, by work space is consistently chaotic, cluttered -some would call it messy, even… but I generally know what is where. I have attempted a neat work environment, works for about 2 days and then get s back to its original chaotic state. But if you are a person who can tame the chaos, and organize the space well – that would help too!
* plan ahead. Time management is essential, especially if you are running a business – I have written a whole post on just this issue – here
*outsourcing. Sometimes it is simply easier and faster to rely on others who are better at certain things. I can make handwoven braid, lace, etc – but I know I cannot make the braid as fast as those who specialize in it. So when time is an issue, I buy my braid, points, laces from people who are expert. Money well spent!
* limit procrastination. Yes, I am guilty here too… when time is of an essence and I know I need to concentrate I simply try to eliminate the procrastination sources – switch off facebook, usually.:-)… I answer my emails once a day in the morning, then switch off the outlook too, so no notification, pings etc distract me. It is not always possible, but when it is, it is great. I found I work much faster when I go to my Stitch and Bitch sessions at Julia, at Sew Curvy – I haven’t got a laptop with me, I put the phone aside, and all I can do is work ( and chat) – and am at my most productive.
* set a time limit. If you like competing against yourself and enjoy a challenge – set a deadline. I work best when on a tight deadline, it motivates me far more than anything else – and I love it. Not everybody’s cup of tea as some people find it stressful – though there is a way around it, if you are willing to have a go. If you set a deadline on a bit of sewing that is not hugely important and failing it won’t influence your work in general, you can see whether you enjoy the challenge. And if you don’t – back to time management and planning….
*music. Again, different music works better for different projects – so find out which tunes motivate you, jeep you alert and happy. Similarly, for hand sewing I love audio books and learning languages. while stitching hems is pretty boring, listening to the Game of Thrones etc makes the task not only enjoyable, keeping your mind occupied and stopping if from looking for distractions, but you will sew faster too.
Having said all that – remember it is not always a race. I do often have to rush things for myself, as I ‘squeeze ; private projects in between the commissions ( best example , a ballgown in 24hours here_)- but I also have a few long term bits I work on and I enjoy taking my time – I am just finishing a lace making project I started about 3 years ago, for example:-)
So find your own pace, the pace that works for you, and stitch happy ! 🙂
I have been wanting to have a go at the early mantua for quite some time – but since the end of the 17th century is relatively underrepresented here in the UK, with no events at which to wear it, the project was just simmering on the edges of inspiration. Then, out of the blue, we were asked to provide accessories for a shoot inspired by the famous, (or rather infamous) “La Maupin” – this was a lingerie shoot for Kiss Me Deadly, in a lavish London location – and we were told that we could come and shoot some historical stuff there too. Well, that was enough to get me going…. ( and the post on the shoot itself is here)
Fabrics were bought, research conducted and ideas considered – and we were ready to go.
The items I needed to make were – a petticoat, mantua and fontage headdress
Inspiration board – http://www.pinterest.com/priorattire/1670-1700-dress-more-or-less-/
Grosgrain silk (gold on top, olive on the other side) – 5m; gold lace – 8m, bullion fringe – 5m, button. ( pic.1)
Pattern – my own, based on the instructions in the Nora Waugh book – a very simple affair, a rectangle of fabric, with the grain going horizontally.
Again, a very simple construction – Cut the rectangle of fabric (the original petticoat is 124”, mine is 130”), the front length will depend on your height and shoes. The back can be trained slightly (as it is in the original, or cut to an even length. I adjusted the length on the waist, so that the bottom hem has the grain running horizontally all around.
Sew the ends together, leaving an opening at the top – about 3-4 inches. Finish the seam (hand stich, securing the edges and press)
Hem the skirt and apply any planned decoration as wished – in my case this was a band of the same fabric but with the olive side showing, framed by the metallic lace and, at the very hem, the bullion fringe.
Cut out the waistband to the desired length, and pleat the skirt to fit it – the original has 13 pleats on each side, and I aimed for the same number.
Attach the pleated skirt to the waistband. Finish the waistband, add a button and work a button hole – and the petticoat is ready.
8m of silk taffeta,
20m of wide metallic lace,
10m of narrow metallic braid,
Hooks for the train,
Pins for the stomacher
Linen (0.5-1m) and reeds for the stomacher.
