Making Some Frilly Victorian Underwear || 1890s Combinations


– It is a truth universally acknowledged, or at least should be, but
often devastatingly isn’t, that no historical costume is complete without the correct undergarments. Yes, the corsets and the crinolines and the bustles and the
rumps are all very important to achieving the proper
historical silhouette, but one other layer is still needed to go underneath all of this. That’s right, Hollywood. Ladies did not spend centuries in tight-laced corsets and stays sitting directly next to the skin. For centuries, a simple
linen shift or smock was worn beneath the corset or stays, both to protect the skin
as well as to protect the not-so-easily washable layers from contact with the body. However, by the late Victorian period, what with industrialization and all, a whole new realm of
possibilities began to unfold in the world of women’s underthings. We start to see the
introduction of drawers paired with what is
now by the 19th century known as a chemise, whereas previously, just the shift was worn
with nothing underneath. Towards the end of the
19th century, however, we start to see a new
undergarment introduced that combines the two. Nowadays we might call it a romper. However, historically
it was referred to as a pair of combinations. Today, I shall be documenting my attempt at recreating a pair of
circa 1890s combinations, how I think they would have
been done historically. My reference for this project is a relatively well known pair
that is a collection at the Met dated to around 1890 to 1900. Although comparing this alongside patterns given in contemporary sewing manuals, it appears as if combinations
could be as frilly and lacy and elaborately delicate or as serviceable and
practical as one preferred. I, of course, prefer the frills. This project is step one in my endeavor to recreate a circa 1890s
version of a lady Sherlock Holmes using only the methods and techniques that I think would have
been used historically. Now, we have a lot of work ahead of us, so I think we should just go
ahead and get started now. Ok, so let’s begin. I am here surrounded by my piles of papers and research and references and books and newsprint, and I am
so hyped to get started. Ok, so here is my reference. This is the pair of combinations. Is that the term? Anyway, here is the
combination set reference that I have from the Met Museum. I’m actually not sure if I’m
going to be working towards a direct reconstruction or if I’m just going to be using this as inspiration and
reference, but regardless, all of the decisions that I make will be based off of
actual historical evidence. Whether or not it turns out to be this, it will hopefully be a
historically true-ish version of something that could have
been worn within this period. When I was doing some research to find out what sort of shapes and silhouettes of either a chemise
and drawers combination or a set of combinations itself, a lot of the ones that I was drawn to were sort of shaped like this
with these frilly drawers and very Lacy and frilly and lovely with this line down here at the legs, but they all turned out to be Edwardian 1900 and on or late 1890s. This one is dated on the
Met website to 1890 to 1900. So the hopeful side of me
allowed myself to go with it in the hopes that, ok, yeah, if it says this decade of date range,
it could be 1893, right? The irrational side of me
thinks this is actually closer to 1897, ’98 or 1900. However, you know what? Nobody’s going to see the undergarments, but making this, I think,
will be a super fun project. It’ll be something that
will be fun to look at for anyone who’s watching this. I’m going to go ahead
and proceed with this. If you’ve been following
my Instagram stories, you will know that I
have been avidly trolling the online resources of
drafting and needlework books that exist from the late 19th century, and I will be referencing a number of them in this project series. However, the one that I’m
going to be working from today is the “Manual of
Needlework” by Agnes Walker. The PDF is available for free on the Library of Congress website, and I shall put a link to it down below. It is one of the most
fascinating things you will read, in my own biased opinion. I was just riveted. This source is really great because it’s more focused on home sewing, which means it includes
a lot of undergarments and shirts and chemises
and sort of basic wear that a lot of people would make at home because home sewing was a thing and undergarments are super
simple and cheap to make. It gives you a lot of
pattern diagrams, layouts. This is a pair of drawers
and the waistband, but this is for a pair of combinations, which is exactly what I’m looking for, but I also have a little print off here of a chemise pattern. I’ve got this pattern here, which is, they call it a low neck bodice, bit I think this shape is
actually going to be more similar to this as opposed to this, which I think comes up
a little bit higher. So I’m going to try and
integrate this shape with this general thing happening here to create something that
looks sort of like this, although there will have to be a little bit of
Frankensteining happening here just because this is all insertion and this is insertion and this is lace, and the only real pattern piece is this, and then I think there’s
a little triangle here, but we shall get into that in a bit. But anyway, the brilliant
thing about this source is that it also gives you such
wonderful useful information as this little diagram that is
called scale of proportions. This one’s for the chemise, but there’s also one for the drawers that I have printed off. It tells you the proportions
that the measurements need to correspond to the actual pattern, which is so mind-blowing. I’m so accustomed, I feel like, to working with garments from the 18, 17, whatever, earlier periods, and we just don’t get
this much information. So I am having just
the most wonderful time with this project so far. It’s so exciting because I feel like everything I read is just incredibly valuable information, and it’s almost as if I
have a step-by-step guide of here’s the pattern,
here is how to cut it out, here’s how to stitch it together, here are the types of
