Shirtwaist, jabot and a betl
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1890s shirtwaist, jabot and a belt

I bought the 1890s waists pattern by Laughing Moon Mercantile and decided to test it by making it into a shirtwaist. The pattern is meant for a lined bodice but I left out the lining and added a bit length to keep the shirtwaist neatly tucked in. I also made a matching cotton velveteen belt and a silk jabot.

The shirtwaist

When you browse Pinterest for late Victorian and early Edwardian shirtwaists they all seem to be white. However, colourful shirtwaists (or waists for short) were a thing, like this 1898 picture from The Delineator shows:

1898 waists from The Delineator.

I wanted to make a nice, easily maintained everyday blouse out of cotton poplin. I found a perfect fabric from Karnaluks, Tallinn, and it arrived quickly.

Printing the pdf pattern proved a bit challenging. The pattern was meant for printshops and it had several A0 pages that were not tiled. I asked my local printshop for their price for printing one A0 page and it was something like 10 €. Printing the pattern would have costed about 100 €! After splitting the pdf into separate pages I was able to tile each page into A3 sheets that my home printer was able to handle. Still, I had to feed every page manually from the back of the printer. At least I halved the amount of cutting and taping!

I decided to combine the bodice from view A with the sleeves from view E. The size 12 seemed closest to my measurements so I went with it and it was a good choice. The only thing I did was to add a little bit of room for my shoulders.

1890s waist, buttons at the back.

I moved the buttons to the back which made the construction easier without lining. I was lucky that even though I forgot to modify the collar pattern, it fitted well even when I sewed it on backwards (because it, too, opened from the front, originally).

Sideview of my new shirtwaist.

The poof of the front was a bit too big originally, so I reduced it a bit by taking out from the length at the centre front. I think it was mostly due to my stiff fabric and it might have worked well with a fabric with more drape. I first tried the blouse with the original narrow waistband, just hooking it to my skirt but that didn’t work. There was horrible gaping at the waistline and it didn’t look nice. Then, I drafted a sort of peplum and added it to the blouse and that fixed the problem.

I liked the sleeves a lot even though the huge 1890s sleeves seem to be growing on me. I will have to make a shirtwaist with those gigantic 1895 sleeves at some point just to see what they would look like on me!

Although I struggled with printing (this was clearly stated on the site as the pattern was meant to be professionally printed) I absolutely fell in love with this pattern and all the options.

If you have the pattern, you may have noticed that I left out the ruffles from the view E and made a very simple blouse. The ruffles were just too big and stiff when made out of this fabric. The sewing instructions were excellent and well illustrated which is very important with these kinds of historical garments that look misleadingly simple but may contain construction methods that are not used anymore.

The belt

The velveteen belt was an experiment. I have been eyeing Edwardian belt patterns online for a while but paying for such a simple pattern felt unnecessary. I decided to make my own pattern based on schematics of the book The Evolution of Fashion by Margot Hamilton Hill and Peter Bucknell. To get the fit right, I made a toile out of thick paper and then made some changes so that it fitted around my waist area. Finally, I don’t think the final result has a shape that has anything to do with the pattern I started with but then, I don’t have that super narrow corseted waist either.

Another sewing book Kukin oma ompelijansa (in original German Ich kann Schneidern) from the year 1915 (originally 1909) had pretty good instructions for making a belt. So I cut a piece of hair canvas in bias. I think that ideally one should have a centre front seam to have correct grainline but from the picture it seems that I didn’t have it. This was probably because I used canvas scraps from previous projects.

I then sewed seven boning channels and added artificial whalebone bones.

The belt canvas.

Next, I placed the canvas onto the cotton velveteen fabric and turned the seam allowances in.

Adding the outer fabric.

I slip stitched the seam allowance onto the canvas.

Sewing on the outer fabric to the belt canvas.

Then I covered the wrong side with the lining fabric and fasted the lining by hand. I made a small placket at the centre back and added a hook-and-eye closure.

The jabot

I felt that something was still missing. I wanted to balance the dark green belt and the skirt with a little dash of that colour around my neck. Thus, I needed to make a jabot.

I had a piece of silk satin fabric that I used to construct a bow. Then I made a small medallion to hang from the centre of that bow. I used one of those oval-shaped pendant bases to which I added a picture of some flowers that I had printed out. A cover glass (or plastic?) piece makes the pendant look professionally made. I furthermore painted the dull grey frame with gold acrylic paint to make it pop. To finish, I added a green velvet ribbon that goes around the collar and fastens with a hook and eye.

My green silk jabot.

I think that the jabot looks great but it has a tendency to rise at the back. Were there such things as belt-loops for jabots? Or maybe I should just pin it on with a safety pin?

The finished look

I think that this waist, belt and jabot looks great with my first walking skirt. The belt could have been just slightly narrower but it’s not completely horrible. Making a belt like this is a short project so I can make another one and modify my existing pattern.

The finished outfit.
Another picture of the finished outfit: the jabot, belt and the shirtwaist.

Thank you for reading and see you soon! Stay healthy and get vaccinated as soon as it is your turn!


I am a mother of two. I sew, knit and create and blog about it.

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