Learn How SIMPLE
Digital Patterns Really Are!

Sign Up to Receive
The Ultimate Guide to Digital Sewing Patterns eBook + a FREE Skirt Pattern!

Soft and Silky Eighteen Fifties

Added Aug 2, 2010

by miss-elisabeth

Poulsbo, Washing...






This is actually a project from last summer, but I thought I’d put it up anyway just because I love it so much.

Sometimes I just get this ‘thing’ about hating my sewing machine. It works beautifully, but there is something very cathartic about hand sewing. I needed a new 1850s dress and had some lovely fabric sitting in my cedar chest.

I’ve long loved how the lining from a dress in Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 1 fit me. It was a rather unique pattern, mid-early 1850s dress (she dates it 1852-56) with a lining that used only one curved dart. It fit me very well and I’d used it in something like four other dresses. I did have to widen the back and lengthen it, however, and you can see that in this dress I perhaps lengthened it a bit too much.

The front and back fashion fabric pieces as shown in the book did not work for me at all when I sized it up. This might have been a fault in the sizing but I did most of it by drafting things out later.

The entire dress was sewn by hand. The silk was absolutely lovely fabric to work on. Ditching the sleeves from the book, I did simple pagoda sleeves based off of a sleeve head from another dress in Patterns of Fashion 1. The skirt was 4 panels of 46" fabric, so quite large, all hand gauged into a waistband that was then set into the dress.

The fabric was quite soft and pulls and pills/fuzzes very easily. Most 1850s dresses were done with crisper fabric, but I still really like this one and am considering starching it sometime to get a really bouffant look. More petticoats would help, too!

The most amazing thing about this dress, however, is that it was 100% completely finished BEFORE the night of the event I wore it too. Quite a personal record for me, really.

Material Notes

Silk plaid from Fashion Fabrics Club, purchased by a friend some years ago.




Spring, Summer, Fall
Garment Type
Romantic, Victorian


_Patterns of Fashion 1_ by Janet Arnold

9 Comments Sign in to add a post

  • 7477921d82b9cd62dad6abe75756cb0b30ea2282_large

    Jul 17, 2011, 08.07 AMby flowergirl22

    that is so nice,, well done you are wearring it really well,,,

  • Missing

    Aug 16, 2010, 02.46 PMby shazzie

    truly, it must have been a labour of love!!! Great result!

  • Sspx3395_large

    Aug 6, 2010, 11.48 PMby v-chan

    Gasp! It’s so beautiful! Goodness I love really old-styled clothing, your dress is pure awesomeness!

  • 2008-04-24_093_large

    Aug 5, 2010, 12.37 PMby mahaila

    wonderful! Wow! Mammoth effort. Looks great

  • Missing

    Aug 4, 2010, 09.57 PMby proudmaxfan

    This is beautiful! The first thing I thought of when I saw it was “North & South” (the BBC one).

  • Schwa_large

    Aug 2, 2010, 11.43 PMby seussian

    That’s really cool.

    I love this.

    You are super duper talented.

    God bless you, MGJ

  • Birds_large

    Aug 2, 2010, 09.36 PMby zickzack

    Amazing! How much fabric did you need for this?

    1 Reply
    • Img_7017_large

      Aug 3, 2010, 12.50 AMby miss-elisabeth

      Looking back, it was 6 1/4. I made it to be almost floor length, with shoes on, and just baaarely squeezed it out, as I usually do. It’s a terrible habit.

  • Poging_003_large

    Aug 2, 2010, 07.04 PMby bopippdo

    Sewing by hands….doesn’t mean that impossible…I love it. it’s a little bit victorian style….I sew my projects also always by hands because I don’t have a sewing machine at home….Good job!!!

  • Cimg4603_2_large

    Aug 2, 2010, 05.32 PMby soaringviola

    Are you kidding? You sewed this whole dress BY HAND?? Dear… That´s really amazing! It would be even if you had sewen it with your machine – it looks really great!!! Wish I would be patient enough for such projects….

    • This is a question
  1. Sign in to add a post

Add to Favorites 12 people added it