Extant 1860's Evening Gown Bodice Details

Hello! It's that time of year again - the Prior Attire Victorian Ball is coming up fast, and we're all sewing frantically... well, I'm not because I don't have the energy, but I will be updating last years' dress to fit with the 'new' fashions of 1850-68.

The Fashion Museum Bath recently posted a beautiful pink and black dress on their social media channels, and I remembered that I had studied that dress up close on a research visit. So here are my photos of BATMC 1.09.1308 (A&B I think).

She's a separate bodice and skirt dated 1860-69, made of silk in moiré and velvet, plus lace trim.

The sleeves are formed of an inner, fitting short sleeve and a fuller outer sleeve. The inner sleeve has a small amount of gathered tulle trim at the hem, while the outer sleeve has two layers of lace with a strip of velvet ribbon covering the raw edges where they are attached to the main fabric. The inner sleeve is lined and the hem is finished with a row of piping. The outer sleeve is unlined and is finished with a narrow rolled hem.

The bertha collar is handstitched in place at the neckline after the bodice is complete. It is open at the centre back to allow for fastening. Both the top and undersides are velvet. There is a seam at the centre front, and the decorative knot is stitched on top of it. The black lace is stitched onto the outside and the ivory/white to the inside. There is a narrow black lace edging along the top front of the bertha.

The bodice is underlined (probably in cotton). I didn't make a note of whether or not the seams are machine stitched, but certainly they are hand-finished with overcasting, topstitching, and application of boning tape. The neck, waist, armscye and inner sleeve hems are finished with a single row of piping. The side back seams are topstitched to make a decorative faux flat piping look. The front and side seams are left plain. There are two hooks at each side to attach the bodice to the skirt. The back is spiral laced, with hand stitched eyelets. There are hooks and eyes on the inside at both top (neckline) and bottom (waist) of the lacing, for stability. The bodice is lightly boned, with three bones placed along the length of each front seam and one along each centre back edge. I don't know if the side seams are boned. It is comprised of eight panels: 2 x centre fronts, side fronts, side backs, and centre backs. There is a narrow lace trim stitched just inside the neckline.

The skirt is made up of a moiré underskirt with tulle overlay. Each layer has its own waistband, which are then stitched together in places. The moiré underskirt is underlined in glazed cotton and has a wide tulle frill at the hem. Excess fabric is folded towards the inside waist. Gauging (cartridge pleating) is used to distribute the fullness and the skirt is whipstitched onto its waistband. The tulle overskirt has two widths of decorative velvet ribbon stripes applied towards the hem, supported from the wrong side of the tulle by net fabric. The tulle is gathered onto a grosgrain ribbon waistband. Metal eyes are stitched to the waistbands (together) to correspond with the hooks on the bodice. The waist fastens with a large hook and eye.

The bodice:

Bodice front.

Bodice back.

Looking up under the bertha collar, front bodice.

Inside the bodice front.

Detail of seam with boning.

View of bodice back and sleeve with bertha collar lifted out of the way. This shows that the black lace is stitched to the outside/topside of the bertha collar, and the ivory/white lace is stitched to the underside.

The bertha collar and sleeves:

The velvet top layer (and main fabric) of the bertha collar. The narrow black lace edging the top of the bertha is seen here. It is only on the front of the bodice, not the back.

With the top layer of black lace lifted up.

With the layer of ivory/white lace lifted up, showing the sleeve. The sleeve lace is attached under the velvet ribbon.

With both layers of sleeve lace lifted to show the moiré outer sleeve hem.

With the outer sleeve shifted aside to show the inner, fitted sleeve with gathered tulle trim and piping at the hem.

Looking up into the sleeve, showing both inner and outer sleeves.

Lace details:

The skirt:

The black velvet ribbon applied decoration, with tape measure for reference.

Wrong side of overskirt hem, showing the netting that provides stability to the fine tulle in the area where the velvet ribbon decoration is applied. It gives the hem weight and body as well.

A very fuzzy photo just to show the selvedge of the tulle at the seam.

A 26cm deep tulle ruffle is applied to the right side of the moiré underskirt hem.

The wrong side of the moiré underskirt hem, showing the glazed cotton underlining.

A view of the skirt front waist showing the metal eyes that match up with the hooks on the bodice waist, lots of mending, and that the two layers of the skirt were stitched on separate waistbands. I'm not entirely sure why, and will need to revisit the garment to find out. Possibly to do with not having the tulle in the cartridge pleating; or possibly the yardages of moiré and tulle were different and so were easier to gather up onto waistbands separately then stitch together only at some points. 

Detail of the waistbands.

Inside the skirt, showing the excess fabric at the waist front turned towards the inside, the underlining, and the cartridge pleating at the back. The moiré and underlining appear to have been whipstitched onto their waistband.

Detail of the cartridge pleating. The tulle doesn't appear to be pleated up with the moiré here, which could be why they are on separate waistbands. Mending can be seen as well.

Another detail of the cartridge pleating, with the waist hook, mending, and a clear view of the grosgrain ribbon used as waistband for the tulle layer.

The moiré is so lustrous!

That's all for now, I'm going back to my little bit of sewing... Fingers crossed it'll be finished well before the ball... but how often does that happen, really?! Hehe :D


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