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Making a 1840s Floral Red Dress, Part One

06 Oct

This project was really spontaneous. Usually i’m a planner and I think about things for days or weeks before starting on them, but this project is an exception. I was feeling overwhelmed by other projects and wanted a break, but I still wanted to be productive. So I decided to make something new, and to try and make it from start to finish in forty eight hours!

I succeeded and in two days I had a fabulous [18]40’s dress.

The dress is a bit odd. Probably because I made it on a whim and spent about five minutes planning it before I got to drafting. The skirt and fabric choices are the type you would see on a day dress, but it’s an evening style bodice, so it’s kind of all over the place. However I still think it’s really lovely and I adore the end result because it’s so girly and delicate!

The original inspiration was this painting, I really loved the neckline and sleeves with the lace trim. I chose to use the floral home decor fabric I got many months ago in April, along with the matching buttons and a few yards of lace I bought on etsy over two years ago.

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I started by pleating a panel of fabric for the collar, then draped everything around that.

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When I was happy with that I removed it from the dress form and made a proper paper pattern. I’m really pleased that I managed to draft this without any seams in the front…even though front seams are more historically accurate I like how it looks without them so much more.

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The first piece I tackled was the pleated neckline, because I knew it would be the most difficult part.

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After cutting it out I marked all the pleat lines with a colored pencil.

DSC_8929Then pinned them into place.

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I used my iron on the highest setting and a very potent starch/water mixture to make sure these would stay in place.

DSC_8933When the pleats were finished I cut each panel down to match the “finished collar size” pattern, which will be used to cut out the lining later on.

I sewed across the front edge of the panels to keep the pleats in place when sewing the front seam.

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To make sure they would line up I pinned them very carefully, then used a pen and ruler to mark exactly where the seam needed to be.

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I hand basted across the line I drew.

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And they lined up perfectly, yay!

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I repinned the panels together, then sewed the seam with my machine.  I pressed the seam “open” from the front and back to make everything really flat.

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And they looked pretty damn good! Not completely perfect but pretty close.
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I set aside the collar and moved on to the main part of the bodice, which is made up of three pieces.

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On the back panels I sewed in loops of ribbon, my plan was that the bodice could be laced up, then closed with a false front of buttons and snaps.

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Once all the pieces were sewn together the ribbon became encased in the seams.

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I set my bodice aside and resumed work on the collar. The next step involved tacking the pleats down. I do this by marking out lines every three inches and pinning the pleats in place.

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Then using a matching thread color and tiny whip stitches I secure the pleats together. If done right the stitches should not be visible from the front.

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Once the tacking was finished I hemmed both edges.

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I also hemmed the lower edge and arm holes on the bodice.

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Before attaching my collar I added the lace. This lace was originally a pure, bright, blue toned white that didn’t match at all. I put it in a plastic bag with hot water and two tea bags for ten minutes until it was the ivory tone I wanted.

I draped and pinned it to the neckline until I liked how it looked, then trimmed it and repeated the process on the other side.

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Here is how it looks cleaned up, just before it was sewn down.

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 After the lace was sewn down I attached the pleated neckline.

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Lastly I attached buttons and snaps to two strips of floral material. These serve as the closures on the bodice and were stitched on to the center back.

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On the finished bodice they look like this!

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Next week I’ll talk about adding the lining, making sleeves, and the skirt.

Thanks for reading!

 

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12 responses to “Making a 1840s Floral Red Dress, Part One

  1. alijaggard

    October 6, 2014 at 3:37 pm

    This is amazing! I can definitely see how the painting inspired you but you’ve really made it your own, can’t wait to read the rest 🙂

     
  2. marsi

    October 6, 2014 at 3:50 pm

    I am so amazed at your dedication & patience with your sewing. It is always so intricate! Btw….what kind of dress form do you have? It looks like it’s true to your size. I have one that’s kind of clunky that I need to pad up or just get me a better kind. Thanks in advance for your input.

     
  3. empress27

    October 6, 2014 at 4:54 pm

    Absolutely gorgeous! The detail is amazing.

     
  4. Ann

    October 6, 2014 at 5:24 pm

    Gobsmacked I tell ya, gobsmacked. To be able to go from a painting , to a muslin, to a finished,and I do mean finished, creation is nothing short of awe inspiring. Your attention to detail and painstaking handwork results in a work of art. Like alijaggard I shall be impatiently awaiting the finished design.

     
  5. Cathy Kizerian

    October 6, 2014 at 5:35 pm

    You never cease to amaze me! Your attention to detail and sheer talent to design as you do is such a gift! BTW, I LOVE that lace!

     
  6. Karen K.

    October 6, 2014 at 10:00 pm

    Lovely! I adore the lace on the bodice! I am not big on floral prints, but this dress may change my mind! I can’t wait to see the rest!

     
  7. Jeanette Russell

    October 7, 2014 at 8:52 am

    Love these blogs of yours- amazing- I adore your delight and creations. Thank you so much for sharing…

     
  8. Isabel Kylander

    October 9, 2014 at 2:12 pm

    I would love to be able to make something like this. It is so beautiful, you are such a talent!

     
  9. Molly Brooks

    October 15, 2014 at 11:33 am

    I love the bodice! The lace is so beautiful. Of course, I’m a lace freak, but still. I personally am not too big on floral prints, but I love the way this one looks on the bodice. great job!!!!

     
  10. Rachel Fagan

    November 15, 2014 at 5:46 pm

    I found you! Someone doing exactly what I want to do! I made a duct tape mannequin of myself, searched tons of pinterest pics of dresses and found your blog! I may be able to start now!

     
  11. Lexie M

    December 29, 2014 at 5:49 am

    I think this dress is absolutely gorgeous! It is my favourite that you have done so far! I would really like to see pictures of it worn as well 🙂 you are so inspirational 😀

     
  12. Yelena

    October 18, 2015 at 11:38 am

    How much fabric did you need in total? I’d love to sew an 1840’s dress, but I’m not sure about the amount of fabric I’d need.

     

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