A Victorian Mourning Blouse
I’ve been doing some historical sewing lately and I’m happy to share this late-Victorian lace blouse. It was an easy project and a versatile piece for my growing historical wardrobe.
As I mentioned in my last post, I made this blouse (plus underpinnings and skirt) along with an outfit for my husband. It was quite an undertaking sewing all of that in a short period of time and I definitely needed a sewing break after that marathon.
For my character, I’m picturing myself as a woman living in the Sierra Nevadas during the 1890’s. Basically, the 19th century version of myself. I chose a Buckaroo Bobbins pattern for this project. I’ve sewn BB patterns before and it fits my time period, so I knew it would be a good choice. I used the “Calamity Jane” blouse, but swapped out the sleeves from “Etta Place”, sans the lace at the cuffs. I’m not sure why the pattern company calls these blouses “Romantic Era”, as the Romantic Era in fashion is generally 1815-40 and these blouses are later than that.
For my blouse, I used this gorgeous black embroidered eyelash lace paired with black cotton lawn. Unfortunately, the lawn is no longer available, but Cali always has a good selection of lawns, voiles and shirtings. I used the lace for both the yoke and the collar. For the collar, I cut a section along one of the scalloped sections. Normally, I would use lace trim, but I thought cutting the fabric to make a trim would work, and I was glad to find that it did!
I spent a bit of time looking at late-Victorian and Edwardian lace blouses. Most are delicate and sheer with lace insertions. However, I didn’t want my white underpinnings to show and didn’t want to make a black camisole or dickey, so I underlined the lace yoke with the lawn. To underline, I cut out a yoke piece of the lawn and basted the lawn and lace together, afterward treating the piece as one. Underlining the lace helped to keep the fragile eyelash lace edges intact.
I used French seams wherever I could in this blouse as it’s sheer and I didn’t want any seams to show that weren’t pretty. I discovered that the armscye for this pattern is small after I had already sewn the sleeves. I usually do a full bicep adjustment for sleeved garments, but I didn’t think that I would have any issue in a blouse with voluminous sleeves. As I had French seamed everything and didn’t want to take it apart, I partially took the under side of the armscyes and sleeves apart and sewed in diamond shaped underarm gussets. The gussets gave me the extra width I needed in the sleeves, but if I sew this blouse again, I will certainly enlarge the armscye. I also think that I should trim a bit off the top, so that the sleeve head hits me on the edge of my shoulders.
I wasn’t sure how I would feel about the high collar or the button back, but it’s not as uncomfortable as it might look. I measured my neck and enlarged the collar piece so it would easily fit, plus give me breathing room. I put a hook and eye closure on the back. With some finagling, I can button all of the back buttons myself and as I have corset (plus a chemise and corset cover) on, I don’t feel the buttons against my skin.
This blouse will serve me well with historical costuming adventures as it can be paired with other items. I already wore this with a bright colored jacket for a different look. It will be nice to have a similar version in white in my wardrobe as well.
* If you noticed the burnt ground, I took these photos on our Sierra Nevada foothill ranch. We had a wildfire burn most all of our ranch this summer. Fortunately, our houses and barns/outbuildings were saved by the firefighters. I figured this was a good opportunity to take some spooky photos in my formidable mourning attire.