Tag Archives: hand stitched

1950s style petticoat of stiff white netting trimmed with bows

This petticoat came about as a result of my 1950s style petticoat of soft ivory netting being insufficiently fluffy. I used a great deal of a very stiff white nylon netting that I bought for $1 a yard at one of the shops in the Fashion District in Los Angeles a couple years ago. The fabric was originally intended to be used for a faux bustle similar to the 1870s inspired bustle with lavender sateen pillow and pansy net ruffles, but I didn’t go through with the Steampunk costume I was planning to make it for, so the fabric was duly requisitioned.

Not only is the netting much stiffer this time around, I also made the petticoat longer and much fuller, using most of the material I had in order to achieve maximum floofiness. I cut strips of the netting so that each of the three tiers was double the width of the tier above it. The bottom tier is 13½ yards around! The middle tier is 6¾ yards, and the top tier is about 3½ yards around, gathered into a waistband of white polished cotton. I hand-stitched the entire petticoat, using the selvage of the material for a pre-finished hem. The waistband is top-stitched to look nice and tidy.

And then, after finishing the waistband, I came to a conundrum. How to close the waistband? I didn’t want anything lumpy or uncomfortable, and I wanted some flexibility in the circumference of the waistband. So I decided to use ribbons or tapes, stitched to each end of the waistband, to tie together. But alas! I had no simple white ribbons or tapes of an appropriate size in my stash, and I didn’t know when I’d have a chance to go to the store.

But then I ran across a bag of pre-finished turquoise satin ribbon bows. I’d bought them some time back at the Michael Levine’s Loft store in the Fashion District in Los Angeles, for a dollar or two, without any particular plan. After untying two bows and stitching them on as ties, I decided that the turquoise ties needed company – in the form of the application of many more bows to the petticoat. It makes for a slightly silly petticoat, but there’s something inherently silly about Really Fluffy Petticoats, so I just ran with it. Now my excellent petticoat is delightfully covered in turquoise bows!

This petticoat is satisfactorily fluffy for many things, though I still dream of going even fluffier, especially for evening wear. The netting I used here is excellent for the purpose, and I’m planning to go on the hunt for more like it at some point. I also want to try making a similar petticoat (possibly even wider?!) out of synthetic organza. Of course, silk organza would make a truly delicious petticoat, but I think that’s probably out of my price range for a while.

For more information about 1950s style petticoats, see my intro post about my 1950s style net petticoats.

1950s style petticoat of soft ivory netting

I made this petticoat of standard JoAnn’s nylon netting in an ivory color, using a hybrid of several different petticoat tutorials I found online. It’s pretty basic – three tiers of netting, each double the fullness of the one above, and gathered to it. I sewed it by hand, because I didn’t want to do battle with that much machine-gathering (I don’t trust machine gathering), especially using something as fussy as synthetic netting. Unfortunately, the petticoat really didn’t end up sufficiently fluffy, because the netting was fairly soft, and probably needed more yardage anyway. Clearly, my petticoat efforts needed to be far less modest in future if I was going to get the oomph I wanted.

Nevertheless, I did complete the petticoat, even after I discovered that it wouldn’t have as much floof as I wanted. I finished it with an ivory synthetic satin enclosed waistband. And it does have some floof, but in order to really manage proper 1950s style poofiness, I need several other petticoats with it. Still, it was a good learning experience. And it led me onward to my next floofy adventure: the 1950s style petticoat of stiff white netting trimmed with bows.

For more information about 1950s style petticoats, see my intro post about my 1950s style net petticoats.

1860s Marie Stewart bonnet of scarlet silk

Last updated April 21, 2011.