If you are lining your mantua, you will need the same amount of lining as the top fabric…. Some mantuas are lined, some unlined, if you have a fabric that has a different shade on the other side (like my petticoat), that would work very well too.
For sewing I used silk thread.
Again, Norah Waugh’s pattern – I even used the same measurements on all the pieces.
Cut out all the pieces in silk. Put the sleeves, revers and neck pieces aside for the time being and deal with the main parts of the gown first.
Back piece – sew the skirts together at the CB (unless you cut on fold) and mark the pleating lines. Fold the fabric in the recommended direction on every pleat and pin. Experiment with the depths of pins until the back measurement of the gown matches your own – the easiest way to do so is to use your block, or to try to pin on a mannequin of your size.
Once you are satisfied with the pleats, secure them with hand stitching
Repeat the same process on the front pieces – experiment with the pleats on a dummy, or on yourself if you have help. Make sure to wear the undergarments that you will be wearing – in my case it was fully boned stays. Without the foundation provided by the stays, the pleating will not only result in the wrong silhouette, but will also be much more difficult – remember that a modern bra will give bust a natural round shape, very different from the flat, straight lines created by rigid stays of the era.
Again, once you have tweaked your pleats, secure them with hand stitching.
Prepare your revers – sew in the dart, sew lining (I used the same fabric) and pin onto the front. Again, experiment with the exact positioning and the shape of the front edge, and once happy with it, stitch together.
That’s the most difficult and fiddly part done, really. Yes, there will be a lot of hemming and hand stitching later, but the crucial fitting is mostly over
Next step – connect the front parts with the back –at the shoulders and the sides. Follow the directions in the book – part of the side seams are stitched wrong-sides together so that they won’t show too much when the train is hooked up in the back! Stitch, secure, and press.
Prepare the sleeves – work the seam, secure the raw edges, add the cuff. Pleat the top, if applicable, and insert into the armscythe.
Hem the thing…. This will take quite some time as the train is very long, but if you plan to show it, do it by hand. If you plan to stitch decoration over, then a machine finish will be fine.
Neck pieces next. Tidy and secure the back neck edge, then attach the neck pieces, matching the centre back seam. Stitch carefully
. Your mantua is now ready to be decorated.
Decoration time. I used a fine metallic lace and applied it, well, everywhere really… On the cuffs and all around the gown. The inside of the skirts sports a narrow metallic braid, which finishes it nicely once the skirts are arranged.
. For arranging the train – attach hooks as indicated on the pattern. They simply hook up to the belt at the back
Stomacher next – I made mine out of 2 layers of linen buckram, fully boned in reed, then covered in the taffeta and lined it.
Your mantua is now ready!
To finish the look however, I need a headdress – the famous “fontage”. After some brief research I stumbled upon this little tutorial – and followed it more or less directly:
I tried it first in calico, as a mock-up
Once I was happy with the size and shape, I cut it in linen, hemmed the crescents, applied lace and pleated it. I then pressed and starched it and inserted the boning (reed), then stitched the pleats closed at the back.
Next, the bag was attached, (a simple circle gathered onto a band), and the long wide lace lappets finished the look
On the day of the shoot, I wore the following items:
Silk stockings (American Duchess) and C17th shoes
Linen chemise with lace cuffs,
Fully boned stays
Silk petticoat (in red)
Decorated petticoat with the fringe
Fontage (worn over my own hair and curly hairpieces)
Jewellery by Gemmeus
I was surprised to notice that the stomacher needed only a very, very basic pinning at the top – as once the train is hooked up to the belt (here a length of wide metallic braid) at the back, the tension keeps the belt taunt, and stomacher in place. The whole outfit looked far better that I had ever hoped – as, let’s face it, a fontage is a bit of a silly thing to wear on your head! But once everything was on, it all fell into place, and it all felt not only comfortable, but also correct and entirely in keeping in with the environs. Needless to say, I felt great – and didn’t want to take the thing off…..
