Category Archives: 1830s Independent Study Spring 2010

1830s gown of semi-sheer cerulean cotton with satin stripes

(Updated May 1, 2011)

(Note: the first portion of this post is identical to the project introduction post for the 1837-1839 fashion plate ensemble, but this post continues and goes into more detail, complete with sources and links.)

Back during my first semester at Hampshire, in fall 2009, I went on a field trip to Old Sturbridge Village, and while dawdling in the clothing exhibit, I rather fell in love with the late 1830s styles displayed in the fashion plates on the walls. It’s a very interesting transitional style, without the absurdly enormous sleeves of earlier 1830s fashion, or the stiff gothic lines of the 1840s. Waistlines were briefly hovering around the natural waist, and sleeve shapes were neither huge nor tight, with an interesting variety in shapes and details.

I parlayed my fascination with late 1830s fashion into an independent study in spring 2010, and really dove into the period. I had never studied the romantic period in particular, but I had a substantial background in mid-19th century clothing (specifically 1860s), which gave me somewhere to start. There are two interesting technological differences that make studying and reproducing clothing of the 1830s more difficult than clothing of the 1860s: the lack of photography, which leaves a significant gap in the materials to study, and the lack of sewing machines, which renders a great deal of hand-sewing necessary for true authenticity. For the independent study, I hand-stitched all of the pieces I made. For the 1830s pieces that I am making now, in the portion of my Div III that is a continuation of that project, I am fully hand-stitching three pieces–the shift, the stays, and the bonnet–and using a combination of machine-stitching and hand-stitching on the other pieces. On the gown, all visible stitches will be done by hand. But for the sake of time, I’m using the machine for portions of the project.

My big goal with this project is to be able to wear a full ensemble of 1830s clothing to Commencement (otherwise known as graduation) on May 21st. I’ll need a gown and a bonnet, a chemisette to full in the neckline of the gown, a pair of gloves (I have some I can use), some sort of shoes (I plan to buy a simple pair of ballet flats), and stockings (I have some that will work) – and those are just the parts that show! Under all that, I’ll need a shift, probably a pair of drawers, a set of stays, a corded petticoat to create base fluff, another petticoat for additional fluff, a bodiced petticoat to cover all the other layers tidily since my gown fabric is semi-sheer, and probably the ruffled bustle from the independent study, so as to achieve the proper silhouette.  I’ll most likely use the pockets from my independent study as well. I probably won’t worry about making cuffs just yet. All told, there is still much to do, but it’s coming along. The most alarming part is that I have not yet been able to dye the fabric for my gown.

From a February 1838 Fashion Plate in Godey's Lady's Book

The gown at left is the one I originally chose as my inspiration piece, during the independent study. I love the crossover bodice style, especially with the stripes cut on the bias. I also love the bias stripes on the skirt ruffle, set against the vertical stripes of the skirt. However, I’ve never been entirely enamored of the sleeves, I don’t like how the ruffle is set to leave a gap of plain skirt at the hem, and I find myself getting distracted by the astonishingly hideous headdress whenever I look at the picture. So, at this point, I’m not planning to do an exact copy of the fashion plate, but rather to combine elements of several fashion plates, along with details from extant gowns, to create a just-right late 1830s gown style for me.

The bodice for my gown will be cut like the February 1838 fashion plate at left, which seems to have been a popular style. The Workwoman’s Guide even has instructions for the style. I may have to adapt the bodice design slightly, because I think that with my rather well-endowed figure, I’ll probably need darts at the waistline to control the fullness of the fabric needed to go around my bosom, even with the stretch of the bias cut. Fortunately, I’ve seen various examples of just such a bodice style, including the left figure in the following fashion plate at right. I’m also partial to the sleeve shape in the following fashion plate – but not the precise way that the fullness is fixed down at the top. I think I’d rather use little controlled pleats than bands with buttons.

