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Author Topic: Making an 1880’s woman’s costume  (Read 16939 times)
VampirateMace
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« on: October 07, 2013, 10:11:49 pm »

For an upcoming exhibit at the museum where I volunteer, we’ve been given the option of wearing our standard red polo and slacks, or dressing in 1880 costume.  (well, 1883-1896, with a focus more on 1880s)

Dress up as a Late Victorian woman? Challenge accepted.

It’s got to be fairly accurate. I’ve been looking around at patterns and pre-made items. Most companies seem to forgo things like the straight collar in interest of comfort, even in ‘historical’ patterns. Ladies Emporium has some nice blouses and walking suits that would be appropriate, but it’s a tad expensive and I’m nervous about buying clothes I can’t try on anyways, because I’m plus sized with a high waist.

I’ve decided, that first, I’m going to try making a blouse. Looking at several blouses and what patterns I could, it seems fairly straight forward. I’ve taken my measurements and will sketch out a full-size pattern on newsprint so I can test it, and adjust it. - The plus to this being that I can tailor the pattern to my body and create more of an hourglass even without a corset.

If that goes well, then I’ll need to make or find a skirt of appropriate style. I’m not as worried about this as skirts haven’t changed as much, though I’d probably need to hide the elastic if using a modern skirt. I understand it should be a more of a bell shaped skirt (with some exceptions), long, and possibly worn with a bustle or rear ruffle (as the bustle was on it’s way out).

Additionally, I understand that I need:
Stockings (cloth)
Underskirt/petticoat
Boots or Heels (these may not end up being that accurate, as I’ll be walking a lot)
A fan (to stay cool, of course)
A small bag  (leather or beaded)

Am I forgetting anything?
Does anyone have any tips or hints?
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Argus Fairbrass
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« Reply #1 on: October 07, 2013, 10:30:08 pm »

Not that I'm discouraging you making your own stuff in any way, that would very possibly yield better results. But just for future reference Gentlemans Emporium essentially re brands clothing made by Scully Westernwear, Wahmaker and Frontier Classics. So if they have something that has caught your eye, search specifically for those labels and see if you can find any vendors cheaper or closer to your area.

http://www.wwmerc.com/cgi-bin/Category.cgi?category=4000&type=store
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VampirateMace
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« Reply #2 on: October 07, 2013, 11:50:42 pm »

Thanks, that'll be helpful to know if I end up deciding to buy some things. I saw they were getting some things special order from other companies, but I didn't know which ones.
« Last Edit: October 07, 2013, 11:57:36 pm by VampirateMace » Logged
ColeV
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« Reply #3 on: October 08, 2013, 12:40:43 am »

Skin out what I'd recommend having is a chemise or slip to absorb sweat (easily washed and prevents see-though blouse problems), an under petticoat (it would probably be less noticeable to not have any extra padding. I work at a historic site and get "padding" comments all the time), stockings (cotton above-knees can be found from any Rev or Civil war sutler), shoes (flat, black, half-boots are everywhere this season), blouse, skirt, and a simple "waist" or belt. Check out Ageless patterns for some more everyday styles. The 1891 shirt waist or 1888 belted bodice would do very well, as well as the 1892 bell skirt. Not too fussy that way. There are also a number of books with patterns in them for that time period. Janet Arnold, Norah Waugh, and Kristina Harris come to mind.
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VampirateMace
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« Reply #4 on: October 08, 2013, 02:44:37 am »

Yes, I suppose I really don't need any padding, people have a tendency to look down upon being overweight to any degree more when you're in costume.

The belt, yeah, if I don't finish the blouse with a shape and lace intended to go over the skirt, then I'll need one. That should be simple to make.
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walking stick
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« Reply #5 on: October 08, 2013, 07:51:22 am »

Look at period hairstyles, do a couple of practice runs of whichever one you end up doing.  If you need to add pieces or wear a wig, do extra practice.
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Fairley B. Strange
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« Reply #6 on: October 08, 2013, 11:03:20 am »

For an upcoming exhibit at the museum where I volunteer, we’ve been given the option of wearing our standard red polo and slacks, or dressing in 1880 costume...