stitch you need to use, and here are the scales
and the measurements and how to take the measurements. It’s all so very thorough. And I can do it according
to as, I mean, the books say they would have been done in
the period, which is my jam. From what I can perceive, it’s going to be almost as simple as following a regular commercial pattern that comes with the pattern
pieces that you cut out and you follow the instructions
and put it together. However, this will be going
directly back to the source and doing it without any
modern person’s interpretation of how it would have been done. This will just be my own interpretation of the direct evidence, which
is so super super thrilling. This is what I live for, so I am going to be
having a wonderful time with this project, I perceive, although we shall see what happens when we get to all of
this insertion lace later. So obviously, the pattern
for this creation here is going to be a little bit different from what I have given to me here. So I think my plan of battle for now is to go ahead and proceed with just drafting the pattern as it is just so that I can get my head around what the shapes look
like and how they work. I’m going to attempt my
little Frankenstein process of putting this top of the bodice on here and then I’ll probably just make a mock-up to find out just the basic proportions of where does the neckline sit, where did the legs fall,
where is the waist line, and then I will go back
to my original pattern and start to block out where
I think these pieces go, where the insertion lace happens. I will have to cut this angle onto the leg because this one looks rather straight, and then mark out where
I think all of the frills and ribbons and insertion lace bits go. And so I think I shall go ahead and start to do some drafting. Oh, my goodness, friends, behold. Look at this. Ok, so all these little
numbers on the sides here, these numbers here are how
many inches down they are from this point up here. This number is how many inches it is in. So it’s literally giving
you the coordinates of where to place all of these points, which is going to make the
drafting process so much easier because I won’t have to
be constantly counting how many squares in, and then is this 6 1/2 or three
quarters or what percentage of in the middle of the
square it’s falling. Anyway, you have no idea
how exciting this is to me. And on that merry note, I
got right to the drafting, which was, unsurprisingly,
a smooth, simple, uncharacteristically delightful process. Ok, quick break from the drafting because I’ve just had a call
from the machine repair shop. My 1892 Singer machine friend, which you may have seen in
one of my previous videos, is ready for pickup. I had just taken her
in for a little checkup because I will be
obviously doing quite a lot of late 19th century sewing
in the next couple of weeks, and so I just wanted to make sure she’s running really nice and smoothly. The man has assured me that
she is now running beautifully, and so I am so excited
to go and bring her home and put her to work. (upbeat jazz music) She’s home and look, she’s looking just absolutely
beautiful, newly oiled. Just looks so smooth and even. Oh, I’m just so excited to
be able to get to use her in full working condition for the next couple of 19th
century projects that I have. And to top it all off, the gentlemen at the machine repair shop was just so wonderful. If you’re looking for
a machine repair shop in New York City, I can highly recommend Hecht’s Sewing Machine and
Repair or something like that. The gentleman’s name was Steven. He’s really, really
passionate about antiques, which is why I took this here. By the way, this is not sponsored. Literally the whole shop
is just a treasure trove of old sewing machines and iron. So he really knew what
he was doing with this. And to make matters even more exciting, he uncovered this little
packet of machine needles from 1898 is what I believe he said, and he gave them to me. And so now I can use these late
19th century machine needles with my late 19th century machine on my late 19th century
reconstruction projects. And so, understandably, my excitement is now even more uncontainable
than it was previously, if that’s even possible. So the machine is all good to go. Now, I think I’m going to go
and make myself a cup of tea and let’s return to our drafting so that we actually have something to sew. Minor diversion aside, I then resumed drafting out the pattern. (gentle piano music) Ok, so it’s been a second. I have completed drafting my pattern, and then I’ve gone ahead
and made a mock-up, fitted the mock-up, and I have now since
edited my pattern down to be slightly, I think, more
what we’re trying to go for. The mock-up has been taken
apart so that I can reference my pieces and my notes onto my pattern. I should note that, originally, the drawers were quite long, and so I had to chop off
this much length from the leg in order to get it to be more similar to this little shape here. Hopefully, this new pattern will be a little bit closer to
my inspiration picture. I haven’t really done
anything with this top piece, only because there’s so much
insertion lace going on. That’s something that
I’m going to play with once I have the insertion lace. which I don’t presently have. So what I have done in the
fitting is I have just marked the line where I think the
insertion lace should start or begin or whatever you
decide to call that point. So it will then sit at this line and up. So in theory, this should really get cut so that my piece is only this bit here and then somewhere in here is
another bit of insertion lace and then here and then,
you know, lots more. So I am now going to run
off to the garment district to see what sorts of
treasures I can uncover for this project. I’m already sort of
mentally preparing myself for the fact that I’m
probably not going to find a nice beautiful lace like this, but we shall see what we come up with. I’m just gonna go to the garment district and see what I can find
and see if I find something that strikes my fancy
and looks a bit similar. But anyway, ok, let’s get
off to doing other things. Ok, bye. Ok, so I am back from