We arrived on the location in a good time and managed to shoot our stuff way before we were overcome by glamorously bewigged girls in sexy lingerie, brandishing swords, fans and rapiers…. More information on the shoot can be found here: https://adamselindisdress.wordpress.com/2014/04/06/early-mantua-and-la-maupin-style-shoot/
French hoods, the bejewelled headpieces of the Tudor era, seem to be one of the most mysterious and difficult to recreate items – a real challenge for any Tudor re-enactor wanting to portray an upper class persona. Throughout the last few decades a number of patterns and a number of ideas has been employed to recreate the look – some more successful than the others, some less. The main problems lies in the lack of evidence other than pictorial one – to my knowledge, not one of the headdresses we now call French hoods has survived to our times. There are surviving examples of the wire base used for the gable hoods, but not a single one that would cast some illuminating light on the construction of the French ones. The only way then, it seems, is to rely on the portraits and accounts of the era, which, though immensely helpful, seem to be insufficient to resolve the burning issue once and for all – how were the things made and how they stayed on the heads!
In the present article I will briefly discuss the origins or the history of the hoods and then proceed to show how Prior Attire hoods are made. I do not pretend to come up with the pattern I have been using, and a full credit is given to the ones who did, nor will I claim that the method we employ is the best ever – I am confident it is only one of many, and it just happens that it has worked best for me and my customers. The purpose of the article is to show, step by step, how to achieve the creation – and for that you may want to buy the commercial pattern, as it will help you a great deal, but it is by no means necessary.
In my career I have come across several different solutions to the problem, and indeed a few of them seem to be working just fine. The two most popular for the last two years have been the following:
- All elements ( coif, paste, veil, crescent) are separate and are pinned together on the wearer’s head – and the method has been discussed in great detail in an excellent article by another costumier, Sarah Lorraine (http://yourwardrobeunlockd.com/articles/historicalperiods/medievalrenaissance/280-reconstructing-the-french-hood-by-sarah-lorraine) )
- The Tudor Tailor’s way – the elements are stitched together in a sturdy headdress – with a few items being removable as needs be (coif, bongrace, separate billiment). The idea is not new, as I managed to dig out the references to it in an earlier publication by Denise Dreher, but is now enjoying a well deserved revival.
I believe that in the 16th century there wasn’t just one pattern for the hood – ladies were making do with different arrangements, striving to achieve the fashionable look by a variety of means and no doubt women across the world are doing the same nowadays. For me the latter way really worked as a way of making a headdress that is historically correct, easy to wear, looks good and most importantly, stays on my head.
The genesis of the French hood.
It is becoming more and more evident how the English, or gable hood evolved on the UK, transforming from the open hoods into bonnets with paste and frontlets, and then in the most iconic form known from the portraits of Jane Seymour or the More family.
Similarly, it is possible to trace the evolution of the French hood – though it must be noted that its origins seem to be developed on the continent rather than in England. Although they derive from the same ancestor, an open hood worn in the last decades of the 15th century, the evolution took the headdress two separate ways. In England, the front of the hood became stiffened, and started to fold in the middle over the forehead, creating a point (style also worn with some hennins). With further stiffening and additional decoration of the brim, the gable shape started to emerge – first with the long frontlet, laying on a stiffened and decorated paste, then with the paste shortened, frontlets folded back and pinned to the crown and divided veils.
On the continent, the hood was also changing at the time, but the emphasis was on the roundness – the stiffened and decorated part of the hood followed the shape of the head, eliminating any possibility of the rectangular shape of the English bonnet. The beginnings can be seen in the portraits of Anne of Brittany or even Katherine of Aragon, who, contrary to common misconception, did wear the early version of the French hood as well.
Katherine of Aragon, Michael Sittow,
Anne of Brittany, Jean Perreal
Margaret aged ten by Jean Hey,
With time, various elements were added and new styles were developed – ornaments and basic shapes of the crescent changed, the veil changed through the decades and the hairstyles changed as well – but the most recognizable style of the French hood seems to have persevered through many decades, starting as a simple hood and transforming into one of the most complex headdresses.
Buckram (linen or hessian) 0.5m
Wire – 2m
White linen – 1m
Veil – black velvet or satin, 0.5m
Silk for the paste and the crescent, can be the same colour, can be different. Silk taffetas, satins and velvets work best. The most common colours were white, black, tawny-gold, though reds and colours coordinated with the gown were also in evidence. You will need very little; 0.5m for both in the same colour is ample.