Inspiration: The availability of an inexpensive bonnet form with that darling downturned point at the top of the crown! I love the “Marie Stewart” shape. I am particularly fond of this extant cream silk fanchon bonnet with blue ribbon and fringe, accession number 47.1519, at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
  Purchased reproduction buckram form from Timely Tresses, their “Wilhelmina Elizabeth” in the “Marie Stewart” shape appropriate for 1863-1867. It was not a terribly common style historically, but I’ve always loved it, and it isn’t inappropriate, just a trifle unusual.
  White or ivory (or maybe very pale pink) silk taffeta or habotai
Ties and Ribbon Trim:
  Probably black silk, either taffeta or habotai, but possibly brocade if I find something promising.
Outer Trimmings:
  Probably a black ostrich feather or two, possibly some black silk satin ribbon, possibly a red artificial flower. I’ll revisit this later.
Trimmings Inside Brim:
A frill of white or ivory silk organza
  Linings and trimmings will be entirely hand-sewn, though I believe that the form itself is machine-stitched.
Current Status:
  This bonnet will not be included with my Div III. There’s simply too much to do, so I’ve been scaling back the 1860s pieces. But I plan on going forward with this particular project soon, quite possibly this summer.

Print resources for 1860s bonnets of this style:

A September 1864 plate shows four new styles of bonnets, at least one of which appears to be of the Marie Stewart shape, on page 66. A full scene plate of August 1865 has only one bonnet, but it is of a similar style to mine, on page 69. Two ensemble plates from October 1865 include bonnets of a similar style to mine, on page 70. (See below for more general bonnet references in this book.)

The early 1860s photograph (image 67) at the upper left of page 27 depicts a mother and small daughter, both of whom wear bonnets. The mother’s bonnet is a spoon shape with a slight dip at the top, while the daughter’s little bonnet has a very pronounced dip. The book’s text describes it as “heart-shaped,” but it is quite close to the Marie Stewart dipping point shape. The brim appears to be filled with a small frill.

Grayscale fashion plates of full ensembles: Figure 89, dated 1863, on page 127; Figure 90, dated July 1864, on page 127.

Quotation from Harper’s Bazar, November 2, 1867, on page 8: “The ‘airy fairy’ fanchon, so long popular, is gradually being deposed by the much more stately Marie Antoinette bonnet, more in keeping with the picturesque costumes now worn.” Quotation from Harper’s Bazar, November 2, 1867, on page 8: “The fanchon still lingers with us in a slightly changed form. It used to be a matter of some doubt which was the front and which the rear of this bonnet. But as now worn with the Marie Stuart point still remains in front, while the back is shorn of its points, being entirely straight on the chignon.” Quotation from Harper’s Bazar, November 23, 1867, on page 29: “The fanchon is so universally becoming that all efforts to displace it have failed.”

There is also a very useful section of the book that pulls information on “Making Bonnet Frames and Bonnets” directly from Harper’s Bazar of May 9, 1868, on pages 210-220.

Terminology: Although the source for the assertion is not cited, page 80 states that “After the Civil War, milliners conceived smaller [than spoon bonnets], curtainless Empire and Fanchon bonnets as larger and more elaborate chignons were worn high on the head.”

Extant: There are four photographs on page 82 of an extant spoon bonnet of moderate size which is fully trimmed with the original decorations. The inside of the brim retains “the original fine ruched silk tulle,” which goes around the entire inside edge of the brim. There are also artificial flowers at the top of the inside of the brim.

The lower left period photograph on page 76 shows a woman in an early 1860s bonnet of a slightly different shape, with a dense frill of what appears to be a crisp, sheer silk all around the inside of the brim. The earlier, wider bonnet in the left photograph on page 78 also has a frill on the inside of the brim, but it also appears to have flowers at the sides. The tall spoon bonnet in the second photograph down on page 79 has a dense frill inside the brim, as well as a spray of flowers. The lower right photograph on page 91 has a tall spoon bonnet which dips in the middle, though not quite to the full point of the Marie Stewart style; inside the brim there are frills at the sides and large flowers at the top.

Introduction, pages 4-5. Spoon Bonnet, 1855-60, with “A frill of silk net and cream silk lace…inside the brim,” on pages 58-59. Fanchon Bonnet, 1865-70, of a slighter later variety than mine (smaller), but of a similar variety, with a slight Marie Stewart style dip at the front, on pages 64-65. Mourning Bonnet, 1865-70, a similar fanchon to the previous example, again with a slightly pointed dip at the front, on pages 74-75. Information on trimmings, specifically ribbons, with photographs, pages 34-35. Glossary, page 94.

