Category Archives: Early 19th Century Costumes

A dress for Victoria

A dress for Victoria

I have loved the absurdity of the 1830s since I first discovered fashion plates of it almost 20 years ago. I’ve made four previous 1830s dresses and love wearing them but I had been longing for a formal dinner party. Wandering a historic site just isn’t quite as glamorous as candlelight and friends. Finally a friend suggested if you can’t find and event, make one! So the Young Victoria Dinner was born.

Major thank you to the Joseph Ambler Inn for being so welcoming!

Fashion Inspiration

But what to where?! Obviously any of the four other perfectly serviceable gowns I own just WOULD NOT DO. Why?…because I said so and it’s my party.

I ask you IS there anymore delightful than 1830s hair? There isn’t.

When looking around at fashion plates I realized there’s a pretty large range of things to choose from, but evening ensembles seems to have a few common threads.

Portrait of a lady by Antoine Plamondon

Short sleeves, or short sleeves with a net over sleeve, wide necklines (some off the shoulder even) and they are made of either silk or a sheer. In today’s world that sheerness in not-a-silk would be cotton or if the fabric gods love you a wool but I’ll never find that in my life time.

She gets major points for the jaunty headnecklace

I also really enjoyed the delicateness of many white gowns I found. Which I would hazard a guess is a hangover from earlier in the century when delicate white muslin gowns were all the rage. If it’s not broke don’t fix it? slash use up the fabric you already made…

All of the inspiration images I liked best (slash pretty much all the images of early-mid 1830s gowns) have huge delightful sleeves, full skirts and a wide waistband. Or what I’m assuming is a wide waistband because they’ve accessorized with a belt or sash. But you know same “wide band of waist” thing.

In the end this image from the 1832 Costumes Parisiens is what stole my heart. Except not in that shade of yellow/green as this heart looks very sickly in that shade. So I decided to do a smash of the white airy dresses and the hanging ribbons with lilacs (or maybe hydrangeas hard to tell)


I’m sorry to tell you I took not-very-many construction photos because I don’t really deem my Victorian dressmaking all that interesting. The dress is made out of Pure Silks cotton organdy which was both very reasonable in price, got here quickly, had a nice stiff hand and smelled funny. I flatlined the bodice and sleeves with a white cotton broadcloth.

I used the Truly Victorian 1860s ballgown bodice as my sloper…Yeah I know it’s marketed as being 30 years later but I promise it really is the same shape. Please note how far ON my shoulder it sits. I didn’t change this angle at all, the gravity and heat of my body caused my final neck shape to stretch. You have been warned if you make a cotton dress.

Standard Robin bodice construction

  1. Cut everything out. Forget something. Cut more. Hate cutting, and neglect to cut sleeves.
  2. Sew; side back seams, front seam, side seams, shoulder seams.
  3. Finish neckline with a bias strip facing, machine sew to right side, then turn inside and whip stitch.
  4. Turn in center back opening 1/4″ and then 1/2″, whip down.
  5. Try on bodice. enlist well trained husband to pin the back closed, remembering why back closing dresses are dumb. Pin in the darts.
  6. Contemplate making darts even, then realize I’m crooked so it’s probably better this way and sew darts as they were fit. (don’t do that it’s wrong)
  7. Realize you didn’t cut out the sleeves. swear at past Robin and cut out sleeves.
  8. Finish the arm slit in this sleeve pattern. gather giant circle into armscye.
  9. sew sleeves. take out part you caught from the underside. swear more. redo. ta-da have sleeves.
  10. Sew hooks and bars up centre back.
Plate from the 1838 Workingwoman’s Guide

My sleeve pattern is figure 30 in the plate above. Previously I’ve used the one from Patterns of Fashion that is a circle with no flat side, but my intelligent self didn’t pay attention when lining up my pattern and it hung off the side of the fabric so flat side it was! I did use the vertical slit opening from PoF though instead of the centered circle. Also my sleeves are always a 30″ circle as it’s an arbitrary measurment I picked the first time and it worked great.

there’s a theme in my house, have you noticed? I’ll give you a hint it has to do with dated carpet

The skirt is super easy. It’s 3 straight panels of 54″ width with a 6″ hem. I gathered it down to a waistband.