the garment district. I have picked up some stuff. I have, I think, been sort of successful in all of my endeavors. Firstly, I ended up coming
up with this white cotton. It’s a very, very light cotton, but not quite as sheer
as the one that I used for the regency gown. I’m still dubious as to
whether this is going to be quite the same quality of material as what’s used in the reference image. However, it sort of has a similar level of sort of semi transparency,
which you can sort of see on the reference. It’s a bit more bright white, obviously, than in the picture. However, that’s sort of
very difficult to call because things get dirty,
things get yellowed, things age, and so it very well could have
been nice and bright white. It was $6 a yard, so I’m very happy with not having to have spent a fortune on it. I got two yards even though I
won’t need that much at all. I probably only really need a
yard, maybe a yard and a half. However, it was cheap, and I’m always using cotton for stuff. From Joyce Trimming, which
has a very surprisingly decent selection of lace, not
obviously really good quality reproduction lace, but
as I need so much of it for this project, I really
just could not even afford to go looking at decent
quality silk net lace or bobbin lace or all
that sorts of really nice and fancy stuff just
because I need 12 yards of the thicker insertion lace, and that just isn’t going to be possible if the lace is 12, 15, $35 a yard. So I picked up this lace for the more narrow bits of insertion here that gets threaded through
with this blue ribbon, which I’ve also picked
up something similar of. I’m still not entirely convinced
on this for some reason, but I did like the fact that
it had these little net spaces here in between the flowers that I could thread the ribbon through. This was the only lace that I could find that had that sort of
quality with a double edge that wasn’t just a single edging lace. I also picked up this lace
here, a grand ton of it, because the lace was so beautiful. I just really, really loved it. However, it’s single sided. They didn’t have a lace that
was double-sided scalloped edge in this width, and I do
really need this width because the insertion is quite wide, and so I just decided to go with the lace that I really, really loved. Because I just am constantly making things really, really, really
difficult for myself, I decided I’m just going to go in and, I think, just try and stitch like so, one edge to the other to create this wide bit of insertion. So of course I had to
buy double the amount that I had estimated because
I need double the amount to go one on each side, so
I bought 24 yards of this. I only really needed 12. However, I think I’m only going
to be stitching the double for all of the little bits of insertion. I will only have to do the side seams and a little bit of bodice insertion, which isn’t so bad. There is definitely
some synthetic to this, if only because it was $2.50 a yard, and I don’t think you can
get that sort of price with a natural fiber, as much
as I really, really do try and seek out the natural
fiber materials and things that sort of are as close
to what could have been used historically as possible. It just isn’t always possible
under budget constraints, and so I’m trying to use the best thing that I can get my hands
on that I can afford whilst not compromising the movement and the structure of the garment. I also bought this little
bit of silk ribbon from M&J, which so far has proven
to be the only place to get decently priced to
silk ribbon in the city. So deep red satin ribbon under this lace to give this a nice little pop of color. And with all of the materials
being in my possession now, I think we can go ahead and
start to cut things out. Just kidding. So because this is a cotton that I’m using and this is an undergarment
that I’m making, I have decided that it is probably best that I pre-wash this fabric. If you don’t know, then washable fabrics such as linen and cotton
really ought to be washed if you are to be making a garment that you intend to wash in future just so that you don’t have any strange shrinking or warping problems that you tend to have with modern fashion because they don’t like
to pre-wash their fabrics, but we do because we do things right. So I am just laying on the floor for a bit trying to figure out how best to occupy the next couple of
unexpected hours of time. I think I am just going to get on with some other unrelated work for a bit and come back to this cutting tonight, which means that sadly I will have lost our meager little winter daylight, and so the lighting may be
a bit sort of sad garbage when I come back. So I shall see you in a
bit with some cutting, and in the meantime I need
to get up off the floor. Ok, so I am back. It is now evening. My fabric is washed and pressed, and my pattern is ready to go. I just had a couple of things
that I wanted to point out. I know this is gonna be a
very chatty sort of video, but I hope it’s chat that’s
going to be sort of interesting. Look at the waistline on
these drawers patterns. It curves so tremendously. We don’t, I don’t think, tend to curve our waistbands that much. So out of curiosity, I just looked at some of the other patterns in this book, and actually there’s one
just here on this page that I was working from,
but look at the waistband and look how dramatically curved this is. Normally, I think when we
draft our waistbands today for anything, we just tend to draft them as a straight strip. For some reason, in the late 19th century, I guess they’re drafting their waistbands on these really really dramatic curves. And you can see the
waistbands on the drawers are like that as well, here as well. Obviously, this is
something that I have to go look into a little bit more now, but is this a universal thing? Are they now cutting all of
their waistbands on curves? It does actually sort of make sense because the waistband is a curved line, and when you look at the
drafting of stays and bodies earlier throughout history in the 18th and 17th
and late 16th century, the waist lines are all drafted on curves, so it actually makes
entirely a lot of sense to have your waistband curved like this. What’s also interesting is
