C.1852-1862 White Wrapper/Robe de Chambre

Today’s garment is easily the best example of whitework I own. It’s a beautiful white cotton wrapper/ robe de cambre, dating from the 1850s.


The wrapper closes with buttons down the center front. There are 17 total (technically there are now only 15), but only the top 6 are functional. Below the 6th button the front is sewn shut, and the buttons are decorative.


The garment is trimmed with tucks and white-work insertion. The armsyce and the edge of the yoke are finished with piping.  The garment is entirely stitched in one of the most beautiful, even, tight, back-stitches I have ever seen. There are 24 stitches per inch the seams, and the insertion is sewn in with double-seams. I regularly re-check that it is indeed hand-sewn, and not machine, it is so perfect and even. There are two gores in each side seam to give it it’s fullness. The raw edges on the inside of the garment are overcast.


The collar is finished with a bias band on both the inside and outside.


The sleeves are full “bishop” sleeves and have a white-work cuff.



The back of the garment’s only trim is the yoke. The back’s fullness is controlled with gathers, whereas the front is controlled with the pleated panel.


Even the hem is stitched with just the finest little stitches you have ever seen! If I ever develop a great amount of patience, I would like to reproduce this one day!


C. 1890 Black Silk Twill Dress

So here it is! The first antique garment I ever purchased, around age 13. While she’s not something I would probably buy now (though, maybe for the price, I would buy her again), I will continue to care for her. I actually have a few other pieces that belonged to the same woman which I will post later- a shawl, a skirt, and a bonnet.

The dress is made of a separate skirt and bodice that hook and eye together. She is made of silk twill, with cotton lining, wool hem tape, and a silk and cotton chemissette. She is trimmed with silk velvet and soutache.


The chemisette at front is made of a fine silk on a white cotton back. It is hand sewn with eight gathered tucks. The collar with lace at the top is a separate piece attached to the collar of the dress.


The back of the skirt is still slightly bustled, and a small bustle pad was likely worn with this dress.  There is one tuck in the skirt going all the way around, about lower-thigh height.


The silk velvet is a ribbon, except for the attached belt and bow, which is pieced velvet fabric. The waist is 26 1/4″. I haven’t been measuring height on each garment, but this one is noticeably short… this lady would have been a bit under 5 ft.




Detail of the silk velvet at the cuff, as well as of the skirt tuck, which is sewn by hand.


Interior of the skirt, which is fully lined in black cotton. The hem is finished with wrapped wool hem tape, and there is an interfacing in between the fashion fabric and the lining at the hem. The seams are overcast, and there is a pocket.


Back of bodice, with one very colorful boning casing! In addition to the center back and side seam boning, there is one boned dart on either side of the bodice. The armsyce is finished with a bias wrap of a thin black silk (not the fashion fabric)


The front of the bodice with the collar open and the chemissette pulled aside. The lining fabric closes with hooks and eyes. 

C.1845-1855 Black Silk Mantelet

Today’s garment is a much lighter type of outwear than the coat we looked at last. This silk wrap is made of one layer of unlined silk, and trimmed with silk velvet and fringe. About half the fringe is now missing.


The front is much longer than the back, and the garment closes with a single hook and eye and the collar.


The black silk velvet trim is made of cut fabric, not ribbon. The fashion edge is bound with the silk fabric. On the center front, the raw edge of both fashion fabric and trim and stitched together, and the trim is top-stitched to form the edge. On the neck edge, the  raw edge of the velvet is encased in a bias bind. On the bottom fringe edge the velvet is left raw under the fringe. All and all, it’s a very neat piece of because of how the edges are finished.


The garment is made of three pieces total, 1 back piece and the two fronts. A fairly simple garment, but very striking!


C.1860-1868 Velvet Paletot

Today’s garment is perfect for the weather we are having! It’s a black velvet short coat, fully lined with a quilted lining. Warm and toasty!


The coat closes with with three loop and ball closures, and the coat is heavily trimmed.There was lace that went around the bottom of the coat, which is largely gone now. There is still plenty of other trim that remains on this coat though!


The back is cut in one piece, and there is no shaping to the coat beyond the seams.

The sleeves also had lace matching the bottom of the coat, but is largely missing now.


The neck edge is finished with bias piping of the lining silk.


Detail of the trim at the front closure- the loops are worked over metal rings.



The silk lining is interfaced with wool batting, and machine quilted. And look, a pocket inside the front!


