my crazy life

A sewing conundrum

I have a conundrum. One that I should be able to figure out, but for some strange reason am unable to do so.

Here’s my problem. My friend has asked me to sew up an 18650-1860’s ensemble for her, she even bought the fabric and a pattern(s). She got the fabric, an apple green dupioni silk, on clearance for about $8 a yard, which is a steal, but she only got 7 yards.

Think a little more apple green, but this could just be my computer screen's fault.

And she doesn’t want a small hoop either. She wants this one.

Did I mention it has a 150' circumference?

How is a girl (we’ll ignore the fact that I’m not a girl, and that I’m actually supposed to be an adult) supposed to make a dress like this with only seven yards of fabric? Especially a dress like this.

This one. It calls for 8 1/2 yards of fabric.

My friend is pretty short, so I’m sure I can squeeze out just enough for this dress. But that still doesn’t solve my problem. She also wants another different bodice to wear with the skirt. Can I do that?¬† I’ve been looking for extant examples, but haven’t found anything. I’d rather not make the dress than make something that’s only half-thought out and only partly historical. I’d love to make a dress very similar to this one.

The Met. 1852-1854. French

It’s already pretty close as it is, but I’m just worried about the yardage issue. And the separate bodice ideas. For those of you with more experience than I at sewing this period of clothing, what are your ideas on this?



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5 thoughts on “A sewing conundrum

  1. The double layer skirt was popular then. You could use the fabric your friend bought for the two bodices and the upper tier of a the double skirt. Then you could use a complimentary fabric (maybe a darker green) for the lower tier. It would involve getting more fabric and changing your friends vision a bit….
    Or make the long sleeve dress as pictured but get a complimentary fabric (lighter green?) for the second bodice and use scraps left over from the apple green or find matching ribbon to decorate it so that it goes with the skirt. Either way you are going to have to buy more fabric! Truly Victorian has patterns for the double skirt and an evening bodice.

    • Thanks Wanda, that’s a really good idea. I talked to my friend last night and she mentioned wanting a bolero type jacket or something similar for the second bodice, so I’ll have to get creative when it comes to that. Maybe a nice cream or ivory silk would work well… In any case, I’ll definitely keep your suggestion in mind.


  2. Well, 7 metres is what I would buy for a large 1860s dress for me, so you aren’t actually that far off! My impression is that the Simplicity & McCalls historical patterns are really wasteful with fabric.

    7 yards is what, 250″?

    How wide is your fabric? 45″?

    Do 5 widths of 32″ long fabric for the skirt, that gives you a 225″ skirt – more than generous for a 150″ hoopskirt (and should be long enough to cover a hoopskirt for a petit woman if you do a historical hem protector), and still leaves you over two yards for the bodice. For her 2nd bodice, how about an evening bodice? They take so little fabric, and then she has day and evening wear. And the apple green silk is really far more accurate for evening wear anyway. And for a 2nd day outfit, she can wear the skirt from this with a blouse and a zouve jacket.

    And I know she wants a 150″ hoopskirt, but if you could talk her down to 140″ or 130″, I’d really recommend that. 150″ will really swamp a petit woman. The hoopskirt I use under my Raspberry Swirl gown is 130″, and you can see how full it is on a 5’5″ woman: And with a 130″ or 140″ hoopskirt you could use only 4 or 4 1/2 widths of fabric and have more to play with for the bodice.

    Whatever you do though I’m sure it will be lovely! I look forward to seeing the finished product!

    • Thanks Dreamstress.
      I know the major patterns companies like Mccall and Simplicity are Very wasteful when it comes to fabric. Especially if your sewing victim happens to be rather short and well proportioned. I would have preferred drafting a bodice, but my friend picked the pattern and her schedule is rather busy as a university student, so we went with the commercial pattern.

      7 yards is 252″ and the silk is 45″. I had definitely considered doing an evening dress anyway, since I definitely agree that silk is definitely more evening appropriate. What is a historical hem protector? I’ve heard about them, but I’ve never seen any to be absolutely certain as to what they are. As for the zouave jacket, would you suggest making the jacket out of the same green silk or a complimentary or contrasting color? If I played my cards right I could definitely pull off enough fabric to do an evening bodice and the jacket.

      Thank you for suggesting a smaller hoop! I’ve been dreading making the darn thing because it’s going to be huge and my sewing space is really not conducive to a huge skirt in the middle of it. I’ll definitely show her the Raspberry Swirl gown (which I have admired from a far for a while) and see if I can talk her down a bit.

      Thanks again.

  3. Pingback: Holy Hoopskirts Batman! « sewinginshambles

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