My daughter is coming with me for an event this week and needed an 1850s dress. This time we decided to collaborate. She made the skirt by herself as her school’s craft class required some sort of sewing project. Originally, all that was left for me was the bodice. But then I saw the weather forecast for the event and I realized that it was going to be pretty chilly. I didn’t want her to freeze, so I made her a talma cape from linen as well.
About the pattern
This time I didn’t film anything but I did make a 1860s dress and used almost the same pattern for the bodice, so you will see the making of it soon. Both bodice patterns were based on the 1860s day dress pattern in the book Victorian Dressmaker by Izabela Pitcher. For my daughter’s 1850s dress, I shortened the bodice pattern and took it in a bit. I also made the front pointed and removed the back peplum-bit to make the bodice more 1850s in shape. For the sleeves, I added just a bit more width to make them more puffy so that they gather nicely to the cuffs.
The talma cape was an easy make and took only a few minutes after I got the pattern done. I took the pattern from the second volume in the Victorian Dressmaker series. If you use this pattern, note that the scaling is wrong in the talma pattern. One square should measure 2 cm and not one inch. Luckily someone had pointed this out for me and I had noted the scaling error on my book.
I found the gingham fabric at a second-hand store and it only cost a few euros. I lined the whole bodice with cotton poplin to add a bit of warmth. The cape is a piece of linen or perhaps cotton-linen mix that I had picked up from the remnants section of the local fabric store. I lined it with another blue gingham that originally was part of a set of cotton curtains.
Some construction choices
I added boning channels to the back princess seams and the side seams but finally only boned the side seams only because I was lazy. I used zip-ties as boning and just couldn’t bother to run downstairs and out to rummage through the storage room for more zip-ties! However, I can add them later if I want.
My lining was some sort of mixture of bagging and flatlining. I sewed the side seams in the flat-lining method and sewed the darts through both fabric layers but then rolled the bodice in a tortilla and bagged the center-front edges to avoid hand-stitching that adding a facing would have resulted in. I finished the neckline and the lower edges with bias tape that I cut out of the gingham fabric.
The buttons are mother-of-pearl buttons and they are a pretty mismatched lot! Still, I decided that they looked better than plastic buttons.
The bodice and the skirt hook up with 6 pairs of hooks and eyes. This prevents the heavy skirt from drifting downward and exposing her mid-drift. I didn’t have time to make the buttonholes by hand so I had to settle for machine-made ones.
The talma cape was easy. I just sewed the shoulder seams and bagged the lining and the outer fabric. I had left a hole in the lining shoulder-seam, so I could turn the cape around. After pressing and sewing on a pair of ribbons for the fastening the whole job was done in about 15 minutes!
The finished 1850s dress
Here is the finished 1850s dress without the cape. I think some of the hooks and eyes came loose during our photo-session so the skirt waistband shows a bit. I later tightened the hooks with pliers to make them stay closed.
We found a modern crinoline from a second-hand store and shortened it for S. It works pretty well, so there was no need for me to sew a crinoline. I may still add a cotton ruffle to the hem of the crinoline to prevent the ugly nylon edge from showing. I lent S my shortest turn-of-the-century petticoat that is a bit too long at the back. But otherwise showing a bit of white ruffle underneath the skirt looks nice.
I’m happy that S decided to sew the skirt. Although I had to help her with the patterning and teach her, she took out a lot of work from me. In a few years, she can make whole costumes for herself – or anything else she fancies!
I am making myself another crinoline dress. That dress has the huge 1860s elliptic crinoline that creates a gigantic skirt. In fact, our whole family fits under my crinoline skirt! (We tested it!) So, follow me here, Instagram or YouTube so that you don’t miss it!
Thanks for reading and see you soon!