Over the past few months I have taken up the mantle of a passion project I began several years back, to sew my own clothing and to have a nearly complete me-made wardrobe. My style preferences have changed considerably since 2016, however I believe I have found the style and era that I feel completely at home in: late Victorian to early Edwardian (roughly 1890-1910).
At this point I have already made a handful of underpinnings and several walking skirts (with more to come, of course). Now I wish to turn my attentions towards the House Dress.
As a mom to a very active toddler, its very important to me that I am able to keep up with her while still feeling comfortable and put together. At the beginning of motherhood I fell into the trap of wearing yoga pants for everything, a modern mom uniform, and I greatly wished to break free no matter how alluring those stretchy polyester pants are. In addition to my motherly duties, I spend my days as a house wife running the home, cooking homemade meals, and completing day-to-day chores, so I need these clothes to be practical and functional.
One evening I was up late scrolling through pages of sewing patterns on Etsy, as one does, when I came across this pattern for a 1908 House Dress. At once I knew this was the solution to my dilemma! This fantastic dress was the perfect marriage of form and function to clad myself in as a worked around my home and played with my daughter.
The pattern has been replicated from an original McCall’s #2263 pattern by the Vintage Pattern Lending Library. It features “high or square neck, and bishop or shorter sleeves.” The Ladies House Dress was “designed to be worn while doing housework and chores.” Again, it’s perfect for what I’m looking for in a dress.
Before I began this project I had already sewn up a wearable mock-up. Normally I don’t bother with a mock-up because my sewing time is already a precious commodity that I want to spend on the actual dress. However, I did make an exception because this pattern comes in only one size, a 38″ bust. Fortunately the mock-up fit wonderfully, so no sizing or grading required.
For this project, I used the following materials:
- 7 1/2 yds cotton/linen blend fabric from Renaissance Fabrics
- 1/4″ wide lace trim from Townsends
- Cotton twill tape from Burnley + Trowbridge
- 5 buttons harvested from old shirts from the hubby
- Pattern from Vintage Pattern Lending Library
After completing the mock-up, I did decide to make several changes and additions to the final dress.
Even though this is a working house dress, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to add just a wee bit of lace trim to the yoke and cuffs.
To help keep the gathers in place and to have more control over the gathering, I added a drawstring casing, using the cotton twill tape, to the waistline of the dress.
No dress is complete without a pair of good-sized pockets! Thus I used the bag-shaped pocket pattern from Bertha Banner’s Household Sewing with Dressmaking. This was a very easy pattern to draft directly from the book for anyone new to drafting, like myself. I really love how the top of the pocket anchors to the waistline with twill tape, allowing the pocket to be supported and preventing any drooping from heavy objects being carried in the pocket.
I am in absolute love of this dress! I have a feeling this could become a good staple in my wardrobe and may require the sewing of several more dresses in this style.
This dress, though simple in overall design, still took me a good month to make because I finished all of the seams by hand, set in the sleeves by hand, and inserted the pockets by hand. By the end of this project, my hand stitching has improved significantly!
I hope, dear reader, you have enjoyed this first foray into historical sewing here on the blog and will perhaps dip your own toes into sewing patterns from decades past!