Category Archives: 18th Century Sewing

Collected Resources: Underclothing Cartoons

Over the course of my Div III research — and especially while preparing the lecture on corset history that I gave in the Hampshire course Sex, Science, and the Victorian Body — I have found a variety of cartoons, from various periods, that mock (and exaggerate!) prevailing fashions of underclothing. Since I’ve found them in so many places, and since such images might be of interest to others, I’m collecting what I’ve found here, and will continue to add to this post as time goes on.

  • Black, J. Anderson, and Madge Garland. A History of Fashion. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1980.

Images: 1819 cartoon of dandies and “dandizettes” in the early stages of dressing, complete with very exaggerated hair and male corsets, page 176; a mid-19th century cartoon depicting a group of women surrounding a man trapped in a cage crinoline, with the caption “The punishment awarded by the ladies, to the artist who made those impertinent drawings about crinoline!” page 199.

Image: “A Bustling Woman — 1829 — after Cruikshank” of a woman with an extremely puffed out skirt apparently selling a padded bustle to a woman with a far less impressive skirt, with other bustle hanging behind the proprietress, page 134; “From ‘Cupid and Crinolines,’ 1858,” a cartoon of a maid lifting an absolutely enormous crinoline over the head of a woman who is quite dwarfed by the exaggerated garment, page 166.

Image: “The new machine for Winding up the Ladies Caricature of tightlacing by ‘Paul Pry’ c. 1828″ on page 69.

Collected Resources: Cloth Fingerless Mitts

Even though I have no immediate plans to make cloth fingerless mitts, I’m very interested in exploring the possibility of making them, especially since the basic skill, and base pattern, would translate into various periods easily. Over the course of my research for other projects, I’ve found some good images of mitts of this type, and even found some construction information, both in print and online. So I’m using this post to collect that information, and keep track of it as I find it. Hopefully I’ll eventually translate my collected research into making a reproduction pair of mitts!

Print Resources:

  • Black, J. Anderson, and Madge Garland. A History of Fashion. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1980.

Image: Regency era, early 19th century painting by Ingres of a young woman in a short-sleeved gown worn with very long fingerless mitts, cut with a fairly straight curve across the knuckles, on page 9.

Online Resources:

1830s pair of pockets in calico with piecing

Updated January 12, 2012 – finished object pictures coming soon

This garment was created as part of my 1830s clothing independent study during the spring semester of 2010, and was documented using Chicago style footnoted citations in my research paper “Reproducing and Documenting 1830s Women’s Clothing.” The relevant section has been copied here, complete with footnotes. It has been formatted for this site and hyperlinks have been added, but otherwise it has been left intact, and is therefore written in a more formal and academic style than much of this site, which is designed to be more readily accessible to the public.


(Excerpted from pages 15-17 of my research paper, “Reproducing and Documenting 1830s Women’s Clothing.”)

The second garment, and fourth item, that I reproduced was a pair of pockets, a type of garment common in the eighteenth century, which fell out of use during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, when narrow skirts were in fashion, and which came into use again once skirts regained fullness around the 1820s. A pocket or pair of pockets were worn under the gown, and under at least the outermost petticoat. Referencing the eighteenth century but still relevant later, Linda Baumgarten states that “Pockets fastened around women’s waists with narrow ties made of linen or cotton. Although pockets were hidden beneath the skirt and petticoats, women often decorated them with needlework or piecing.”1 I drew from several sources to create my pair of pockets: the illustrations and directions in The Workwoman’s Guide2, the illustration of and accompanying notes about an extant pair of pair of pockets in Nancy Bradfield’s Costume in Detail: 1730-19303, and the photograph of and information about an extant pieced pocket on the Old Sturbridge Village collection website4. For my fabric, I ordered quilting-weight printed cotton from a reproduction fabric collection, the Pennock Album, circa 1840, available from Windham Fabrics in association with the Chester County Pennsylvania Historical Association. My fabric had a dotted warm tan ground with small, evenly spaced bouquets of burgundy and plum roses. Because I did not have quite enough fabric for the four pieces that needed to be cut out for the pockets, I made the decision to piece one pocket, patchwork-style, similar to the example on the Old Sturbridge Village collection website. For the other pieces, I used a plain light pink-brown cotton cloth, which I also used for the small interior pockets which I added, similar to those in the pocket depicted by Bradfield.

