Saturday, April 28, 2012

1860's Gathered Drawstring Dress

One more item (almost!) to check off my pre-event sewing list. This gathered drawstring dress for Becky is nearly done, lacking only the hem facing and the buttonholes. I find that when I get close to the end of a project my inspiration to actually finish it wanes. Hopefully I will get the finishing details done today and it will not hang indefinitely hem-less and buttonhole-less in the sewing room. Well, it can't, since Becky needs to use this in three weeks but let us hope it does not hang unfinished for those three weeks.

This dress is made from one of those fabulous $1.50/yard Wal-Mart deals. I adore the cheery yellow color (it reminds me of of happy summer sunflowers) and the little swirly dots on it in black and white. Becky told me she is not much of a frilly or floral type of girl so this fabric was suited to her exactly.

The style is a new one for me. Becky desired a somewhat flexibly sized dress to accomodate both weight loss as well as to be a potentially maternity-friendly style. The typical day dress of the 1860's was made quite form fitting in the bodice and did not allow much room for expansion either in the bust or the waist. (You can see an overview of a basic day dress at this blog post here: Anatomy of an 1860's Dress ).

These photos are reposted from there, showing how the typical cotton day dress has the outer layer of fabric (a.k.a. the "fashion fabric") tucked or gathered at the waist;

While the lining layer is smoothly darted to fit the corseted body:

Now, the sacque and the wrapper are flexibly sized garments but this dress is constructed along the same lines as the average day dress. However, it sports a semi fitted front waistband that can be drawn up to fit with drawstrings. I first heard about this style when I was pregnant with Judah and since then have planned to make a dress like this but, obviously, have never got around to it:

"I have a few dresses in my collection that I very likely were worn by women when they were pregnant. What makes them unique is that while they are just like any other gathered dress of the period in the back, they have an encased drawstring (often a double drawstring, pulling from both directions) inside the waist. Unlike wrappers, they don't open all the way down the front, but they do have a center front skirt opening. (While this is rare in silk or fine wool dresses, it isn't all that uncommon in cotton dresses for some reason.)" ~ Glenna Jo Christen, The Sewing Academy

For this dress I used the basic fitted bodice pattern, that I draped on Becky last week, and modified it. The resulting bodice has a sort of fan front look, as the shoulders are gathered to create fullness over the bust and then the front waist is also gathered. Visually this will create slanting bands of gathers from the shoulder to the front waist.

I was afraid of the full shoulders blousing out at the upper chest. I have no idea if this is a period correct solution but I did it anyway; I cut a small lining piece from the fitted bodice pattern that will hold the gathers in at the upper chest. This lining piece is approximately the same size as a yoke would be on a yoked style of dress. So, it leaves plenty of room for chest fullness but it will make the upper bodice fit smoothly to the body.

The waistband is constructed to be 5-6" larger all around than Becky's corseted waist measurement. I sewed the waistband into two channels from the side seams to the center front and threaded laces through the channels to create the drawstrings. The ends of the laces are firmly stitched at the side seams so they won't pull loose when drawn up:

The laces emerge from little buttonholes on the inside waistband, an inch and a half from the edge. This way you won't see the ties from the outside of the dress. The dress front can still overlap and hook closed like any normal day dress.
the gauging threads are loose here as I had not tied them off yet - excuse the sloppiness of their appearance here!

The skirt is made, as usual, from 4 panels of 45" wide fabric. I decided to gauge the skirt since I thought that would work best with the drawstring waistband - pleats gathered up on a drawstring may not hang well. Here you can see the side front of the waistband with the drawstrings pulled up: The gauging is somewhat distorted but not visually jarring.

The sleeves are basic coat sleeves with a slight variation to continue the "gathered" theme. The back seam of lower sleeve is much longer than the front, so was gathered to fit:

The dress can be worn with or without undersleeves, depending on the activities Becky is doing. Without undersleeves the dress sleeves can be rolled or pushed up on the arm. With undersleeves, and the white collar and neck bow the dress is proper enough to wear for church or to any other social function where a nice day dress is acceptable attire.

Now to finish that hem and get those buttonholes made!


1 comment:

  1. I love that dress! Very practical with the drawstrings, and with the collar, bow and undersleeves it looks very proper and elegant. Clever with the extra fitted lining at the shoulders too, period or not.


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