Four weeks ago, I had finished drafting the pattern for a 1909 princess line slip from Frances Grimble’s Edwardian Modiste. You can read about the drafting process here. One thing which confused me was that the pattern pieces came out as full length, but the slip has a 36” / 91.5cm deep frill around the bottom. Should the frill be sewn on top of the slip, rather than joined on at the bottom, as a frill would be nowadays?
The ensuing Google search turned up this similar slip, which clearly has something white behind the lace on the frill.
|c1910 cotton and lace princess petticoat, found on Antique Dress|
Even better, those lovely people at Antique Dress had added detailed close-ups. This one clearly shows the edge of the main petticoat beneath the bottom lace of the frill, and that the fabric above the ribbon is more sheer because it's only a single layer.
|Close-up of the frill|
So that was one problem solved, but there was another. The frill on the slip is a whopping 6 yards / 5.5 metres long, but I’m making it to go under slightly later clothing, which would have a narrower skirt. I fetched some of my costuming books and pored over patterns. By my calculations the Laurel Dress in Janet Arnold’s 'Patterns of Fashion' has a skirt width of about 72” / 1.82m, while the c1910 tub dress in Norah Waugh’s 'Cut of Women’s Clothes' (actually given as 1912 on the V&A website) is 65” / 1.65m wide at the hem. Clearly I needed a straighter slip, and these two examples from the Met suggested that in the next few years frills on petticoats became either less generous, or vanished altogether.
|French petticoats, 1909-11 (l) and 1910-16 (r), images © the Met|
I had found this lovely embroidered cotton in my local fabric shop. It's less glaringly white that the flash on my camera has made out. The embroidery is only along one side, the rest of the width is plain. While the material is wide, it’s not wide enough to cut the pattern pieces across the grain. So I decided to shorten the pattern, cut it out along the grain on the plain fabric, and leave decisions about the frill until the rest of the slip was made up.
|The embroidered edge of the fabric|
I fitted the tissue pattern onto Nancy, and was happy with most of the fit apart from the back princess seam. There seemed to be too much fabric, so I redrafted the side back piece from the waist up. Then I sewed all the slip up, wrong sides together as I was doing felled seams.
When I tried it on the fit was fine apart from, guess what, the back. It was perfectly acceptable, so long as I didn’t want to move my arms (which was why it fitted the armless Nancy perfectly well). I’m actually quite fond of being able to move my arms, and fortunately I’d taken Frances Grimble’s advice of adding a generous seam allowance to the pieces, so was able to let the back out again. Lesson learned – a dressform is a valuable tool, but not the be-all and end-all of fitting!
|The completed back, showing the seams in question|
Then it was time to fell the seams. I have a deep-seated and fervent dislike of doing felled seams. Irrational too, as they’re hardly complex. This added greatly to the overall procrastination, as I found any excuse possible to put the job off.
Frances Grimble does mention in her notes that the hip measurements tend to err on the generous side, and so it proved. I know my hips are wide relative to my waist, but not this wide!
|That's a big hip curve|
Eventually I decided that there was just too much fabric, in the wrong places, and that the side seams needed to be unpicked and smoothed out a little. Naturally I didn't decide this until after I'd finished the seams, so I got some extra felling practice. Thrills.
The next job was to add facings to the centre front, and add the buttons and buttonholes. I discovered that my buttonhole sewing has somehow improved immensely since my Armistice blouse attempts, which cheered me up no end.
|Just showing off my buttonholes!|
I used The Dreamstress’s method of attaching the trim around the armholes and neck, and it worked a treat. I put a few small pleats in the neckline first, so that the ribbon doesn’t have to do too much gathering work.
Then it was time to make and add the frill. The bottom edge of the slip was 2.4m / 94 ½”, so I made the frill 3m / 118”, which allowed for a small gather. Again I sewed the wrong sides together and covered the seam allowance with more trim, so the inside of the slip is perfectly smooth.
And here, at last, is the finished article.
Seam felling aside, I'm really pleased with the end result. Plus having cut my teeth on this, I'm tempted to have a go at some of the other patterns in The Edwardian Modiste. So all in all, well worth the wait!
The small print:
The Challenge: Procrastination
Fabric: embroidered cotton
Pattern: Princess Slip from The Edwardian Modiste by Frances Grimble
Year: 1909, but my alterations make it slightly later
Notions: Beading lace, ribbon, buttons
How historically accurate is it? I’m not sure if machine-emboidered broderie anglais existed by 1909, but apart from that I think it’s pretty accurate, so 95%
Hours to complete: Not that much actual sewing time, but lots of procrastination time, mostly trying to ignore the seam felling!
First worn: Not yet
Total cost: Fabric £17.28 (yay for the 50% off sale preview evening!), trim £6.06, buttons from stash, so £23.34