Silk organza – a thin strip (fine linen also works)
Linen and silk threads
Ornaments – freshwater pearls, lass beads, metal beads, gems – depends on style.
Thimble, pliers, wire cutters, different size needles, including a curved one
A scrap of silk velvet or wool for cushioning the inside of the paste.
A bit of cardboard for mock up
I used an adapted pattern from the Tudor tailor book. The pattern is available in hard copy http://www.tudortailor.com/patternshop.shtml
It is a good idea to make a mock up of the pattern in cardboard or stiff paper – just to see how it lies on your head. The paste part is the most important as it provides the base for the whole construction. It should sit on your head snugly, with the front parts resting just below your cheekbones, and the back ‘wings’ cradling your head. Remember to make sure your hair is coiled in a bun or a plaited into one at the top back of your head- it provides additional support for the hood. If your hair is short, it is worthwhile to get a basic plait extension – coiled and pinned, it will do the job just as well. Depending on the shape of your head that should be sufficient to keep the hood on very securely. For very heavy hoods with lots of bling on them, I find I need to pin them just over the ears as well.
Experiment with the mock up till you find the best fit and adapt your pattern accordingly.
- Cut out the pattern shapes for the paste and the crescent in buckram. No seam allowances are necessary.
The paste cut out.
- Cut out the pieces : in linen – 2 of each, with an inch seam allowance all around; in silk, 1 of each, with the same seam allowance
- Put the fabric pieces aside for the time being- the buckram pieces need to be wired first.
- Cut a length of wire – should be enough to go all around the paste, with a little overlap. Sew on the wire to the edge of the buckram – you can do it by hand, with a strong linen thread, or on a machine. If using the machine, set it to a wide zig-zag stitch and sew, slowly and carefully, making sure the needle goes down on both sides of the wire, and not into it. Do not hasten the process– it will most likely result in broken needles…
- As you near any corner, use the pliers to bend the wire around it.
Paste with the wire sewn on by a machine
And the crescent with the wire
- Pin the back ends of the paste together and try it on. You will most likely notice that the buckram squashes your ears or at least feels unpleasant – take note of the areas and mark them on the buckram – they are the places that will need some cushioning to make the hood comfortable to wear.
- Cur small rectangles of wool or velvet – any thick and smooth fabric will work well. Fold it and stitch it to the inside of the buckram where your ears will be.
The ‘ear protectors’ stitched in to the inside of the paste
- You are now ready to cover the outside of the paste with linen. Pin the linen layer to the paste, folding the seam allowances over onto the inside. Stitch around, keeping the fabric taut and secure – remember that it will not be seen as the silk layer will go over it, but if your silk is thin, try to keep your stitches small so that they do not show through it.
The paste covered with linen
- Once the linen base is in place, you can cover the outside with your fashion fabric – it can be silk taffeta, velvet or satin. Again, fold the seam allowances under and stitch carefully, ensuring the fabric lies smooth on the curved surfaces and that the corners are well defined.
Paste covered with black velvet
- Next step – pleated frill. You can skip it if you plan to wear a coif with a frill. If your coif has plain edges, you can add the pleated strip to the hood.
- Cut a length or organza (utilising the selvage, if you can – if not, you will need to hem it) and pleat it in even knife or small box pleats, securing each pleat with a pin.
Once you have enough to fill in the front of the hood, secure the pleats with a simple stitch, pin the trip onto the ironing board and set it with steam. Do test the fabric first to see if you can iron it – if yes, go ahead, if no, just steam.
- Pin the strip to the inside of the paste, so that only about half an inch extends beyond the paste. Sew it onto to paste, at the back, and carefully, at the front, making sure you catch the fabric folded under but not going all the way through all the layers.
Frill pinned and stitched on
- Leave the paste aside for the time being – it is easier to line it later on, once the crescent is attached.
Time to work on the crescent.
- Cover the outside of the wired crescent first with linen, and then with your fashion fabric, just like you did with the paste.
Crescent covered – outside view
If you plan to decorate the crescent by sewing the ornamentation directly, do it now.
Decoration options: you can stitch each individual bead and pearl directly – useful particularly if you are planning a more elaborate decoration option. Alternatively, if your embellishment is just a single row, you can string all of the beads etc on one thread, and then simply stitch between them, securing the string onto the crescent.
