Historical Sew Monthly: February 2019



I’m a horrible blogger. I repeat, I am a horrible blogger. As you can tell from the title this post is all about the February HSM challenge, I actually did complete this in February, I just suck at blogging – in case those in the back didn’t hear me the first time. February’s HSM challenge was “Linen/Linens” as in make something out of linen or as in the other use of the word, underclothes. After the 1850 Winter Evening event at Cobblestone Farm, for which I made the last HSM challenge, I had already fallen in love with this new time period and volunteered my children to come with me for the next event at this beautiful site, the Spring Fling to be held on Sunday May 5th. This meant not only would I need another dress suitable for the warm weather, but my three boys would all need full outfits. GULP. That’s a lot of sewing! I’m probably crazy.

I started researching little boys clothes for the 1850s knowing that my youngest (just turned 4 at the end of February) would still be in frocks I decided to start there as information and patterns seemed readily available and easy enough to understand. I dug into Pinterest to look at extant frocks in museums and darling little boys in daguerreotypes (pro tip: center parted hair indicates a girl, side part a boy) and read as much as I could from amazing sites like Elizabeth Stewart Clark’s The Sewing Academy and the blog by Romantic History. I settled on the pattern the Elizabeth puts out, seeing as it seemed the most well researched and with a lot of bang for your buck in terms of everything you could produce with it.

Knowing that every time period requires the use of proper undergarments in order to achieve the look you want, I began drafting up a bodiced petticoat for my little Bug. To be honest this was one of the easiest little garments to make…ever. I measured the munchkin and using the bodice pattern I cut straight into my white linen, no time for mock-ups it’s a simple garment who has time for that lol. Once the bodice was sewn up and was semi-wearable I fitted on the Bug and realized hes actually a lot tinier than said bodice. Facepalm. Not wanting to make another and realizing eventually he will grow I made two vertical tucks at the center back closure of the bodice to take in the extra – when he outgrows it simply remove the tucks!

With the crisis averted I moved onto the skirts. I did some crazy maths and calculated how long the skirts should be and how many panels I wanted. I began sewing them up, hemming and working on the two tucks I had accounted for. I hastily gauged the skirts – no dread and terror this time- and was proud to have finished the petticoat in less than a day. I tricked my little guy into putting it on and SURPRISE I did the math wrong and his skirt was longer than I wanted. GRR.

So now I had to fudge another set of tucks while the skirt was attached to the bodice, what a pain. I managed to finagle it more quickly than I was expecting and decided to give everything a nice pressing – seriously is there anything more satisfying than freshly pressed tucks on a petticoat? **Note that the following images do not depict a satisfyingly pressed tucked petticoat**

With how quickly I put this together I immediately cut out a sweet frock for him and had it finished in another day. Seriously, this thing is darling. I decided to go with a lightweight cotton plaid/check because 1. it was on clearance 2. it’s always dreadfully hot during the summer events and 3. I saw a lot of boys wearing plaids and checks in dags. Once the gown was finished we sat down together and looked at how some frocks were trimmed – plain frocks are no fun and my little man isn’t afraid to be EXTRA. He really enjoyed the sash and belt look on a few extants so we went with that using some scrap brown worsted wool I had from another project. We decided to use that same wool for contrast piping and for a sweet little dagged trim on the sleeves. I think it really gives the frock a more masculine feel.

I’m really excited about the finished project and I can hardly wait for the event next month. I definitely think he’s going to be irresistible to photographers.

PS. Enjoy some photos of him in his adorable outfit, I couldn’t resist sharing them.


The Challenge: 1850s linen bodiced petticoat for a child

Material: White linen

Pattern: The Sewing Academy 220: Little Boys Wardrobe and Romantic History tutorial

Year: 1840-1850s

Notions: Metal hooks and eyes, beeswax, and thread

How historically accurate is it? It’s mostly machine sewn and it seems that cotton was a more popular choice for undergarments in the mid 19th century so I will say its 75% accurate.