If the standard uniform is a red polo-shirt, your Victorian outfit should have a brooch something like this:

http://fc02.deviantart.net/fs71/f/2012/333/0/0/close_up_of_steampunk_star_trek_badge_2_by_treevor-d5mlczg.jpg    Cheesy
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ColeV
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« Reply #7 on: October 08, 2013, 01:13:09 pm »

Oh! And wearing a hat indoors and out was standard "fully dressed" in front of guests. Ladies removing their hat (publicly) indoors seems more based on the size of hat and event (large hats don't do well in the theatres or at dances and were often banned).
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Argus Fairbrass
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« Reply #8 on: October 08, 2013, 04:14:54 pm »

I also concluded (I have no idea if this is true but it seems to make sense) that ladies hat etiquette differed from the gents for reasons of practicality.

A lot of their styles seemed to involve pinning up their hair and then the hats onto them. So I guess removing them would be a rather convoluted process and potentially cause all sorts of scandalous bouffant malfunction.
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VampirateMace
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« Reply #9 on: October 08, 2013, 06:41:26 pm »

Thanks, walking stick, I do plan on figuring out a hairstyle. I don’t think I’ll need a wig, but I have fine hair (hopefully I inherited the rare gene that keeps you from going grey). I should check on what’s period make-up or lack thereof, too.

Lol, Strange, thank you for that… I’m actually glad we normally wear red uniforms, people are predisposition to listen to anyone in any sort of uniform (even chef clothes or janitorial overalls), and men have a tendency to do what women in red request.

 ColeV, I’ve been wondering about that… the exhibit is set up to look like various locations indoor and outdoors. So, a smaller hat might be good.

Argus, yes… and out of tradition, I think.

Pics when I get a little further in this.
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VampirateMace
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« Reply #10 on: October 10, 2013, 05:28:46 am »

Here’s a shot of cut patterns, fabric, and my work paper. I made the pattern with larger than usual hem margins, because I know it’d be easier to take it in if it ends up a little to big, than to take it out if it ends up a little too small. I’ve actually already cut the pieces now, and have enough fabric for part of the skirt (I’ve seen some period/replica examples of skirts where the sides, or sides and back match the blouse, but the rest is a complementary or contrasting fabric).

I already have a few choices for fans, I have a wicker type of fan (shown here, modern, but from materials that would have been around), and a small antique celluloid fan (also shown here, era appropriate, but would need restrung as the ribbon is in pieces, a simple task)… I’ve also got a woven fan from Mexico in a traditional design (era appropriate if the location was different), and of course I’ve the ability to make paper fans in traditional Victorian designs (but that would be more appropriate for a girl than a woman).
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walking stick
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« Reply #11 on: October 10, 2013, 06:32:10 am »

Not the celluloid fan. too many people would say "but they didn't have plastic then"and having to explain every time would get old very quickly.
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VampirateMace
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« Reply #12 on: October 10, 2013, 07:00:13 am »

Since the business is education, I'm kind of used to explaining the same concept or historical fact over and over again, but it could distract from the intention of wearing a costume. It's probably the most accurate of my current choices though.
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walking stick
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« Reply #13 on: October 10, 2013, 08:33:38 pm »

There's a website I think you'll like
http://historicalsewing.com/
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frances
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« Reply #14 on: October 10, 2013, 08:45:35 pm »

The thing I work on most to get right is the silhouette, the body shape.  Fashions changed rapidly in the period you mention from ruched-up overskirt, to huge bustle, to no bustle, to small puffed sleeves and great big puffed sleeves.  I always work from a picture/s I think will suit me.  I make a large copy of it/them and pin it/them up on the wall.  So every time I pass I look at the little details that make it authentic-looking rather than 'dressing-up'.  Most people can recognise something that looks right.

You have decided not to wear a corset by the sound of it.  Do you have a good uplift bra that you can use - a corset makes the bust go a couple of inches higher than nature intended.  Your bodice/blouse should then be tailored so that it does not wrinkle at all, which may mean that you need to put boning up the seams.  At this time blouses and bodices opened at the front with a a sort-of cross-over piece that goes to the other shoulder to fasten.