Once the decoration is attached, line the crescent with the other piece of linen. Pin the piece around and stitch carefully so that it doesn’t peek from the underside
Stitching the lining to the crescent
You are now ready to tackle the most difficult task of all: attaching the crescent onto the paste,
If you have vice, it may come useful, but a spare pair of hands or long pins could do the job just as well.
Mark the centre points on both paste and crescent. Pin them together, and continue pinning at the sides so that the crescent is in position.
Sew with needle (curved ones are best for the purpose) threaded with strong thread, catching both items. It helps if you first place a few strong stitches at both sides of the crescent – hidden by the decoration, they will not be seam, but they will go through all the layers of the crescent and the paste. They are the main anchor. Continue along the edge of the crescent, catching the crescent’s fabrics and going through the paste, the stitches will show a bit – but you can cover them later with more decoration.
Using normal needle – and a curved one, below
- The two pieces are now in place – so the worst part is done! You can now decorate the paste with your choice of embellishment –braid, pearls etc.
Pearls sewn onto the paste, covering the stitches.
- Line the paste with the last bit of linen. The stitching will have to be careful and require some dexterity since the shape of the hood is now slowly emerging and you have to deal with concave and convex surfaces – again, a vice or a third hand can be useful. Pin the lining in first:
Then sew with small stitches
- Time to connect the back ends of the hood; pin them first, so that they overlap a bit, and try the hood on. Again, remember to arrange your hair as described previously. Make any necessary arrangements until the hood feels secure. Once satisfied, take it off and sew with strong thread, connecting the two parts. Since you will be going through all the layers doubled, you will need a thicker and stronger needle, and possibly pliers too, to help you draw the needle through.
Trying the hood on
Last bit – the veil.
Cut the veil in silk satin, silk velvet or taffeta. Sew the back seam and hem the edges.
Pin the veil to the hood – mark the centre top first and pin that first, then pin the sides onto the crescent. Where the crescent merges with the paste, pin the veil onto the past, so that it goes smoothly in one circle.
Pinning the bottom centres together
Sew with small stitches – again, a bit of manual acrobatics will be necessary, but it can be done – with experience you will work out which way of holding the hood works for you. Again, a curved needle is a blessing!
Sewing the veil on…
And the hood is ready!
Optional: if you plan to sew the crescent billiment onto a separate base, you can do it as the last step.
Cut a narrow strip of buckram, mirroring the shape of the upper edge of the crescent. Wire it, cover with lining and fashion fabric just like the other items before. Attach any decoration and pin the billiment onto the hood – it can sit on the top of the veil too. Attach the billiment.
Hood in silk velvet with a separate billiment:
Other examples of hoods:
Silk taffeta base and crescent, silk satin veil, freshwater pearls and metal beads decoration on the upper billiment, gold metal braid on the lower
Silk satin base and crescent, freshwater pearl and garnet beads decoration, silk satin veil
Silk velvet base and taffeta crescent, satin veil, freshwater pearls and gold braid decoration
your turn now! :-0
Boucher, François. A History of Costume in the West, Thames & Hudson; Enlarged edition (23 Sep 1996)
Mikhaila, Ninya and Malcolm-Davies, Jane. The Tudor Tailor: Reconstructing sixteenth–century dress. London: Batsford, 2006.
Caroline Johnson, The Queen’s servants, Fat Goose Press, 2011
Hayward, Maria. Dress at the Court of King Henry VIII. Leeds: Maney, 2007.
Boucher François, A history of Costume in the West, Thames & Hudson; Enlarged edition edition (23 Sep 1996)
Denise Dreher, Fromm the Neck up; An illustrated guide to hat making, Madhatter Press
Mikhaila, Ninya and Malcolm-Davies, Jane. The Tudor Tailor: Reconstructing sixteenth–century dress. London: Batsford, 2006.
Caroline Johnson, The Queen’s servants, Fat Goose Press, 2011
Hayward, Maria. Dress at the Court of King Henry VIII. Leeds: Maney, 2007.
Medieval & Renaissance
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]
In this article we willcover the construction of a typical late Victorian petticoat with back flounces. We will also discuss the steampunk version of the traditional petticoat – and how to get 3 styles out of one skirt in seconds!