Which went SUPER smoothly

I re-gathered to a new new-long-enough waistband and then tried it all on with the skirt over the bottom unfinished edge of the bodice and pinned where it wanted to sit. I then carefully hand backstitched through all the layers.

I tried to drape the bertha on Polly (my dress form) but Polly was a Christmas present in college back in *cough2001cough* and she just hasn’t…grown with me as a person. She’s kind of stuck in the days of our youth

FLOP right off the shoulder

And it turns out for almost-off-the-shoulder-just-kidding-it-stretched-all-the-way-off gowns you need an actual SHOULDER to drape the bertha around. So on Friday night before the party Amanda was super kind and did it on me. (and convinced an old lady it was my dress from our wedding-which-had-already-happened). The bertha is just a rectangle I ironed the edges under and gathered down the CF, the shoulders got pleated and to be honest I need to try ironing it a little flatter as I’m not a huge fan, it’s a wee bit to enthusiastic for me.

trying shoulder bows…and realizing berthas are stupid

The ribbon is from RibbonStore on Ebay and I give them two thumbs way up. The quality is great and shipping was immediate. The flowers were from Michael’s. I looked for vintage millinery or paper ones but that many flowers was prohibitively expensive.

The Dinner

I styled the dress with two pearl necklaces (more is more), new earrings from Dames a la mode that I LURVE and a pair of matching bracelets.

My I-N-C-R-E-D-I-B-L-E hair was a combo of custom piece from Jennylafleur and some cheap side curls from ebay. My apollo’s knot is probably the most beautiful hair I’ve ever had. My wedding included. It was fantastically easy to wear as well. I put my own center section into a high ponytail and pinned the hairpiece in front of it. I braided my hair and wrapped it around the base. My side sections I braided and crossed in the back and wrapped around the base as well.

Mr. Sewloud and I got married at this venue and I have a wedding photo in this spot
my net mitts were bought off an etsy seller that I don’t believe sells them anymore

Katherine found amazing square toed shoes and I ordered a pair from ebay. They came super quickly and the size 8s fit my dead average size 8 feet. Very comfortable, would order again.

Taylor is prepping the Pope Joan Board…I’m paying the bill…one of these is VASTLY more fun
I love this photo of all our hair!
I thought ever single person in the group was stunning! I have the most talented friends
you can just see my yellow shoes peaking out
I was STUPID proud of my pineapple centerpiece too
Mr. Sewloud and I looking tired. party planning is a lot of work!
a view from the dining room
Discussing the finer details
The background on this one makes me think I look like a 1990s glamour shot.
Our Victoria and Albert

An outfit for the Armistice

An outfit for the Armistice

2018 marks the 100 year anniversary of end of WWI and our friends with the Royal Sussex Regimental Society invited us to attend a WWI event they were participating in at Ringwood Manor in NJ.   I personally much prefer the slightly fuller silhouette that was in fashion in 1916-7 vs the slim skirts of 1918 so I went with the “I still have clothes from two years ago in my closet” theory.


I was doing this on a short timeline with limited brain cells (SHOCKING I KNOW) and decided to phone it in and buy commercial patterns. BEST DECISION EVER. For the skirt I bought Past Patterns #9384 Ladies’ Three or Four-Piece Skirt


This is one of those historical patterns that only comes in one size, not mine. I just figured out the number of inches I needed to add total, divided by the number of seams and spread that amount around to each seam. A skirt like this is fairly easy to scale up. I think I ended up adding 1/2″ to each piece edge.

The fabric was a cotton shirting from Fashion Fabrics Club, lets just say I wouldn’t order from them if you want your fabric within the month. It was a painfully slow shipping/customer service/getting here experience. I think they walked it from their warehouse to my doorstep. But it washed up beautifully and had just the right amount of body for this look.


I believe I can fly…

I really enjoyed the silly “wings” the second tier on the skirt creates. I did not bother to put pocket slits in the funny hanging tabs. It just felt like why put in pockets that will hold at most a chapstick.


Look pensive Robin..

My one note on this pattern isn’t negative, just be aware it is a very wide waistband and that will come up…high. I know who’d have guessed? But when you’re short waisted to begin with, be prepared to tuck your tatas into your waistband. Perhaps not my most flattering life choice.


baby got back


For the blouse I got white seersucker from and the Wearing History Elsie blouse pattern. Lately I’ve seen a lot of people making this blouse, and I love how it seems to sit a little bit differently on everyone, so even though they’ve all been white they still all look different.


