Saturday, 7 May 2011

Lizzie in Fancy Petticoat, Chemisette & Sleeves

I've been working hard getting all of Lizzie Siddal's underwear sewn up and getting her dressed.
She's not quite so cold now, even though the weather has been nice here recently :)

She has on her Bloomers and Chemise, as you've already seen. And now wears a pair of white cotton petticoats under a fancy petticoat made of my favorite fabric of the moment. A beautiful beige stripped cotton lawn. The same fabric I made Rose's dress from, as it's just so nice to work with and has a wonderful feel to it. This time I've trimmed it with a rich embroidered ribbon edge.

All Lizzie's petticoats have been cartridge pleated to wide waistbands. She has no other shaping support under her clothes as would have been usual at the time. And she has no corset!
This bohemian, artistic, free spirited women didn't conform to the fashion restraints of her times. And you really have to admire her resolve to go against the grain.
Having no corset has brought it's own problems for me while dressing Lizzie though.

The big baggy shifts and chemise's can be hard to keep under control. It's only made of soft white cotton, so gathers in quite neatly under tight bodices, but it doesn't really stay in place very well without the wide elastic faux corset I'd normally have added over it.

The neckline of Lizzie's chemise is very wide, as was one of the styles during the 1860's. So I had to work out how to keep it in place so that it wouldn't ride up and cause bulk under her bodice. To solve this the only thing I could think of to start with was making sure the waistband on her petticoats was as tight as I could make it. So I added a few crossed stitches at the back of the waistband to her white cotton petticoats, and pulled them tight before tying off. Very much like you would with a corset really. It has made me wonder if the freedom gained by not wearing a corset really gave a woman as much freedom as was really thought. Many dress bodices would still have been boned and re-inforced to compensate for the lack of stability and clean lines that were lost without wearing a corset.

I decided to splash out a little bit on the fabric for Lizzie's dress and bought a selection of different silks. I'm trying to follow the values of the Victorian Aesthetic Dress Movement and use only natural fabrics, and non-chemical colours. So silks seemed like a good choice, as there is a lot of photographic evidence that it was widely used.

I've made Lizzie's chemisette, or false blouse, from a silk cotton fabric that has a lovely crisp texture. I gathered this to form the high round neckline, and then pulled it into shape before sewing the side and back seams. To stop this un-tucking from the bodice of her dress I've back stitched it around the lower edge, pulling tightly to make sure that everything stays where it should be, and to make sure that pesky chemise doesn't move.
Her sleeves, made from a stripped Olive silk that will match her bodice and skirts, have a tappering pointed hem and will be decorated to match the rest of her gown. Which I've very bravely decided (only today) that I'll be embroidering. Something I've not done for years, so I may change my mind yet.

Next to do will be to sew her a matching bodice and sew her underskirt and sash of cream Antung silk, as well as her over-skirt of the stripped Olive silk. I'm really hoping that I can make Lizzie look as I want her to, as it's not the easiest costume I've made for one of my dolls. I can only wait and hope that I may be able to do justice to the picture I have in my head. But sometimes things work, and other times, who knows :)


  1. Natasha! She's beautiful and your blog looks really great! <3

  2. Thanks Rebecca, your so kind! x