The flounced petticoat by Prior Attire
Inspiration: Harper’s Bazaar, page 135, figure m, Foulard petticoat
4m of cotton twill; for steampunk version any non stretch fabric can be used, here 5m of embroidered silk
10 – 15 m of decoration – broderie anglaise lace etc
Buttons; for the steampunk version, 05m of elastic
Also, for the steampunk version you will need 5m of ribbon or a string; here Russia braid was used
Adapted from Norah Waugh, The Cut of Women’s Clothes, p. 206, 208
- Cut the base for your petticoat: front and back pieces.
- Cut the flounces – the front can be decorated with one, and the back will have a few – aim for about 5 – 8 flounces. The length of the flounces varies, depending on your gathering/pleating method, but aim for a minimum twice the length of the finished row. So if your bottom hem at the back is 1, you will need min.2 metres of fabric to gather.
Step 1: making the flounces
- Work on your front flounce first. You can skim this step if you plan to have one bottom flounce going around the whole petticoat, like the one in the steampunk version.
Different styles were possible, you can gather the flounce loosely, box pleat it or use a combination of the methods. Here I wanted to replicate the one in Harper’s Bazaar, and used the combination of trimming and pin tucks.
Divide the flounce into equal parts and work out how deep your pin tucks have to be to pleat to the desired width.
Deciding on the size and amount of the pin tucks
Hem the edges and sew on the trim, and then work on the pin tucks. You can use a pin tuck foot for that – though I realised that the tucks on mine will be far too shallow to my liking, so I simply stitched it with a normal foot.
Front decoration with pin tucks and lace – all ready for pressing and starching
Press – if you have spray-on starch, use it. Sew the flounce to the bottom of the front petticoat piece.
Flounce pressed, ready to be sewn on
- Prepare the back flounces. Hem them, by hand or using your machine – I find the rolled hem foot works great on both silk and cotton. It still takes a very long time, but much faster than by hand!
Hemming the flounces of the steampunk petticoat
- Sew on the decoration on the flounces
Sew, fold over and press.
If you want, you can add a row or two of pin tucks running horizontally – particularly effective on either front flounces or back bottom ones – or for the sleek Natural Form petticoats!
Flounce with 2 rows of horizontal pin tucks
- You can pleat the flounce using the ruffler on the machine or simply pleat them with knife of box pleats.
Knife pleated ruffle – warning, takes ages!
- You can also use a gathering foot (note – does not gather enough, in my opinion!). Or simply run a basting seam through the top (by hand on machine) and gather the fabric on the thread.
- All of the techniques work, however, having made 4 other petticoats I realised that, barring the machine ruffler, the method described below works best for me.
- Lay the back piece on a table or the floor. Mark the lines along which the flounces will be attached (use with any of the method). For the steampunk version, leave a very generous seam allowance – 2”
- Take the bottom flounce and pin it at both sides, within an inch of the side edges of the piece (for seam allowance – leave more for the steampunk version).
- Mark the centre point of the petticoat piece and find the centre of the flounce. Pin these two together. You now have half the flounce on both sides. Repeat the step on both sides: mark the centre of the petticoat line (the quarter of the entire length) on one half and find the half of the flounce on that side. Pin the m together and repeat on the other side. You now have the flounce pinned into quarters. Continue dividing the parts into smaller and smaller halves, until you have the entire flounce evenly distributed along the bottom of the petticoat.
Pinning the flounce, dividing it into smaller and smaller parts
Sew it on, gathering the extra fabric.
- Repeat for the next rows. The technique takes some time and patience, not to mention the amount of pins, but it results in evenly distributed gathers that look natural.
- For the steampunk version pleated the flounces with the ruffler and then decorated the whole length of the bottom flounce and the top back flounce with a sequined braid, before stitching them on.
- Pin your back ruffles alongside the lines, and sewn on, starting from the top. The bottom ruffle, decorated with both broderie lace and braid will go all around the finished petticoat – put it aside for the time being.
So far the instructions for both types of petticoats have been almost identical, but at this stage I am going to split the rest of the instructions in two.
Assembling the Traditional Victorian petticoat:
You should now have two separate pieces, the flounced back and the front with one flounce. Joining them will hugely depend on how you want your petticoat to close – you can join the pieces on both sides, leaving only small opening at the side, and button it there. Or, you can leave one seam open completely at the side and use buttons all the way through.
