Monday, 29 April 2013

Up close and personal - Mid 1860s Bodice

The first in my up close and personal blog posts when I get up close and personal with some of the items in my collection.  Today is the turn of my mid 1860s bodice.  This was being sold on eBay as a "cutter" for dolls dresses but I thought it was too lovely for that despite it's poor condition.  

 I've never been sure about the braid across the bosom thing, or this particular style of sleeve (always been a fan of the pagoda sleeve myself).  However when I carefully tried it on (I was lucky enough for this to fit me - though it's in no state to be worn properly) I was surprised how flattering both were.

The bodice is made from a very fine brown silk taffeta with black grid pattern.  I was surprised just how paper thin the silk on this bodice is compared to others I've handled before.

 When I first saw that the braid didn't go all the way around the sleeves I thought maybe it was for reasons of economy.  Either that the seamstress was making it on a budget or had simply run out of braid.  After trying it on myself however it also has the benefit that the braid doesn't get in your way.  The lack of braid doesn't show at all from the front or the sides as you can see from the first photos.  A great example of Victorian economy and practicality!

As you can see the band of the bodice is in a bit of a mess.  It is closed with a hook and eye (a replacement) and has a number of hooks and eyes scattered inside and out in a very haphazard fashion.  At first I thought the hook on the outside back was to secure the skirt - but the decoration on the band looks like it should be on the outside not the inside.  Plus there is a sideways hook on the inside that looks like it should be doing that job.  Very confusing!  You can see more of the waistband construction further down when we get to the innards of the bodice. *Edit* Upon closer examination thanks to the wonderful feedback by Cassidy30 it would appear that the waist band is what was once a separate belt that has been added later to the bottom of the bodice.  The stitching is quite different to the rest of the bodice and it would explain the confusion of hooks and eyes - some like the center back hook being left over from before.


The button are a very dark brown / black and appear to be early plastic.  They have four holes and are domed at the back.

Now to get down to the real nitty gritty of the bodice, the inside.  It is lined with a dark beige cotton sateen.  One thing you notice straight away is that half of each of the arms has been lined in a different fabric.

One thing that is decidedly lacking from this bodice is boning.  It's difficult to determine if it's been removed or was just never there in the first place.  One surprise for me was to discover that the chest area is interlined with fine bright red wool - covering the area along the shoulder across the chest and  ending along curves of the braiding at the front.  This gives lovely smooth lines along the chest area.  There is no interlining in the rest of the bodice.

Waist band detail.  As you can see it is reinforced and has quite an overlap to the closure.  I love how vibrant the blue is.

 The bodice is flat lined (where the fashion fabric and lining are treated as one piece) and the raw edges are whip stitched. 

Detail of the sleeve cuff.  The silk is turned over the edge then a separate band of silk has been sewn round the inside cuff to finish.

 Collar detail with hook and sewn eye.  I love all the red stitching - which doesn't seem to match anything except the interlining.

Well that's the bodice in it's entirety.  I learnt so much studying this bodice and found so many techniques and design details that I am itching to try.  I hope you found something of interest too :)


  1. Thank you! I love seeing originals from the inside too, and the close up pictures of the trim are great.

  2. Thank you for posting these pictures! I'm so jealous of people with personal collections, it must be lovely.

    It looks to me like it was never boned, really - those darts are so clean and untampered-with. But I think the waistband could have been originally worn separately and was later sewn to the bottom of the bodice, making the outside-back hook originally in a position to take the skirt.

    1. Having another look at the bodice I think that you're spot on about the waist band. On closer examination it really does look like what was a separate belt has been sewn on to the bottom of the bodice. The stitching is quite different from the rest of the bodice. It would also as you say explain the outside-back hook, that I now realise is partially covered by the belt. I wonder if it belonged to a teenager having a growth spurt, or passed on to another member of the family. Given the amount of darning on it is was obviously well worn. Thanks for the great feedback :)

  3. What a lovely bodice! My 1860's dress is the same color as this one, only with orange triangles not black grid. I've been looking for trim ideas and this helps a lot. :) Thank you for all your wonderful pictures!