Pretty Gowns from an April 1840 Fashion Plate in Godey's Lady's Book

I’m also rather partial to the plethora of ruffles at the hem. I might do that, but I think more likely I’ll just do one ruffle, only set so that it goes all the way to the hem, or possibly two ruffles, the lower one deeper than the upper, as in the pink dress in the fashion plate below at left.  The fabric I’m using for the gown would most likely be termed a muslin in 19th century terminology. It’s a smooth, long-staple cotton fabric that is semi-sheer, but with opaque stripes of satin-weave, which have a bit of openwork stitching along either side of each stripe. It’s absolutely beautiful, and perfect for the period. I bought it at Delectable Mountain Cloth in Brattleboro, Vermont – a wonderful little shop that’s well worth an excursion. I believe that the owner said that my fabric was of Italisn manufacture. The only difficulty is that solid white dresses, especially in cotton, do not seem to have been very common by the late 1830s. I am solving this problem with a few bottles of cerulean blue dye, and the help of a friend who has a lot of experience dyeing cotton.

I think that my bonnet will probably give a similar impression to those in the plate above at right – large but not too terribly ridiculous, and really rather pretty, in that slightly silly way. A chemisette will definitely be needed in order to keep things suitably modest, and by the same token, I’ll also need a bodiced petticoat like this extant one to provide a tidy, opaque underlay for the somewhat see-through dress. I just hope I can find the time and the patience to sew enough cords into my corded petticoat, and then track down down enough starch, in order to achieve satisfactory fluffiness. I’m also concerned that a mere three petticoats (over a long chemise, with a ruffled bustle) might not really be enough fluff, but for the time being, I’ll just have to live with whatever level of fluff those combined garments can achieve.

A figure from a November 1838 Fashion Plate in Godey's Lady's Book

Having gone through every source of information on late 1830s (and even early 1840s) gowns that I could find, both in print and online (plus my examination in person of gowns in the collection at Old Sturbridge Village), I found that bias cut bodices appeared to be typical, and that crossover style bodices could be cut with or without darts. Intriguingly, I discovered that while hem flounces (one, two, or more) were almost universal on gowns in fashion plates of the late 1830s, I have been able to find very few extant gowns of this period with any kind of flounce. Even on very high fashion, extravagant gowns, the flouncing is rarely present. Nevertheless, it can be documented in some extant gowns, so I feel safe including flouncing on my gown. Which is good, because I’m quite enraptured with the look of the bias stripes on a flounce or two, against the vertical stripes of the skirt – with diagonal stripes on the bodice, and all-over-the-place stripes on the sleeves! And self-bias piping everywhere! Fortunately for the eyesight of everyone who will ever see my reproduction gown, my stripes are a woven variation rather than a strong color difference. It is my hope that blinding effects will be minimal.

In order to systematically research and document each aspect of this gown, and each type of reference, I have organized my sources into a variety of specific features. Some sources appear more than once.

Pattern diagrams and schematic drawings of late 1830s gowns:

En romantisk ungpigekjole at Tidens Tøj, a museum site, which has photographs of an extant probably mid 1830s gown, along with text, and a PDF of a graphed pattern diagram of the gown. Tragically, all of this is in Danish, and I have no idea what it says.

Brylluppets skikke – bryllupskrans” also at at Tidens Tøj, a museum site, which has photographs of an extant late 1830s formal gown, along with text, and a PDF of a graphed pattern diagram of the gown, which appears to be dated 1837. I suspect it might be identified as a wedding dress. But again, all of this is tragically in Danish.

Lady, A (Anonymous). The Workwoman’s Guide: A Guide to 19th Century Decorative Arts, Fashion and Practical Crafts (A Facsimile Reproduction of the Original 1838 Edition). Guilford, Connecticut: Opus Publications with Old Sturbridge Village, 1986.

  • In the section on “Gowns,” which begins on page 106 and is pictured on plate 14, there are two relevant styles:
  • “A wrap high dress,” discussed on page 110 and depicted on plate 14, figure 15
  • “A high body, to open in front,” discussed on page 111 and depicted on plate 14, figure 18
  • See below for more information on this resource.

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

  • “A dinner dress c1830-36,” in the Northampton Museum, on pages 60, 62, and 63.
  • “A morning dress c1837-41,” in the Gloucester Museum, on pages 64 and 65.
  • “A day dress c1839-45,” in the Gallery of English Costume, on pages 64 and 66.
  • None of these have the crossover front I’m looking for, but they’re all useful references anyway, thanks to Janet Arnold’s impeccable attention to detail.

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

  • Diagram XLI: “Day dress c. 1834. Privately owned
  • Diagram XLII: “Day dress c. 1837. Museum of Costume, Bath
  • Diagram XLIII (above): “Bodice c. 1839. Central School of Art and Design, London
  • “Nineteenth-century Tailors’ and Dressmakers’ Patterns” – on page 193, there are reprinted original 1834 pattern diagrams from the Petit Courier des Dames (a magazine) for “Bodice, Sleeve, Cape and Corset.”
  • Unfortunately, none of these are in the crossover style or anything much like it.

