Category Archives: victorian

1890’s Inspiration: Home-Made Muffs and Collarettes

I am working on a new 1890’s pattern, so as inspiration, here is a free article for you that I transcribed from the Ladies Home Journal, November, 1898.  I hope these provide you with inspiration for making little accessories to keep you warm in the upcoming months!


ny one of the pretty muffs or collarettes shown on this page will prove a welcome Christmas present to either, wife, mother, sister or friend.  The pretty set made of astrakhan cloth, shown in the illustrations, will be found easy to reproduce.


The muff is of the cloth, and made over a shape ; it is lined with silk of the new blue shade, and at one side is a rippled rosette with a tiny Rhinestone buckle in the center.


The band for the neck is of blue velvet, piped with the astrakhan, and where it is crossed is a scant rosette of the velvet with the buckle in the middle.  Rosettes finish each end.


  The hat has the crown and brim of astrakhan, the cloth being drawn closely over one of the new shapes to be worn off the face.  The broad spangled quills are caught in place by a velvet rosette, and a clover bow, also of the velvet, is under the brim so that it rests on the hair just in front.


The rather elaborate set of black satin in illustrations, shows a flaring Medici collar of black satin lined with figured silk in light colors.  The edges of both collar and muff are outlined with a cord of heavy black and white silk.  The collar flares well away from the throat, which it should be made to fit, while the cape part is laid in flaring bloc-plaits.  At the neck is a narrow black ribbon, lopped in a tiny bow in the front under a Rhinestone buckle.  The muff, a veritable bag shape, is of material like the cape.  It is drawn together at the top under loops of ribbon, and a small strass buckle is in the center.  If one prefers it a piping of fur or satin may be substituted for the cord, but the cord is the newest in style.


The simple but elegant-looking muff of tan cloth is made of cloth matching the gown.  It is semi-oval in shape and lined with cream Bengaline, the sides being arranged in scant frills that permit the lining to show.  In the center is a small fur head, from under which fall four fur tails, all being one of the dark shades.  A muff made in this way may be worn with any gown provided always that it match sin color, and that the lining of the frills is selected with an eye to that prevailing in the costume.


Any woman who has many tiny tips- white ones- left from this hat and that wrap, may hie herself to the dealer in feathers, and by cleansing those already possessed and adding a few to them she may make a dainty boa, the one which may be fastened at the throat with a bow of white satin ribbon, with its loops and ends “fixed” after the very latest fashion.  To go with this there is the muff made of broad figured ribbon and finished at each side with frills of ribbon to match.  A gig bow of plain white satin is on top, contrasting well with a compile of tiny white feathers just beside it.  In appearance this set is elaborate.  There will be but a very little money gone from one’s purse, through the usage of wisdom and the combination of good taste will be great to create this pretty and stylish belonging.

There are many attractive belongings that do not cost as much money as time and dexterity, and that deftness that is really a talent.  Most of us can make our muffs and collars, otherwise there would be many more cold hands and sore throats. The cape collar of cloth, shown in illustration, which may be worn over the coat or without it, has a slightly curved air.  It is lined throughout with the Bengaline, the shaping of the collar showing the lining.  Around the neck, making a distinction between collar and cape, is a folded band of black satin ribbon arranged in a full bow at the back, wile in front, as if they were clasps, are two fur heads with several small tails falling from under them.  A more expensive cape of this kind, suited for mourning, would be one of crape lined with dull silk, and trimmed with ribbon and astrakhan heads.


A most stylish set is the cloth one shown in illustrations.  It is made of gray cloth, although any shade matching the gown may be used.  The collar, as well as the muff, is made of shaped pieces tailor fashion, the stitching on the right side being done at each section and around the edges with heavy silk.  There is a decided flare given to the muff at each side,  while dark crimson velvet bows graduated in size are at the top and fall well forward.  The collar has a cape that ripples slightly, but the very high collar is straight, the stitching on it being very conspicuous.  The cape is short on the shoulders and comes to a decided point in front, its fastening being concealed under many loops of crimson velvet.  Both muff and cape are lined with an inexpensive gray fur which adds to their comfort as well as to their beauty.

Next to shaping one’s muff the greatest care must be taken to make the layer of cotton, really the layer, give not only the soft, full loop, but all vicissitudes in the shape of “lumps” of wadding must be straightened out.  The cloth muff, which is specially appropriate for the fur-trimmed cloth gown, will obtain this season.

There are many inexpensive furs, in bands, heads or tails, that are effective on the muff or collar and yet add but little to the cost.  Often the bust little woman who goes out by the day, sewing busily and with many a bright idea, since she is interested in her patrons, will evolve a muff form almost nothing.  One recently seen was oval-shaped, made of a bit of black brocade left over from a dress, lined with coarse white silk that was new but did not cost much, while on tip, from among loops and ends of ribbon- also new- hung tiny tails of ermine- entire cost, three dollars.  But the buyer of the materials for this very stylish muff understood that there were small, almost unknown, shops where a bit of fur or of pasesmenterie could be bought at a reasonable price.