that the bottom of the leg is what’s drafted as a straight line as opposed to the waistband. This interesting little shape here that I was seeing on pretty
much all of the pairs of late Victorian combinations
that I was coming across is not actually, I think, a design choice, but a result of the pattern cutting itself because if your waistband is cut at such different heights here, when you stand it up and hold
it up against your waist, this is not gonna work
with me holding the camera, but you can imagine that if
this is the side seam here, this all has to sit at
relatively the same level. So it’s actually going to pull
the side of the leg up a bit to form this shape. I actually didn’t have to
do anything on the mock-up to get it to do this. It just did this naturally because of how the waistband was sitting with this curve on the waist. It’s really cool. The other thing that I
should probably address, because this is an integral
part of underwear in general and especially late 19th century drawers, is that I’m actually not sure when they start stitching
up the crotch seam. I think it’s a bit further
into the 20th century. I know for a fact that at this
point in time, at the 1890s, they are still leaving
their crotch seams open. This is, I think, just a bit
of logic because all throughout the rest of earlier periods of history, nobody wore any knickers or
any sort of bifurcated garment underneath their skirts, and so this was still
sort of a new revelation. It’s not as immodest as it sounds because one half of the
drawers is actually cut with this little extra bit
coming off the center of it here. So this will come out like that. The other piece will be cut
like a normal crotch seam, and then this piece will
underlap the other piece, and so it will all be fully
closed, perfectly modest, except you won’t have to
extract the entire garment if you need to go to the bathroom, which is fantastic. So I think we should go ahead
and do some cutting now. (gentle piano music) In refreshing morning daylight, I’ve now cut out all of my pattern pieces, two of each side of the
drawers for chemise pieces and two long strips that double
the length of the leg cuff to be put on later as ruffles. The present task at hand is
now to hem all of the edges so that the insertion lace can
be stitched on easily later to join all of the seams, all except the side seams of the chemise until I decide what’s going on with the placement of the lace eventually. So remember when I was going to do that brave and unusual thing and actually use a sewing
machine for this project? Yeah, well, as I was reading
through these manuals, I was continually coming
across instructions on how to put together
these various undergarments, and at least all of the
ones that I read about were explained to have been done by hand. Now I’m not necessarily
saying that all undergarments were still made by
hand, even by the 1890s, but given the heavy emphasis
in all of these texts on neat, quick hand stitching, it was still a very prominent
feature in dress making and an imperative skill
that was diligently taught to young girls in school. According to some of these
teaching instructionals that I read, women were expected
to be competent in sewing not only for the purpose of mending and altering existing garments, but also to be able to
produce basic wardrobe staples such as chemises, drawers, shirts, and knitted items such as stockings. This was still an age, I believe, in which one would not immediately think to run to the sewing machine if hand stitching was just as quick, easy, and convenient to practice. And so, sadly, my little Singer friend will have to wait just a few more weeks until I get to the outer garments because I’ve resolved do
the combinations by hand. The good news is all
of these texts instruct in great detail precisely
which stitches were used where and how to do them. The not-so-good news
is the felling stitch, or as it’s termed by this
period as simply hemming, seems to have been done backwards, at least to how I’ve been taught to do it for 18th century and
earlier reconstruction work, and you’ve probably noticed me struggling profusely with this year. It only struck me because
I noticed in the diagrams that the hand pointed the
needle towards the body and the stitching was worked downwards instead of upwards and
away as I’m used to. “Well, this is odd,” thought I. But upon comparing this
with other sources, found them all to agree that the stitching should be worked towards the body. A minor technicality, you may think. However, this backwards motion actually causes the
little felling stitches, or hemming stitches, I should say, to slant to the other way. So it would, in fact, be visibly incorrect if I were to continue
stitching as I’m accustomed to. So there was nothing left to do but to learn how to hem Victorian style. It was definitely an adjustment. There was definitely much
struggling and grumbling involved and very much frustration, as I was quite proud of
my previous felling speed and was no small part salty that I was taking roughly double the time to do it this new way, but lo and behold, I decided to attempt
positioning my fingers as they do in the diagrams, wrapping the fabric around my index finger and tensioning it with the middle, and it actually started
to go very quickly. And this added tension meant that I didn’t need to pin the
work to a cushion in my lap, which wouldn’t really work
from this direction anyway, and I’m proud to report
that in no time at all, I was felling, or hemming,
just as competently as before. The real question now is, when did they start
stitching this way, and why? And then just seaming together
the pairs of ruffle strips to form a continuous loop. I’m doing this by
counter-hemming them together or folding the raw edge of each side under the folded edge of the other so that when felled into
place on either side, both edges are hidden. And now that all of my pieces are hemmed, I’m just going over the
edges with some steam just to set them back into place since the areas not on a straight grain have stretched under the
tension from stitching. So my pieces are all cut out. They are hemmed, they are
pressed, they are ready to go, ready to be stitched