I based my pocket primarily on the directions given in The Workwoman’s Guide:
“Take a doubled piece [of cloth] of six nails [13-1/2”] width-way [on the cross-grain], and seven nails [15-3/4”] selvage-way when doubled, and cut according to Fig. 10. For this purpose, double the folded piece in half width-way, and close off from A to B one nail [2-1/4”]. The hole in the pocket is slit down about four nails [9”], beginning at three-quarters of a nail [1-11/16”] from the top. Cut the slit in the shape of an I, in order to allow of a deep hem being made on each side. The two pieces of the pocket are run firmly together all round, at a little distance from the edge, on the wrong side. It is then turned inside out, the seam well-flattened, and back-stitched all round with white silk, about a quarter of an inch from the edge. The top is set into a broad piece of tape, which is doubled over it and forms the strings also. The slit is hemmed or back-stitched neatly down. Sometimes an inner pocket or pockets are made for a watch &c. [etc.], and this is done by sewing a square piece of the material inside the pocket. The top is left open, but the sides and bottom of it are firmly sewed down.”1

Unfortunately, I failed to keep in mind that the illustrations in The Workwoman’s Guide are not to scale, and thus ended up cutting the I-shape for the slit far too wide, resulting in a slit that is more of a wide open rectangle, which is definitely not representative of the period pockets I was later able to examine personally in the Old Sturbridge Village collection. However, the “slit” in the pocket shown by Bradfield also appears to be an open rectangle, so perhaps this is not an unknown variation for the period. In any case, the experience was certainly a valuable lesson in the importance of using as many sources as possible to corroborate hard-to-understand sources. My pockets are top-stitched in burgundy cotton thread, and each pocket has two interior pockets to hold loose items. The tops of the pockets are bound with 1” wide, off-white cotton twill tape, with 1/2” twill tape attached to form the ties and connect the pockets, per Bradfield and The Workwoman’s Guide. In order to use the pockets, they are worn tied around the waist, over base petticoats but preferably under the uppermost petticoat as well as the gown. There are slits finished into the side seams of the uppermost petticoat and the gown so that the pockets can be accessed.

1   Linda Baumgarten, What Clothes Reveal, 59

2   A Lady, The Workwoman’s Guide, plate 10 (following page 64) figs. 10 and 14; 73-74.

3   Nancy Bradfield, Costume in Detail, 167.

4   Old Sturbridge Village, “Pieced Pocket – Printed Cottons (Collection No. 26.67.15),” OSV Collection Viewer, Old Sturbridge Village,

 5   A Lady, The Workwoman’s Guide, 73.

end of excerpt

Further Resources:

Intro: 1780s man’s caped topcoat

For: Zachary….at some point….maybe……
Inspiration: Images in Men’s 17th & 18th Century Costume, Cut & Fashion: figure 89-A, 1780, on page 124; figure 113-A, c. 1780, on page 144.
Pattern: To be drafted from diagrams in Men’s 17th & 18th Century Costume, Cut & Fashion
Fabric: TBD
Lining: None? TBD
Construction:  Either hand-stitched or hand-finished; TBD

Status: On hold. At this point, this project is just research and a hypothetical maybe-later. (January 10, 2011)

I’ve done quite a bit of research, and I intend to pursue the project later, but considering that I’m doing far too much, cuts had to be made, and this is one of the pieces being cut. I made this decision in part because of the realization that the fabric I was planning to use really wouldn’t be suitable. Which leads me to an earlier point in the evolution of my plans to attempt 18th century menswear!

Originally I had planned to make a close historical approximation of the extant suit coat, waistcoat, and breeches depicted in Costume Close-Up (#17; item number 1960-697, 1-3; pages 80-88 and following color plate), dating to 1765-1790. The suit doesn’t seem to be included in their online collection, or I would include a link. It’s a lovely suit, and not too elaborate in ornament. And it’s conveniently almost exactly the right measurements for my boyfriend, who could be pressed into service as a dress form and dashing model. (He was more enthusiastic about this than you might think.) So my plan was to scale up the pattern and simply cut it out of muslin with large seam allowances, and fiddle with it until it started looking right. I bought several yards of lightweight, worsted wool, tabby suiting in a nice deep blue from Fashion Fabrics Club, intending it for the jacket and waistcoat, and several yards of beige, or buff-colored, lightweight cotton sateen to use as lining. I planned to recruit silk from my stash to make the waistcoat.

But time, it ran short, and I was trying to do too much. And if I’d made the suit, I would have needed to make a shirt as well! While teaching myself a great many new skills. Given the scope of everything I was trying to do, it simply didn’t make sense. So I scaled back and decided to make a topcoat of the same period instead, having seen designs from the 1780s that I found very intriguing, and thinking I could use the materials I had already purchased. But upon further research into the matter of topcoats and greatcoats, I discovered that such garments were, as far as I could tell, invariably made of tightly woven, densely fulled wool, and were unlined, with unfinished cut edges. That is not something that my tabby suiting would cooperate with. I considered trying to do a historically inspired type garment, but eventually concluded that it would be wasteful to use good materials improperly, and that I would prefer to put both the suit idea and the topcoat idea on the back burner, and eventually make both in the proper fabrics.

