Tim Gunn-ing the 1912 Day Dress

Every once in awhile, a “simple” project comes along and kicks my butt.  Usually it’s after I’ve just successfully completed something really complicated and I’m feeling good about my sewing skills.  Does this happen to you?

My simple 1912 shirt waist has turned into a project from hell, but I think, after last night’s shenanigans, I’ve got it working.

Last post, I had given up on my failed self-drafted pattern and altered a modern Simplicity blouse pattern to make the bodice, which solved the sleeve and armscye issue, but presented some other problems.  The waist was still too long, and there wasn’t enough volume in the front, overall.

I removed the bust darts completely, and shortened the waist up to more of an empire line.  Worn over my 1912 corset, with some help in the chest-stuffing department, it’s looking pretty alright now.

The next problem is the drape of the skirt.  I didn’t do a gored skirt like I should have done, but tried to make the skirt in just a front and back piece, shaped with darts.  Well, it didn’t work, and closed all the way down the front, the skirt hangs very oddly indeed.  I was about ready to throw in the towel, when I found this pattern image from Ageless Pattern:

Ageless Patterns #1358

Hooray!  Now, I know that this pattern was, of course, designed to be this way, and my dress is taking this route because I suck, but at least I wont’ have to scrap the entire thing and start over.  I even quite like how a white panel at the hem will tie in nicely with the other white accents on the bodice.

A quick scribble of how it will look

So that’s where it stands at the moment.  I hope it’s not *such* a battle to finish it up in the next couple days!


  • Unknown

    March 8, 2013 at 12:25 AM

    I am imagining that it might be possible to do with all darts at the top but I think it would be sooooo much easier with a gored skirt. You can still piece in long godets, if you have the patience, but I think the solution you came up with is pretty inventive. Of course what the pattern isn't showing you very clearly is that the raised waist is probably just a little bit higher in the back than the front. Which I think is half the battle in getting dresses from this period to hang correctly.

    • Lauren Stowell

      March 9, 2013 at 12:27 AM

      I definitely agree! Gored skirts, all the way. I made the Butterick 19teen skirt pattern last year, and it was shaped with darts, but it also hangs a little weird.

  • Lithia Black

    March 8, 2013 at 8:55 AM

    Well, I know exactly where you´re coming from since I'm having a battle with something as simple as an 18th century women's gilet. I made it from the same pattern that I used for the jacket to go with it but some how the gilet ended up being 4 cm too big around the waist while the jacket fitted fine,…and of course I discovered this when the gilet was finished in all it's glory.
    I'm on a deadline so I fixed the fit temporarily, but I'm so angry at it right now because before I had to do the alteration it was so perfectly neat finished both on the inside, outside front and back. Now the back looks like hell >:(
    But the jacket will cover the ugly back so I guess I can live with it until I can make a pretty lace up back instead.


  • M'lady

    March 8, 2013 at 10:01 AM

    I think it looking great with the white accents against the blue.
    Can I be cheeky and ask if you would ever do a tutorial for how to turn a modern pattern into looking like an edwardian blouse?

  • Anne Elizabeth

    March 8, 2013 at 1:08 PM

    Oh yes, I know where you're coming from! I can make a robe a la francaise with very few troubles, but I have yet to make a simple medieval dress that I don't mess up somewhere! Even when drafting the patterns according to very popular instructions to measure, they end up fitting horribly, and something as plain as putting triangular gores between rectangular skirt pieces seems really difficult for me at times.
    And yet the same gore problem seems a breeze to me if it's in the underarm piece of a rococo shift! I also messed up three attempts at 15th century padded jacks for my husband…

    Super weird. I can make corsets and tailor a suit with horsehair inlays, but I bet I'd fail at making a greek chiton. Ha.

    • Lauren Stowell

      March 9, 2013 at 12:30 AM

      It's, like, super ironic punishment for hubris! I guess? lol. I feel completely defeated when this happens, and like I'll never be able to sew anything again!

  • unicornemporium

    March 8, 2013 at 5:47 PM

    I love your fix! I think I like it even better than the original 🙂 I plan on this being the next era I try, but I'm starting out with a 1910's corset so I have the foundation to build upon.

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