Hours to complete: Total was probably less than 4 hours

First worn: Aside from pictures for this post and Instagram last month it hasn’t been officially worn yet

Total cost: $25 for pattern, linen fabric was from the stash

Historical Sew Monthly: January 2019


Ok, so I think by now we all understand how bad I am at keeping up with blogging. To be honest though, if I blogged as much as I wanted I probably wouldn’t get half as much sewing done as I’d like to. Vicious circle. Anyways, for the second year in a row I am casually participating in the Historical Sew Monthly challenge hosted by the lovely Dreamstress. If you’ve never heard of the HSM challenge definitely check it out, I love seeing all the cool projects people turn out to fit the challenge themes! This year I managed to inadvertently knock out the first two challenges with little effort as they fit right in with my  sewing plans. #score!

The first challenge of the year was “Dressed to the Nines” and costumers were encouraged to create something fancy to be “dressed to the nines” or create something from a year ending in 9 (like 1849), or incorporate the number 9 into the design elements, like 9 buttons. This was perfect as I need to whip together a dress for an event in February that was set in 1850.

I decided to start planning my project by perusing Pinterest for some inspiration. I was still really new to this period and learning exactly what shapes and details were appropriate was daunting, fortunately they had photography! During a random search I came across this dress and then this fashion plate and finally this dag.

Hmm, look at all that blue changeable silk! Funny thing is I have an entire bolt of that very same fabric sitting in my sewing room – sometimes things are meant to be!

So with the fabric decided upon I began looking at elements I liked in these dresses, namely the tightly gathered bodice front and the tight sleeves, and chose the Truly Victorian pattern 454 German Day Dress to work with. I had heard many great things about the Truly Victorian patterns and figured I couldn’t go wrong with them especially when working in unfamiliar territory. I really enjoyed working with the TV pattern, but not going to lie the sizing chart was crazy. I might just be really unproportional but I had to fudge some numbers to get to a size that made sense. I really had my doubts about the fit when sewing up the mock-up but amazingly the crazy maths and head scratching worked! I had to make zero adjustments! Seriously when does that ever happen, especially on an unfamiliar pattern in a new time period? Truly Victorian patterns I AM SOLD!!

After whizzing through the mock-up I whipped together the bodice in no time – seriously flat lining is my new favorite thing, WHY AREN’T WE USING THIS MORE OFTEN???

With one week before the event all I had to do was gauge the skirts and attach them – cue terror and dread.

Holy Crap I can gauge skirts!

Pleating skirts is second nature for me, when it comes to knife pleats that is, but throwing in a new technique like gauging (or cartridge pleating) and you have me shaking in my boots. I don’t do well with change. I think I spent more time researching how to gauge skirts than I did actually gauging them. Not even joking.

The week of the event and after 2 cups of coffee, 4 pep talks, and like 7 internet tutorials I finally bit the bullet and gauged the darn skirts. It took me approximately the entire season of BBC’s The Living and The Dead (I don’t suggest watching this before spending an evening in a dark and haunted Victorian home) to finish the skirts and attach them to the bodice, essentially making the thing.

Ta-Da! Ignore my shrinking dress form, that girls got problems

The day of the event we met up early to do a mini photo shoot, because that’s what you do when you make a new thing you’re proud of right?

The event was focused on recreating some of the activities that would occur around a house during a winter evening in 1850. The 1850s girl gang decided to reenact a parlor scene by taking tea, reading and discussing current events. We took advantage of the gorgeous candlelight to snap a few haunting images. Overall the event and the gown were a huge success.

HSM challenge #1 = Accomplished!

The Challenge: “Dressed to the Nines” an 1849 day dress

Material: Blue and black changeable silk, black silk, and green cotton twill lining

Pattern: Truly Victorian #454 German Day Dress

Year: 1849

Notions: Metal hooks and eyes, beeswax, cotton cord, blue linen thread, and blue silk thread.

How historically accurate is it? The pattern is based off of an original tailors guide written c. 1843 and the fabric and styling matches extant gowns and those seen in fashion plates and daguerreotypes, however the gown is mostly machine sewn (its an antique machine if that helps recoup points), so I will call it 90% accurate.