The entire coat is lined, including the sleeves. The lining and the coat are constructed separately with their raw seams concealed in the interior of the coat.


C.1888-1890 Red Wool Gown

Today’s garment is a bit later than the others I’ve posted on my site, but be warned- my collection goes into the 1940s, so… more later stuff is coming.

I need to disclose- I am 95% sure this dress belongs to a friend without proper collections storage, and I am storing it for her until? But, it’s been in my boxes for a while, so it’s getting photographed with the rest! I am also going to point out the pictures aren’t the best. I had about a week of overcast days, and got impatient, and well… it shows. I will perhaps go back and photograph this garment again another day, but for now, moving on. I got pretty good construction images, and that’s what I find most interesting about the dress.


This bustle dress is made of red wool and grey silk twill. It is fully lined in brown cotton, and trimmed with black velvet soutache and self-fabric strips. The hem facing is bias-cut cotton velvet.


The silk front panel is shirred in the front, and the waist is 25″.


The grey silk front panel closes at neck and waist with a hook and eye. Underneath, the lining closes with hooks and eyes. Note the adorable scrap-fabric pocket on the lining!

The hooks and eyes go down to about the upper-mid thigh point, at which point the lining is stitched together to the bottom of the garment. The silk is also stitched to the wool on both sides from this point down.


The seams are hand overcast, and there are loops on either shoulder, likely for hanging.


The self-fabric trim is bias-cut, fringed, pleated, and stitched on machine. It is then hand-basted onto the garment.


The back of the down features a slight bustle.


The fullness of the skirt is controlled at the center back with cartridge pleats.


C. 1864-1868 Black Silk Dress

The photographing of this dress apparently defeated me. First, she was the biggest pain to fit. I can’t even explain why. Second, her lining is mostly shattered, and about 1/4 of her skirt is detached and unpleated from the bodice. While I can distinctly remember being frustrated with her, I did not realize I only got two basic shots of her at all!

Continuing forward- this dress is fairly standard for the 1860s. Dart-fitted silk, 3-piece back, coat sleeves. The back of the skirt is cartridge pleated to fit and the front is box pleated. She closes with hooks and eyes and has decorative glass buttons. The skirt and cuffs are trimmed with 1.5″ silk velvet, and the bodice opening and the cuff opening are trimmed with with cotton net. She features a small stand-up collar. The waist is 24.5″.


The bodice is lined in plain weave brown cotton, and the sleeves and skirt are fully lined in brown polished cotton. The bottom of the skirt is finished with a facing of a different shade of brown polished cotton and wool hem tape that has been wrapped around the raw edges and stitched.

The long seams are sewn on machine, and all else is sewn by hand. The four center-front darts are boned, as well as the eye side of the opening. 

Yep. Two pictures. Luckily she’s a fairly plain dress with common construction techniques!

C.1862-1864 Black Silk Dress

Perhaps a better title would be “most of a black silk dress”, as obviously, she’s missing some! Her skirt is missing the bottom half- I am not entirely sure why, as the raw edge is folded under and pressed- it does not look like someone simply hacked it off for the fabric.


The bodice features wide coat sleeves with sleeve caps and turned back cuffs. The caps and the cuffs are trimmed with 1/4″ silk velvet ribbon. There are decorative square glass buttons down the center front, and the bodice closes with hooks and eyes.


The dress is hand-sewn, with boning in the four fitting darts. There is piping at neck, wasit, and armsyce; as well as in the seam of the sleeves. The bodice is lined in a brown plain-weave cotton, and the sleeves are lined in a coarse brown polished cotton.


The skirt is box-pleated to fit. The waist is 24″.


The side back of the seams (this is a true three-piece back) have been top-stitched.


Inside the waist are two loops to hang the garment for storage. There are also two different calico cotton scraps stitched along the waist. I am not sure if just these bits were used for reinforcement, or the skirt may have been fully lined, and that could be the fabric it was cut up for? The edges of the calico are definitely of the “hacked” variety.


C. 1853-1857 Shot Silk Gown with Pink Trim

Hey look! Some of my originals have their skirts still!

Today’s garment is a silk gown, in a purple and green shot silk, with pink and black fringed trim and pink dangling balls.

The bodice is gathered to fit with three rows of controlled gathers, and closes in the back. It has open pagoda sleeves with sleeve caps, as well as it’s original fine cotton undersleeves.  The neckline is low and open; I’m sorry my form doesn’t have a neck to show it off better.


