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Progressive Era Day Suit

Added Nov 29, 2015

by cbsheff

Louisville, Kent...






Halloween 2015

This project began with a partial bolt of beautiful navy wool I bought at Hillsville, Virginia’s grand flea. My idea was to make a tailored jacket, so I began a misses’ victorian jacket (butterick 5232) for my wardrobe, but I ended up making the whole ensemble for halloween.

I tried to identify the era the jacket references, and I came up with the photos above for shape and historical reference. Activists liked this look. Pictured are members of the the National Association of Colored Women (NACW), taken at Atlanta University (1900) by Thomas Askew of Atlanta.

This is a link to Thomas Askew’s photography collected by W.E.B Du Bois and presented at the Paris Exposition of 1900 as a part of a negro exhibit: http://humus.livejournal.com/3386026.html

My design for the blouse combined a bodice I patterned from my measurements and the sleeves of Simplicity 6034 (1983). Rene Bergh’s “Make Your Own Patterns” (2006) was a great guide for patterning the bodice. The collar is just a rectangle with pleats.

I know it’s novice, but pondering the design of that skirt left me bewildered. I spent an entire sunday drafting a dress pattern in an attempt to make the bell shaped silhouette and failed— it came out Cruella de Vil. The wise Senora Saveedra led me to the much simpler and more accurate circle skirt with a three dimensional model: a square paper napkin folded once corner to corner, then again corner to corner. Then, holding the small triangle by the double folded corner, she snipped it, creating the waist. Then she unfolded the bottom— a bell. Up until that moment I had not fully acknowledged the three dimensionality of pattern pieces.

Thanks to Fickle Sense for her simple and neat tutorial on partial circle skirts (http://www.ficklesense.com/2011/09/how-to-make-circle-skirt-full-34-12-14.html).

Thanks also to my neighbor, Kimberly, who gave me the piggy duck tape to shape the hat.

And thanks to my friend Alex Torres who took all the photos in Old Louisville, Kentucky, USA.

And thanks to Bernie Sanders for being a socialist and running for office. We’ve waited a century.

Material Notes

Wool, combed cotton (top sheet), curtains (2 panels, some synthetic fabric)




Fall, Spring
Garment Type
Victorian, Steampunk
Cotton, Polyester, Wool

9 Comments Sign in to add a post

  • Missing

    Jul 27, 2016, 01.58 AMby Janetkchang

    Okay, I’ve been searching and searching for a good pattern to make a short cropped Victorian jacket for a Victorian day and this looks amazing. Thanks for posting & inspiring.

    Are you on Instagram? If so please find me. @lovemedeux

    1 Reply
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      Jul 29, 2016, 01.05 AMby cbsheff

      I am gonna find ya. This message was such a great pick me up today— thank you!

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    Jan 21, 2016, 01.38 PMby DrapedinCloudlets

    I really love this, it’s such an elegant ensemble!

    1 Reply
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      Jan 31, 2016, 03.17 PMby cbsheff

      Thank you, Cloudlets! Your work is such an inspiration to me. I love that you left your christmas dress fabric inside out— it’s so classy.

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    Dec 14, 2015, 11.56 AMby sewing fanatic

    amazing historical work you’ve done x

    2 Replies
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      Dec 15, 2015, 10.24 PMby cbsheff

      Thank you!

      Defiance, Ohio?

    • 03003e1f_2_large

      Dec 15, 2015, 11.38 PMby sewing fanatic

      hi haha no i live in new zealand lolz. i absolutely love your work! interesting back stories too =P

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    Dec 8, 2015, 08.27 PMby rita61


    1 Reply
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      Dec 9, 2015, 12.03 AMby cbsheff

      Thanks, Rita!

      You are quite the family seamstress, and I adore the precious grandbaby outfit.

  • El_large

    Dec 7, 2015, 07.36 AMby Ellen Hatteland

    Just gorgeous outfit!!

    2 Replies
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      Dec 7, 2015, 04.58 PMby cbsheff

      Hello sassiest dressmaker of Norway!

      312 projects???!

      Thanks for commenting and happy happy sewing!

    • El_large

      Dec 8, 2015, 07.10 AMby Ellen Hatteland

      Thanks, happy sewing to you ;-) Problem is that I can’t stop, and it’s my way of relaxing… :)

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    Dec 6, 2015, 05.51 AMby Elpida Kyriakou

    Impressive outfit! Beautiful photos!

    1 Reply
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      Dec 6, 2015, 05.46 PMby cbsheff

      Thank you. I absolutely love your hand painted dresses and that sewing is your therapy. Take care.

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    Dec 5, 2015, 12.17 AMby liliv-1

    Stunning job!

    1 Reply
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      Dec 5, 2015, 05.01 AMby cbsheff

      Thank you! I just checked out your studio— you are so talented and so prolific. Props!

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    Dec 4, 2015, 11.48 AMby chula123

    you have done a brilliant job!! And so has your friend Alex with the photos!

    1 Reply
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      Dec 4, 2015, 04.44 PMby cbsheff

      Thank you so much! Yeah, Alex has a keen eye.

      And… so much love for the Georgian Xmas project.

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    Dec 4, 2015, 08.41 AMby martinK

    that’s an amazing costume, love it!!!

    2 Replies
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      Dec 4, 2015, 04.45 PMby cbsheff

      Thank you for saying so!

      I just peeked at your studio, and I am so impressed with the precision of your work. Your 1940s pants and waistcoat are stunning (and those cuff links!). Mega props, and I will definitely be following your work!

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      Dec 5, 2015, 05.35 PMby martinK

      thank your for fovoring my projects :-)

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