Sunday, January 27, 2013

Finished 1830's Christmas Dress

I finished my dress last night. I even did things I don't normally do when I'm rushing, like neatly bind the armscyes and whip down the seam allowances in the bodice. It still finished up in plenty of time to make supper and while I sewed in the pleasant afternoon light of the west windows David sat with me and planned out what I suppose will be one of my projects later in the spring, a Confederate surgeons uniform. I'm ready for another detailed menswear project. It;s been a while.

I really love this dress. The things I don't particularly like about it include the upper sleeves (they still came out a bit too loose for my liking) and the fit of the bodice is not as snug as I would have wished. I suppose I must have lost a bit more weight between cutting this out before Christmas and sewing it together. I can make the back overlap a bit more by moving the hooks over and that will help with pulling the bodice in a bit. My stays for some reason did not keep me up as much as I would have wished and gave a rather droopy appearance to the bustline (I think the bust kept slipping out from the busk channel since I didn't have it tied in!) but I know that is a temporary problem and will go away once Anne is weaned.

I am wearing the dress with the same undergarments I used for my 1840's Christmas Dress last year; my corded stays, square cut shift, corded petticoat, and three plain petticoats. Oh and the bum pad. Can't forget the bum pad. Or as the boys inelegantly term it, "Mommy's Butt Pillow".

It's easy to nurse in. I nursed the baby twice while wearing it today. The combination of a back opening and partial front opening make this dress very easy to put on as well. Hook the upper half of the back shut, put on the bodice, then reach around the hook up the rest of the back and then hook up the front. Lots of hooks, but it makes getting dressed very easy compared to some dresses I've made in the past!

I am not totally happy with  my hair. I tried 2 different styles. My hair is just above bra length and my bangs are growing out so its hard to do much with it at the moment.

Late 30's hairstyles usually have a high bun at the back and the front hair is either curled or smoothly combed down over the ears. When my bangs have grown out more I'd love to try the curled style. . .it's so distinctly 30's, not rather generic mid-19th century like the parted-in-the-middle-pulled-into-a-low-bun style that can, theoretically, work for a span of about forty years. . .

The skirt is 3 panels of 45" fabric. It gives a nice fullness. I pleated it into 1.5" pleats and that seemed to work perfectly. The hem is faced with a 9" wide hem facing.

Now to make one of those rad 1830's poke bonnets. Those are so utterly awesome. I probably will not have a reason to wear this dress again until later this year so hopefully by then I will have a proper bonnet made!

Speaking of bonnets, I did finish another UFO for this challenge. Remember that Victorian Sunbonnet Tutorial I was working on? Well, I never did finish the bonnet! It was almost done, but lacked ties. So I made the ties.

Now that February is nearly upon us and my brother is getting married in about two and half months (less!) I need to start working on a dress for his wedding. Something - yikes - modern. I have a few ideas so I plan to try one of them out this week. I have some fun vintage cherry printed cotton that will work great for a mock up dress!


The Challenge: #2, UFO. Finish an unfinished project.

Fabric: Printed cotton. Green with a viney print and purple flowers.

Pattern: Draped.

Year: Late 1830's to Very Early 1840's

Notions: Hook and eyes, thread.

How Historically Accurate Is It: As far as I can tell the cut is accurate. The design is taken straight from period sources and the pattern shapes are correct. All exposed stitching was done by hand and interior seams (that will not show) were sewn with straight stitch on the sewing machine. To be totally accurate the stitching should have been completely done by hand.

Hours to Complete: Not sure. From draping to finishing maybe 30 hours or so?

First Worn: Today. Hopefully for a "real" event sometime this spring!

Total Cost: The fabric was an early Christmas gift from David. Everything else came from my stash. So, personal expense for this was nothing.


  1. Oh WOW! What a beautiful gown! And I really like your hair in the inside pics. I think it looks quite charming with the dress.

  2. This dress is so pretty on you! I hope you get to wear it again soon!

  3. This is so lovely! Late 1830's, is one of my favourite eras costume wise. I like the nursing access in front too :D

  4. The dress looks amazing! And I think the hairstyles are great too! I have terrible trouble getting my hair to behave and do as it is supposed to!

  5. Very pretty! I like the inside-the-house pictures with the period styled hairdo best!
    Can't wait for the poke bonnet :)


  6. Absolutely gorgeous. <3 That neckline is oh so pretty!

  7. You are so talented. Thanks for sharing all your creations with us. Love your blog.

  8. Love the dress. The 1830s was always a period I didn't dig on, because all I knew of it was the outrageous balloon looking dresses, or super frumpy pioneer dresses. I honestly had no idea that pretty dresses existed in that era until I saw a dress you did about a year or two ago.
    Coincidentally, yesterday I started watching an old BBC miniseries called "Wives and Daughters" which is set in that era. Have you seen it? Not sure how accurate the costumes are but very pretty, and of course the hair is insane. I am now obsessed with nailing the hairstyles, I will be pulling out the mannequin heads in between clients next week.

  9. I am so in love with that dress... It is so well done and it suits you in a lovely manner...


Thank you for your lovely thoughts!