So that is the sad saga of my foray into the research of 18th century menswear. I’ve learned quite a lot but nothing three-dimensional will be appearing in the immediate future.  Though I did produce quite a nice design sketch of the topcoat! With three capes, no less.

Topcoats and greatcoats in printed resources:

Online resources:

Updated January 10, 2012

Intro: Mid 18th to early 19th century red wool cloak

Inspiration: The general fabulousness of red wool cloaks (also, piles of snow!)
Pattern: Drafted from Costume Close-Up, #10, Cloak, c. 1750-1810, in the Colonial Williamsburg collection (#1953-968), p 54-56 and color plate 2, with a slight alteration and additional piecing due to yardage constraints
Fabric: Just over two yards of 60-odd-inch-wide coating-weight wool flannel in vivid scarlet red, pieced within an inch of its life
Lining: Front edge facings and hood lining of black silk habotai
Thread: Plain cotton thread in matching red and in black (I couldn’t afford silk)
Closure: Two inch wide black silk satin ribbons which tie at the neck, purchased from Timely Tresses
Construction: Entirely hand-sewn
Fun fact: I had to do quite a bit of piecing in order to get away with using the fabric I had, but it’s really quite difficult to see, because the pieces of fulled wool are butted up against one another and overcast. The original had one bit of piecing, making an ostensibly 4-piece pattern actually five pieces. Mine was nine pieces. When I finished cutting out the fabric, I had literally only a handful of amassed scrap material leftover – of heavy coating-weight wool. Seriously.
Current Status: Finished! (Update! Now with photos to prove it! 3/25/12)

My Reproduction Red Wool Cloak

(Never mind the later period reproduction quilted petticoat under the cloak. My mannequin looked creepy and naked with only the cloak on,  so it is wearing my c. mid 18th century to early 19th century repro cloak with my 1830s-1850s repro quilted petticoat. Which also clashes slightly. Shh, moving on.)

Current Status, in more detail: (Update May 1, 2011) The cloak is now entirely finished! After the ribbon arrived from Timely Tresses, I cut lengths of it and stitched it to the front edges of the cloak. I then proceeded to run around the house in the cloak, in spite of the fact that it’s now full spring and quite warm out. Despite how very unseasonable it now is, I’m very fond of the cloak. Although I must admit that the shaping, which is the same as the shaping of the original in Costume Close-Up, drapes more nicely on people with a slighter build, and narrower shoulders, than I have. Nevertheless, I can and will wear it.

(Status update from April 24, 2011) Happily, the cloak is essentially finished. Unhappily, it has been essentially finished for months. It came together quite quickly initially, due to a confluence of events involving winter inspiration, falling in love with the extant cloak depicted in Costume Close-Up, discovering that I had the perfect wool already, fiendish determination to find a way to cut the pattern out of not-nearly-enough fabric, an epic patterning and cutting effort, and conveniently timed illness that gave me four days of complete uselessness during which I was somehow still capable of executing tiny, perfect hand-stitches. (I don’t believe in feigning modesty about my hand-sewing skills. I am, in fact, quite vain about my hand-sewing.) I was able to construct the cloak, which is made of a coating-weight red wool flannel, with a lining for the hood and facings for the front edges, out of black silk habotai. Both of these things I had on hand, and I was able to buy matching red cotton thread.

But could I get my hands on black silk ribbon? No, I could not. Silk ribbons are notoriously difficult to find, and I was quite unwilling to use synthetic substitutes on a garment that I had spent an astonishing number of hours painstakingly constructing, entirely by hand (including nearly-invisible piecing to get the most out of my scant yardage), of high-quality natural fibers. For such a heavy garment, I didn’t want to try faking ribbons using my habotai. I didn’t have any black silk taffeta on hand, or I might have considered using that. The poor cloak has had to wait until I got around to ordering my millinery supplies – because I was able to buy black silk satin ribbon from Timely Tresses, along with everything needful for my charmingly enormous 1830s bonnet. The order has finally been placed, and with luck, the ribbon will arrive soon, and I will attach it to the cloak in short order. Then it will have ties! Once it has ties, I’ll be able to put it on, and will cut the arm slits. I marked them already, but I want to make certain they’re in the right place.

My Cloak, Side View

Further information online:

Print resources:

It was surprisingly easy to figure out how to put this cloak together – a great deal of information gets packed into the entries in this book! I really can’t recommend it highly enough. I wish there were more resources like this for the 19th century! See the annotated bibliography entry for more information. The cloak is on pages 54-56 and color plate 2.

There is an example of a similar cloak pictured on page 53, with substantial accompanying information on that cloak, a particularly fine example, and red cloaks in general, on page 54. It is noted (without citation) that “It would be typical Sunday best for an English village woman from the mid-eighteenth to the early nineteenth century. After that date. the younger element were more likely to wear mantles, pelisses and shawls, and the scarlet cloak became an old woman’s garment by the 1830’s” (page 54).