Grayscale fashion plates images, with descriptive text, from May-December 1865 of a selection of bonnets of this style, including some of the Marie Stewart variety, pages 144-149. See entry below for information on this this book as a general bonnet resource.

The figure at left in Plate 31, of June 1864, wears a bonnet of the Marie Stewart shape. It is described (on page viii) as a “White crepe bonnet, with a fall of point lace over the brim à la Marie Stewart.” Other plates which show bonnets of a style similar to mine: January 1865, Plate 32; April 1865, Plate 33; March 1865, Plate 34; November 1865, Plate 35; May 1865, Plate 37. See below for more general bonnet references in this book.

An April 1864 fashion plate from Peterson’s Magazine includes a bonnet of the Marie Stewart shape, which appears to have fringe hanging across the top of the brim, on page 267.

Print resources for 1860s bonnets in general:

A July 1861 plate offers the latest styles in millinery (three bonnets and one hat) with descriptions, on page 44. An August 1862 plate shows, among other things, two new spoon bonnet styles, with trimmings, on page 48. A full scene fashion plate of January 1864 includes two spoon bonnets, on page 57. A January 1864 plate depicting the back of a cape also shows the back of a bonnet, on page 59. A December 1864 full scene plate shows three spoon bonnets, two in side view and one back view, on page 64. A September 1864 plate shows four new styles of bonnets, at least one of which appears to be of the Marie Stewart shape, on page 66. A full scene plate of August 1865 has only one bonnet, but it is of a similar style to mine, on page 69. Two ensemble plates from October 1865 include bonnets of a similar style to mine, on page 70.

Schematic drawings, with notes, of extant bonnets: pages 191-193.

The photographs of dressed and posed mannequins sometimes have bonnets, but their details are not always readily discernible. However, several from around the early 1860s make appearances throughout pages 220-236.

While rather disorganized, this book pulls fashion and vast quantities of fashion information, including instructional articles, from original 1850s-60s ladies’ magazines; in this volume, all is about headwear. In addition to the section of 1865 bonnets in a style similar to mine, listed in the entry for this book above, there is a great deal of general useful information, and an immense array of images to look at for trimming and style inspiration. The section devoted to bonnets specifically is on pages 107-160

Full color fashion plates of complete ensembles, including bonnets: September 1862, Plate 28; November 1864, Plate 29; April 1864, Plate 30. See above entry for further references, to bonnets of a style specifically like mine.

Online resources:

1830s straw bonnet with plaid silk ties and white trimmings

Inspiration: My need for a charmingly enormous 1830s bonnet to go with my fashion plate gown; I’m not imitating any specific bonnet trimming style
Form:  Purchased reproduction straw form from Timely Tresses, of ivory-colored hemp braid in their 1835-1840 Frivolia style
Brim Lining:  White silk taffeta or habotai (which I still need to procure)
Crown Lining:  White cotton batiste
Ties and Ribbon Trim:  Plaid silk taffeta in cornsilk yellow, dove gray, and white, purchased at Delectable Mountain Cloth, which I will cut into wide (6″ plus) ribbons and turn narrow hand-stitched hems on.
Outer Trimmings:  Puffing and possibly a bow of the plaid taffeta ribbon, one large white ostrich feather from Timely Tresses.
Trimmings Inside Brim: Three bunches of white velvet lily and two bunches of ivory/yellow velvet violets from Timely Tresses (though I may move one of the bunches to the outside of the bonnet)
Thread:  TBD
Construction:  Linings and trimmings will be entirely hand-sewn, though I believe that the form itself is machine-stitched.
Current Status: I’ve ordered the form and trimmings, but currently all I have for this project is the fabric to be made into ribbons (which I’ve had for over a year, since I originally intended to make this bonnet as part of my 1830s clothing independent study). Since I’m using a straw form rather than buckram, as I’d originally intended, it should go together fairly quickly, so hopefully I can manage to finish my bonnet by my Div III final meeting – or at least by graduation!

