Toby Barton Designs

August 4, 2012

Costume Analytics or, lets take closer look.

Filed under: Uncategorized — by tobybartondesigns @ 10:17 pm

So, I have wanted to do this for some time now, thanks to Lauren over at American Duchess, but I have not had a garment to take a look at.  Well, thanks a million to my good friend Darlene Davis, I got my hands on an mid 1860’s dress and she graciously allowed me to run screaming out the door with it.  I have never been able to really look at the construction of any gown or dress from the 19th century because I never have been able to get my hands on one, until now.  Bear in mind that I do not have dress form small enough for this so pardon the pictures.  Oh, and also I will be adding additional items in this little expose.

So here we have a lovely example of a mid-nineteenth century dress.  Please be kind, I could not fit it on my dress form.  The outer fabric is a silk taffeta of green stripes edged in black on a cream background with lighter green check pattern within the lighter areas.  The bodice and sleeves are trimmed with one inch wide silk ribbon that has been pleated to fit.

As we can see a close up of the pleating.  There is suppose to be 8 3/4″ buttons down the front on the right side, however, 2 are missing.  The buttons are a disc shape with dome in the middle that is covered in silk.  The buttons are just for decoration.  The true closure is in the inside.  Close up of the ribbon detail on the sleeve.  The lace is a later addition to the sleeve.  The arm and waist have been trimmed in bias binding with a tiny cord.  The cord is about the size of crochet cotton.  About a 1/16th” of an inch.  The sleeves are the two piece variety of the period to reflect the military influence of the time.

On right side, which is the left hand picture, there is a row brass hooks.  Forgive me but I did not count them.  They are stitched down the front along the facing then, another strip of fabric is stitched to the lining under the hooks.  On the left side, which is the right hand picture, we have the eyes.  These are not brass but, I think, nickle, but don’t quote me on that at all.  They are stitched into the seam allowance then the silk and lining have been folded over and whipped stitched closed with tiny stitches.  There are two darts on either side of the bodice and they are fully boned.  No other boning is evident in any other seam allowance.

Now we get to an interesting detail of the bodice.  I have only seen this once and it was on a reproduction pattern from Laughing Moon Mercantile.

Now, I know that many of us have sewn period bodices and the ones from the mid century consist of three pieces.  Bodice front, side back and back.  However, on closer examination I made a very interesting discovery.

The back does not consist of two separate pieces.  It is one piece.  You can see here that there is a top stitching line to indicate the joining of the two supposedly.  However, the side back and back piece is all in one.  According to the pattern and instructions from Laughing Moon, the pattern is moved over then stitched to simulate individual pieces along the curve line.  The back of the bodice has been taken up horizontally by 1 1/2″ with rough stitching on the inside.

What clued me in was the fact that the bodice back is all one piece that is sewn at the side seam.   So the lining is only three pieces.  Two fronts and one back.  The bodice and sleeves are lined in cotton.  The sleeves have self fabric facing.

Here is the dress from Laughing Moon.  I have yet to make this dress.

So lets look at the skirt.

The original skirt with, give or take little bit, is about 152″.  Now, why did I say that.  The front of the skirt has been taken in on the right and left of center front.

The darts, if you will, are three inches on either side of the fold.  Not really sure why this was done, my only guess was to change the skirt shape for the late 1860’s.  Just a guess.

The skirt is lined in glazed brown cotton that was very common for the period.  This type of lining looks like waxed paper bags and just about as stiff.  I really looks like plastic coated fabric.  Like the vinyl table cloths that one would use on a picnic table.  You can also see that the hem is bound in green twill tape or a tape like twill.  On the right side there is a pocket made out of the same fabric as the bodice lining.

The back of the skirt is cartridge pleated to about 4 3/4″ inches.  The rest of the back of the skirt is graded on a slope to the front and it is gathered, rather than pleated, stroked and fitted into the waist line of the bodice.

Now why do I think that this dress is from the mid ’60’s?  Around about 1862 to 1863, Charles Frederick Worth, father of Haute Couture, decided he no longer liked the bell or dome shaped skirts.  He started to move the skirt out to the back, precursor to the bustle period.  In order to accommodate the change in the skirt shape it had to go from floor length in the front to a mini train in the back.  The skirt length in the front is 401/2″ and the back is 44 1/2″.  This leads me to believe that this a transitional skirt from dome to elliptical.

As you can see the skirt is moving from a uniform circumference to an oval shape hence the short to long in the length of the skirt.

I am so very thrilled at the opportunity to look at this dress, it is still in my work room and I may have to hostage this lovely, my dream goal is to discover a dusty steamer trunk full of Worth dresses and gowns.  A boy can dream can’t he?



  1. Toby, this girl is dreaming, too! What wonderful information you have given us. Thanks for sharing.

    Comment by CostumeDeeva — August 5, 2012 @ 12:35 am |Reply

    • Thanks, ladies, for you great replies. This was fun to do. I hope that I can do this again in the future with other garments that I can hopefully borrow from people.

      Comment by tobybartondesigns — August 5, 2012 @ 5:33 pm |Reply

  2. Oh thanks for this- I could read this sort of thing all day long! 🙂

    Comment by ronnieruss — August 5, 2012 @ 5:26 pm |Reply

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