1860s Bolero Ensemble

October 2011 – June 2013

A mid to late-1860s ensemble of skirt, bolero and blouse. The main fabric is a fairly substantial golden shot silk taffeta, with the blouse made up in pima lawn. The patterns are all Truly Victorian: # 441, 247 and 444. I worked on this in fits and starts and finally finished it up to wear to a picnic at beautiful Ardenwood Farm.

Winslow Homer, 1865: Croquet Players
Albright–Knox Art Gallery, New York

The skirt was cut to fit my LM elliptical hoop. It’s identical to the purple version. But as you can see, depending on my posture and the ground level, it can appear to have a train. It’s fully lined in batiste (not flatlined). The fabric and lining were sewn together at the waist and then the skirt was pleated. It’s whipped to a finished waistband (which I believe is described as “oversewn” in Patterns of Fashion). This was the first time I tried this on a non-cartridge pleated skirt and I’ve done it several times since. It’s a slow process but worth all the work. The entire bulk of the pleats is dropped below the waistline. It also makes for an easy sewing transition between knife pleats and cartridge pleats: you just keep whipping along. The lining is slipstitched to the skirt hem. Since the silk is pretty heavy, and already protected with a lining, I decided against adding a hem facing.

Skirt whipped to waistband
Blouse with shell buttons

The blouse sleeves were cut a bit narrower for a later-60s look. It’s finished with 3/16″ french seams and neckline and armscye bindings. The shell buttons have a distinctive pink/orange-hue. To keep the blouse tucked into the skirt I decided on snaps. They run along the blouse hem and inside the skirt’s waistband. (Since taking these photos I’ve moved them down 1/4″ to hide the bit of of the blouse band that shows). A period method, I was informed, was to baste the blouse into the skirt. This is my practical modern alternative.
The bolero is underlined in silk organza, and piped at neckline and armscye. After catchstitching the seam allowances to the underlining, I bag lined the jacket with a nice brown-striped cotton broadcloth. The armscye and neckline openings of the lining are sewn down by hand. Victorian womens’ jackets may have been finished with facings and exposed seam allowances, but I wanted the inside to look good.

Reblocked straw
Bolero details
Bolero lining

The foundation garments were already in my closet: sleeveless Truly Victorian chemise, a single layer corset, the elliptic hoop and elliptical petticoat. The belt is a shell belt buckle off ebay sewn to some petersham. I also remade a thrift store hat in the week before the picnic. The crown and brim were both cut down and I did a simple reblocking to give it some shape. 100% cotton petersham was added, which was nice stuff: superior to the rayon in ways. I do like the unusual weave of the hat.