I did sewn gathers vs a drawstring at the waist and I did sew down my facings as floppy loose facings make me batty. and lumpy.


I made the blouse first so I tested how it looked with a skirt with my 1904 suffragette skirt (balls I never blogged that either did I? someone remind me…) And I think I like the look better with a skirt that doesn’t quite come up to my chin. My fitting assistant was very encouraging.


It has four vintage buttons that came from my mom’s sewing box, they’re some kind of cut metal. I dunno they looked pretty and the mother of pearl buttons I ordered for the blouse were way too grey.

Finishing Touches


The earrings are my very favorite grape clusters from Dames a la Mode and Adrienne nicely lent me the hat when I TRAGICALLY FORGOT MINE.

I had to do a little mini photo shoot to show off my hat. This time I dressed it as a suffragette outfit with my brand new Dames a la mode custom pin in suffragette colours! (yes they’re the British colours, yes I find those more attractive). This stunner of a hat was made by Amanda who makes all the best hats.


Group Photo!

Dickensian Ken Doll



From the MET. That pattern matching though! *twitch*

A long time ago (we’re talking years here) I was lamenting wanting to make Rob hideous plaid pants, and not being able to find fabric. Amanda happened to notice some truly loud orange and navy plaid flannel shirting at her Joann’s.  Being the benevolent friend that she is she purchased me some (do I remember how much? of course not).  And then it sat in my stash for *mumblty*years.


muuuch better matching.

Spirit of Christmas and the Fezziwig ball 2017

Last year Amanda, Adrienne and I went on a recon mission to New Castle, DE’s Victorian Christmas shindig and deemed it totally worth going back. And thus an excuse for the plaid pants was born!

As previously mentioned they’re made out of a flannel cotton shirting, period? Heck no, actually findable in a garish plaid at a price-I’m-willing-to-pay-for-boy-who-doesn’t-care’s-clothes? yup. Because I was worried about the strength of the fabric I interlined them with white muslin. a68ec9e4f1a67f1d7a0571bf977ae08c

I used the same Country Wives 1800-1825 Narrow Fall Trousers pattern that I had used for his Mr. Darcy pants.

I know by the 1830s fall fronts were on their way out and fly fronts coming into style. But I found a few sources for fall fronts from the early 30s.




Suit ca. 1830From National Museums Scotland



1834 from the NY public library

As Rob isn’t the cutting edge of fashion, I already HAD the pattern and I happen to find fall front trousers quite sexy I decided to a few supporting references was GOOD ENOUGH(tm).


Aside from the neurotic amount of time it took me to cut them out so that the plaid would match up I was quite pleased with how they went together. This pattern is light on illustrations so having made fall fronts before was definitely a leg up. The one tip I would include to remind both myself and others is that when you attach the flaps that close under the fall there is a maybe 1″ gap of slit below and that’s okay. They get caught into the fall binding. But that isn’t pointed out in the instructions and left me trying to remember if that was a cock up on my part.


If only I had enough fabric

Spirit of Christmas and the Fezziwig ball 2017
I covered nickles in circles of fabric rather than buying buttons cause I’m cheap. Other than that the only change I made to the pattern was a layer of heavy linen as interfacing in the waist band.

For the ball he wore them with his shoes, but he really wanted to wear them tucked into the boots during the day. Farby? yes. Is a happy husband in costume worth it to me? yes. I should add loops for the next wearing.

All in all I’m very happy with the finished look. He wore his vest and coat from the Mr. Darcy costume and a nice plaid muffler to complete the ensemble.

Spirit of Christmas and the Fezziwig ball 2017

Stay tuned tomorrow (or you know July the way I roll..) for a write up of my new ballgown

1830s lavender voile dress

1830s lavender voile dress

For those who haven’t been to the Historic Village in Allaire NJ it’s a sweet working village set up from the 1830s at Mr. Allaire’s iron works. Our friend Tessa was getting faked married as Maria Allaire on Sunday and that mustered some of the local Philly costume contingent to invade.


The blushing fake bride is in the middle

It being June and hot as hades I figured a new voile dress would be a great idea…what was NOT a great idea was starting the dress the Tuesday before I needed it.