together, and well ready to have lots and lots of
insertion lace put in, which is effectively going to stitch this whole thing together. What I’m going to do now is,
I think I’m going to go ahead and baste my chemise pieces together. I’ve cut down and allotted
room for the insertion lace to go on the drawers pieces, but I have not done so
with the chemise pieces, and that is because there
is so much insertion lace, puzzling and piecing that
goes on the side seams and down the center front and center back, I don’t know where the closure is, and then there’s that one bit that goes diagonally across the front. And I’m just not entirely
sure what’s going on, so what I’m going to do
is I’m going to go ahead and just baste these pieces together, make up the chemise as it is, and then worry about
puzzling the insertion lace over top of this cotton layer and then just cut out the bits of cotton that interfere with the insertion lace. The drawers, I can just go ahead and stitch on the insertion lace as is. So that will probably come a bit later. I’m also going to have to
do a bit of experimenting with this lace because
I haven’t yet decided how I’m going to stitch it together. I may try and stitch it as
invisibly as I possibly can or just embrace the fact that it needs to be stitched
together down the center and do some sort of fancy
little embroidery stitch. So, yes, I think we
shall get on with things, and I will pretend as if I’m not procrastinating
trying to figure out how this thing actually closes and where. With the chemise roughly ready to go, I began playing around with
stitching together the lace. I’m quite happy with the
technique on this sample, although for the actual strips, I think I’m going to place the seam in the middle of the strip. It’ll take a little bit longer to cut out both sides of
the lace to make them even instead of just one side as I did here, but I think it’ll be time worth spending to make it look a little
bit more seamless. I should note that before
I begin the process of cutting and piecing the lace together, I cut exactly the length I’d need for each strip of insertion so that I didn’t have to seam together any more than I need to. So here I’m just seaming together four vertical strips
for the chemise seams, four strips for those diagonal bits, two for the side seams of the drawers, two strap pieces, and one long strip for the band at the top of the chemise. The pieces are carefully whipped together with a bit of fine silk thread. So once all of that has
been done, days later, I’m giving each strip
a good starch and press to give it some structure. And with all of our
lace strips ready to go, I can now resume some actual construction. I’m starting here with the drawers, and it’s at this point that a
crippling realization hits me. Since the edges of the lace are scalloped, the edges of the cotton
will need to scallop around the edges of the lace, too, which means that the
majority of the hemming that I’ve already done
is completely redundant and will only get cut off. Grieving slightly, I’m then
basting the strips into place before sacrificing my
beautiful hemmed edges to the historical stitching gods. These edges won’t really be finished, only folded back as I whip the lace on so that the raw edge isn’t
directly at the edge. To make this fold smoother, I’m just clipping the
inner point of each scallop so that each side will
sit back nice and flat. Then the lace is whipped
onto that folded edge with a fine silk thread. When finished, the strip
is given a good press to set everything neatly into place. And with the drawers insertion complete, it’s time to figure out how all
of the chemise lace goes on. I’m just puzzling it out here, playing with the angles
of the diagonal bits and pinning them into place so that I can check their
placement in a fitting. Yes, I know that middle
strip is a bit short, but the top of the band will be covering the upper inch and a half of the chemise, so it won’t really matter in the end. And just as before, each edge is basted to secure it into place. Then the edges are
trimmed, and thank goodness for my previous
indecisiveness about this bit, since I didn’t bother to
hem these edges first. I’ve left a little bit of
cotton at the joins for now since the basting went all
the way through to the fabric, but I’ll clean this out
when I stitch the lace on so that the little bits of lace are just stitched to one another without any of the cotton coming through. And thus began the four-day process of whipping on all of this lace. And here I am just joining
these two lace edges together, pulling away that extra cotton as I go so that it doesn’t get
worked into the seam. And with all of that finished at last, I’m just going over all
the edges with a hot iron to smooth everything out. “Excellent,” thought I. Now that the insertion lace is in, the most difficult part is over with, and surely I’ll have these
finished in the next two days. They would not, in fact, be
finished in the next two days, for you see, there is
lots of gathering to do. The ruffles on the drawers,
the edges of the chemise and the drawers into the waistband, and the edge of the
chemise into the top band. And the Victorians are
exceedingly masochistic about their gathers. My good friend Miss Bertha Banner in “Household Sewing
with Home Dressmaking” distinctly instructs that the rule for average materials in gathering
is to take up two threads while passing over four. So, of course, I proceeded
to spend the next two days gently lifting two threads
of this very fine cotton onto my needle, counting
over four and repeating. I have done this very fine
Victorian stitching before, only I was using a
standing magnifying lens to help count the
stitches, which I decided probably isn’t the most
historically accurate method. If the Victorians could
stitch like this naturally, so would I. And thankfully, Agnes Walker provides a bit of insight into this,
for she instructs that while counting the threads
is necessary to start off, the aim is to train your eye to the size and distance of the stitches so that it can be continued by sight without actually counting the
threads between each stitch, a minor relief on the eyesight, but it still took ages to run