Print resources for 1830s bonnets:

Grayscale fashion plates of complete ensembles, including bonnets, all dating from 1832: Figure 41 on page 70; Figures 42 and 43 on page 71; Figure 44 on page 72.

Grayscale fashion plates of complete ensembles, including bonnets, 1838-1840, pages 2-7. There are no color plates dated earlier than 1841.

There are schematic drawings of, and notes about, an extant bonnet on page 140; the bonnet is described as a “Large WHITE SILK BONNET; Trimmed white satin and pale blue ribbons” and appears to be the same bonnet as on pages 26-27 of Hats and Bonnets by Althea Mackenzie, where it is shown in photographs. Together, these sources offer a great deal of information about this bonnet, which is unusually well-preserved. Mackenzie dates the bonnet to the late 1820s. See entry for that book below for more information.

Images of extant 1830s bonnets on fully dressed mannequins: straw on page 190, silk-covered on page 191, page 194 (same bonnet/mannequin as page 190, from another angle), straw on 196/197 (same bonnet from two angles in two pictures).

In the first section of image plates, following page 32: there is a photograph dated “Summer 1840,” of a woman in a late 1830s style large bonnet, either drawn silk or with a shirred silk lining, plate 3; there is also a photograph of “Queen Victoria’s going-away bonnet after her marriage on 10 February 1840,” plate 4.

“Chapter XXI. The Art of the Milliner, or the Mode of making Hats, Toques, &c.” encompasses pages 522 through 564. It offers a great deal of useful information, translated and edited from 1820s and 1830s sources. Included is detailed information on trim, such as how to make different types of bows and ribbon trimmings, and about different types of ornaments. There are very few images, and most are of 1820s hats, but this section is overall a useful informational reference.

Grayscale fashion plates of full ensembles: Figure 51, dated 1834, on page 89; Figure 52, dated 1835, on page 89; Figure 55, dated c. 1837, on page 90; Figure 56, dated July 1837, the popular image of the seated woman in corset with a standing dressed woman beside her, on page 91; Figure 57, dated November 1838, on page 92; Figure 58, dated 1839, on page 92.

The text on “Women’s Bonnets” is on pages 158-162, including hoods and a caleche (or calashe). The associated plate is plate 20. There is some useful information about how to go about lining, covering, and trimming a bonnet. There is also a section on “Straw Plaiting” at the end of the book, on pages 278-290. This book can also be accessed online, so direct links to pages and plates are included.

Extant bonnets: a silk-covered bonnet from the 1820s or 1830s, page 47; a silk-covered bonnet dated “early 1830s,” page 51; a large drawn bonnet, c. 1836.

Fashion plates with bonnets: from Journal des Dames et des Modes, 1830, page 51; fashion plates including bonnets, c. 1830, pages 52 and 53; fashion plate, 1835, page 54; fashion plate with drawn bonnet, 1836, page 55.

Introduction, pages 4-5. Information on straw plaits, with photographs, pages 24-25. Enormous silk-covered bonnet of the late 1820s with intact puffs of ribbon, pages 26-27. Leghorn bonnet, 1830-35, with trims added later, pages 28-29. Winter bonnet, 1830-40, covered in novelty fabric, with a cream satin lining with a gathered strip around the brim edge, pages 30-31. Bonnet of the later, closer-fitting shape, dated “Late 1830s – 40s,” with interesting applied striped ribbon decorations, pages 32-33. Information on trimmings, specifically ribbons, with photographs, pages 34-35. Glossary, page 94.

Note: Futher information on the late 1820s silk-covered bonnet is available on page 140 of Nancy Bradfield’s Costume in Detail. There are schematic drawings of, and notes about, an extant bonnet; the bonnet is described as a “Large WHITE SILK BONNET; Trimmed white satin and pale blue ribbons” and appears to be the same bonnet as on pages 26-27 of Hats and Bonnets by Althea Mackenzie, where it is shown in photographs. Together, these sources offer a great deal of information about this bonnet, which is unusually well-preserved.