Hours to complete: I’m terrible at tracking hours but from mock-up to finished product there is probably 24 hours of labor involved.

First worn: Saturday February 9th, for the Winter Evening event at Cobblestone Farm in Ann Arbor, MI.

Total cost: Less than $25, fabric and almost all notions came from stash. Pattern and cording were the only purchases.

A Proper Petticoat

Woman in a Kitchen, Paul Sandby c.1754

The petticoat, or skirt looking thingy, is the basic garment for your bottom half. Every woman no matter her social class or trade wore at least two petticoats, but often times they wore more. They could be left plain or could be trimmed lavishly, could be hemmed or bound with wool tape, and could be printed, solid, striped, or even checked!

For a basic wardrobe for a working class woman you’re going to want two petticoats to start with. These are going to be the easiest garment to sew in your entire kit since they are nothing more than two rectangles of fabric pleated to your waist measurement, hemmed and sewn into a waistband. When selecting fabric we recommend striped linen as it seems to be the most common. Both Burnley & Trowbridge and Wm. Booth, Draper offer a large selection of striped linen perfect for petticoats. If you decide to shop elsewhere for striped (or solid) linen we recommend sticking with shades of blue and brown. If you’d prefer to go with a solid linen we recommend sticking to earth tones, again with shades of blue and brown being the most common. Linen did not take dye colors as well as animal fibers like wool and silk. If you’d prefer a wider selection of colors we recommend looking at worsted wool or even wool flannel for petticoats. Wool petticoats were quite common then, in fact they were so common we need to see more wool gowns/petticoats represented in the hobby than we do now. If you’re concerned with being too hot in wool, do remember that wool like many other fabrics comes in a variety of weights. Tropical or summer weight wool can be so fine and light that you’ll scarcely believe its wool at all. When selecting a wool fabric buy from a reputable seller and pay attention to fiber content. Many wools are sold as wool blends and laws allow for fibers that make up less than 5% of the fiber weight to be simply listed as “other fiber(s)”, so understand what you are buying. Nylon is frequently added to wool to improve durability of the fabric, the NWTA allows for up to 25% of a wool fabric to be made with nylon. Polyester is another fiber frequently added to wool. We believe it’s a decision best left up to an individual as to whether a blend is appropriate. We highly encourage you to research why nylon and polyester is added to wool, how it affects the fabrics wear, and what it means for safety and risk around open flame.

The basic construction of a petticoat is simple and has been covered at length by many before us. We have listed below a number of tutorials as well as relevant research and resources relating to petticoats of the 18th century. The average petticoat requires roughly 2 ¼ yards of fabric, more if you want a fuller petticoat or have a larger waist measurement. The fabric is cut roughly to the length you’d like, which can be anywhere from top of the foot to two inches above the ankle. When

“Departure from a French Inn”, Grimm, 1775

deciding on the length of your petticoat consider its function and your tasks performed while wearing it. Longer petticoats are easily tripped on when not held out of the way, this could be both difficult and dangerous to manage when hauling wood or water. Both Hayley and myself keep our petticoats right above the ankle bone. Another consideration is how do you want to finish your petticoat, hemming or binding? Binding a petticoat hem with wool tape is a great way to preserve and protect your fabric investment and was a common way to finish a petticoat. Hems of gown skirts and petticoats get a lot of abuse being walked on, drug through the mud, catching on things all will eventually lead to the fabric fraying and even ripping. A binding or tape would take the brunt of this wear, leaving the fabric underneath relatively unharmed. When the binding began to fray or wear excessively it could easily be removed and replaced. When just helming a petticoat the fabric itself is exposed directly to the abuse of daily wear and when it finally gives you’re left with no choice but to clip the ruined edge off. Your poor petticoat would then slowly shrink over time as each successive hem was worn out and cut off again, not a very sound way to treat your investment.

Well, I really think that sums it up for petticoats, they are a pretty basic garment. So rules to remember:

  1. At least two, worn at all times, sometimes more but never less.
  2. Stick to linen or wool for working class. Stripes are your best friend.
  3. Cotton print petticoat only with a matching cotton print gown or jacket (for Anglo descent personas- some ethnic groups through that rule out the window)
  4. Ankle length is a good place to start for working class. Too long and you’ll trip, too short and you’ll look French, Dutch, or German.


