Thursday, July 2, 2020

...And a 1910s outfit

A technical note: I'm re-publishing this, which was originally published June 5, because something went wonky with the blog post, and it appeared on the main page but not when you tried to view it as an individual page.

The finished product--a 1910s outfit.

I've been working along behind the scenes for some months now, buying [too much] material and [too many] patterns, looking at old fashion plates and the projects posted by other costumers online, and generally making plans. This was all groundwork for a series of projects I have planned, and it's been a long time in coming to fruition. But at last, my efforts are starting to bear actual fruit, and I'm very proud.

The first fully-realized outfit to come out of this whirlwind of planning is my 1910s ensemble: a blouse, chemisette/guimpe, skirt, jacket, and hat. I knew I wanted a 1910s look (better than the one I'd previously put together), and I'd been skimming the Internet for inspiration. I wanted to find a period image (so that the final product ended up looking credible) but to use modern-day patterns to achieve the look (because I needed a pattern to start off of). Finally, I came across the following image:


To my delight, I realized I had the perfect fabric. I had bought some slate-gray, white-polka dot, wool-blend fabric for another project. When I got the fabric, I realized that, while I loved it, it was much too heavy for the intended purpose. I had gotten some white-and-navy-blue-striped fabric at the same time; it was lighter-weight, but, until this point, I hadn't been quite sure what to do with it, either. But when I found this image, it all came together perfectly. The two fabrics I'd bought would work beautifully together to create the outfit in the image.

What was more, I knew which patterns I would use. So I had a plan.


Fabric: white cotton lawn (about 1.25 yards), black lace of unknown fiber content (I think it's a natural fiber, though), white lace of unknown fiber content (but almost certainly not natural fiber).

Let me preface this by saying something I've said before. I'm 4'11" and have a rather odd, boxy shape and very short arms and legs, so I have to heavily alter every pattern I start with. I was measuring up one of the patterns and got so frustrated at the difference between the pattern measurements and my own measurements that I literally scrawled in my notebook, "WHO DID THEY MAKE THIS PATTERN FOR, GIANTS?"

The first piece I tackled was the blouse. This pattern is made of four pieces: the center front panel, the center back panel, and one panel each for the left and for the right sides. There's no seam at the shoulder; the side panels start at the front waist, goes up over the shoulder, and continue down to the back waist. It closes up the side. These side panels are held together by the front and back panels (which are kind of like an 18th century stomacher, but, you know, both front AND back).

Mocking up the blouse on my new dress form.

I think all this made it harder to fit the pattern to me, because boy did I struggle with this one. I think I went through four mock-ups, using up a lot of muslin in the process. My main problems were wrinkles under the arms and across the back, and weirdly-fitting sleeves. The angles on the original pattern did not work at all on me, but I had a lot of difficult finding the right angles. Eventually, I got to something that I was satisfied with. Perhaps someone with more skill could've done a better job, and maybe I could've stuck with it and made it perfect--but probably not, and I frankly decided I'd fiddled with the damn thing long enough.

Once I was done with mocking it up, the rest was actually pretty simple. I cut out the pieces from my white lawn and sewed them together (simple, straight-ish seams all around). I decorated the front and back panels with black lace and added some black buttons to ground the black lace. I decorated the cuff with white lace and black buttons.

Of course, the blouse really wouldn't have been worn alone but with a chemisette (or guimpe). This fills in the neckline up to the chin--a very typically Edwardian look. The 1918 dinner dress I recently made included a pattern for a chemisette to fit into the triangular neckline. I used the pattern but made the bottom square instead of triangular. For the "fabric", I used the same 2.5"-wide lace that I'd used on the cuffs of the blouse. I pieced it together at the edges so that the front and back are each four panels of lace wide. I used literally every last bit of the lace to finish the collar part of the chemisette; that bit of lace ran in the opposite direction (horizontal) to the lace on the rest of the chemisette (vertical). I added some hooks and eyes for closure, but I made a hash of that am going to redo it. I'll either reconfigure the hooks and eyes or do buttons with thread loops instead.

That's the blouse done.

All the lace that was left after making the chemisette.

It looks a little silly tucked into jeans, but this
is the blouse with the chemisette.


Fabric: slate-gray white-polka dot wool blend (about 1.75 yards); 1 yard of belting.

This pattern is designed to go along with the blouse pattern above. Probably if you're the same size bottom and top, the front panels match up so it's one long line from the neck to the hem. But am I the same size on the bottom and top? Of course not. I bet that's the same for a lot of women.

In any case, the skirt was actually surprisingly easy (less fiddly than fitting the blouse). Skirts do tend to be easier because the only thing I really have to alter is the length. That was the case here. It was a little trickier because of the kick pleats at the bottom of the skirt. See, I determined from day one that I needed to take off 8 inches from the skirt. Yep, eight whole inches. Did I mention that I'm really bloody short? I'm really bloody short. However, if I just took the 8 inches off the bottom, the kick pleat would be basically gone. On the other hand, if I took it from the top, then I'd have a disproportionately long kick pleat. So I took out four inches from above and four inches from below the kick pleat.

