January 29, 2015

HSM January Challenge: 1850s Undergarments

"As I can, but not as I would" ~ Jan van Eyck

I've been sewing, but not blogging!  Though I didn't get as much done for my portfolio in January as I would have liked, I have high hopes for February.  January, as well as December, seemed to be a month for foundations - from laying out costume plans to gathering materials to sewing undergarments.  Lucky for me, the first challenge of the 2015 Historical Sew Monthly, hosted by the lovely Dreamstress, happens to be foundations!

Remember all of those 1850s undergarments I put on my winter sewing list?  Well, I realized that Yuletide at the Village has come and gone, and I still have not posted about what I wore.  In fact, I've even finished a few more mid-century necessities since then.  Therefore, since all of the garments were completed within the month or allowed parameters, my entries for the January Foundations Challenge are my mid-19th century undergarments!

A new chemise & pair of drawers:  like all of my other sets, these were made using Simplicity 2890.  Next time, I think I will try drafting my own as both of these articles are very roomy, to the point of much to big.

Though not new, a corset is a must for the 19th century silhouette! 

An 1830s bum pad:  Features a small roll as well as two corded flounces, secured around the waist with cotton twill tape. Based on two period examples -

Bustles of various materials and styles, 1833.
Manchester Art Gallery (unfortunately the online collection is unavailable at this time).
(Image via: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/404409241514418874/)

Cotton bustle, 1820 - 1830.
Snowshill Wade Costume Collection via the National Trust Collections.
(Image via: http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/1350051)

An 1850s bum roll: features a single flounce and is secured below the waist with cotton twill tape.  (I buy all of my twill tape from: http://www.twilltape.com/, very affordable prices and excellent quality.)  

A "modesty" petticoat:  Falling mid-calf, the modest 90" under petticoat features three half inch tucks above the hem, stroked gathers and button closure.

Close up of the stroked gathers!
Three rows of hand gathers + whipped on both sides of the waistband
= labor intensive, but the result is worth the work!

Red flannel petticoat: 110" in circumference and features two 1" tucks above the hem.  I gauged the skirt length and whipped it to a sturdy, brown linen waistband.  Also closes with a button.  Nice and toasty warm for our cold, Upstate New York winters; however, next time I would use wool, rather than cotton flannel, and add a yoke, as was period, to reduce the bulk at the waist.

Close up of the gauging or cartridge pleating!

A plain petticoat:  Made from three panels of 45" cotton muslin with a 3" deep hem.  Also features stroked gathers, as well as a button closure.

Back view.  Bear in mind that Beatrice, my dress form, is larger than me - when worn, the corset completely shuts (hopefully will be replaced before next season) and the petticoats fasten correctly.

A tucked petticoat:  Completed just two nights ago, this petticoat was made from three panels of 45" pimatex cotton, which, by the way, is just lovely to work with.  Features five (originally six) half-inch tucks above the hem and is gauged and whipped to a 24" waistband.

Detail shot of the gauging!

Detail shot of the tucks & hem.

The Challenge:  #1 Foundations

Fabric:  Cotton muslin, Pimatex cotton, red cotton flannel, brown linen for waistband

Pattern:  Simplicity 2890 for the chemise and drawers, The Dressmaker's Guide for petticoat instructions.

Year:  Mid-19th century, specifically intended for 1830s & 1850s.

Notions:  DMC floss, thread, buttons

How historically accurate is it?  90%, except for the machine sewing and materials perhaps, I would say that these are pretty historically accurate, especially the construction methods!

Hours to complete:  Did not keep track.

First worn:  Yuletide in the Country, at the Genesee Country Village & Museum (first three weekends of December).

Total cost: $30 for the Pimatex, $15 for the flannel, $30 for the entire bolt of muslin

And that wraps up my first 2015 Historical Sew Monthly entry!  I hope to finish a few of those portfolio projects during February, ambitious, I know, so stay tuned for my mid-19th century undergarments in use...Thanks for reading!


  1. I am in awe of both your skill and your ambition. Truly inspiring.

    1. Thank you, Tracey! Your comment means a lot to me :)

  2. Wow stunning! So many petticoats.

    1. Thank you, Sophia! When it comes to petticoats, the more the merrier!

  3. How have I lived almost 20 years without knowing about twilltape.com?!
    Btw, I'm following your blog now :P

    1. Well hello there, Lydia, thanks for stopping by! Have fun buying twill tape :)

  4. These are really lovely!
    I've also never heard of twilltape.com, totally bookmarking that thanks!

    1. Thank you, Mi! Twilltape.com is definitely a hidden treasure - I highly recommend their products!

  5. WOW! My jaw is on the floor!! These old fashioned undies are amazing!!

    1. Thank you, Jill! *blushes* What a lovely comment :)