Petticoat Research and Resources

Wives, Slaves, and Servant Girls by Don Hagist

Petticoat Tutorials
http://www.marquise.de/en/1700/howto/frauen/rock.shtml (measurements in metric)



Lucy Locket and Her Pocket



“Lucy Lockett lost her pocket, Kitty Fisher found it.
Not a penny was there in it, only ribbon wrapped around it.”

To most modern folks this nursery rhyme simply makes no sense, pockets for most of our memory have been sewn into our garments, sans ribbon. 18th Century pockets, on the other hand, were essentially medium sized bags with an opening that were tied to the waist (along with everything else). Pockets varied in size and shape as well as the materials used to make them with. Sparing you the pockets lecture I’d highly recommend the following sources before starting your project.

Pocket Research

Pocket Tutorials

I’m generally one of those people who prefers to buy everything in a kit rather than having to track down each little piece, while pockets seem simple enough they do have lots of little tedious bits that need purchased like the fabric itself, something to bind it with, tape to secure them to yourself, and embroidery thread if you so choose to have pretty pockets. I decided not to waste time and money and just bought a pocket kit through Wm. Booth, Draper. The basic pocket kit comes with ½ yard of unbleached linen, 2 yards of ½” wide linen tape, one spool of beige 50/3 linen thread and a bundle of strips of reproduction cotton prints for binding . The kit is intended to be made in a class so there will not be a pattern or instructions that come with it but that’s not a big deal at all.

You can easily order a pattern for pockets, Kannik’s Korner has a pattern for stockings, pockets and mitts that is available for $14.00 through Wm. Booth, Draper. If you’d like to save some money, and who doesn’t?, I’d advise improvising with your own pattern! My pockets are being made with the tutorial provided by the V&A Museum, as well as help from the Tea in a Teacup post. I ironed my linen and roughly drew out the shape I wanted based on the pocket dimensions in the “Teacup” post. I then scaled up a design I wanted to embroider on each of my pockets and transferred it to the pockets.

Now I won’t lie to you fine folks, my pockets are not finished. They are on the back burner… way, way, way back there. I know I should have them and they could be useful but for now I have gotten by without them. In their stead I have been using a market wallet for general carrying of stuff, small hand basket, and a frail from Mrs. Boice’s Historie Academie. Will I ever finish my pockets? Yes, eventually. Should you make your pockets? Yes! They really do provide an interesting topic for discussion with the public, sort of similar to the “What’s in your purse?” question and they can be used to easily hide away those modern necessities like cell phones, keys, credit cards, and cash. Two pockets makes that even easier if you devote one solely to modern items while the other remains the “show and tell” pocket. For a more detailed look at what a woman might have carried in her pockets check out this blog post written by Carrie Fellows over at the 17th Regiment of Foot.


So pockets, while not necessary are extremely useful, simple to make, and great little projects that can be worked on while at events- perfect for an entire pocket discussion!


Stays on a Budget

Stays on a budget, can it be done? Yes! Stays are the next layer of undergarments we ladies should be wearing at events. Plain and simple, most of the recommended patterns aren’t going to work without them and getting that 18th Century silhouette will be nigh impossible. So what’s the scoop on stays?

What are they: Stays are a basic 18th century undergarment that aids in support of the body and outer garments and gently shapes the body into the desired silhouette for the time. Stays during this time were not restrictive in that women could haul water, chop wood, and tend children with ease. They did not function to minimize waist size, they were merely shapewear ala modern Spanx. They gently flatten your tummy and put The Girls in their place. Stays were vital for supporting heavy layers of outer wear; multiple petticoats, pockets, aprons, and all sorts of things are tied and tacked to a woman’s waist and that adds a lot of weight to the hips. A little bit of support can go a long way there.