The skirt is box pleated for the waist treatment.


Close up of the trims. Many of the little round balls are missing, there would have been 6 on each “A-shaped” trim on the sleeve cap.



The back. Fairly badly damaged. Closes with hooks and eyes.


The front lining is fitted with four boned darts. The eye-side of the back opening also includes a short bone. It is lined in brown plain cotton and machine sewn with hand-sewn finishes. The waist is 22″, and the skirt waist is sewn to a band of scrap fabric that is whipped to the bodice edge. The scrap fabric band has a layer of both fashion fabric and lining fabric.


The skirt is fully lined in blue-green cotton, and the hem is finished with green wool hem tape. This is my personal favorite hem-tape finish for the mid-19th century (stitch to both layers on the front, flip to back, whip-stitch to lining and encasing the raw edges- this leaves a little hang down of hem tape at the bottom of the skirt).


12″ long scrap calico pocket set in one of the seams. Bonus! All the scraps leftover from the person who made this dress were crammed into the pocket. I apologize for the blurriness of the picture, I found the pocket when I was putting the garment away, and thus, lacking good light.


Another construction photo, which I plan to use in an upcoming article. One of my absolute pet-peeves among people making reproductions is the selection of too-wide of cording for their piping. Here, the piping cord on the neck edge is exposed. I have a glass-headed pin, and a regular, plastic-headed pin next to it. Piping is small folks, a little bit smaller than even the glass headed pin! If you are using crochet cotton, it is massively too thick.


More details of the sleeve trim.


And of the sleeve shape, as well as the undersleeve peeking out!


C. 1795-1800 Black Silk Bodice

Drum-roll please! Today I present for you the oldest garment currently in my collection. This bodice dates to early in the “regency” fashion era, and has many earmarks of that unique transitional era in women’s clothing… when we get a mash up of construction techniques that were used in the 18th century, and the techniques that will become common in the 19th century.

The bodice is made of black silk and is lined in linen. We start with the back:


The center back piece is sewn as one with the lining, while the rest of the garment is separately constructed (common to garments of this era, the fashion fabric is folded under and stitched on top of the lining seams.)  To the front:


The lining  is in two pieces which overlap and pin shut. The front of the silk has a drawstring casing at the neck edge. The drawstring would have been pulled up and the bodice would have been gathered in the front.


Here is a closer view of the tucks on the back, which adds a nice decorative element to this bodice. Also, note how the sleeves are set- the armyce comes into the area of the shoulder blades. There are less than 8″ in between the sleeves.


The underarm area of the bodice is very carefully mended on both sides where the fabric had worn thin.


Each sleeve has a long and narrow gusset in the underarm seam.

The sleeve cuff is gently rounded, and judging by the length of the sleeves, likely hit about the knuckle of the wearer.


Other sleeve mend.


There is the remains of a tie at the center back. This would help ensure a snug fit of the bodice on the wearer. Here, you can see how much longer the lining is than the fashion fabric.


This is the inside of one side of the front of the bodice. The fabric in many places has just been folded to fit- you can see how much fabric was left hanging below the casing for the drawstring.


The fitting of the lining- also started with one large piece of fabric that was folded and stitched to fit.


The front of the lining would have been straight pinning shut.


Ahh. Beautiful lining, and another view of how far into the back the sleeves are set! You can also see the stitching line where the fashion fabric ends on the outside.


Various 19th-ce. Accessories

Today’s post is less than the most exciting, but bear with me. My goal is to photograph the entire collection, and some of it is less than exciting.  I keep hoping for a nice, sunshiny day, so I can finish off this box of bodices and move to the next storage box- full length dresses!

So, we have three random accessories; a partial bertha, a black silk collar, and a silk velvet belt. I am not as sure of the dates on these as I am on full garments.


The bertha is made of silk taffeta, silk velvet, beads, and white silk organza. It is lined in more silk.


It is mostly machine sewn, with hand finishes. My stab at a date based on the style would be 1890s, but I could be very off. If you have insight (beading is someones specialty!), please comment below!


Here’s a black silk collar. Faced in more black silk. 1″ wide.


And a silk velvet belt! The front and back are not proportional. It closes at the side with hooks and eyes, and is boned with 6 bones. This could date from several different periods in the 19th century, based on materials and construction. I would hazard a guess of 1870s-90s, based on the type of boning and casing used, but once again, not sure!






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