I chose the latter, since I knew that then I would be able to open the petticoat at the bottom, if I need more space for riding or dancing, and it would also allow for faster changes if needs be.
- For the petticoat opening at the side, just sew the two parts together at one side.
- Cut out the waistband.
- Mark the darts in the front part and pleat the back part. Secure the pleats with pins and try the petticoat on the corset and the bustle. Adjust the pleats/darts as necessary.
- Take the petticoat off and sew on the waistband – sew right sides together first, then flip it over, fold the hem and either hand stitch down, or run a seam, encasing the seam allowance
The waistband and the darts in the front part
Pleats and waistband at the back
- Hem the petticoat, by hand or using a hemming foot. Hem the open sides as well.
- Mark and sew the buttonholes.
- Add the buttons.
- The petticoat is now ready – can be worn on its own, with a bustle pad or with a long bustle cage!
Here worn over a long bustle cage
If you plan to wear your undergarments for more robust activities, like riding, dancing, tennis playing of skating, do try them on before you start making the garments going on top, as some alternations may be necessary.
I discovered that I needed to leave the two bottom buttons in the petticoat undone for dancing (to keep pace with my partner in the Viennese waltz I needed bigger steps! The video of the dress rehearsal can be seen here:
As far as riding was concerned, I needed to leave the petticoat open (3 buttons here), but when worn on the bustle pad it turned out to be rather comfortable – I was able to perform all kind of tricks on horseback.
Note the unbuttoned petticoat
and another flounced petti, this one wit 4 flounces…
Assembling the Steampunk version
- You now have your petticoat in 3 parts – the front, the back with the flounces, and the long bottom flounce.
- First, sew the darts on the front part
- Place the front part on the back part, right sides together. Pin the edges, but remember to leave a wide seam allowance – it will be made into the channels for hitching the skirt up. Alternatively, create the channels by stitching long tape over the seam – much less fussy!
- Sew together, remembering to leave about an inch between the seam and the line at which the ruffles start – and do not sew over any stray ruffles either!
- Press the seam open, and fold the seam allowance under – and stitch, creating a channel wide enough for your ties to pass through. Repeat on the other seam allowance.
Forming the channels – inside
And outside view
- Repeat the steps for the other side seam.
- Hem the skirt
- Pin and sew on the long bottom flounce
- Prepare openings in the channels, just over the bottom flounce. You can use just one on each side or, for a greater control, make one set of eyelets onto the left side and then openings on the channels only on the inside – the ties will pass from the inside to the outside. Thread in your ties, from the top to the bottom openings and back.
Outside view: small eyelets go all the way through all the layers of the fabric
Inside view showing a second pair of eyelets – opening to the channel, stitched over one layer.
- Cut and attach the waistband : sew right sides together first, then flip it over, fold the hem and either hand stitch down, or run a seam, encasing the seam allowance., leaving a small opening for the elastic to thread through.
- Attach the elastic to a safety pin, and thread through the waistband. Sew both ends together and then close the opening in the waistband. It is also possible to attach the elastic only to the back, if you want to keep the front fitted.
Your Steampunk petticoat is now ready! – a few examples below
You can shorten the skirts on the sides by pulling the ties at the bottom and knotting them into a bow. Here only one side hitched a little bit:
And the skirt hitched upon both sides, for a sexy ’saloon girl‘ look
and fee more….
Happy sewing! and, if you are in a hurry, you can always buy one of ours – basic stock petties can be found in our shop!
And if you prefer crinoline styles – you might find this post useful too!
Jean Hunnisett, Period Costume for Stage and Screen, Patterns for Women’s Dress 1800-1909, Players Press, Inc, 1991
Norah Waugh, The Cut of Women’s Clothes 1600- 1930; Faber and Faber, London, 1994
Norah Waugh, Corsets and Crinolines, Routledge/Theatre Arts Books, New York, 2000
Stella Blum, Victorian Fashions and Costumes from Harper’s Bazar 1867-1898, Dover Publications, Inc. New York, 1974
The Collection of the Kyoto Costume Institute; Fashion, a History from the 18th to the 20th century, Taschen, 2002