Who wore them: Everyone. Women of all ages and social classes would have worn stays, yes even the women of the lowest classes and those who lived on the western edges of the frontier. Charitable campaigns were set up to help make stays for the most destitute of women and the secondhand clothing market was flourishing making stays accessible to all women. Even children, including young boys, wore stays to help encourage good posture and correct growth – but we’ll save that for another post.

What are they made of: Layers of linen with reed or whalebone (baleen) were most common but we do see plenty of examples of stays with other outer fabrics like wool and silk. Modern day reproductions are best made from layers of linen with German artificial whalebone which is a thin plastic, sturdier than other plastics like Rigilene but without the weight of steel. We do see quite a few women using traditional reed for their stays today with great success and at a less costly investment than the artificial whalebone.

What pattern should I use: If you have the money to spare opt for the Larkin & Smith front and back lacing stays pattern. The pattern is based on the latest research on 18th Century stays and is chock full of information. The instructions for the pattern come in a highly detailed spiral bound book and include everything you need to complete your stays, so simple a beginner can do it – so really there is no excuse for not having stays. Given that this pattern is as close to attending a workshop as you can get we think it’s worth every bit of the $28 price tag. So when it comes to working with a budget a good pair of stays should make the top of the list. Other patterns to consider include the JP Ryan back lacing stays pattern, the new Simplicity by American Duchess stays pattern, and the Red Threaded back lacing stays pattern. If you’d like to try your hand at grading up a pattern there are a number of stays patterns available for free! Check out this blog by Tea in a Teacup for a great rundown on working with the stays pattern from Norah Waughs Corsets and Crinolines.

So back to the original question, can a pair of stays be made on a budget? Yes and quite easily, might I add. Stays are a relatively small garment so finding linen at a thrift shop or remnant sale is a great place to start, my stays were made using an Irish linen tablecloth purchased from Goodwill for only $2.50. There are generally two to three layers that make up stays. Many people have used cotton duck canvas to act as the sturdy interior layer of the stays and pieced the lining with linen when working on a budget. I opted for the duck canvas ($3.99) for my stays interior and then pieced in the linen with leftover tablecloth pieces. Boning can be the most expensive part in a set of stays, especially if you opt for a fully boned set like I did. I wanted to try the artificial whalebone but it was a little out of my budget at the time I made my stays so I did a little bit of research and found a lot of costumers were using zip ties. I ended up purchasing plastic zipties in two different weights and widths from my local hardware store to use as boning, I think they cost about $6.99 total. For notions and what not I lucked into linen cordage and tape at our local Hobby Lobby, both on sale for half off only costing me a couple bucks total.

When it came to the pattern I dug through my stash and decided to try out the American Duchess pattern 8162 that Simplicity had produced. I had previously purchased it for fun when it was on sale at Joann Fabrics for .99¢. I knew going into the project that the pattern as is printed wouldn’t give me the HA look I wanted so I printed out the series of hacks Lauren from American Duchess put out to work through. Hindsight 20/20 I would have just ordered the Larkin & Smith pattern and started from that. My stays are functional but they don’t give me the support I need and the fit isn’t quite there despite doing a mock up, having the fitting tips and knowledge offered in the L&S pattern could have saved me having to make another set of stays.Design

So the takeaway, if you’re a woman, portraying a woman, you need stays. They aren’t difficult to make, even for beginners, and they don’t require a lot of materials. When trying to work on a budget opt for the best quality pattern you can afford and go from there. Thrift shops and remnant sales are perfect for finding the little bit of material you need and cable ties/zip ties are a great alternative to german artificial whalebone.

IMG_3597So ladies happy thrifting! We’ll be back after the holidays with the next installation of our Thrifty Reenactress blog series, plenty of time to get a head start on those stays. Don’t forget about our contest! Tag us on Facebook or Instagram with your budget wardrobe creations for a chance to win one of three prizes like this signature Dutch Milliners hair dressing set.





“There is no accounting for tastes.”

Welcome back to our Twelve Days of Christmas series here at the Dutch Milliners!

We’ve covered some big gifts and small gifts, but today we are covering something a little less glamorous: practical gifts.

Once you’ve been in “the hobby” for any amount of time, you quickly realize that there are things you simply haven’t the time or the skill to create on your own. I have even come to this realization despite being an avid DIY-er. And I do mean avid.