Full color fashion plates of complete ensembles, including bonnets, 1838-1840: plates 2-5, of which 2 and 3 are both double plates. Plate 6 is also dated 1840, but only evening styles, with evening headdresses, are pictured; there are no bonnets.

The plate shown on page 8 and described on page 9 is dated to c. 1842, but the style of the clothing is quite similar to fashions of the late 1830s, including the large bonnet, so it is useful for reference. The bonnet’s wide ribbon ties are left untied.

Two extant 1830s straw bonnets are shown on mannequins in 1830s gowns, page 34. Extant wedding bonnet of “cream silk with cream crêpe trimming and artificial lilacs 1835-39” shown on a table in a period room, along with a dummy head and a “milliner’s wooden delivery box 1820-50,” pages 87-88. Presumably the same wedding bonnet, shown with a veil, on a mannequin in an 1837 wedding dress, page 91.

Print resources for general millinery, not necessarily period:

This book is less likely to be useful, since it is geared for making hats more-or-less contemporary to the 1960s publication date. However, there is some good general information about materials and techniques.

Online resources, specifically collection photographs of extant bonnets:
(I have organized these roughly chronologically, based on the overall shape. As nearly as I can tell, the angle of the crown related to the brim, at the top, started out fairly acute with early bonnets of the regency era and 1820s, often around a right angle – more like a hat – and around the middle of the 1830s became gradually more obtuse [yes, geometry is relevant to bonnets!], eventually smoothing out completely in styles of the very late 1830s and the 1840s, including the “coal scuttle” bonnet.)

1830s cuffs of white cotton voile


Note: this is only a possibility. I need to check on whether cuffs were worn/required for this period, and for this style of dress. If I don’t need them, I probably won’t make them initially. If they’re optional, I’ll probably plan on making a pair later.

1830s chemisette of white cotton voile


1830s stays of white cotton sateen with white embroidery

These stays actually made it all the way through second mock-up and massive quantities of research and planning before I ran out of time during my Div III, and sadly, I haven’t gotten back to them yet. But soon, I’ll post my research.

In the meantime, here’s a link to my Pinterest board for 1830s Stays.

1830s rectangle-cut shift of white cotton

Inspiration: The basic shift in The Workwoman’s Guide and an early 19th century shift at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, accession number 99.664.51
Pattern: Drafted almost verbatim from the directions in the WWG in the largest size, but with slight alterations, to give it the right fit and proportions on my frame and to get it closer to the sleeve style of the MFA shift, which seems common, based on my research.
Fabric: 36″ wide white cotton utility muslin from JoAnn’s, cut narrower in order to follow the WWG drafting instructions as closely as possible
Thread: Plain cotton thread in white
Construction: Entirely hand-sewn
Seam finishes: Most seams have the seam allowances folded in against one another and overcast, but the two long side seams are finished with a run-and-fell seam.
Fun fact: When I finished sewing this, it was late at night…and I proceeded to put on my very comfy-looking shift and give it a test drive: I slept in it. It was indeed very comfy! And none of the seams bothered me at all.
Current Status: Finished! At some point, I may choose to add narrow sleeve ruffles like on the MFA inspiration shift and some others, but that’s just a possibility for the future. For the moment, it is DONE! Pictures soon.

I drafted this using the instructions in The Workwoman’s Guide, published 1838, for the “largest size” (of four), but I changed a couple of dimensions slightly in order to get the right fit and proportions on my frame, and to make it look like the inspiration shift in the MFA collection. As an exercise in taking the period approach, I kept all the measurements in nails rather than converting to similar measurements in inches. A nail is 2 ¼ inches; it’s also 1/16th of a yard.

I lengthened the front and back each 2 nails, or 4 ½ inches, (ergo, I lengthened the entire body piece by four nails), because the extant shifts I could find images of, and period illustrations of women with shifts on seemed to imply that shifts were quite long – at least mid-calf – in this period, and I’m quite tall for any time period, at 5’9″, and curvy, so that leads to additional take-up of length, especially under stays. Plus, I figured I could always cut off excess length or do a larger hem if needed, but it would be very unfortunate if my shift ended up too short.