Last updated March 25, 2012, to add pictures.

Intro: 18th Century Sewing

Clothes and sewing methods of the 18th century reflected the extremely high cost of materials, and a comparatively low cost of labor, prior to the Industrial Revolution. Everything was made by hand, and the first sewing machine was decades away even at the end of the century. Clothes were made to last, even clothes for the wealthy. I am far from an expert on this period, but I find is fascinating and hope to do more research on it, and make more reproductions of clothing of the period, in the future.

To date, I’ve done research on gentlemen’s topcoats of the late 18th century, with the aim of making a reproduction 1780s caped topcoat for Zachary, but I don’t know when I’ll get around to moving forward on that – I don’t even have fabric. However, I did finish making a mid 18th to early 19th century red wool cloak. Hopefully I’ll be able to do more at some point, but there are so many projects and there’s so little time!

These books are all helpful for studying 18th century clothing:

Arnold, Janet. Patterns of Fashion 1: Englishwomen’s dresses and their construction c. 1660-1860. New York: Drama Book Specialists/Publishers, 1978.

Baumgarten, Linda, and John Watson, with Florine Carr. Costume Close-Up: Clothing Construction and Patterns 1750-1790. Williamsburg, Virginia: The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 2000. In association with Quite Specific Media Group Ltd., New York and Hollywood.

Baumgarten, Linda. What Clothes Reveal: The Language of Clothing in Colonial and Federal America: The Colonial Williamsburg Collection. Williamsburg, Virginia: The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 2002. In association with Yale University Press, New Haven and London.

Bradfield, Nancy. Costume in Detail: Women’s Dress 1730-1930. Hollywood: Costume & Fashion Press, 2009.

Burnston, Sharon Ann. Fitting & Proper: 18th Century Clothing from the Collection of the Chester County Historical Society. Texarcana, Texas: Scurlock Publishing Co., Inc., 1998.

Davis, R. I. Men’s 17th & 18th Century Costume, Cut & Fashion: Patterns for Men’s Costumes. Additional Material by William-Alan Landes. Studio City, CA: Player’s Press, 2000.

Ewing, Elizabeth. Everyday Dress 1650-1900. London: B. T. Batsford Ltd., 1984.

Fukai, Akiko, Ed. Fashion: A History from the 18th to the 20th Century (The Collection of the Kyoto Costume Institute)2006 edition published by Barnes & Noble by arrangement. Köln: Taschen, 2006.

Gehret, Ellen J. Rural Pennsylvania Clothing: Being a Study of the Wearing Apparel of the German and English Inhabitants; Both Men and Women; Who Resided In Southeastern Pennsylvania; In the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Century. York, Pennsylvania: Liberty Cap Books, 1976.

Lynn, Eleri. Underwear: Fashion in Detail. London: V&A Publishing, 2010.

Mackenzie, Althea. Hats and Bonnets, from Snowshill, one of the world’s leading collections of costume and accessories of the 18th and 19th centuries.London: The National Trust, 2004.

Mackenzie, Althea. Shoes and Slippers, from Snowshill, one of the world’s leading collections of costume and accessories of the 18th and 19th centuries.London: The National Trust, 2004.

Miller, Marla R. The Needle’s Eye: Women and Work in the Age of Revolution.Amherst, Massachusetts: University of Massachusetts Press, 2006.

Montgomery, Florence. Textiles in America 1650-1870: A Dictionary based on original documents, prints and paintings, commercial records, American merchants’ papers, shopkeepers’ advertisements, and pattern books with original swatches of clothNew York: W. W. Norton and Company, 2007.

Ribeiro, Aileen. The Art of Dress: Fashion in England and France 1750-1820. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995.

Salen, Jill. Corsets: Historic Patterns and TechniquesHollywood: Costume & Fashion Press, 2008.

Steele, Valerie. The Corset: A Cultural History. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2001.

Styles, John. The Dress of the People: Everyday Fashion in Eighteenth-Century England. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007.

Takeda, Sharon Sadako, and Kaye Durland Spilker. Fashioning Fashion: European Dress in Detail 1700-1915. Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2010.

Tozer, Jane, and Sarah Levitt. Fabric of Society: A Century of People and their Clothes 1770-1870: Essays inspired by the collections at Platt Hall, The Gallery of English Costume, ManchesterCarno, Powys, Wales: Laura Ashley Limited, 1983.

Waugh, Norah. Corsets and CrinolinesNew York: Theatre Arts Books, 1970.

Waugh, Norah. The Cut of Men’s Clothes 1600-1900. London: Faber and Faber Limited, 1964.

Waugh, Norah. The Cut of Women’s Clothes 1600-1930New York: Theatre Arts Books, 1968.

Updated August 7, 2012.