Something absolutely new is shown in the silk collar and muff in the illustrations.  They are made of soft, thin, golden-brown silk laid in accordion plaits pulled out as illustrated.  Satin ribbon bows in bands and loops make an effective contrast, the ribbon upon the collar being  little wider than that upon the muff.

All the muffs and collars illustrated upon this page are inexpensive, and any one of them may be made by the so-called “handy” woman, with an ease that will surprise even herself.  Other materials than those suggested here may be substituted, the only absolute requirement being that both the muff and collar shall be made soft and warm.


New E-Pattern! 1879 Victorian Dinner Bodice

I’m SO excited to announce the latest E-Pattern! Yay!

The newest pattern is a Victorian dinner bodice from the Natural Form era.  It is from an original antique period pattern, from March, 1879.  This is the first time Wearing History has delved into Victorian era clothing patterns :)

Originally made in faille & pompadour cloth, this bodice would be STUNNING for your Victorian era impression, your steampunk ensemble, or, as some ladies on my Wearing History Facebook page mentioned, it would even be fun in our modern era as a jacket over jeans!

This pattern has been “decoded” from original period source material.  In case you’ve never seen the old patterns as they were originally published in periodicals of the time, this is the pattern sheet which this pattern came from:

The patterns were in single sizes (not multi-size), with all garment patterns included in that issue overlapping one another.  The dressmaker would then trace out the pieces for their garment, as indicated in the legend on the side, by following different dotted line markings.  Luckily for you, I have done this hard work for you (as they DO make you go a bit cross eyed), so you can jump right in to mock up making or resizing, as needed.  The pattern is digitally drawn so is clean and crisp, and follows the original period pattern lines.

Included with this pattern is the original written period pattern instructions, transcribed from the original source material, as well as some added tips to help you with making your mock up and things to keep in mind while fitting.

You can purchase the E-pattern for this 1879 Victorian Dinner Bodice on my website now for $7.

Visit my site for more information on this new E-Pattern!

I’m hoping to offer more lovely Victorian and Edwardian patterns from original period sources in the future :)

Finished Project: Blue Corset from 1868

I just put the finishing touches on this today, and I’m so glad to finally have it done!  I started the mock up for this sometime last year.  I really wanted a corset I could wear to get a decent silhouette for late 1860s/early 1870s gowns.  I have one Victorian corset I made myself, but it’s more appropriate for the 1880s and didn’t give me much form.  I started reading up about how women who weren’t endowed got their shapes, and talked to other costumers about it.  Jen of Festive Attyre was especially helpful in figuring out what to do.  This corset has sort of revolutionized my thinking about making them, and I’m glad to say that I’m no longer paranoid about making corsets.  It was revolutionary to me to realize that I could make myself fit a corset shape, and fit a corset to fit *me*, when my shape is so not what was the period ideal for the Victorian era.

When I started thinking about this project I knew I wanted a blue corset, like in Edouard Manet’s painting Nana, from 1877.  Although later than this corset by nearly ten years, I have always loved this painting and knew I wanted to mirror this color scheme when I made mine.

The pattern for this corset came from Francis Grimble’s Reconstruction Era Fashions book.  It was reproduced from an original Harper’s Bazar pattern from 1868 and then scaled down by half.  I re-enlarged the pattern and did my mock up. I found in the mock up stage that the original sizing of the corset pattern was several  inches too big for me, so I did some adjustments at the side seams, and some smaller adjustments to the hip and bust gussets, but made sure to leave enough room and not over fit it, so that I had room to pad out to achieve close to a period shape.

The original pattern called for boning across the back, but I decided I would rather have cording as I thought it would be both more comfortable and more decorative.  My husband was a darling and did the grommets up the back for me.  That’s one thing I really don’t like to do!  The chemise I am wearing is an antique in my collection.  Although I wouldn’t really wear it under clothing for fear of damaging it (although it is quite sturdy), it was fun to wear for pictures.  I need to make one along similar lines someday.

I should also mention that when I went to do my boning channels I realized I missed a tuck that was called for that went from the bottom of the front bust gusset to the bottom of the corset.  Oops?  Since I had already done all my fittings without this tuck I just decided to leave it be, but that accounts for one of the bust gores having a squared off shape at the bottom rather than a point.  Doesn’t bother me, but in case others wanted to try this pattern I thought it should be mentioned.  And as with all period patterns of this age, no seam allowances were included in the original pattern.

