Monday, November 27, 2017

The Fastest Dress in the West!

My mom joined us up in Calico last month, and since we thought it would be fun to all go 1880's, I needed a second dress. And fast. Aside from the time constraint, I needed the dress to fit another person. Luckily, my mom is about my size, just a little shorter. 

The easiest thing that popped into my head was a tennis dress! The blouse wouldn't need close fitting, and the skirt length could be made short enough for her, but still work at that length, for me. 

I was greatly inspired by this tennis dress, at the LACMA. Because of time, I didn't try to draft anything. I just went into my pattern stash and pulled out some Truly Victorian patterns.

Women's tennis dress. England, circa 1885.
M.2007.211.782a-b, Los Angles County Museum of Art

I used the Four Gore Underskirt, the Autumn Overskirt, and the Yoked Blouse. I made no adjustments, save for shortening the underskirt. By just going with the pattern, I was able to complete a whole dress in a weekend! Granted, a sports dress isn't appropriate for every event, but a mostly historically accurate bustle dress can be completed in two days! It can be done!

I say mostly because I just didn't have the time to research this kind of dress to the fullest extent, and also, the fabric was chosen for convenience. I popped into my local Hobby Lobby and it was the only fabric that seemed like it could work. As for the construction, however, I executed it to the best of my knowledge, so I didn't cheat or shortcut there.

I kept everything simple and quick, but made sure to remember the essentials, like a collar and cuffs. And POCKET! Pockets are the best. So helpful! The collar, cuffs and overskirt were trimmed in a heavier cotton lace. I thought it was a bit more sporty than frothy, frilly lace. And the dress definitely needed some kind of trim. 

I included center front cross stitches, and hanging loops on both the skirts. I find these so helpful for traveling and storing and getting dressed. One thing I omitted were closures on the waistbands. Because I wasn't 100% sure what size her waist would be, once corseted, I left the waistbands open, and just pinned them closed for the evening. It worked just fine!

We accessorized with a straw boater, which is seen in a lot of prints and paintings of gals playing tennis. Under it all, we outfitted her with a corset, half an 18th century pocket hoop for a bustle (I've heard so many other costumers doing this. It's totally genius! And smaller to travel with...), and a couple petticoats from other eras. 

All in all, it worked well, looked right, and seemed pretty darn comfy. A win, I think!


  1. Just checked in on your blog! What a surprise!
    It really was a terrific outfit to wear and very comfortable as well. I never imagined THAT was a Tennis outfit!! Fast and fabulous!

  2. Very nice work
    I invite you on my blog of old magazines and old french sewing patterns