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

  • Styles of the late 1830s are pictured in schematic drawings, with detailed notes, on pages 163-172, including one crossover-style bodice on pages 169-170.

Hunnisett, Jean. Period Costumes for Stage & Screen: Patterns for Women’s Dress 1800-1909. London: Unwin Paperbacks, 1988.

  • This is a generalized, simplified, theatrical costuming resource. It can help to fill in the blanks, but it is not a creation of pristine historical accuracy (and is not intended to be).
  • “Part Three: Period Patterns — 1826-1838” on pages 49-84, in particular:
  • “Pattern sheet 7: bodices” on page 53, though none are crossover
  • “Pattern sheet 9: sleeves” on page 57

Early daguerreotypes (1839 and 1840s) picturing late 1830s styles:

Severa, Joan L. My Likeness Taken: Daguerreian Portraits in America. Kent, Ohio: The Kent State University Press, 2005.

  • On page 8, with accompanying text on page 9, there is a daguerreotype, dated “ca. 1842,” of a young woman in a style quite close to that of the late 1830s. Even though the type of gown is quite different from mine, it is an excellent point of reference, and the detail of the sleeves in particular is exquisite.

Construction information for gowns of the late 1830s or a nearby era:

Lady, A (Anonymous). The Workwoman’s Guide: A Guide to 19th Century Decorative Arts, Fashion and Practical Crafts (A Facsimile Reproduction of the Original 1838 Edition). Guilford, Connecticut: Opus Publications with Old Sturbridge Village, 1986.

  • The section on “Gowns” has information about ladies’ gowns on pages 106-113, and images on plate 14 (which falls just prior to the section in the OSV reprint of the book). The section is quite brief, and rather vague, but explains why at the opening:
  • “Gowns being a part of dress much influenced by the fashion or custom of the day, will not be fully entered on in this work, as it would be impossible to give the variety of form and size which is seen in them, and equally impossible, were such a selection attempted, to please all tastes, or suit all figures: a few simple patterns for those kinds which are independent of fashion, and especially for those worn by servants, and persons engaged in laborious employments, with a very few other plain ones, will alone come within the limits of this work.” (page 106) [Note that all of that was one sentence.]
  • This book actually dates from the late 1830s, so in that respect, it is an excellent resource, but it is also difficult to understand and difficult to use, and as noted, the section on gowns is quite limited. However, combined with other sources, it becomes somewhat more comprehensible.

Grimble, Frances, Edited, Translated, and with Additional Material by. The Lady’s Stratagem: A Repository of 1820s Directions for the Toilet, Mantua-Making, Stay-Making, Millinery & Etiquette. San Francisco: Lavolta Press, 2009.

  • “Chapter XV. The Art of the Mantua-maker or Cutter of Gowns” on pages 305-407.
  • This book is primarily from/about the 1820s, so it would be somewhat out of date for late 1830s fashions, but much of the information is still relevant.

Clark, Elizabeth Stewart. The Dressmaker’s Guide; 1840-1860. 2nd edition, Revised & Expanded. Idaho Falls, Idaho: Elizabeth Stewart Clark & Company, 2009.

  • “Stocking a Workbox” on pages 69-73
  • “Stitch & Technique Library” on pages 78-102
  • “Chapter 8: Bodices: Draping & Patterns” on pages 195-247
  • “Chapter 9: Bodice Construction Details” on pages 249-264
  • “Chapter 10: Skirt Techniques” on pages 265-275
  • This book is intended for the period 1840-1865, so it slightly post-dates what I am working on, but much of the information is still helpful, especially since this revised and expanded edition offers substantial coverage of the 1840s, which has a great deal in common with the late 1830s, in terms of fashion and construction.

Crossover (surplice) style bodices, with or without darts:

Olian, JoAnne, Ed. 80 Godey’s Full-Color Fashion Plates: 1838-1880. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1998.