Am I capable of not being talking during photos? I KNEW IT WAS BEING TAKEN


I ordered 7 yards of voile form this AWESOME etsy seller, fabric was fabulous, got here ASAP from NYC, will be ordering again. ($2.99/yd?! yes thank you) I miss cut the front and had to recut it and ended up piecing one yeah only scraps really left.

The bodice is the Truly Victorian Ballgown bodice with a few alterations, second time I’ve used it for 1830s. The sleeves are out of Janet Arnold. Bodice and sleeves are lined with muslin and there’s a yard of hex net cut in half and gathered up in each sleeve. I would like to get around to making real sleeve puffers..but like I said started tuesday. The skirt is three panels two of which are in the back one in the front.


I did also finish a corded petticoat which I’ll pretend will get it’s own post someday…for when I never get around to it it’s two length’s of Joann’s Premium muslin (not that crappy crappy stuff) and sugar and cream cording. I was very pleased with it, body but now super stiff.


And a few more pictures

Before I re-wear it I need to add real closures (it has one at the waist and one at each wrist causing gaping) and actually iron it.

A red wool spencer

A red wool spencer


The birthday girl with Alice and Jessica at the Betsy Ross house

We celebrated Amanda’s birthday with a fun day in historic Philadelphia on saturday. We went to the Betsy Ross House, Christ Church, Independence hall and had a delicious lunch at City Tavern.  As it was winter and we were going to be outside a lot none of my other regency dresses would do, I would simply have to make something new!

I started with this dress from the MET as my inspiration


But as I was finishing up the bodice portion on Thursday night I suddenly realized it was pretty much a complete spencer…and if I just put a bodice on the top..voila a jumper! And then I could have a dress and a spencer and be warmer! The only downside of this brilliant plan was that I hadn’t planned to put something under my sleeves so I had not cut them with extra space. I used red gabardine because it was in the stash, but we’re going to pretend I did it for Go Red for Women! Don’t forget how dangerous heart disease can be in women.

I remembered to get ONE photo of me ta da!

I remembered to get ONE photo of me ta da!

The skirt is two panels, one the 60″ width of the fabric and one 40″ wide, why 100 inches? I dunno it seemed full enough. One seam is on the side front for the closure, the other is buried somewhere in the back pleats. I did scallop trim around the hem. I traced a hot chocolate container and then stitched piping around it, very easy but I was pleased with the impact.


The collar took me the most figuring. It’s a roll collar, but not a full role, and it’s a peter pan collar, but not a full peter in the end this is as close as I got.



fashion fabric
fashion fabric

In the end I was pretty pleased with how it came out. And aside form stuffing way to full shirt sleeves under a spencer with fitted sleeves it was very comfortable.

Sitting in Washington's Pew at Christ Church

Sitting in Washington’s Pew at Christ Church

It's so preeetty

It’s so preeetty

Last two photos stolen from Amanda, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!


My own Mr. Darcy

My own Mr. Darcy

Ahem…I apologize for neglecting my blog so. I do still intend to do a things-I-made-in-2013 post…and I’ll probably blog about my Gettysburg adventures in November…and there’s more things from Alice’s Attic to blog about. Okay okay this blogging thing is clearly not my strength at the moment but I shall try to do better. And by try I mean Alice is pestering me again.

But back to the point of THIS entry. Alice of the famous attic announced (read: we forced her to) she was having a Christmas regency party and while I have several things my man-sized accessory was still completely naked. And that is frowned upon in parties around here. Okay he wasn’t COMPLETELY naked, he did start out with a shirt. He had a lovely linen shirt from his 18th century outfit that I deemed close enough!


Shall we discuss the particulars of my lovely manor?

The waistcoat: was the first thing I made. I just draped that myself. Really it’s a simple garment with a back, a front and no sleeves, not much to tell there. It was made of a remnant of ivory dupioni I got ages ago at Joann’s.Stuff was evil to work with, but it looks pretty. I had no scraps larger than 2″ left over!

