This costume was a commission for Dickens Fair. It is a 3 piece outfit that the peformer can put on herself without assistance, as the bodice hooks up center front. To make the ruching trim I cut several yards of navy blue cotton into strips, joined them into several longer strips, hemmed both sides, then ran them through a ruffler machine.
I had plenty more of this navy cotton, so I made it into a skirt to mix and match with the bodice.
The underblouse was gathered in rows across the front, in imitation of smocking.
Here is one of my references, showing most of the historical fashion elements I used in this project. The 1851 fashion plate shows the deep V neckline, the smocked-front underblouse, and sleeve shape on the left dress; and the right dress has 3 rows of vertical trim down the skirt (rather than having 2 rows like the bodice).
Here we have one of our local dandies getting ready to go to the Dickens Fair. Said he: “I have realized this is the only place I will ever buy a cravat. I can make my own cravats, but these are so exquisite!” He chose this grey embroidered one, to add to his collection of Fitting and Proper cravats from previous years.
For most of the 19th Century, women wore pockets underneath their dresses. This way, their pocket could stay loaded (the way a purse does) and be put on each morning as part of their dressing routine. We will have these available for sale this weekend at the rehearsals for Dickens Fair along with skirts, aprons, bloomers, waistcoats, and all manner of Victorian clothes.
Here is the sewing tool I treasure most: my thimble ring. Without it I don’t know how I could have done these buttonholes. I was out of black buttonhole silk so I tried using poly “button thread,” and pushing a needle loaded with that, through the layers of wool and buckram interfacing, was a real bear. After the first two buttonholes shown above, I headed for my stash of crochet thread and did the rest in #10 pearl cotton.
Here is the finished project: a pair of fall front trousers, straight leg, circa 1840s.