Last weekend I finished up and wore my new 1879 “Cafe Promenade” dress (or “Creme Brulee” or “Cafe Au Lait”), which I had quite a good time putting together over the previous few weeks.
The bodice was crafted from Wearing History’s 1879 Victorian Dinner Bodice “Resto-vival” E-Pattern.
My favorite things about this pattern were that it was affordable ($7.00), instantly available, and that it was a truly original pattern directly from Harper’s Bazaar, March 1879. Wearing History had done all the hard work of singling out each piece from the otherwise *insane* multi-pattern diagram, creating something that my modern pea-brain could cope with. To give you an idea, here’s what it looked like in its original state:
Assembling the E-Pattern
This is the first time I’ve ever used an e-pattern, and was a little dubious at first, worried that I would get the scale on the prints wrong, or just not get through the taping together of so many sheets, etc.
I was surprised how easy it was. Wearing History provides easy-to-follow directions on how to print the pattern and assemble. Each page is numbered, and it’s easy to see how the pieces go together. I was impressed with the notes about the pattern, as well, though there are no construction directions.
I was also impressed with how nicely the pattern went together. Points lined up as they should. Things were trued, and matched nicely. Wearing History notes that the center back pieces are longer than the side back pieces, at the hem, but I concluded, based on how accurately every other point matched, that this was entirely purposeful.
|On the right – how the original pattern pieces went together. On the left side, my slicing and dicing|
The turn-backs on the bodice didn’t match up, and were way longer than they appear in the illustration. I found these tails to go down almost to my knees, which didn’t work for my proportions. I was also confused by what to do in back – more turn-backs? leave straight? – as there’s no back view for what it was originally intended to look like. I avoided these weird bits altogether by cutting a new line for the hem, which was easy to do.
The bodice has quite a few pieces, making it easy to adjust to my size, which was a tad smaller than the original measurements (when does that ever happen!?). I took quite a lot of excess out of the armscye area in back, but I think that might have been a mistake, as I realized later that the sleeve is actually a drop-shoulder, rather than right on the shoulder, as it appears in the illustration.
This was my mistake – I ended up with the front bodice piece dropping off the shoulder, and the back being cut toward the shoulder blade. Weirdness, and not the most comfortable. If I made this bodice again, I would cut the armscye fully on the shoulder point.
Once I worked out my mock up, I cut the pattern from the silk/cotton fashion fabric, and a medium-weight brown twill I had in my stash. I flat-lined each piece together, then worked the front asymmetrical button closure, before assembling all the other pieces. The last assembly step was to do the darts, but what I *should* have done was add the boning to all of the seams before doing the darts, because I ended up “shrinking” the garment a bit too much, and having to let the bodice out at the buttons. No biggy, but a lesson learned for the future.
|I worked the seam allowances according to bits from “Authentic Victorian Dressmaking Techniques,” a great book to have.|
The pattern included a two-piece sleeve that was longer than the one shown on the pattern illustration – about mid-forearm length, with a cuff – which I liked, but I decided to go with a full-length sleeve instead. I frankensteined the included sleeve pattern with a two-piece shapes sleeve I knew fit, but in retrospect I perhaps should have just stuck with the original sleeve. I ended up with weirdness near the top of the sleeves in back, which I think stemmed from my misunderstanding the armscye design.
I really like this pattern. Despite changing bits of it, and going rogue on some parts (to my detriment!), I will definitely use this pattern again, and recommend it for advanced seamstresses. It’s easy to assemble, affordable, and completely authentic. You’ll need some experience to put it together, and I definitely recommend doing a mock-up, just like any historical pattern.