I’ve been slow but steady on the progress of this grey wool and black velvet mid-1880s outfit. It’s been about a month of weekends working on it, but I’m proud to say that I’m just a few bits away from completion.
In the last post on this project, I had made the underskirt and begun patterning the bodice. Since then I’ve gone on quite the journey of apportioning rulers, sprung bones, mad fitting, and sleeve boss-fights.
Before I cut the bodice, I made the apron, or overskirt. I turned to Bustle Fashions 1885-1887 by Frances Grimble for ideas and pattern layouts. This book is a reprint of The National Garment Cutter and Voice of Fashion publications, 1885-1887. It’s a *fantastic* book full of primary source material for ideas, pattern layouts, and most importantly, the apportioning rulers.
For those of you not familiar with apportioning rulers, they are proprietary measurement scales that came with different pattern books. That is, The National Garment Cutter had its own set of rulers for use with its own patterns. To easily explain apportioning rulers, imagine a ruler where the “inch” isn’t a true inch, but slightly smaller or slightly larger based on your measurement.
The patterns in these drafting and cutting books call for the use of one of the special rulers according to your bust or your waist measurement. In drafting the apron from page 93, I used the special ruler included in the back of the book for my 27.5″ corseted waist. The units of measurement are ever so slightly smaller than a true inch.
|The pattern for the front pieces of the apron/overskirt. This is what a pattern using apportioning rulers looks like. Seems confusing until you know the very simple method to draft this out.|
It’s magic. No really, there is *no math involved here*. Looking at the pattern, it seems like a huge mess of confusing numbers, but if you know the system, it’s so freaking easy. First, you measure down vertically what the number says – so on this pattern you start by measuring down 1/2″, then 1.75″, then 2.25″ and so on – then at those marks you measured perpendicularly across – at that first 1/2″ mark, you measure across 4.5″; at the 1.75″ mark, you measure across both 2.25″ and 9″ and make the marks. Then you “connect the dots” in the general shape of the pattern piece. Remember, since the ruler you’re using is not a true inch, the pattern, in theory, will come out to fit your waist precisely.
And you know what? It did.
|The handy illustration showing what the finished skirt should look like. By studying this, I could determine where the pleats should be. Mine isn’t exactly the same, but it’s close|
|The second illustration shows a variation from a different publication. This also came with a description of how to make it, sorta-kinda. I used both illustrations and descriptions when fussing with mine.|
After the pieces were cut out, the fiddling came with doing up the pleats. I had two illustrations to show how the apron was meant to look when complete. I’d say it came out decently close, which is very satisfying indeed! Some of the patterns in these books are very straightforward as far as assembly, and some are not. I chose one I could conceptualize from flat to three-dimensional. Next time I may try a more challenging design.
|My finished apron. Again, it’s not exactly the same, particularly at the back, but it’s pretty darn close and I’m very happy with how it turned out.|
So as not to overwhelm you, I’ll leave the bodice construction for the next post. The dress is almost done and I’m to wear it next weekend, so I’ll have on-body photos for you soon as well!