Additionally, things like jewelry, clothing, and other accessories are highly personal, and as, “there is no accounting for tastes” sometimes it is safest to err on the side of practical when it comes to gift giving.

However, just because something is practical doesn’t mean it has to be boring!!! Here is our list of beautiful and unique, but incredibly useful gifts for the historical interpreter in your life.

For holding things:

You have a lot of stuff. And invariably, there are never enough places to put it. For foodstuffs; crocks, bowls, and basins make de-farbing your outfit a durable and easily rinsable endeavor. This redware from Westmoore Pottery is just too beautiful. Baskets are a lightweight option for storing dry goods, sewing projects, and other containers. Townsends has a simple, but roomy option here.

Money a little tight? One of my favorite tricks for stoneware and basketry is to compile several reference images of 18th century still life and hit up your local second hand stores. You may strike out, but occasionally you can find a really nice piece. Print your reference images, the information nicely printed on the back, and give the gift of documentation this Christmas season.

If you have a little more to spend, this document box from the American Heritage Shop is a great way to hid a little farbery, or protect your reproduction books and journals… or your actual 18th century books. Drool.

For the over-tasked seamstress:

I like to sew.

Even so, sometimes, there are just some small (boring) items I don’t want to take time to sew. Especially when I could be sewing another cupcake gown.

Bumrolls are a really useful garment that are often overlooked by the average interpreter. Aside from improving your 18th century silhouette, bumrolls also help support the weight of numerous petticoats and increase air circulation in the, ahem, nether regions–useful for those toasty July events. The Needle Workers have a very moderate option that will be appropriate for most personas.

Pockets would make my life so much easier, and I completely intend to make a pair with my kit from Wm. Booth Draper.

…have intended to make them for about about six months now. You could save yourself the procrastination battle and just snap this set up from a Fashionable Frolic.

Thread is not glamorous by ANY means, but it is useful. The 60/2 thread from Burnley and Trowbridge is my favorite! Make a little sewing kit out of a spool and one of these sweet little needle cases. A threadwinder and a thimble will round out the gift nicely.

To make camp life a little easier:

Campfires… they can make or break you. Get ahead of the curve with a fire starting kit from the Quarter Master General. Fire tongs can also make your life easier by saving the time you would usually take to find a fire poking stick. Making your coals mobile will also improve the efficiency of your fire.

The Tekla dish towel from IKEA is a VERY inexpensive option for a camp towel. You’ll want to remove the tags and maybe re sew them if you want to avoid machine stitching, but you can’t beat the price.

I ALWAYS want to take my shoes off about halfway through a typical event, and this usually results in me mucking about in my socks.

Choosing a pair of reproduction mules may be a better option. Burnley and Trowbridge has a nice option. Sarah Juniper can make the custom mules of your dreams become a reality.

To make pack up a little easier:

You’re hot, sweaty, and just want to get home. The following items will help reduce the extra 21st century items you have to have on hand, and maybe speed up your exit just a tad!

Patagonia’s classic Baggies shorts are lightweight and quick drying–also elastic waisted–making the quick, cramped quarters change from interpreting duds to civvies a much simpler process. They have options for both men and women. Along those lines, the Outdoor Research Mirage tank top combines both tank top AND bra, minimizing the amount of extraneous items floating around in your overnight “leave it in the car” bag.

Speaking of that bag, having a durable and easy to dig through tote on hand will simplify the pile of necessary farb. Speaking of L.L. Bean, their adventure duffel would be a great option for organizing your garb for the drive in and the drive out.

Smelling a little gamey is just a part of camping out. Spritz your garments down with a natural odor eater, and purchase a shaker of the Dutch Milliners scented body and hair powder! Patting yourself down with this stuff right before bed and also before changing into your going home clothes will greatly improve your mood, and the scent experience of the humans around you. *wink*

Don’t ever let anyone in your life rain on your practical parade, because as this post just proved, basic is sometimes best.

I love me some PSL and Ugg boots, so fight me.