This was a PDF pattern I printed myself and taped together. So what I did was fold the pattern up by 2 inches (which actually eliminated a total of 4 inches) at a point above and at a point below the kick pleat. Then I untaped some of the pages and scooted them over (inwards) so that the vertical lines of the skirt matched up again (when I took out those 4 inches, it interrupted the line of the skirt, of course). This had the result of narrowing the width of the skirt all the way down, but that was desirable, too. Again, I'm a small person. The less fabric, the better. And if I had kept the same width and just drawn a new line connecting the old line with the new line, I would've ended up with a skirt that flared out too much, and it would no longer have been "narrow" but a-line. I hope all of that, or any of it, makes sense.

I did a mock-up just to make sure everything was kosher, and it was, so I moved on to the fashion fabric. Doing the kick pleat required some careful attention to the directions. It involves basting the seam (I did it by hand to make it easy to take out later) part of the way down and pressing the seam allowance towards the front, then topstitching it down and removing the basting stitches. That's how you get the "panel" look. In any case, I didn't run into any difficulties there.

Where I ran into difficulties was the internal waistband. I was wildly optimistic in thinking that the muslin waistband I'd used in my mock-up would work. After all, I had fit it very nicely to my waist and I was happy with it. 

Oh, wait. Let me back up a bit. This skirt, like many skirt of the time, has an internal waistband. It sits just above the natural waist and has little darts in it to hold it close to the body. It is attached along its top edge to the top to the skirt and thereby supports the skirt while the skirt skims nicely down the body. To make this work, the waistband has to be well-fitted, but it also has to be sturdy enough to support the skirt. The fabric I chose for the skirt, a wool blend, was quite heavy, and the muslin was really pathetically unable to support it. I searched out "belting", which is what the pattern calls for (should've listened to the pattern to begin with, huh?) and found it (online) at Mood.

While I waited for the belting to arrive in the mail, I moved on to the jacket, but I'll get to that in a minute. Once I got the belting in the mail the other day, I set right to fitting it and then sewing it into the skirt (carefully by hand so that the stitching isn't visible from the outside). I sewed in the hook-and-bar closures, and voila, I had a skirt!

I mean, for the most part I had a skirt. The hem still needed to be leveled (the back was longer than the front) and, you know, hemmed. So I did that the other day to complete the look.

Levelling the skirt hem. Put it on the coffee table to get some height.


Fabricwhite-and-navy-blue striped wool blend (about 1.5 yards); same slate gray white-polka dot fabric as skirt for facings (about .5 yards).
PatternWearing History 1916 jacket (the pattern is for a jacket and skirt, but I only wanted/needed the jacket so only bought that part of the pattern).

This was another one that gave me fitting problems. The pattern gives sizes based on bust, by which I was not the smallest size. And yet when I measured the pattern pieces, it became evident that anything but the smallest size would swamp me. So I started with the smallest size and started reworking it from there, taking width out of the shoulder seam and bringing up the armscye and taking length off the bottom of the jacket. This is easy to say but was difficult to do--keep in mind, I'm entirely untrained and have no bloody idea what I've doing. I'm winging it based on hopes, prayers, and Internet tutorials (I'd be lost without help from the Internet).

I got the torso to a place I was happy with and moved on to the sleeves, which gave me no end of trouble. They were ludicrously too big--like I wrote in my journal, I don't know who this pattern was made for, but they must have really, really long arms! In any case, I spent hours fiddling with the damn sleeves, trying to get rid of the slight wrinkles at the back. But again, I felt that I wasn't going to get any further by fiddling with it more, and I was reasonably happy with the fit. So I moved on to the fashion fabric.

One of the things I loved about this pattern was the option for a sailor collar, which is exactly what was in the image I found (really, the patterns and fabric worked out perfectly to create this project). In the image, you also see the lapel and collar are faced with contrasting dark fabric, the same fabric as the skirt. So naturally, I used the striped fabric for the jacket and faced it with the slate-gray fabric I used for the skirt. I had to fiddle with the way the collar met the lapel, because it was off for some reason, but that wasn't too hard--I didn't mess with the pattern, I just eyeballed it and pinned it in place and then sewed it. In any case, with that achieved, I set in the sleeves, again struggling to get out the wrinkles.

To finish the jacket, I added buttonholes and black buttons and made a belt (with black buttons, naturally). The black buttons match the buttons on the blouse, though you can't see the blouse when the jacket it on.

And with that, I had a jacket and a complete outfit!


As soon as I had the waistband in my skirt, I put on the whole ensemble, even though the skirt wasn't hemmed. I actually took it all off, then decided to put it back on, do my hair, and take some photos. I'll let you in on a secret. I'm actually wearing bright pink socks here, but you can't see them.

All in all, I'm really pleased with the look I achieved here. It is actually quite close to the original, which I'm proud of. I put in a lot of work and thought, and it paid off nicely, I think.


I will post some time in the future about the hat. You see the hat in my pictures, but that is the *unimproved* hat.

I also have a lot of the gray fabric left over. I might use it to make a 1910s toque hat, and I am heavily considering using it for an 1860s paletot (coat), even though I don't think polka dots would be correct for the period. I also have enough of the navy-striped fabric to make a whole dress out of; that will be well down the road, I think.

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