Anyway, enough of me, do you have a picture that you are using as the basis?
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VampirateMace
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« Reply #15 on: October 11, 2013, 04:20:22 am »


Here’s the blouse, without buttons and still needing a couple spots of hand-stitching. It looks a bit awkward here, the sleeves look too long, I tried to make the leg of mutton sleeves, but they’re only just a bit fuller than regular sleeves, while the torso came out just a little shorter than I intended (though with the skirt that should be okay). Overall, I’m pretty happy it’s come out this good, as I never made a blouse before (full size at least), and it fits pretty nice.

Honesty, frances, I looked at a bunch of reference and made a simple pattern from there. I didn’t notice any cross-over to the shoulder… maybe I did this wrong, but at least I gave it a go. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just fairly accurate, though I wish I could do it perfect. I’ve got a actual pattern for the skirt, and it’s intended for a small bustle. I’ve got a bra that’ll do the trick, but if I had more time I might go looking for a corset or a pattern for one, but I’ve never worn one so I’m a bit nervous to commit to wearing one all day, though I’ve heard several people say they’re quite comfortable in theirs.
« Last Edit: October 11, 2013, 04:28:07 am by VampirateMace » Logged
frances
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« Reply #16 on: October 11, 2013, 08:27:07 pm »

That is very pretty. 

If you want the sleeves to puff up what you do is make an under-sleeve that is just like a normal narrow sleeve.  Sew the two together at the shoulder and wrist, and the outer, looser, sleeve will look more puffed.  You can also add a little gathered net 'ruff' under the top of the outer sleeve - sewn into the seam.  This will make the top of the sleeve go up before it falls down, and so look more puffed.
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VampirateMace
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« Reply #17 on: October 11, 2013, 08:51:22 pm »

Ah... okay. I figured if the lower sleeve was fitted then the upper sleeve didn't have anywhere to go, and that I could add in netting or stuffing if nessecary, but it seems like I didn't really cut it big/long enough for much puff anyways.
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VampirateMace
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« Reply #18 on: October 22, 2013, 05:50:08 am »


Blouse with buttons (shell, I know metal is the popular choice, but I had matching shell ones already… Yes, I know I’m going to have to explain to people that they aren’t plastic…) and Skirt, I decided to do the leftover blouse material as ruffles down the back built into the skirt. Hope to get a picture of myself, it still looks funny on the hangers.

Sort of bare minimum at this point, but ready to go. Also restrung the celluloid fan (though I’m not sure I have a free had for it now that I’ve been in the exhibit once in standard uniform), made a small cushion bustle, dug up some ribbon. I’ve got some lace around too, I’ll probably be adding to the costume, making alternate accessories, and such,  over the course of the exhibit.

Hair’s tricky, pinned up curly hair, with long bangs was pretty popular. I have fine straight hair that won’t hold a perm, but a bun with a ribbon around it might do the trick.

Anyhow, thanks again everyone.
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VampirateMace
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« Reply #19 on: February 10, 2014, 01:25:26 am »

Update:
In case anyone was curious, the costume went over pretty well, and I was the only one on my shift time who had a period costume (I’m not sure anyone else had a costume at all). I even had other staff that were calling their friends who worked in other areas of the museum over, because they wanted to show them my homemade costume. I got to explain a lot about Late Victorian fashion to several curious young ladies, which rolled nicely into one of the subjects of the exhibit, poisonous house-hold products, as the Victorians had some seriously dangerous make-up products.
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Argus Fairbrass
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« Reply #20 on: February 10, 2014, 02:30:29 am »

Glad it all went well. Smiley
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Drew P
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« Reply #21 on: February 10, 2014, 03:11:23 am »

Excellent!
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VampirateMace
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« Reply #22 on: February 10, 2014, 03:24:40 am »

Thanks guys

- I guess this is pretty much a dead topic now. Though I'm considering making a blouse or two based on this one for everyday wear, with a less claustrophobic collar.
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Arabella Periscope
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« Reply #23 on: February 10, 2014, 07:25:11 am »

How about a picture of the finished costume with you in it? 
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VampirateMace
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« Reply #24 on: February 10, 2014, 07:33:14 am »

You're right, I still haven't done that, I should get on that.
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