Monday, February 8, 2021

A Red Floral 1860's Wrapper

 There were no Civil War events for me to go to in 2020. Even though I have gone to fewer and fewer as the years have gone on, I did miss going to events last year. As the year wound down towards its end I did make one 1860's dress - a red floral wrapper, my first 1860's garment for myself in three years. 

My grandma passed away in July of last year and I felt I should make a mourning gown as I did when I lost my grandfather in 2013. However, I never made much progress on the black wool dress I halfheartedly began because it was too depressing and didn't feel quite right at the time. Finally, in September I found some red floral fabric  by chance at a local shop and I bought five yards of it as well as a yard of a coordinating print that was in the $1 pile. When I got the fabrics home it felt to me that they ought to become a wrapper. 

I love wrappers because they don't need to be worn with a corset and are useful for working-class scenarios (although, to be sure, fashionable, fancy wrappers worn by upper class ladies certainly existed too!) Many years ago I made a wrapper as a casual dress option for events when it was very hot or I didn't feel like wearing a corset or if I was pregnant or breastfeeding and dealing with the figure changes those conditions bring. Also, wrappers can be fun and loud and colorful and bright and all those things are what I think of when I think of my grandma. 

I began my wrapper in September and took a few weeks to make it. I took it very slow as I had to, in some ways, reacquaint myself with sewing techniques I hadn't used in quite some time. Finally, in October it was finished and my son Malachi took some photos for me at a local wildlife area. (My kids, as they get older, are less and less enthusiastic about taking pictures of my finished projects for me! ­čśé)

The wrapper has a fitted back and sides with a half fitted front bodice lining and full length loose front panels from the shoulder to hem. I carefully cut and pieced my trim fabric and sewed it on by hand. The lining fastens with reproduction hook and eyes from NJ Sekela and the fashion layer fastens simply at the neck and is tied shut at the waist with a self fabric belt that is inserted into the seam between the side and front bodies. 

The fabric probably isn't quite correct for the 1860's, but at this point in my life I am do not care so much about being exact. The overall effect is pleasing to me and the rich, warm red makes me feel happy and alive. I love thinking of the many hours I spent working on this and all the memories of my grandma that I thought of as I stitched. 

Had to include these pictures of Benjamin because he is just TOO. ADORABLE. Here is wearing his older brothers outgrown wool overshirt and short trousers. 

And oh my goodness Lucy was so little. She is 3x that size now.

It was a good project for me to ease back into 1860's sewing. In the several years it has been since I last made an 1860's dress my figure has changed enough to warrant a whole new base pattern (or bodice block). I had to alter my wrapper a bit as I made it to fit and it still doesn't fit exactly as it should. Since it's a loose, casual garment though, it's fine. Once the wrapper was done I did go ahead and take a few days to modify my pattern and come up with new, better fitting base. I also adjusted a copy of this base into a base pattern for a later 19th century basic bodice, too - so that whenever I have time or inclination to make that 1890's dress, or the 1880's work dress I have been wanting to sew on my (new! old!) 1880's treadle machine, it will be easy to start. 

Mock up from base pattern from 3 years ago.

Final mock up after adjustments were made!

Pattern for late 19th century bodices

Mock up of late 19th century bodice. This shoulder line works for earlier 70s and 80s but needs to go up higher onto my shoulder for later 80's and 90s things. 

I do need to do a post about that treadle machine! I love her so very much. She is an 1880's American No. 7 and she is just waiting for me to stitch up a plain 1880's petticoat and that work dress. I will get to it soon, I hope. I have my pattern, fabrics and my book of pattern diagrams for the skirt/sleeves out and ready to go. 

Much love,



  1. Beautiful! I love the red. I'm so glad you're still posting after all this time. Also, where do you get your bones and busk for your corset? It's been so long since I've made my last corset I'm afraid I don't remember where I got mine the last time.


Thank you for your lovely thoughts!