My First 1830s Dress – Complete!

I managed to finish something! It feels so good, considering the *pile* of started, half-finished, nearly-finished, and will-never-be-finished costume bits & bobs I have cluttering up my desk and all over my floor. There’s nothing like a looming event deadline to keep you up stitching late into the night.

Anywho, here it is, this whole big hot mess of 1830s. It was SO much fun to wear!

So a quick run-down of this costume:

  • Stockings & Shoes (Gettysburg Victorian Side-Lace Boots)
  • Drawers, Chemise, and Corset
  • Bum Pad, Ugly Puffer, Organdy Petticoat
  • Chemisette
  • Top Petticoat and Bodice
  • False Curls and Bonnet

This part of Lake Tahoe looks the least like Tahoe. It could pass for somewhere more easterly, which works better with the dress – there were no American ladies here in the 1830s!

The chemisette took the most time of anything. It was derived from Patterns of Fashion 1: 1660-1860, made of starched voile, and entirely hand sewn. I didn’t do a very good job, to be honest – I cut the shoulders too narrow, so it was a good thing the frills on the collar extended to cover my mistake. I used my Geneva Hand Fluter to crimp the ruffles, but I didn’t starch the voile enough to get a really good crimp – note to self and others: dip-starching is the way to go with the old irons. Spray starch isn’t strong enough! My french seams were bulk where the ruffles attach to the collar, and at the end of all that I sewed the collar on to the wrong side! But you know what? I absolutely love the thing and you can’t see all those mistakes when it’s on with the dress anyway. 🙂

Janet Arnold “Patterns of Fashion 1” – Chemisette from 1828-35

For hair, I created little side curl pieces using synthetic “yaki” hair wefts from Sally Beauty Supply. I trebled up the wefts and attached the wig clip to the top, then rolled about four sections per side up on small rollers and dunked each piece in boiling water for 20-30 seconds. Worked a treat – I just clipped the curls onto either side of my head, pulled my own hair over the center and pinned it, then put the bonnet on.

One of the lovely ladies at the tea took this picture of Mom and me.

All in all, the 1830s was fun to wear, was actually quite comfortable, and I’m pleased to have a completed costume to add to my closet. 🙂


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