the gathering threads through. Once that’s finished, I just took a moment to attach the lace to the
bottom edge of the ruffles. This is done just by whipping
the folded edge of the net onto the hemmed edge of the cotton. Then the excess net is trimmed away and the edges seamed together. Oh, by the way, I completely forgot to bring any sort of attention
to the tiny little edge of leg seam on the drawers
pieces, which I didn’t hem and which I’m now going
to stitch up real quick to close the legs. I know it looks stupid right now, but keep in mind that we
will still need to add a couple of inches of ruffles
to the bottom, so worry not. They will look much more
like legs very soon. This is done with a quick backstitch, and the seam allowance
is felled down to finish. Once we have legs, it’s
time to add on our ruffles. Again, the Victorians were very
finicky about their gathers, and there are very clear
instructions in the texts for stroking the gathers or gently running over them with a pin to pull them neat and taut and to make sure everything
is sitting evenly. It seems fiddly and
unnecessarily time consuming, but when you look at the
tiny delicate precise gathers on 19th century garments, you will immediately
develop severe ruffle envy and find yourself stroking
gathers with a vengeance, or at least I can only speak
for my personal experience. At this point, I
remembered that the ruffles are not actually the next thing to go on, and there is, in fact, another strip of the
straight insertion lace separating the drawers from the ruffles. You know, because there
is never such thing as too much lace. You may notice that this is not, in fact, the insertion lace that I
was feeling dubious about at the beginning. I ended up coming across
this other lovely option whilst out on my fabric
shopping adventures last week, which you may recognize. It was a 2 1/2-yard remnant which turns out to be exactly
how much I need for this, so it was pretty much destiny. Whilst I’m in the land of
pinning on insertion lace, I’m going to go ahead and pin the strip onto the waistband as well. Quickly putting it around my actual waist, I marked with pins where the center back and both side seams are so that I have reference points to gather the chemise between. Again, the gathers are stroked
to make them nice and neat. And since I’m still not entirely
sure how this thing closes, if I need to leave room at the front to overlap one side of the waistband, or if they need edge to edge, I’m only gathering up the back
portion up to the side seams and leaving the front loose for now. I’ll probably do a fitting
to decide how to close it once the garment is roughly together, and we’ll put the rest of the gathers in once I’ve come to a conclusion. Ok, but back to the legs, I’m starting off just by joining the two lace
strips with a small backstitch. I then started attaching the lace from the underside with a whip stitch. However, when I turned it over to inspect it from the right side, I wasn’t really fond of
the loose edge of the lace, particularly the shadow
it casts onto the cotton. One thing I really love
about the reference is how the insertion lace
seems to be magically growing from the fabric itself
instead of looking slapped on over top like this does. So I decided to go with a
slightly different approach, and instead attached the
lace from the right side following the straight edge of the lace. I was much more satisfied
with the result of this, so proceeded to repin and
attach the rest of the lace in this manner. When I got to the bit with
the insertion lace, though, I decided to switch things up a bit. Since the edge of the lace is
raw and ugly at this point, I just clipped into my cuff lace and overlaid that segment on
top of the side seam insertion to hide that little bit of grubbiness. Now I can add the ruffles,
again lining up the side seams. I can gather, stroke, and
pin the ruffles into place. As there are no raw edges involved here, I decided to just pin the ruffle right to the edge of the lace instead of pinning them
right sides together and turning them out as you
would do for a raw seam. This, hopefully, will
just reduce a bit of bulk. At this point, I remembered
reading in Agnes Walker that she mentioned something about pinning the gathering thread whilst stroking the gathers. I wasn’t entirely sure
what she meant by that, but as I was working the gathers, suddenly felt it would be nice to have some tension on the thread to make the gathers more even. Lo and behold, pinning that
gathering thread into place did just the trick, and if
this isn’t just another example of the importance of
experimental archeology. The ruffle is then whipped onto the lace, making sure to catch
every bump of gathering so that it’s nice and secure. Whilst I was in stitching mode, I also went ahead and stitched down the gathered bits of the
chemise onto the waistband. Then I pinned to the
upper band of the lace on top of the chemise. There’s a bit of gathering here, too, so I measured the lace band around myself and marched the center back as
well as the side seam points so that I knew where to
line it up on the garment and could gather in the
excess around these points. On the reference, it appears
as if tiny pleats are taken just at the peak points at the lace, so this is what I
attempted to repeat here. And whilst I was in pinning mode, I decided to go ahead and
insert the little ribbon accents into the lace of the cuffs. I did this by cutting vertical slits along convenient points
in the lace motifs, then weaving the ribbon into those. I’m pretty sure this is
not how the Victorians would have handled this. They probably would have had
appropriate lace to begin with. The ribbon is then secured on the inside with a small backstitch in
a fine matching silk thread and the ends felled down to finish them. Back in chemise land, I’m
inserting the top band of lace just as I did all the
other insertion lace, basting, trimming up the cotton, and then whip stitching it on. Now before I attach the
drawers onto the waistband, I’m just marking out the point
at which the extension begins on the left-hand side of the leg so that I can be sure to overhang this beyond the center, front, and back points and make sure everything
