Tuesday, March 15, 2016

1859 Black and White Vested Bodice with Split Skirt Ensemble

1859 Zouave Bodice with Tiered Skirt
This ensemble is all about the fabric!  It is a lightweight white cotton with an amazing black border print.  I had purchased 6 1/2yrds from Kansas City Mercantile Proprietress, Ms Peters several months ago.  It is not quite a sheer, but is a wonderful airy, lightweight cotton.  I wanted a new ensemble to wear at the San Juan Capistrano Swallows Day Parade, so I took up the “One week for One Dress” challenge, and this was my finished product!
The OC Costume Guild at the 2016 SJC Swallows Parade

I started with washing, drying, and ironing on Saturday.  Sunday was all about laying out and cutting.  Monday saw me start and finish the skirt.  Tuesday was start day on the bodice and I finished up on Wednesday.  Thursday was fitting and finishing day.  Friday ended with buttonholes, buttons, and bows and I was done!  I did work five of the days, so worked on the ensemble after I got home.  Each day I would set a goal of what had to be completed before I could go to bed, and this helped me stay on track in regards to meeting my “one week” deadline.

I originally wanted to try a full “one” length skirt, but the pattern repeat was too big and the top of the skirt looked off to me, so I flipped it into the two tier design using the Truly Victorian TV244 Double Skirt pattern.  This pattern covers the timeframe of 1837-1869, and would fit in perfectly with the era I was going for.  The pattern called for 6.5 yards fashion fabric and 2.5yrs of lining fabric.  After cutting the bodice pieces, I was left with almost 6.25yds.  To maximize the fabric, I did not cut it into panels as instructed, so I save several inches by having only one seam in the back that was used as the placket.  I split the border fabric right down the center making two tiers instantly.  The bottom tier is gathered and sewn onto the lining yardage.  The top tier was gathering and both tiers were basted together at the top edge then sewn into the fitted waistband.

The bodice is the OOP Simplicity 3791 “The Museum Curator” pattern by Deborah Woodbridge.  I only used the bodice pattern.  Now, we all know that the Big 5 always factors in a 2-4” ease in their patterns, however, that is not the case on this one!  I cut it to measurements and it was almost too small!  So, keep that in mind with this pattern!  I think as a “Museum” based pattern it is probably factored off an extant gown.  I do wish that all the Big 5 pattern companies would include the research and documentation on their Historic Patterns; it would really help with their overall pattern branding. 

This is a great bodice pattern.  It has the requisite double darts on each side in the front, the 2” wide center back width at the waist, the dropped sleeve seam, plus the dropped shoulder/back seam.  The Vested Bodice in this pattern does give you the restricted arm movement so associated with this era; it was eerie to really feel what women of that era would have experienced wearing a similar bodice.  I have worn a lot of vintage patterns, but this one was right on the nail in regards to making me feel like I was wearing a gown of the past ie: be it the fit or the pattern, the result was the same. 

The bodice pattern goes together quickly and all spots match up correctly.  Prior bodice sewing knowledge would be helpful.  I would say beginning intermediate level sewing skills.
Now, with only 6 ½ yds of fabric, I wanted to make sure I gave as much as possible to the skirt, so I only used approximately 1/2yrs for the front vest panels and the sleeve cuffs.  Proper fabric placement of the vest panels was key, and I cut them on the bias to help the print stay vertically in line with the skirt.  I used a lightweight white fabric for the balance of the bodice.  I also converted the sleeve “interior” facings into “exterior” cuffs to pull the darker border up onto the bodice.  This pattern does not call for any lining or piping, but I would certainly add it for any future sewing projects using this pattern.  The edges are all finished with the biased tape edging.  The pattern called for a “foldable” braid, but I opted for 1” cotton bias tape which I then folded in half, ironed, and sewed into place.  Note, there is a little notch on the neck edge of the bodice, do not overlook this.  It is needed to allow the two pieces to lock into each other and lay completely flat at the neckline center.  Also, I used a small black snap at the neckline edge instead of the button, plus a snap at the bottom edge to make sure all my edges would match up correctly.

The Vested Bodice was around in the late 1850’s to early 1860s, and I have always wanted to make one, and this fabric with the pattern seemed a perfect fit!  Enjoy!

It was a popular women's fashion in the 19th century in the United States. Colorful, braid-trimmed Zouave jackets became fashionable in the late 1850s and remained so well into the 1860s.” – Wikipedia 
Cindy P of "The Broke Costumer", Gina L, Val L of "Time Traveling in Costume" and Trudy F of "D'Nalof Design"


  1. This ensemble was just gorgeous up close! So fresh and airy looking. Beautiful placement of the border design. Well done!

  2. Fabric is beautiful. Shellys fabric always is. The tiered skirt is beautiful. However your research is off. The jacket came into fashion mid war 62-63. Not earlier as your pattern states. As a rule of thumb you would not see a tiered skirt with a zouave jacket.one was frilly and one is military inspired. Also early and pre was a bonnet would have been worn. Hats were mud war also. Recommend a fb page called the civilian civil war closet.

  3. Diane, Thank you for your update. I did do some research on this ensemble, and the gown I based it off of is dated as stated. The skirt pattern is TV and also fell within the date range. "Historically based" ideas often work better with today's sewing options, as "Historical Accurate" is many times not even achievable as the materials used back then are no longer available. We all must do the best we can.

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