The fabric I used was white cotton coutil, to which I flat lined blue cotton sateen.  I was sick for quite a few days last week, so I used the opportunity to do something I don’t usually do- and embroider a little motif up the front of the busk and add some flossing.  I don’t have much skill at this sort of handwork, but it was fun to do and I think it looks kind of pretty!  My initial thought was to do flossing and add a contrast binding and wide lace at the top, but I really like the simplicity of these accents and I’m glad I didn’t go with my first plan.

Just like today, women would pad out what nature didn’t give them naturally.  As I mentioned previously, I was on a quest to get a bit more of a Victorian shape than I had naturally or with my previous corset.  When I took my mock up of this corset to work with me, I had some help from a theatre perspective and found that they still use this trick. One of the “tricks of the trade” are to use men’s tailoring shoulder pads and place them strategically at the sides, both at top of the corset, and at the bottom, to create more of an hourglass shape.  Then you can use little pads in the front for extra support- to create a bit of a shelf.  I tried this, and lo and behold, I actually had a decent shape for the era! Much better than I had had previously.

Since this project was done in conjunction with the Dreamstress’ great group, The Historical Sew Fortnightly, here’s the info required.

The Challenge: Under it All

Fabric: Cotton coutil, cotton sateen

Pattern: Reproduced Harper’s Bazar pattern from Frances Grimble’s Reconstruction Era Fashions Book.

Year: 1868

Notions: Metal spiral and flat steel boning, corset busk, grommets, corset lacing, cotton embroidery floss, stay tape, thread, set of pre-made shoulder pads, cotton quilt batting to make two more pads, white muslin to cover shoulder pads.

How historically accurate is it?  Looks accurate on the outside (embroidery inspired by, rather than reproduced authentically from, period examples), but the inside and construction are done with modern methods.  The gussets were flat lined then serged, and applied with  lapped seams rather than flat felling.

Hours to complete: Several.  From start to finish, perhaps around 10 hours, including several mock ups and time to enlarge and alter the pattern.

First worn:  Not worn yet other than for photos

Total cost: Didn’t keep track but I’m guessing $35-40ish, not including the book cost.

Finished UFO Project, and a Peek at Things to Come…

Did you know that The Dreamstress is hosting a neat Facebook sewing motivation group for this year?  It’s called the Historical Sew Fortnightly, and every two weeks there’s a new challenge.

I missed the last challenge, but I got this one finished in time for the UFO theme (unfinished object).  This jacket was based on an 1899 jacket pattern from La Mode Illustree, and I don’t mind saying now, that this is the pattern that I’ve slowly been working on in my free time as the next Wearing History pattern release.  The project was started a year or two ago, with an original pattern, but gradually morphed into a grande project, as I kept finding more and more that I needed to do to make the pattern more accessible and understandable (markings, seam allowances, grainlines, and instructions were all missing, and the pattern pieces needed alterations to get them to fit together correctly).  I’ll have more info on it once it’s completely finished and I have the pattern up on my site, but for now I’m just glad to share preview pics I took at work today :) I went all out on this jacket and did a bunch of tailoring on it to make it extra nice.



Finished Project: The Tissot Dress

Fair warning- this is a long and picture heavy post!

This dress had been a long time on my wish list.  I’m an ardent fan of James Jacques Tissot’s paintings, and a particular dress that appeared in a few variations in several of his paintings really inspired me.  The dress is not an exact copy, but is inspired by the following paintings.

This was the first one I found, called The Gallery of H.M.S. ‘Calcutta’ (Portsmouth), 1877.  This image is from the Hermitage Collection Connection’s blog.  My good friend is eventually going to make the one in blue so we can go about together in our ensembles :)

 Then I found several more paintings in which this image appears:

Portrait of Miss Lloyd (on left) from loveisspeed.  July (on Right) posted by a friend online.

July: Specimen of a Portrait from Flickr (on left), Fete Day at Brighton from Wikimedia Commons (on right) has different color bows but is the same dress.

  I started this dress in June of last year and actually did wear it to Costume College last year, but only for an hour or two, during which I taught a class.  After Costume College last year I finished it up and meant to take pictures the entire year, but after a bit of thought decided I liked it too much to not wear again, so it made another (longer) appearance this year.  The photos below combination of photos taken at Costume College this year and afterward at a public park.

The skirt was made from the Truly Victorian natural form Fantail Skirt pattern.  I wanted this to be a transitional dress between early bustle and natural form, so I actually tied the back of the skirt looser (it’s on a drawstring) and fit it over my Truly Victorian Petticoat with Wire Bustle, and tied the tapes inside the bustle somewhat loosely to have a smaller bustle shape.  The “polonaise” was made using the basis of Truly Victorian bodice shapes and I compared the cut with several in Francis Grimble’s Fashions of a Gilded Age (I don’t remember if it was book 1 or 2).  Since I am already familiar with the cut of Truly Victorian bodices I found this to be easier than scaling up and fitting a bodice from an original pattern I wasn’t familiar with.