I also changed the sleeve and sleeve gusset proportions slightly. I lengthened and widened the sleeve itself, to make it hit just above my elbow, and to make sure that there was some ease around my both-muscular-and-plump upper arms. I also made the gusset smaller, because none of the originals I could find images of seemed to have such large gussets and I didn’t need all that space. And, again, to make it look more like my inspiration image from the MFA, and other similar shifts that seem to represent common styles.

I’ll add more detail about the drafting and construction of this shift later, as well as images. For the moment, here are some resources…

A resource available both online and in print:

Also available, digitally and free of cost, via Google Books. The section on drafting this style of shift is on pages 46-47, with images on plate 6. Note that in the print version, that plate falls between the two text pages.

Print resources:

This book includes a slightly earlier shift, circa 1780-1810, that is quite similar in construction to many 1830s period shifts. The book includes written details about the shift as well as photographs, schematic drawings, and a pattern diagram. It was a helpful reference for figuring out what the WWG was referring to, and guessing how to go about construction.

There is a photograph of an extant chemise, circa 1825, with a ruffled neck edge, on page 129. This may be the same chemise shown on a model in Fabric of Society, because the same bodiced petticoat is in the photograph with this shift.

Extant garments on mannequins: a “chemise” dated 1820s can be seen on a mannequin who is also wearing stays and drawers, with puffed sleeves and ruffles around the neckline and sleeve bands, which reaches just below the knee on the mannequin, on page 200; on another mannequin, peeking out from under a “corset,” sleeve puffs, and corded petticoat, all dated 1830s, another “chemise” can be just seen, with a ruffle at the neckline and straight, slim sleeves that probably reach to just above the elbow and are finished with ruffles, on page 201.

There is some information about shifts of a similar but different style on pages 369 and 370. Additionally, the information on different “Common Stitches and Seams” was quite helpful, see pages 305-314.

An 1835 shift with a different type of construction is depicted on pages 12-13, with text, line drawings, and a detail photograph. The same shift is depicted, on a mannequin with other garments, in Four Hundred Years of Fashion, and can also be viewed on the V&A website.

Image 75, a photograph of a mannequin in 1830s underclothing, on page 35, with further information on page 143 about each individual garment: shift, circa 1835 (T.386-1960); drawers, circa 1834 (T.102-1931); corset, circa 1835 (T.3-1929). The same shift is pictured on page 12 of Underwear: Fashion in Detail, and can be viewed on the V&A website.

There is some discussion of the surviving collection of 1820s underclothing marked “Fanny Jarvis” on page 67, and a photograph of a model actually wearing a full complement of these antique undergarments, on page 68. Additionally, there is a full-color image of the four-part lithograph The Stages of the Toilette, circa 1830, on page 68. From the photograph of extant garments, the length of the shift cannot be determined, because the model is wearing other garments, including a bodiced petticoat, over the shift, but the sleeves reach to just above the elbow, and are relatively slim, cut straight. The shift in the lithograph is very long, reaching to at least mid-calf, and has full, puffed sleeves.

Online resources:

  • My inspiration shift at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, accession number 99.664.51. It has the basic cutting pattern, with straight sleeves and small-to-medium sleeve gussets, and no neckline ruffle, though it does have small sleeve ruffles, which I may add to my shift at some point.
  • A post on the mid-19th century authentic sewing forum, The Sewing Academy, in which user Beth Chamberlain posted an image of the above shift, on which she had helpfully drawn in the construction lines of the long triangles of fabric which are essentially swung from the sides at the top to the sides at the bottom in construction.
  • Another early 19th century shift at the MFA (accession number 52.1777), this one with a neckline ruffle and sleeve ruffles of a finer fabric than the body of the shift. It has straight sleeves, but they are gathered somewhat at the top of the shoulder.
  • The 1835 shift in the V&A Collection (accession number T.386-1960) that is constructed along different lines, with puffed sleeves and shoulder straps. This is the same shift that was mentioned above, as it was depicted in both Four Hundred Years of Fashion and Underwear: Fashion in Detail.

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.