stays nice and respectable. I also decided that I was just being fussy about leaving the front chemise undone, so I decided to just go ahead and attach it to the waistband. The edge of the chemise lace is matched up to the marked center front point on either side of the waistband. I think the fronts will
overlap one another by an inch or so, so I’ve
allowed a little bit of room past my actual waist measure so that it won’t be too
tight when it’s locked shut. Then matching up the
side seam, center, front, and back points, I can go
ahead and gather up the drawers into the waistband. See that little wonky bit just there? Yeah, that’s going to cause
some problems in the fitting because, as I have come to realize, the original waistband that
these drawers were drafted for was a significant curve, and
my strip of lace is straight. This means that I ended up
with a bit too much length at center front and center back, causing the drawers to gape a bit and just generally not sit right. I realized my error in the fitting, so unpinned and repinned the drawers so that they sat as they should. This involved removing the more dramatic section of the curve, although not all of the curve, since we still need that to achieve the angled line at the cuff. Here, I’m just marking
and truing up the notes from the fitting, then
transferring that to the pattern so that I can repeat the
alteration on the other pieces. The new line gets a new gathering thread and the drawers are pinned
to the waistband once again, hopefully better this time. Since our nice hemmed edge
is now a couple inches away, I’m attaching the drawers
with a very tiny backstitch so that I’m sure to catch
every bump in the gathers. I’m then trimming off the excess material, tucking under the raw edge,
and felling it into place. So, as you can see, these are
looking much better right now. I wish I had gotten some footage
of the fitting that I did before I did these waist
to drawer alterations because that would have
been probably really good to see and to know. Basically, I couldn’t get
this front seam to sit right, so I kept trying to pull the gathering further and further and further over here so that it would finally
end up sitting right, but then I realized that the seam does not actually fall
over here on the original. So I knew I had to be
doing something wrong. So these little alterations seemed to have fixed the problem. They are looking nice and swishy. I really, really love them,
and they’re quite comfortable. I want to wear them all the time. Unfortunately, and this
is something that I knew when I was doing the fitting
the last time as well, I’ve done something really
horrid to the top of it. Putting on this top band here, it’s just made the length
of it a bit too long so it’s all just sort of
trying to gather up right here. I also, what I realized is I didn’t do any sort of shaping to this top band because it is a straight strip of lace. The chemise bit on the reference does have a little bit of shaping to it. I don’t know how because this is literally just a straight strip of lace. So I’m going to be taking off this top strip of lace here. I think I’m just gonna
put it on my dress form and see what I can do with it. In any case, the whole band just needs to be shifted down a bit so that this sits properly like this and you can actually see
the little waist band, which will have some ribbon detail like little cuffs here. It’s happening, it’s
happening very, very slowly, but finally, finally
it’s all coming together, so let’s get on with things. Meanwhile, I have since
unpicked that upper band and am now attempting to repin it in a more agreeable way. This involves putting two
little tucks at the front to create those little peaks. And lo and behold, that
did just the trick. I’m also removing some of the length from the top of the chemise so that it’s a little bit less full and so that the waist band will be visible like that in the reference. You’re probably extraordinarily bored with watching me stitch
on this insertion lace. Trust me, this video spans
the course of a month. So, my dear friend, so am I. As the straps are also bits of lace, they’re also attached in
exactly the same manner. And the end is nigh. I’m just finishing off the waistband here by clipping the slits for
some more satin ribbon detail, then threading the ribbon through, just as I did for the drawer cuffs. Drawers cuffs? Anyway, the ends of the ribbons
are secured on the inside by turning under the raw
edge and felling it down. All right, we are very,
very near to completion now. Finally, finally, finally
I’ve got this ribbon in, I’ve got the straps on,
and now all I’ve got to do is just put in the closure, which is something that I
have been procrastinating for approximately the entire month that I’ve been working on this. The reference picture that I have and that I was able to
find on the internet is very, very grainy, and
so I wasn’t able to see precisely how it closed down center front. My theory was that it closed at the waist with two little hooks and
then just at the top somehow, it tied shut with that little, what seems to be a ribbon, a little pixelated puff of what might be a little bow at the top, and then this was maybe just left open. I wasn’t entirely sure. However, Marika, who runs the channel Enchanted Rose Costumes
here on the YouTube, she is a darling human
who I chat with regularly over on the Instagram
and she is also doing a pair of 1890s combinations
for her 1890s project. This is one of the most
prominent references for combinations that exist. So of course, we were having many a chat about the logistics of how this works and especially the closure. She somehow managed to find
a really high quality image of the reference picture
and she sent it to me. And, of course, right there, you could see all down center front and at the waist are tiny, tiny little white buttons. Of course when I was doing
research for combinations in extant texts, a lot of the patterns were showing button
closures down center front. I was hesitant to close
this with buttons only because I wasn’t sure how
that was going to work if the center front is just
bits of insertion lace. Usually I feel like when
