Reviving the 1870 Bustle Dress and Sneaking in HSM #10: Secret Sewing

vintage-image-of-woman-wearing-eyeglasses-240bes092010Normally, posting in the wee hours of the morning like I did earlier today would leave me a bit fuzzy-eyed. This morning it’s allergies that have me blinking twice at everything. Probably not the ideal situation for cutting and sewing, but I’m armed with drops and sprays and have no intention of letting a little pollen (OK, a LOT of pollen) slow me down while I’m on a roll.

When I discovered the old beginnings of the bustle dress late last night I just had to haul out the undies and start dressing my mannequin. Fortunately, she’s a trooper and didn’t utter a single complaint. So out came the split drawers, the chemise and the corset. Once I had the important parts padded to my shape I started adding petticoats. I have the old TV101 petticoat with incorporated bustle and ruffled over drape. I was one of the first historical costuming things I made, if not the first, and I still love its all-in-one convenience. Plus, unless you’re driving or sitting in a car, it is very easy to sit in and relax.

Once that was in place and the inside ties adjusted to the correct shape for the era, I threw on an additional antique petticoat that I’d mended for HSM #1 in 2014. Doing that softened the edges of the ruffled bustle petticoat and gave everything a smooth line. A third petticoat would not be out of the question, but I’m going to wait and see how the underskirt shapes up before adding yet another layer beneath it. I’m leaving the corset cover off for now because I’ve found it gets in the way while I’m working with waistline details. I’ll pop one on when it’s time for the waist itself.

So here’s how it looks with the underskirt and two petticoats, including the bustle. I still need to put the ruffle around the bottom of the skirt. In addition, the mannequin is too short (and is not holding any height adjustments very well) so the petticoat is dragging a bit.

I love this blue print fabric.

I love this blue print fabric.

The only issue is my waistline which, as I mentioned, has grown a bit since early last year. So I have a bit of gap-osis to deal with.

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2015-09-11 09.09.55

Having that gap throws off the symmetry of the underskirt entirely. My plan is two-fold. First I’m going to remove and lengthen the waistband in order to re-distribute the back gathers evenly. Doing that will also get the side seams back where they belong – at the sides.

Then, as I re-construct the left side waistband, I’m going to incorporate a Safety Pocket for Travelers (like the one I just made) in the same fabric as the dress. The opening will be hidden beneath the overskirt and will allow me to carry the things I want and need without hauling around a handbag. I’ll probably have a parasol with me in case it rains and that’s enough for me to keep track of all day long.

Not only that, but adding the pocket will allow me to meet HSM Challenge #10 – Sewing SecretsHide something in your sewing, whether it is an almost invisible mend, a secret pocket, a false fastening or front, or a concealed message (such as a political or moral allegiance). Two birds, one stone, one happy me.

And, because I have nothing better to do with my sewing time, I’m thinking of making a different overskirt – one with more body and ruffles all around the edges. I think it’s more in keeping with the look and feel of Impressionist paintings so I hope I have enough extra fabric. If not, the first choice will be fine.

TV301 overskirt

So that’s the plan. The exhibit is one month from today and the clock starts…NOW!


4 thoughts on “Reviving the 1870 Bustle Dress and Sneaking in HSM #10: Secret Sewing

  1. Love the blue and the dots! I put a pocket in my side seams in every skirt I make, except the later Edwardian ones that are too narrow.
    And I think that bodice is going to need an outside watch pocket too. 😉


    • I bought that fabric a long time ago – fell in love with it the minute I saw it and couldn’t think of it as anything other than early bustle dress.

      I already have a pocket in the right side back seam, but it’s pretty small…just big enough for a modest purse and a couple of keys. When I made the Safety Pocket I liked the period suggestion of using it as a regular skirt pocket and thought I’d give it a go for the left side back seam. I’ll have to be a contortionist to get in them both at the same time. 🙂

      I love the idea of a watch pocket, Oh Grand Poobah of All Things Pocket Watch. 😉 I’ll check your Pinterest page for ideas that work with my 1870 waist.

    • Definitely! The waist will come first – I may learn slowly sometimes, but I do learn. 😉 Fortunately, I’ve made this waist before. I pulled the old one out and it only needs to be let out a bit in two of the bodice darts, so with any luck at all it will go more quickly than the first one I made. Besides, I can only make a different overskirt if I have enough fabric left over after the waist, so the waist is still first in line. I did a quick and dirty layout last night and I don’t think there will be enough for a second overskirt so it would appear my course is set. 🙂

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