The skirt and polonaise are both accented by pleating that is edged in lace.  The front fastens up the center front with hook and eye tape, and the bows are taffeta cut into bias strips and then tacked on.  The dress is made from a cotton/poly blend.  I was told it was all cotton when I purchased it in the Garment District in LA, but boy- was pleating it a pain!  I used the Perfect Pleater, but since it had poly in it, it did not want to hold the pleats.  In the end I used a combination of vinegar/water to set the pleats- sprayed it heavily and ironed the pleats in until they were well dry.  I waited for it to cool.  I then did a heavy coating of spray starch, gave it a second to set, then ironed it well (too soon after spraying and it would stick!), and then waited for that to cool.  Part way though this project I realized how beneficial a press cloth can be!

Yes, it took FOREVER and is not something I’d like to repeat soon.  I’m actually unsure of the yardage. I just kept going until I ran out of fabric! I’d still like to make the matching jacket but I ran out of fabric.  I just saw it again on the last trip to LA, but forgot why I wanted it.  Of course, now I remember! I hope they still have it whenever I go back- I went on a wild goose chase last year trying to find the darn fabric again with no luck!

At the last minute before Saturday at Costume College I remembered I didn’t have a hat so threw one together very quickly with fabric scraps and hot glue on a straw base bought from Truly Victorian when they sold these.  My husband painted it white for me last summer.

I just posted my favorites here (and I know there’s a lot) but I have several more photos of this dress on Flickr which aren’t in this post.  You can see them here.

This dress feels like a dream to wear. I just adore white dresses from the Victorian and Edwardian eras!  I need more excuses to pull this one out in the future

Finished Project: The 1870s Green Plaid Bustle Dress

I’m back from Costume College, my good friend is on her way back home to Texas, and it’s time to get back to real life. Woe!  But I have some fun photos to share coming up, and the first of which I want to share is the 1870s plaid bustle dress project I posted about previously.

I finished it all up for the most part by the time my friend arrived, but since she had some extra sewing to do I started doing trimming.  And more trimming.  And more trimming.  Someone on the American Duchess Facebook album of Costume College photos said it looked similar to old fashioned ribbon candy- and you know, I have to agree!

This one was lots of fun to trim.  I love this time period.  I can trim, and trim the trims, then trim the trim with trims.  In this case the most fun things to make for trimming were the ruffles which were finished with a bias binding in the peach. Over the top of the ruffles at the side I ran a braid which was made of three tubes of bias made into cording and then braided.  The bows that are accented with tassels at the end were lots of fun to make, too.

This outfit was made using Truly Victorian patterns.  The bodice was made with Heather’s new 1872 Vested Bodice Pattern, TV403.  The skirt was made with the 1875 Parisian Trained Skirt Pattern, TV216 (you can see my previous version of the skirt in their website photo).  I’m a huge fan of Truly Victorian patterns- they make these Victorian patterns so accessible, and they make up really well!  I documented working on this bodice in prior posts here, here, and here.

Capturing the correct colors of this outfit has proved quite difficult.  In reality it’s probably a combination of the photos here in front of a blank background and the photos above.

The hat is actually a 1930s hat I had in my vintage collection.  At the last minute I remembered I didn’t have appropriate headwear so I pulled out this one, which just so happened to match perfectly.  I pinned little accents of the green onto the hat, added a pink feather and a few dress clips, and it suddenly became passable for 1870s.  The entire dress was made from polyester taffeta (gasp!) but the fabrics looked so much like authentic silk taffeta, even in person, and had the same hand to the touch, that I was able to make the dress look passable on a much better budget than by using a more authentic silk.  For a dress I’ll only wear on occasion, I decided it was a good sacrifice for me to make and it helped out my pocketbook ;)

That wraps up this project!  The End ;)

TV403 Bodice Progress

I’m plugging along on this bodice! This is Truly Victorian 403, the new 1872 bodice.

I am crazy and picked a giant plaid, which has made things more difficult than they needed to be.  But I’m pretty happy with it so far!  I am different proportions than my dress form, and the sleeve hangs differently on my body, but you’ll  just have to take my word for it- it fits me better than it does my form.

The sleeves were such a pain! For some reason I always have problems getting the sleeves of Truly Victorian patterns to fit me (though I absolutely adore Heather’s patterns), so I had to alter them significantly.  But also, figuring out the cut of the plaid was difficult. And then there was actually sewing the things! I ended up machine sewing the underarm, then putting it on my dress form and pinning the sleeve to place, then hand sewing the sleeve caps in so I could get the pattern to match up how I wanted it to.

On to the next steps! I’ve got to finish the bodice facings and hem, then on to fastenings!