  • “Plate 2. February 1838 and July 1838” – figure B (the first image shown above) – a striped gown, no darts. On page vi, quoting from the original issue of Godey’s, the figure is described thus: “Morning dress of Jaconet muslin. Tight sleeves with a single puff above the elbow; lace ruffle at wrist. The skirt has a deep flounce. Plain body crossed in front, showing a cambric handkerchief, with a lace frill.”
  • “Plate 4. April 1840.” – figure B (the left figure in the second image shown above) – three darts on each side. On page vi, quoting from the original issue of Godey’s, the figure is described thus: “Changeable silk dress. Tight corsage crossed in front. Bishop sleeves with four bands at the top, each trimmed with a button; the skirt is trimmed with five narrow flounces. Straw hat.”

Blum, Stella, Edited and with an Introduction by. Fashions and Costumes from Godey’s Lady’s Book; Including 8 Plates in Full Color. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.,  1985.

  • On page 3, figure A, from a May 1838 fashion plate in Godey’s Lady’s Book, with accompanying text: “Robe of summer material; hat of leghorn straw.” No hem flounce this time.

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

  • Styles of the late 1830s are pictured in schematic drawings, with detailed notes, on pages 163-172, including one crossover-style bodice on pages 169-170. It does not have darts, nor a hem flounce.

Johnston, Lucy. Nineteenth Century Fashion in Detail. London: V&A Publishing, 2009.

  • Photographed extant “Day dress of silk lined with linen and glazed cotton” on pages 174-175, lower right of each page, dated “1838-40,” accession number T.51-2002. Made of solid-colored silk satin; very deep V crossover neckline, left over right, with functional closure and stitched pleating; no darts; round waist; directionally knife-pleated skirt with section in front left plain, lopsided possibly due to odd closure; no hem flounce.

Non-crossover bias-cut bodices, other than off-the-shoulder styles:

Johnston, Lucy. Nineteenth Century Fashion in Detail. London: V&A Publishing, 2009.

Large sleeves with fullness controlled at the tops with pleats/gathers:

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.

  • Photograph of extant sheer or semi-sheer gown on page 195, dated “c. 1837,” with this caption: “White plain-weave cotton with woven plaid pattern; lead-pattern embroidery; gigot sleeves; gathered to shoulder at upper sleeve. Inv. AC2231 79-10-4

Johnston, Lucy. Nineteenth Century Fashion in Detail. London: V&A Publishing, 2009.

  • Photographed extant “Dress of printed cotton lined with cotton” on pages 104-105, dated “1838-40,” accession number T.75-1947. Made of floral printed cotton with a wide, rounded neckline; piped center front opening, piped neckline edge, etc.; diagonal pleating across front; single dart at either side; even shirring at tops of sleeves to control fullness; round waist; gauged skirt; no hem flounce.
  • Photographed extant “Day dress of challis printed with flowers and lined with glazed cotton and linen” on pages 192-193, dated “1837-40,” accession number T.184-1931. Made of floral printed wool challis with a wide, scooped neckline; ruching around bodice near neckline; contrast piping at center front seam, sides, cuffs, etc; single dart or shaping seam at either side; soft pleating held with bands at tops of sleeves to control fullness, fullness at wrists simply gathered into cuffs at back of wrists; round waist; skirt has wide directional knife pleats with section of gauging in back; no hem flounce.

Skirts with one or more flounces at the hem (especially extant):

Woman’s Day Dress” of cotton muslin with a printed check design on a woven zig-zag pattern, dated “1837-41” with the note that it was “perhaps altered in the 1850s,” at the Bowes Museum in the United Kingdom, accession number 1998.10.1/CST.3.196. There are three even hem flounces, of a style popular in late 1830s fashion plates, on the dress, but they appear somewhat skewed due to the way the dress is displayed (it needs more petticoats).

Gowns of this general style, in muslin or other lightweight cottons:

Brown cotton print dress, dated “1837-39,” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, accession number 2009.300.915.

Resources containing multiple extant high-fashion gowns from the late 1830s, with absolutely no incidence of flounces:

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.

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

Johnston, Lucy. Nineteenth Century Fashion in Detail. London: V&A Publishing, 2009.

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, http://www.osv.org/explore_learn/collection_viewer.php?N=26.67.15.

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

end of excerpt

***
Further Resources:

1830s ruffled bustle of white cotton jean

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 14-15 of my research paper, “Reproducing and Documenting 1830s Women’s Clothing.”)