you put buttons and things, it’s definitely of a heavier fabric, and then it’s got a facing behind it because the buttons take a lot of strain. So I wasn’t sure how it would be possible to close this with buttons. I suppose this won’t
really be taking strain. You put the corset on over top of it, so it really doesn’t
have to do a lot of work in the keeping things shut department. I couldn’t see precisely
how the buttons were done, whether they are buttonholes
and how that’s done or if they are buttons that go through little loops of thread, which is something I’m making up entirely, but seems something that
could be a bit plausible, and especially since we’ve got all of this very, very
delicate insertion lace here, I just think that might
be a little bit stronger than putting in buttonholes. So yeah, I’m going to
have a little play around and just to see what we can come up with. Okay, so the buttonholes, they function. They’re not very pretty just because the lace is a bit stretchy and is a bit delicate,
and so the buttonholes just want to sort of
pull out of shape a bit. The other method that I
was hypothesizing towards was just to do a little loop that would go round to the button, which sort of in a weird way, when I looked at the reference picture, that’s what popped into my mind. Just looking at how far over the one button at the
waistband was sitting, it sort of made me feel
like there was a little loop connected maybe here and
looping round this button that was sitting over here. I have absolutely no historical
evidence to support that. The safe side of me is
really sort of inclined to go with the buttonholes, especially since this is
something that I know how to do, I know it existed historically. It is definitely the general
practice for button closures, but the paranoid side
of me is worried about just how long they are going to last. So whilst I have a small
existential crisis about that, I’ve also gone ahead and
cut some little lengths of silk satin ribbon that
will go just at the top at the center front here
just to tie this bit closed. I think I’ve only cut two. You really can’t see what’s going on with the center front on the reference. I have no clue what’s going on there. So I’m just sort of making this up. I really like the look of this ribbon, so I think it will add
something nice to this. Also, because as you shall find out in my course at making
endeavors, which is soon to come, I’m going to need a little bit of frill to be happening at the top here to help the upper line of the corset. I do have a little bit of excess
on the waistband edge here only because this was
exactly the amount of lace that I had left over on the spool, and I just stitched it all on, thinking that I would cut it off. However, I’m sort of
inclined to just leave it and just tack it back a little just to give this edge a
little bit more strength just because if we’re
going to have buttons here, it would be nice to have strength. That’s why I was worried
about this front edge pulling because it is so delicate and light. So yeah, I will just go
ahead and cut to the clip of me having made the decision and attaching the buttons now. The center front edges of the waistband are just tucked back real quick, then I proceeded to get the buttons in. I decided to have a go
at trying the loops, since, if I ended up not
liking my closure decision, it would be much more
civil to replace the loops with buttonholes than the other way round. These are done with a
heavy white silk thread. (gentle piano music) Then the buttons are added and
the ends of the ribbon ties are finished off with a little hem. Then, since the end is now so very near, I decided it would be
prudent to bake some cookies, so I did that. And by the warm glow of oven light and to the sweet aroma of fresh cookies, I proceeded to attach the two
ribbon ties at center front. And at long, long, long last,
she is finally complete. Ok, so here I am. It is very late, the very same night. Why on Earth would I hem
the ends of these ribbons? I have no clue why I decided to do this. I think they should just be cut into that nice little V-shape thing much more delicately than this. This, of course, is
what I’m thinking about when I should be going to sleep, so I am about to remedy this situation. I’ve still got, I think, about maybe eight minutes until midnight, and I really wanted to finish this today, so I’m gonna do this now. (jaunty piano music) Now she is at long, long,
long last finally complete. For some reason, I had it in my head that this project would only take a week and that I’d have it
finished by the end of 2018. In fact, it took over a month, but I’m really really
thrilled with how it came out. It actually occurred to me
whilst reviewing the reference that there are, in fact, not actually strips of insertion lace at the side seams of the original and that I could probably
have saved a day’s labor by not putting those in, but oh well. What’s done is done and I’m
really not at all mad about it. I also, whilst writing out this voiceover and preparing research, went back and read some parts of Bertha
Banner and came to realize that there are quite a few
errors in my stitching. For example, she instructs
the gathering thread to be worked from the
right side of the fabric, whereas I worked from the wrong side. She also makes a point
to note that, quote, “All dressmaking sewing should
be practically invisible.” Unquote, and considering
that my insertion lace is all very visibly whip
stitched to the cotton, I don’t think my stitching
work on this project would quite satisfy Victorian standards. This goes to prove
that, yes, it is crucial to do your reading before
beginning a project, but going back and revisiting the research after having experimented with some of the practical technique will help you understand the information in a whole different light, and why I continue to vehemently
impress upon the public that these videos are not tutorials. They are very strictly experiments. (sighs) Isn’t time travel fun, though? Anyway if you survived to
the end of this journey, I commend you with great awe and insist that you have
a cookie on your way out so I don’t have to eat
all of these by myself. Until next week, bye for now.