This project was, admittedly, 90% an excuse to make an 1880s dress and 10% shoehorned into something geeky so I could wear it to an NYCC party (I would ask if you can guess what I am, but admittedly it’s very hard to tell from these blurry photos!). Here are a couple of inspiration photos:
Selika Lazevski, 1891 [source
Okay, if I had really made a riding habit, I wouldn’t be wearing a bustle. But, c’mon, why make an 1880s dress if you aren’t going to wear a bustle?! (Unless, I guess, you’re actually going to ride a horse in it.)
(I’m sorry I don’t have any really good photos of the outfit being worn! I’m terrible about remembering to take a bunch from different angles.)
Anyway, here’s what I’m wearing, from the skin out:
The (under)skirt was pretty easy to make, with only four pattern pieces (front, sides, back, waistband). I departed from the instructions/pattern in four ways: (1) it’s flatlined
(front and sides with broadcloth . . . then I ran out of broadcloth, so the back is lightweight muslin); (2) I used a 3-inch hem facing
(a strip of lightweight bias-cut muslin) rather than turning up the hem; (3) I formed the placket using this method
; and (4) I added a pocket
to the right side-back seam (YES, POCKET! The BEST!). I was a little worried about the bouffant since I hadn’t done something like it before and didn’t have a dress form to drape it on, but I just followed the instructions exactly and I think it turned out great.
I’d say this pattern is good and basic, and most of my changes/additions were just due to my preference, not necessarily issues with the pattern. My fashion fabric (cotton sateen) was already pretty heavy and underlining it made the whole thing VERY heavy, so that might not have been the wisest choice. (Incidentally, I did make a petticoat for this costume, but didn’t end up using it because the skirt was so heavy and the petticoat is a filmy sheer cotton. Whenever I get around to making something where I’ll be using it, I’ll try to remember to blog about it!)
The jacket pattern, however, has some difficulties. There’s at least one error on the pattern pieces (it says to cut two of the lapels from your fashion fabric, but you need four), and I found the instructions hard to understand and possibly incomplete. I felt like I was missing a page! Fortunately, I’ve made several jackets in the past, so I knew basically what I was doing. And even more fortunately, Historical Sewing has a TON of great instructions on Victorian bodice construction, which I relied on heavily (in addition to all those skirt tutorials linked to above!). If you’re delving into this one, I highly recommend the following posts:
I also referred to Gertie’s Lady Grey Sew-Along for general tailoring/jacket instructions. There doesn’t seem to be a handy index to the sew-along, but that link goes to the first tailoring entry and you can find the rest by browsing the blog archives for the days after it.
As you can see, I didn’t line the jacket, which made it slightly more difficult in some ways. (Figuring out the “lining facing” piece was a puzzle–still not sure if I have it right!) I ended up only using hair canvas and pad stitching in the lapels because I didn’t have time to do the collar, too. The bottom is hemmed with bias tape.
One big thing that was missing in the jacket documentation was what to wear under it. Would it have been a full shirt? (If so, what kind? I haven’t come across a lot of Victorian women’s shirt patterns.) Some kind of dickey-like garment? And what about a cravat/tie/ascot?
I didn’t want to add the bulk of a full shirt (and would probably have had to buy one anyway since I didn’t have time to research and sew something new for this event), so I wore my Regency chemisette (from Sensibility Patterns’ Regency Underthings) just to give myself some kind of collar. I wonder if it would be at all accurate to make this up in a shirting with a button closure for the next time?
I figured since this is influenced by menswear, you’d surely add neckwear. I confess, the thing I wore was in no way historically accurate (it came off a RTW gothic lolita shirt I already owned), but, hey, that leaves me something to make for the next time I wear this outfit, right? I think I’ll be going with an ascot.
I did think the fitting instructions in the pattern were pretty good and I made almost no adjustments once I’d determined what sizes to cut out (thank you, corset, for standardizing my body shape). I did end up with a couple of snafus in the sleeves, but that’s mostly on me (and honestly I think it looks fine anyway).
Oh, also, the pattern says this fits over a “moderate-sized” bustle (whatever that means), but I kind of wonder if that’s really the case? I think the boning in back goes down a little too far and pushes into the top of the bustle. I could be wrong, though–or maybe this is an adjustment I need to make for my own personal shape.
Anyway, despite all that, I am actually really happy with the way it looks! There are a few things I’m planning to change before the next time I wear it, but they’re mostly additions rather than fixes. And now that I’ve made one complete Victorian outfit, I’m feeling pretty confident about making more in the future. Bring on the balls!