My next reproduction was a simple one, exactly following the directions given in The Workwoman’s Guide for “a simple bustle”1. According to that book, “Bustles are worn by those whose shape requires something to set off the skirt of the gown. They should not be too large, or they look indelicate, or in bad taste. They are made of jean, strong calico, and sometimes of glazed calico.” It is important to clarify that The Workwoman’s Guide makes it clear, in its earlier discussion of calico, that as in modern Britain, in early 19th century British terminology, calico signified what is now called muslin in the United States, a soft-finished, plain-woven, and fairly sturdy cloth available in white or unbleached, used for shirts, shifts, baby’s caps, aprons, etc.2 Furthermore, Lynne Zacek Bassett describes early nineteenth century jean as twilled, medium weight, and “in the family of drill fabrics.”3 She also states that jean can be linen/cotton, cotton/wool, all wool, or all cotton.4 For my reproduction, I used white cotton jean, a sturdy, twilled fabric.

The bustle designs offered in The Workwoman’s Guide are essentially ruffles of fabric intended to be tied at the waist, worn across the back in conjunction with petticoats, to increase the fullness of the skirt at the high hips and decrease the apparent size of the waist. I followed as precisely as possible the directions offered for the first bustle design:

“It is composed of one piece the width of the calico, say a yard [36”], and eight nails [18”] deep. This piece is doubled in two, so as to make two flounces, the one four nails and a half [10-1/8”] long, and the other three and a half [7-7/8”]. At one nail [2-1/4”] from the doubled top make a narrow case to admit of tapes. The bottoms of the flounces are hemmed with a very thick cord in them. When worn, the bustle is turned inside out, by which means the frill falls between the two flounces.”5

There are two small illustrations accompanying these directions6, which helped me to understand the directions.

However, I still wanted to consult other sources. There are many references to bustles, hip pads, hip improvers, and bum-rolls for this period, but there are few images available, and some of those available are cartoons, which cannot be taken literally. Norah Waugh’s Corsets and Crinolines offers some relevant information relating to early- and mid-nineteenth century bustles7, and I was able to find one ruffled bustle, from 1833, in the Manchester Art Gallery collection online8. While the online bustle was of a different shape and design from the one that I chose to reproduce, it was an effective corroborating source indicating that ruffled bustles of fairly stiff white cotton or linen/cotton were used during the period. In the end, I followed the directions precisely, except in that my cotton jean was of a much wider width, so I had to cut it to a yard width and narrowly hem the sides of the bustle. I hemmed both ruffles with cord, which stiffened them nicely, and ran a narrow cotton twill tape through the casing, tacking it down at both ends of the casing once adjusted to a rough hip-width. I left long pieces of the tape hanging on each side, to tie around the waist.

It is my surmise that this type of garment would be worn over the petticoats, or at least over most of the petticoats, particularly by women with low or slender hips. If it was to be worn, skirts would have to be made and adjusted to be worn over it, so as to have the correct length all around. Because this was a simple item, with relatively straightforward directions – though I did need to read them through at least six times before I was reasonably certain of what they meant – it was a good choice for my first reproduction garment for this period, whether or not it is ever necessary that I wear it.

2   Ibid., 12. (Page 12 online)

3   Lynne Zacek Bassett, Textiles for Regency Clothing 1800-1850, 35.

4   Ibid.

6   Ibid., plate 11 (following plate 8, following page 54) figs. 30 and 32. (Plate 11 online)

7   Norah Waugh, Corsets and Crinolines (New York: Theatre Arts Books, 1970), 93, 117, and 134.

8   Manchester Art Gallery, “Bustle (Accession Number 1947.1942),” Search the Collection, Manchester Art Gallery, http://www.manchestergalleries.org/the-collections/search-the-collection/display.php?EMUSESSID=4d4ed491b2370dc13880da9da748f57c&irn=13470.

Since officially finishing the independent study (and, of course, the paper), I have found more information relevant to this garment, which I will include here, along with the previously mentioned sources.

Print resources:

On page 133, Figure 58 is a photograph of three extant bustles. The top and middle bustles are similar, of the “bum roll” variety, long variants on a crescent shape, stitched together and stuffed. The lowest of the three bustles is listed at dating to 1833 and being in the Gallery of English Costume in Manchester. Therefore it is likely yet another photograph of the same ruffled bustle shown on the Manchester Galleries website and worn by a model in a photograph on page 68 of Fabric of Society. But in this case (for what reason I do not know), the bustle is shown upside down, because while it appears lumpy, only a hint of the frills or ruffles underneath can be seen, at one side. See the entry under Fabric of Society below for more information.