Photo courtesy of In the Long Run

Photo courtesy of In the Long Run

The Pantaloons: were too the Country Wives 1800-1825 narrow fall trouser pattern and overall I have to say I was really pleased with them. I used a basic Kona quilting cotton flat lined with muslin. The pattern pieces all matched up really nicely and there were enough illustrations that I could figure it out. As historical patterns go it was way better than many I’ve used. I’d recommend it pretty strongly for anyone wanting to try out some trousers. My one negative is that while the pattern says on the envelope that it offers a pantaloon option (the option I bought it for) It doesn’t really. It has one paragraph about how “easy” it is to just take them in. So I had to figure out how MUCH to take them in myself. Oh and his big flat “buttons” are quarters I gathered fabric over. It was blizzarding that day and I didn’t want to go out in the snow to Joann’s…


The Coat: was actually an out of print Butterick Pattern 3648 that I shortened in the waist (it was HUGELY long waisted) and beefed up the construction of. But the changes I made were actually pretty minor. I pad stitched the collar and lapels, and I used heavy linen for interfacing instead of the iron on interfacing it suggests. I’m a firm believer that iron on interfacing is evil. If I was doing it all over (and I might make him a longer waisted version for later events) I wouldn’t mess with their extremely bizarre collar method. I would just sew the collar right sides together, turn it out and seam it into the neck edge. I found it fiddly, annoying, and I didn’t like how the corners looked when I used their method. The coat itself is a beautiful burgundy wool from B. Black and sons. Not cheap but the fabric was just a DREAM to work with.


For my first attempt at really tailoring something I was pretty chuffed with how it turned out! Oh and those boots? $40 from target! And worth every penny. Rob said they were super comfortable.

The happy couple

Doesn’t a well dressed gentleman just complete an outfit?

Thanks to Alice for throwing an amazing party and thanks to In the Long run for the Photo above …Now if only he had come with HIS own Netherfield…

Some regency stays

Some regency stays

I have not one but TWO pairs of regency stays to share with you. The first pair I made for Madame Kat’s Pride and Prejudice Tea last month.


Please don’t mind Polly’s Falsies. She just doesn’t lift the way I do.

 I used the 1804 stays from Jean Hunnisett’s Period costumes for the stage and screen with only a few minor tweaks. Things I’ve learned:

  • Paint stir sticks are a weeeee bit too short as busks. But it’s still working for now
  • Cording under the bust makes a HUGE difference
  • The hip gores in the pattern are for someone who has more of a curvy shape than I, but I’m not redoing them :-p
  • You don’t need all the bones the pattern calls for, I only put three on each side.
  • If you use thin quilting cotton on the outside you will see your busk and your hemp cording through it, oops.

close-up of gores and cording

close-up of gores and cording


The second pair of stays I have to share with you today were a pair I made for Judy of Learning to Costume. They are finished more nicely than mine because I’m kind of neurotic when sewing for other people. Her’s are made with a layer of cotton duck and a muslin lining. Machine sewn with hand finishing. I started with Simplicity 4052 and added a few things. I put in a diagonal bone on the sides to help lift the bust, as well as my new favorite thing, cording under the bust. Jennylafleur has great instructions on how to insert the cording on her website.


She’s so much smaller she doesn’t fit my dress form. So extra thanks for her modeling them for me!

A dress for Tea

A dress for Tea

On Saturday Madame Kat from madamemodiste hosted one of her famous parties (Kat is the originator of the Francaise dinner party, a killer annual Victorian party, the original moon landing and many other exploits).

I decided that I simply required a new dress and that it was the perfect time to try my hand at making a bib front style regency. I started with Simplicity 4055 that I’ve used in the past and started making mock-ups. In the end I made three of the bodice. I changed the shame more to coincide with shape of the bib front gown in Patterns of Fashion


They told me to strike a dramatic pose, America’s Next Top Model WATCH OUT


I used white cotton muslin as it was affordable and easy for my first bib front, if it didn’t turn out I was only out a few bucks. And in the end I DID go through two skirts so it was a GOOD thing I didn’t mind burning through some fabric. (and I turned the bad skirt into my petticoat)


a boring front view


My bonnet, No mine! I saw it first!

My bonnet, No mine! I saw it first!

Some of the other beautifully dressed guests

Some of the other beautifully dressed guests

Julia from The Bohemian Belle was there selling her gorgeous wares

Julia from The Bohemian Belle was there selling her gorgeous wares

Taylor from Dames a la Mode satisfied all our ribbon cravings (and cravings we didn't know we had)

Taylor from Dames a la Mode satisfied all our ribbon cravings (and cravings we didn’t know we had)


A group photo courtesy of Gloria from In the Long Run

A group photo courtesy of Gloria from In the Long Run