We’ve all been there. Standing in an aisle of gorgeous fabrics… swooning at the computer screen… gazing lovingly (and with drool at the mouth) at THE.PERFECT.FABRIC for that next dress.
Question is… how much to buy? Will 5 yards be enough? 10? Or do I have to sell a kidney to afford some unmentionable amount of fibers woven together into a textile??
Here’s a list of common garments from the 19th Century and their approximate yardage requirements. Please note – these are *approximate.* You’ll have to adjust for larger or smaller material widths and for your size (i.e. a 4’11″ person will take less yardage than my 5’8″ mother). Take a look at this conversion chart for when you find that have-to-have fabric.
The yardages listed approximate using 45″ fabric. If you find a to-die-for silk taffeta in 58″ you might not need as much. Also, if you plan on creating self-trim – you may need several more yards. For ruffles, here are the calculations. For pleating, read this article.
These yardages assume cutting the garment pieces on the “normal” grain for the era – most often “on” grain for bodices and skirts and bias cut for sleeves.
Regency Era c.1800 to 1820
Basic Dress – 5 to 7 yards
Evening/Ball Dress with train – 6 to 8 yards
Spencer jacket – 2 to 3 yards
Pelisse or Coat – 3.5 to 5 yards
Romantic Era c.1820s & 1830s
Bodice – 1 to 1.5 yards
Full puffed sleeves (short), pair – 1 to 1.25 yards
Full length leg o’ mutton sleeves, pair – 1.5 to 2 yards
Skirt – 3.5 to 5 yards
Early Victorian c.1840s
Bodice with long, tight bias-cut sleeves – 2.25 to 3 yards
Evening bodice with short sleeves – 1.75 to 2.5 yards
Skirt – 4 to 5.5 yards
Mid-Victorian c.1850s & 1860s
Bodice with pagoda sleeves – 3 to 4 yards
Bodice with fitted sleeves – 2 to 3 yards
Evening/Ball gown bodice – 1.5 to 2 yards
Skirt, plain – 5 to 6.5 yards
Skirt with 3 deep ruffles – above plus 7 yards
Sheer dress – 8 to 10 yards
To determine the ruffle yardage more accurately, use this precise calculation.
Bustle Era c.1870 to 1889
Basic bodice – 2.5 to 4 yards depending on the length down on the hips
Apron overskirt – 3 to 6 yards
Foundation/Underskirt – 4 to 5.5 yards
Foundation skirt with train – 5 to 8 yards
(8 to 12 yards is a good starting point for bustle dresses.)
The Bustle years are quite varied and can greatly affect amount of yardage needed. (How foofy do you want it?)
Late Victorian c.1890s
Bodice (only) – 1.5 to 2.5 yards
Full length leg o’ mutton sleeves, pair – 1.5 to 3 yards
Short puffed sleeves, pair – 1.5 to 2.5 yards
Skirt – 5 to 6.5 yards
For underlining fabrics, follow the same approximate yardage as listed. For fabric suppliers, check out the Fabric & Trim Resource page.
Remember, it’s a good rule to ALWAYS buy a little bit more than you think you need. If you are matching plaids or stripes, cutting pieces on the bias, this will take more yardage. Self-trims (trims, ruffles, puffs, etc. cut from the dress or complementary fabric) always take more than you think. Plan accordingly.
How will this list help you with future projects?