Archives for posts with tag: 19th Century

This half scale 1860’s evening dress was made from a pattern by Janet Arnold taken from a dress from the trousseau of Miss Wyatt. We had to make a half scale garment from any pattern by Janet Arnold as an exercise in using another person’s patterns and making them work.

I chose to make this nineteenth century evening gown because I thought that it’s shape was really interesting. I liked the slightly flattened front bell shape of the skirt and the sleeves and the way that the berthe sat across the bodice. I wanted to have a go at making this dress in half scale because I’d never made anything from the 19th Century before so I thought it’d be different and a good chance to learn about another period of dress.

I began by going to have a look at the original garment in the Manchester Costume Gallery. The Gallery were kind enough to let me have a look at the gown and take photos and measurements from it which was so invaluable when constructing as I had already seen how the dress went together.


From the notes and photos I had taken of the original, and from the instructions given by Janet Arnold, I constructed my half scale garment as true to the original as I could. I did make the decision to machine stitch some of the major seams but I don’t think that it affects the garment as a whole because I hand finished everything I could.

I really liked the colouring of the original gown, however I couldn’t find the right fabric in a pink and black stripe, so instead I chose a green and black striped fabric as I felt that having the stripes was more important than having the pink colour. I really like the colour combination of the green and black on my version and I think it works well with the green net sleeves instead of the ivory colour of the original.





For a three day project at college I was tasked with creating a Nineteenth Century hat. I decided I wanted to make a recreation of a ladies’ riding topper. This is a kind of sloping top hat, taken from men’s styles but made more feminine and used primarily for riding. You still see examples of top hats being worn whilst riding in equestrian shows and important events today.



I really liked the blend of the masculine and feminine that was an aspect of this hat. I liked it because although it is not incredibly decorative, the style and beauty is seen in the cut and line of the topper. Because of this it was especially important to get the shape of the hat correct. I made the hat from stiff buckram and thick covered millinery wire which I then covered in a decorative cream patterned fabric and finally decorated with ribbon, feather and a jewel on the rear of the hat.

The original line drawing of the hat that I used as a source had a slightly curved crown, however I couldn’t achieve this effect with the stiff buckram I was using, and so I had to create a straight sided crown. I do still think that this created a good line and am really proud of how my hat ended up looking. I genuinely enjoyed my first experience at millinery work and greatly look
forward to working and creating hats again in the future.

My latest project at Rose Bruford College was to create a nineteenth century period waistcoat. I wanted to create something that was
inspired by the nineteenth century line and cut but with a very modern feel.

I was greatly inspired in my design by the Martin Scorsese film ‘Gangs of New York’. I really liked the shape of the garments in this film because they were clearly a stylized version of nineteenth century design. I was inspired by the character ‘Bill the Butcher’ played by Daniel Day-Lewis. I found the idea of the universal gangster, the hooligan dandy, a really interesting concept. I wanted to portray this image of the threatening hidden by a thin veil of charming, yet I wanted to make this relate to the modern viewer and so I looked to more modern design to help also inspire me.

My plan was to look at gangsters from early Hollywood films to draw on a more modern tradition. I really wanted to use a pinstriped fabric, because although this is a more modern fabric than we would find being used in the 1860’s for waistcoats, it is very typical of the Hollywood movie gangster and it strikes an incredibly strong idea in our minds when we see it.

For the back of my waistcoat I wanted to create a contrasting repeating pattern, in a floral style to look like it was grown onto the waistcoat back. I designed this pattern myself, and created it using fabric paints and embroidery.

I wanted my waistcoat to have a kind of gambling theme and so incorporated in the repeating pattern for the back of the waistcoat are spade and heart images. As well as this I wanted to use the image of the king of hearts on one of my lapels. As the waistcoat was to be double breasted the lapels would be a big feature and I wanted one to be particularly bold. I painted the image of the king of hearts onto the white fabric for this lapel by hand and I think it looks really effective.