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My 1820s Little Dorrit costume is complete! It’s actually been finished since February but as I was rushing to meet the Foundations Revealed competition deadline at the time I was too stressed to do a blog post.
Since then I’ve made lots of videos about the making of process so I won’t go into too many details here. I’ll just talk a little about my final thoughts on the project.
1820s Dress Video:
The 1820s Dress Pattern:
For this project I used the 1815-1825 pattern from Laughing Moon Mercantile. You can either buy a printed copy or a digital copy. I went for the digital copy but it’s only available in A0 format so you will have to have it printed professionally. I use the service from Eternal Maker.
What’s great about this Laughing Moon #138 pattern is that there are a number of different views. I went for the long, Marie sleeves, with the bands, but I came up with my own decorative design for the hem.
I also altered the bodice based on a pattern from Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 1*. First, I tried to make these sun ray pleats but my fabric was too heavy to make it work. I was using a stretch cotton sateen from Minerva*. I know it’s not historically accurate but it was very affordable.
In the end I settled on this gathered design as seen in Janet Arnold. I think it’s much more effective in this heavier fabric.
Making the 1820s Dress
The construction process for this dress was LONG. Thankfully I made a mock up come petticoat so I knew roughly how the bodice would fit, even with my changes. But I still made a bodice mock up from my lining fabric, just an old white sheet.
What made it so time consuming was all the piping! I piped every seam except for the side seams under the arms. There was also all the fiddly cuffs and arm bands that needed piping. I had a bit of a disaster trying to bag them out and ended up having to remake them all. VERY ANNOYING.
I also made the decision to have this be a convertible dress for day and evening wear. That meant I had to make the long under sleeves detachable. I did this following a tutorial from Nikki Lee-am on Youtube. She did hers for an 1830s dress but it also worked for my 1820s dress.
The skirt has a padded hem and was trimmed with padded rouleaux. This all had to be done by hand and my stitching got less and less neat. I’m not worried about it though because all of this stitching on the rouleaux was hidden when it was slipstitched onto the skirt.
I chose these interlocking scallops based on a fashion plate from around this period. I wanted my 1820s dress to have lots of little nods to the story of Little Dorrit*. As the Dorrit family’s fortunes go up and down a lot, I think these scallops are a great representation of that.
I made padded bows to cover up the top of the scallops like in the fashion plate.
I made the belt that came with the Laughing Moon #138 pattern but I added a decorative bow made of scrap fabric to cover up the join. While I think it’s a good idea I wish I had taken more time over it but I was rushing to meet the deadline.
For the day version of this outfit I also made a detachable pelerine. This I patterned myself and added this wide box pleated ruffle. I love this pelerine! It’s one of those wacky items from the past that take an outfit to the next level.
The Finished 1820s Dress
When I first finished the dress, I felt a little deflated. I think it was just rushing to meet the deadline because when I look back on it now I love this costume! Does it capture the character of Little Dorrit? I think so! And nobody would know that this dress was made of £4.99 a metre stretch sateen and an old bed sheet!
Details on the bonnet will be coming soon so make sure to keep your eyes peeled for that post!
What do you think? Let me know in the comments,