On page 134, Figure 60 is a cartoon, “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.

Pages 100-101 contain a passing reference to the wearing of some sort of rigged handkerchief to give loft to the back of the skirt, after which there is a disparaging critique of the artificiality of excessive (or, indeed, in any way discernible) tournures. However, there is no useful information about construction or shape.

Text on pages 83-84. Images on plate 11.

There is a photograph on page 68 of a model wearing a full complement of 1825-35 underclothing, including a ruffled bustle which appears to be of a rounded shape. It is mostly hidden from view, and in shadow. However, all of the undergarments pictured are of the “Fanny Jarvis” set, which is in the collection of the Gallery of English Costume in Manchester, and on their website there is a ruffled bustle of a rounded shape, marked “F. J.” for Fanny Jarvis. It seems quite likely that this offers us multiple views of the same bustle. The website describes the bustle thus: “White cotton satin with three frills with rounded ends, the bottom one wider and the top one narrower, gathered to band at top edge, linen tape tie each end. Inscribed ‘F.J. – Senr / 3 / 1833’ (Fanny Jarvis).” Additionally, the lowest of the three bustles shown on page 133 of The History of Underclothes is listed at dating to 1833 and being in the Gallery of English Costume in Manchester. Therefore it is likely yet another photograph of the very same bustle, but in this case seen upside down, because while it appears lumpy, only a hint of the frills or ruffles underneath can be seen, at one side.

Text on pages 93, 117, and 134.

1830s quilted petticoat of striped floral cotton calico

Alas, this is nothing but a placeholder page, waiting for me to take proper pictures, compile my notes and links into something useful, and turn it all into a helpful post.  In the meantime, you can take a look at my 19th Century Quilted Petticoats board on Pinterest, and you can catch a glimpse of my reproduction petticoat in the pictures of my red wool cloak.

Intro: 1837-1839 fashion plate ensemble

(Updated May 2, 2011.)

Back during my first semester at Hampshire, in fall 2009, I went on a field trip to Old Sturbridge Village, and while dawdling in the clothing exhibit, I rather fell in love with the late 1830s styles displayed in the fashion plates on the walls. It’s a very interesting transitional style, without the absurdly enormous sleeves of earlier 1830s fashion, or the stiff gothic lines of the 1840s. Waistlines were briefly hovering around the natural waist, and sleeve shapes were neither huge nor tight, with an interesting variety in shapes and details.

I parlayed my fascination with late 1830s fashion into an independent study in spring 2010, and really dove into the period. I had never studied the romantic period in particular, but I had a substantial background in mid-19th century clothing (specifically 1860s), which gave me somewhere to start. There are two interesting technological differences that make studying and reproducing clothing of the 1830s more difficult than clothing of the 1860s: the lack of photography, which leaves a significant gap in the materials to study, and the lack of sewing machines, which renders a great deal of hand-sewing necessary for true authenticity. For the independent study, I hand-stitched all of the pieces I made. For the 1830s pieces that I am making now, in the portion of my Div III that is a continuation of that project, I am fully hand-stitching three pieces–the shift, the stays, and the bonnet–and using a combination of machine-stitching and hand-stitching on the other pieces. On the gown, all visible stitches will be done by hand. But for the sake of time, I’m using the machine for portions of the project.

My big goal with this project is to be able to wear a full ensemble of 1830s clothing to Commencement (otherwise known as graduation) on May 21st. I’ll need a gown and a bonnet, a chemisette to full in the neckline of the gown, a pair of gloves (I have some I can use), some sort of shoes (I plan to buy a simple pair of ballet flats), and stockings (I have some that will work) – and those are just the parts that show! Under all that, I’ll need a shift, probably a pair of drawers, a set of stays, a corded petticoat to create base fluff, another petticoat for additional fluff, a bodiced petticoat to cover all the other layers tidily since my gown fabric is semi-sheer, and probably the ruffled bustle from the independent study, so as to achieve the proper silhouette.  I’ll most likely use the pockets from my independent study as well. I probably won’t worry about making cuffs just yet. All told, there is still much to do, but it’s coming along. The most alarming part is that I have not yet been able to dye the fabric for my gown.

