Sunday, June 30, 2019

1895: Silly Season Outfit: Playing With Shirtwaists

The 1890s outfit has come apace. I was to wear it to tea Sunday afternoon, but the cool weather  has deserted us and summer Kentucky heat has taken over, so the prospect of swathing myself in a corset, corset cover, etc., double-flounced petticoat, enormous skirt, and trimmed shirtwaist, and a hat, and gloves, and cotton stockings, made me droop and think of fainting couches.

By the way, with this outfit I am just playing. I haven't done tons of research, just bits. I am not using entirely 1890s materials or even methods. I am just messing and mucking about in fabric and thread, and it's wonderfully freeing.

So where are we in the project?

The skirt is complete except for trim. I interlined the wide hem with lightweight interfacing to help it stand out. Interfacing washes, buckram doesn't.

Jeepers, the facing and interfacing sure added some weight. Tried to put the skirt and a petticoat on one of those hangers with clips, and it couldn't handle the poundage! Maybe I ought to weigh them :)

Shirtwaist Vision

The real action, though, has been the shirtwaist.

The idea is to have a multi-purpose shirtwaist: a plain version that would be simply shirtwaist-y, and good for picnics:

The Worthing Picnic. Sioux Valley Genealogical Society Don't the look like a happy group?

Here's a lightweight summer dress (source of image unknown):

By adding a white striped voile overlay to the shirtwaist, I'd have a slightly more dressy version.

Here is my inspiration for the slightly dressy version:

This came from Pinterest, and I have lost the reference.
Doesn't she look fresh and summery? Her face seems kind.

She sports a yummy neck bow and contrasting belt. Notice that her dress doesn't feature strong contrasts in color, as is so common in fashion plates and some extant garments. Mine will contrast between navy and white, but only in the plain, picnic version.

Another inspiration, this one from Quinn Burgess' 1890s Pinterest board:

This one has a neck bow, too. Oh, neck bows, how silly thou art, and how I love thee...

Mucking About With, and Mucking Up, a Plain Shirtwaist

The plain version? Well, I thought I could make up a shirtwaist rapidly, add a few tucks, and cover them with lace insertion in white, for just a little contrast, and be done with it.

That's what I did, and it went together in a matter of a week, with a few hours here, a few there, and no fuss.

As planned, I used the Sense and Sensibility 1909 Beatrix shirtwaist pattern, with the pattern option for a gathered front opening, with puffed elbow-length sleeves. Yes, it's a 1909 pattern. However, the lines are fairly similar, once tweaks are made. As you will see...

This pattern choice gave me a fit with some ease across the chest, but as I know from experience with the pattern, nothing that would allow more than a narrow tuck or two. And I was fine with that.

At the waistline, by contrast, I would have lots of excess to gather in as I pleasure dictated. By 1895 there could be a wee bit of fullness in the lower part of the shirtwaist.

For the sleeves I wanted the balloon shape of our summer girl with the flowers, as we'll call her.

So after peering at a few scans online of sleeve patterns from professional cutting guides, I enlarged the S and S sleeve pattern, making the sleeve head taller towards the outside of the sleeve, and the entire sleeve piece longer. The result was a much fuller sleeve.

Running up the shirtwaist was straightforward, because there are few pieces in the S and S pattern, and they line up as they should. As a blouse, the sewing methods are straightforward, too: French seams, plain hems, and sewing with the straight-stitch handcrank machine, and by hand on hems and sleeves.

The only change I made -- other than the sleeves -- was to us narrow seam allowances in the seams, to make the shirtwaist a little big so I could shape it later.

Once the shirtwaist was constructed, I was ready to play with pleats and tucks to give the shirtwaist the narrow-waisted, bosom-hiding shape of the era.

Here's an 1890s example from the FIDM Museum, with far more tucks, of course:

Silk shirtwaist, FIDM,
This part was fun!

First, I put on the Kay Gnagey corset, a mid-century style, but what I have, and it fits well, is light, and is comfortable.

Next, standing in front of the mirror, the shirtwaist pinned shut, and a cushion stuffed with more pins ready, I started to remove fullness and shape the silhouette:

- an outward-facing tuck over each shoulder about 2/3 the way out, brought the sleeve head up onto the edge of the shoulder, and created what remind me of bretelles.

- taking the body of the shoulder tuck below the shoulder, pointing towards the belly button, and pinning it down about midway between shoulder and bust.

Can you see the fullness begin to be controlled?

- taking four sizable tucks down near the waistline, all pointing away from center, to define the waist and create a peplum.

Assessing the tucks. No, those sleeves aren't starched yet.
Self-pinning is always a bit wonky, so a few minutes later found me on the carpet with the shirtwaist laid in front and the pincushion within easy reach. The pins were reset in a more balanced way, and the back fullness pulled in by carrying the shoulder tuck all the way to the waist. Then I sewed the tucks down, hung up the shirtwaist, and put it away to marinate until I was ready to cover all the sewing with broderie anglaise lace insertion, with a little more insertion laid in faux tucks for more oomph, to finish things off.

Tucks sewn, ready to be covered by lace insertion.
But... I didn't like the direction the shirtwaist was moving. It was going to become too froofy. I like lace on Edwardian and teens clothing, sure. Here's a dress I made back in 2011:

The 1909 linen dress after a picnic, via a bad camera photo. Ladybug is interested in all the scents.
In fact, in that dress, one of the nicest I've worn, and also one of the hardest to get into, we have lace on lace:

But I didn't want lace on this one after all. I wanted stronger, bolder lines.

So, reader, I am taking out the tucks and stitches, and we're going after this fluffy but tailored look,  below, specifically the shirtwaist on the lower left.

Note that some models are wearing their shirtwaists untucked, for a peplum look, while others have tucked theirs in.


Back with you after I have partially deconstructed and reconstructed the garment. More playtime is at hand. It's a good thing that this is play, because I sure am not taking an efficient route to a completed garment.


MrsC (Maryanne) said...

I love sleeves that say, Go BIG or go home!!!

The Quintessential Clothes Pen said...

I'm just catching up on your progress, Natalie. It's a bit disappointing to take out something that you've sewn, but I'm looking forward to the fluffier look (I saw a peak as I scrolled down to this post!). It really is fabulous! I also love the slightly silly 1890s neck bows, though I have yet to make a garment that sports them. Someday...


ZipZip said...

:) oh, do make a neck bow. I bet you can pull it off if anyone can. How about a waterside ensemble in striped cotton with a flounce, and a fluffy cotton gauze bow? Perfect for Newport...