Friday, July 14, 2017

An Un-fancy Unlined Sacque

So, I made a sacque. This wasn't my first one. I made this purple sacque and petti outfit a long time ago. Five years ago, in fact (how is it that Anne is almost FIVE?!) but I never really liked it. It ended up being loved by another and I was glad it found a better home. But after five years I suddenly found myself wanting to make another sacque outfit, if it were doable to make one out of non-matching fabrics.

I had 4 yards of cotton striped in orangey-mustard and teal and four yards of orange and blue plaid cotton. After experiencing less than desirable weather at events so far this year I thought having a dark, plain, washable and durable outfit would be great. Something I could wear to work in, chase kids, cook, get dirty and not worry about ruining. Not having enough of either fabric for a dress the ideal solution was either a wrapper or a sacque and petticoat. I latched on to the idea of a sacque. 

It had been awhile since I researched these interesting little garments so I headed over to the Sewing Academy first and foremost and read all the threads about them. Then I tried to find as many photos of originals as I could. Then I asked about the possibility of a non-matching sacque and petticoat on the Civilian Civil War Closet FB group, because I still hadn't found an original example to go off of. A member mentioned genre paintings as sometimes depicting working class women in non matching sacques and petticoats. What a great resource! I was so glad she reminded me of that. I was super short on time to do a lot of indepth looking for paintings, but I did find a few that seemed to support the idea of non matching garments. The below images are all from the same artist, which probably accounts of the similarity of the womens garments. I couldn't find a date for some of these, but as the artist died in 1863 they are all before then and the general silhouette is mid-19th century.
1858 "The New Bonnet" by Francis Edmonds
from the Met
In this painting we see the young lady wear a basque bodice and a contrasting skirt. These are both fairly fashionable and made from nice materials, so that isn't what I'm looking for. But the older lady in the corner IS wearing what appears to be a green hip length bodice over a rust colored skirt or petticoat. She also has a large neckerchief, a cap and an apron so she is dressed for at home or for working activities. It's impossible to see the fit of the bodice from the painting but she does have narrow sleeves that are rolled up, another indication of a fairly unfashionable, made-for-work sort of garment. 
"Devotion" by Francis Edmonds
In this image the servant or enslaved woman is wearing a short skirted bodice over a contrasting petticoat. Like the old woman above, she is also wearing a neckerchief, an apron and has a kerchief on her head. 
"The Thirsty Drover" by Francis Edmonds
This working mama has the sleeves of her separate, contrasting bodice rolled up to reveal her short chemise sleeves and it appears her bodice is unfastened, also showing the chemise. She is wearing an apron and a bonnet of some kind. The length of her upper garment seems to be the same top-of-hip length as the women depicted above. 
"Dame in Kitchen" by Francis Edmonds
The girl in this picture is still young, judging by the length of her skirts that revel her stockings and boots. Her upper garment is very interesting to me as it almost appears to have a hood attached to the neckline. It is clearly loose in fit and is longer than the bodices worn in the above images. This may be a sacque, or it may be a jacket worn over a dress for warmth or as a protective garment. 

This cdv I found while browsing pinterest, so unfortunately do not know where to credit it. It does, however, show three versions of what may be a sacque and petticoat outfit. Two of the sacque-wearers are girls but one is wearing adult length skirts. I really liked the length of this sacque and how it opened at the lower center front to flare over the skirts. 
Pinterest Board

Here is a period illustration of a sacque, worn with a petticoat as a dressing gown, c. 1860, also from Pinterest.
Godey's 1859 Two Piece Working Dress
A practical example of a working dress with removable lower sleeves, separate bodice and skirts and a shorter length skirt for active wear.

With these images and the information I read floating in my mind I feverishly cut out a sacque of my own and sewed it up, all within a 24 hour period. To make this one I modified my basic bodice pattern, having thought it over and planned it out in my head the night before, instead of sleeping. My last sacque, the one I didn't really like, was also based on my basic bodice but flared out in both front and back, under the arms, to make an A shape. Totally period, but really NOT flattering. Which is the main reason I didn't like it.
Now, five years later, I don't really give a crap if its flattering or not. It's the 1860's. Seriously. Almost everything is unflattering. Like a recent FB body-positivity video said, your body is the same, no matter what you wear on it, so wear what you want! But, I did try a different style than last time, one based more on the fit of wrappers with a fitted or semi fitted back and a loose front that can be belted or drawn in with an apron. I think this was the right choice for me since I LOVE the finished garment!

I made it in my beloved stripey cotton and since I knew it would be hot, I made it unlined. All the seams are finished for sturdiness and washability and the front fastens with 7 tiny glass buttons (I had just 7!) I made a belt to "confine it round the waist", per the 1859 Godey's instructions, for times I want it to look fitted but I do love it just as much worn loose.

This was a wonderful, easy to wear, easy to move in outfit to wear this last weekend. I wore it over some underpetticoats and my regular corset/chemise/drawers and left off my hoop. It's just awesome. I want to wear it all the time. But then the neighbors would find me even more strange. So I will save it for events. But it's great. MAKE A SACQUE, PEOPLE!

And for fun, another fake wet plate picture I did in photoshop. I love, love, love how this one turned out!

Before Photoshop magical magicky stuff


  1. How interesting, the fake old timey print almost looks like a brick building, like a photo of a factory workers family.

    I love your saque! And I feel like we have gone through a similar "if I want to wear it I'll wear it" stage, because I've noticed that towards the end of my 20s I stopped needing everything to be svelte and form fitting and I fell in love with 20s fashions for comfort and simplicity.

    How was the temp of your saque? Was it cooler than fully dressing?

  2. Yes, that brick house is fantastic and I too like how it gives off the feeling of a poorer area of a large city.

    The sacque was cool, but not really cooler than a lightweight dress with a half high lining (the sheer yellow I wore on Sunday was cooler). But for a durable, wear-to-get-dirty type of outfit it was cooler than wool dresses or heavier cotton ones that I have made in the past. I mainly like its looseness. I wear a corset regardless, but it just feels more comfortable somehow. And for set up on Friday night I wore it without a corset and it was nice to have something I could put on quickly and easily.

  3. Sarah: I have been looking for nice cotton stripe shirting fabric. Could you tell me where you purchase your shirting fabric? Thanks so much. ~Lisa

    1. This particular fabric is from Wal Mart, but I have had really great luck with the shirtings from Fashion Fabrics Club so far this year. I've ordered quite a few times and have been so happy with the price and quality.

  4. It's so great that you are making real working clothes, not just pretty dresses. You have inspired me, I need a working class outfit for Dickens' Fair and my character would totally have worn a sacque and petticoat that didn't match.
    I really love the photos too.

    1. Thanks! I'm really enjoying looking more into the working class side of things and slowly putting together a persona that is true to both my ancestors (rural, lower class from VA/WV) and my own personal beliefs. I like how the working class clothing reflects that. I hope to slowly add more similar pieces to my wardrobe. I'm glad you are feeling inspired!

  5. Wow, what a neat effect in photoshop!! And I love the look of the sacque. It looks really comfy!


Thank you for your lovely thoughts!