From a February 1838 Fashion Plate in Godey's Lady's Book

The gown at left is the one I originally chose as my inspiration piece, during the independent study. I love the crossover bodice style, especially with the stripes cut on the bias. I also love the bias stripes on the skirt ruffle, set against the vertical stripes of the skirt. However, I’ve never been entirely enamored of the sleeves, I don’t like how the ruffle is set to leave a gap of plain skirt at the hem, and I find myself getting distracted by the astonishingly hideous headdress whenever I look at the picture. So, at this point, I’m not planning to do an exact copy of the fashion plate, but rather to combine elements of several fashion plates, along with details from extant gowns, to create a just-right late 1830s gown style for me.

The bodice for my gown will be cut like the February 1838 fashion plate at left, which seems to have been a popular style. The Workwoman’s Guide even has instructions for the style. I may have to adapt the bodice design slightly, because I think that with my rather well-endowed figure, I’ll probably need darts at the waistline to control the fullness of the fabric needed to go around my bosom, even with the stretch of the bias cut. Fortunately, I’ve seen various examples of just such a bodice style, including the left figure in the following fashion plate at right. I’m also partial to the sleeve shape in the following fashion plate – but not the precise way that the fullness is fixed down at the top. I think I’d rather use little controlled pleats than bands with buttons.

Pretty Gowns from an April 1840 Fashion Plate in Godey's Lady's Book

I’m also rather partial to the plethora of ruffles at the hem. I might do that, but I think more likely I’ll just do one ruffle, only set so that it goes all the way to the hem, or possibly two ruffles, the lower one deeper than the upper, as in the pink dress in the fashion plate below center.  The fabric I’m using for the gown would most likely be termed a muslin in 19th century terminology. It’s a smooth, long-staple cotton fabric that is semi-sheer, but with opaque stripes of satin-weave, which have a bit of openwork stitching along either side of each stripe. It’s absolutely beautiful, and perfect for the period. I bought it at Delectable Mountain Cloth in Brattleboro, Vermont – a wonderful little shop that’s well worth an excursion. I believe that the owner said that my fabric was of Italisn manufacture. The only difficulty is that solid white dresses, especially in cotton, do not seem to have been very common by the late 1830s. I am solving this problem with a few bottles of cerulean blue dye, and the help of a friend who has a lot of experience dyeing cotton.

I think that my bonnet will probably give a similar impression to those in the plate above at right – large but not too terribly ridiculous, and really rather pretty, in that slightly silly way. A chemisette will definitely be needed in order to keep things suitably modest, and by the same token, I’ll also need a bodiced petticoat like this extant one to provide a tidy, opaque underlay for the somewhat see-through dress. I just hope I can find the time and the patience to sew enough cords into my corded petticoat, and then track down down enough starch, in order to achieve satisfactory fluffiness. I’m also concerned that a mere three petticoats (over a long chemise, with a ruffled bustle) might not really be enough fluff, but for the time being, I’ll just have to live with whatever level of fluff those combined garments can achieve.

A figure from a November 1838 Godey's Lady's Book Fashion Plate

Here is the full list of garments involved in this ensemble:

For details and resources, click on individual garment links to go to the introductory base posts for those garments.

Intro: 1830s Independent Study Spring 2010

In the spring of 2010, during my second of four semesters at Hampshire, I did an independent study for credit, essentially a pilot study for the research and work I wanted to do for my thesis project. I focused on clothing of a very specific time period, the late 1830s, which had a very distinct aesthetic, transitioning between the Romantic Era 1820s-30s, and the Crinoline Era 1840s-1860s. This is the very beginning of the era of photography, on the cusp of it, really, so the difference in evidence between researching this period and researching even a decade or two later is incredible – more guesswork and extrapolation is required.

But, as I found during my independent study, there is a great deal of information available about the period, it just requires sifting and evaluation and analysis to use. During the independent study, I created the annotated bibliography which grew into the many-tentacled beast currently residing on this site, and I spent a lot of time looking at the strengths, weaknesses, and biases of various kinds of primary and secondary sources, discussing how to use those various sources together to create a full and nuanced picture of a particular period of clothing.

In addition to writing a paper for that independent study, I also sewed several garments and sewing kit tools, constructing everything by hand and as accurately as possible, using natural fibers and primary source instructions. I made a quilted petticoat, a ruffled bustle, a pair of pockets, and for my work box, a velvet pincushion and needle book.