Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Antique bodice - early 1900s

This weekend I went to the City Wide Garage Sale and was thrilled to find a couple of very antique bodices, as well as some Edwardian unmentionables and an interesting old nightgown. I'm going to post pictures of all of these things but one at a time, since the posts are going to be picture heavy.

My favorite vendor had this bodice. I about died when I saw it. I know it's been hacked up but I just loved it. The fabric is a thick, deep black silk with a lovely sheen, and it's in incredibly good condition. Just a couple of tears on the front of the bodice. It's lined with black polished cotton (I think), and the boning is secured with black petersham ribbon. Fastens with hooks on the back. Without further ado...

Bodice front back. The creases from the pleats are still crisp, even though the trim was cut away. Hopefully long ago.

Bodice spread out, looking at it from the back front. The fabric from the back of the bodice has been hacked away but the lining is intact and in amazing condition. Look at those sleeves!

Bodice back front.

Bodice interior.
There is a lot of hand sewing in this bodice, but there also appears to be machine stitching too. For instance, the sleeves were pieced. When I looked inside the sleeves, they appeared to have originally been machine stitched, and then the fullness was taken in at some point, and that was done by hand.

Exterior of pieced sleeves. God, fluorescent lighting is awful. The color of the fabric is nothing like this.

Inside of the pieced sleeves. Do you see the stitching at the bottom, which is machine stitching, and the stitching at the top where the sleeve was taken in is obviously hand stitching.
Machine and hand stitching.


This is the inside of the undersleeve. This is machine stitching, right?

Construction of the bodice wasn't as meticulous as I'd thought it would be! But that makes me happy, because then I don't have to be so critical of my own craftsmanship. Although that doesn't mean I don't continuously try to improve.

But look at the way this lace was attached at the back shoulder--it was too long, so the maker folded the excess underneath and basted it down.

Look how this excess trim was dealt with. I wonder if this trim came from another gown, and that's why it was too long for this?
Oops, the neckline was too wide. I love that little tuck to take it in. I have to do stuff like that a lot.

I really wish the neckline trim was still there. What are the hooks on the back of the bodice neckline for? What are the hooks on the inside back of the bodice for?

Is my guess correct, that this is an 1860s bodice? It doesn't appear to have dropped shoulders though. But pagoda sleeves were popular in the 1850s-1860s, and I think the pleated front was too. Isabel, if you're reading this, would you weigh in?

ETA: No, my guess was not correct! It was off by several decades! Isabella from All the Pretty Dresses kindly educated me and provided lots of links in her comment that helped me see what she was seeing.

And then I saw this picture from the Barrington House web page and it makes me think my bodice must have looked very much like this one:

I can just picture my bodice with fitted lower sleeves like this and flounces down the front.


  1. Actually...1899. :-)

    The bodice back is the part with the three buttons and the lace details. Look at the armscye and you'll see what I mean. It's cut deeper in the back for movement.

    The little "wings" at the arms and the lack of decoration in the front (hacked away bits) are what give the date away. The wings are a left over from the big sleeves of the earlier part of the 1890's. By 1898, all that was left were the wings. They disappear altogether once the Edwardian age hits.

    The hacked up front is actually were a placket - probably a pigeon front- would have gone. I have several that are like this from the 1890's/1900's. The lining is very structured with tons of boning and hooks and eyes. The outside "fashion fabric" tends to be a lot more freedom of movement and look unstructured despite the lining.

    I know it's the wide sleeves throwing you off - they do look 1850's/1860's but here is a fashion plate from the Turn of the Century that shows the same thing:



    You can also see similar shaped sleeves on this extant 1890's dress:

    That being said it *looks* like these sleeves might have been taken in at the cuff and the cuff is now missing. They probably matched the placket front (which would have had a high neck collar) which is why they were taken for another outfit. The puffy at the bottom and fitted at the cuff look was VERY popular well into the Edwardian era.




    So somewhere around the Turn of the Century would be my guess. :-)

  2. Isabella I don't know how you do what you do, but you are amazing. Now that you've pointed out the front is the back, I can't see it any other way. In fact I'm looking at how the neckline is lower in the hacked-up part and wondering how I couldn't see that it was the front of the bodice.

    I can't imagine how you are able to see a turn of the century bodice in this, but I totally trust you. I can see it a little bit in some of those pictures, but not much because the sleeves for most of them are much more fitted in the upper arm than the sleeves on my bodice. But when I saw the picture in your last link, I could at last see what you were talking about and why you think the bodice must be turn of the century.

    I'm going to edit this post to include your comments and a picture of something that makes me think of what my bodice must have looked like before it was hacked up.

    Thanks again! I learn so much from you!