Now, to go convince the family that I really do need that L.L. Bean tote…


Patterns on a Budget


Ok so you’ve this crazy idea in your head that you want to jump into the world of 18th Century living history as an actual participant, but where do you begin? Well before you fire up the Way-Back Machine let’s start at the beginning: patterns. For the purpose of the Thirfty Reenactress series we’re only going to cover in detail specific patterns for a basic woman’s kit including a shift, stays, petticoats, bedgown, apron, pockets, cap, and handkerchief. In this post we’ll share some valuable (read: free) resources that you should look into when expanding beyond your basic garments. So let’s begin!

The Library
This seems like a no brainer but you’d be surprised at how easily forgotten the local library can be in this new digital age of information. So why is the library so great? Costly costuming books! Some of our favorite historical fashion titles can fetch a pretty penny when purchased online, if they’re even still available in print. There is no better way to access these amazing sources of information than by checking them out at the library. Most of our favorites include detailed descriptions and patterns to replicate period styles straight from extant pieces around the world, just waiting to be scaled up to your measurements!

Some specific titles you should search for?
Arnold, Janet, Patterns of Fashion; Englishwomen’s Dresses c.1660-1860 (London, 1964)
Baumgarten, Linda and John Watson, Costume Close-Up: Clothing Construction and Pattern 1750-1790 (Williamsburg, 1999)
Bradfield, Nancy, Costume in Detail 1730-1930 (London 1981)
Burnston, Sharon, Fitting & Proper: 18th Century Clothing from the Collection of the Chester County Historical Society (Texas, 1998)
Waugh, Norah, Corsets and Crinolines (London, 1972)
Waugh, Norah, The Cut of Women’s Clothes 1600-1930 (London, 1987)

The World Wide Web
Everyone knows that you can find anything you want on the internet with just a few keystrokes, but often times the tedium of sifting through search results can be overwhelming. We’ve come to love Pinterest when searching for inspiration from extant garments and when wanting a quick result for simple tutorials on things like a petticoat or a basic cap. In addition to the multitude of magnificent DIY tutorials shared by costume bloggers we are lucky to find so many period sources for patterns, like Diderot’s Encyclopedia and Instructions for Cutting Out Apparel for the Poor.

Tutorials and Free Patterns

Commercial Patterns
While most living historians shy away from recommending commercial patterns from the Big Three: McCalls, Simplicity, and Vogue, we think they can sometimes be used as a good starting point for basic garments when an individual lacks the confidence to tackle scaling up a gridded pattern and doesn’t have time nor the money to get their hands on a better pattern. Recently Simplicity has released multiple patterns designed by American Duchess who has conveniently provided a PDF booklet on her blog that outlines simple hacks to create a more historically accurate garment from the patterns. While we don’t advocate for their use as our top pick patterns, between their frequent sale price of .99¢ at JoAnn’s Fabrics and the PDF of hacks, we think they can be a great alternative for getting someone into an event and gaining more skill and confidence with sewing historical garments. When looking for patterns specifically designed with historical authenticity in mind we find that searching on Etsy can sometimes pull up new, uncut patterns for less than can be found at other retailers. Typically we’ve noticed that Mill Farms Patterns and Kanniks Korner Patterns can be less costly than others. On the other hand the more expensive patterns put out by Larkin & Smith, running about $20 per pattern, tend to include better construction photos and explanations based on the latest research as well as including tutorials on making other basic items needed such as an apron, petticoat, and handkerchief. So for example you can purchase their 1770s English bedgown pattern for $18 and you will have a manual detailing how to make a bedgown, petticoat, handkerchief, and apron – almost everything you need for a basic kit, well worth the investment.

American Duchess Hacks

In the following posts we’ll cover each garment of the basic working woman’s kit and include a specific pattern or tutorial that we believe is the best you can get with little to no money. We will also be sure to share our favorite patterns, where to get them, and why we think they are worth the investment. Stay tuned for next week’s post on shopping for fabric while on a budget. We’ll be talking about things like fiber content and weight, prints and why scale and color matters, and what are some good ways (and not so good ways) to save money on fabric.