Several years ago I acquired this original bodice that I date to the 1860s. It’s very well made by both hand and machine. Here are some highlights of this darling, but unusual garment. And yes, it is PINK.
(Click on the photos for a larger view.)
It’s made from a pink silk taffeta – and I mean PINK. Even though most of the color has faded over time, when I opened up the sleeve
hem this Lisa Frank pink reveled its bright self. Can you imagine the whole gown in that color?
Here’s the inside showing the two different underlining fabrics (and more goodies):
The underlining is created by both a natural cotton muslin with a medium hand and a similar fabric in polished cotton. The dart and side seams as well as the armholes are hand whipped to finish the edges. It is boned at both front darts, side seams and back princess seams with ¼” whalebone. The center front and back both have fat 1/8″ wide whalebones supporting the hand made eyelets.
What strikes me as so unusual about this bodice is the lacing at both the center front AND back. (The very top photo is of the front and the one just below that is the back.) What a weird thing! You almost can’t tell the sides apart.
Evening bodices of this period usually closed in the back with lacing or hooks & eyes. In the early 1870s you see evening bodices with a front button closure. So this one is quite unique with the double lacing.
Because the front and back look so similar with the straight neckline, symmetrical short sleeves and hem points, the only way I could distinguish the opening (at center front) is because of the darts. You can see them above, angling to the center front point. The girl who wore this was not large busted at all which only added to the mystery of deciphering what was the front.
The neckline looks like the silk was mounted to the underlining then the silk body laid on with the raw edge (near the neckline outer facing part) turned under and all hand whipped down. Perhaps the dressmaker was running out of fabric and therefore had to piece the bodice together but make it look good too. That facing part is around the entire neckline including the shoulders.
Look how tiny the center back panel is at the waist. The shape of the seams is the key to visually making the waist smaller without overdoing it with tight lacing. Below is the inside showing the bones in a cotton casing along the back princess seams. Notice how they don’t go very far up the back. They didn’t have curving spiral bones, which were not available til the late 1890s.
The top and bottom raw edges are both finished with a narrow bias piping – the neckline having one tiny cord and the bottom with double
piping of slightly larger (and softer) cords. Below is the center front point.
And the center back point. Look at that shape! Amazing workmanship. The silk has worn away so we can peek at the cotton or linen cord that was used for the piping.
And for further amazement and education – the inside of that little point:
The bias showing on the inside is really only about 5/8″ wide. I believe the double piping was made from one strip of bias as was usual in the era according to dressmaking books. (The secret is to sew it all by hand.)
The eyelets are quite tiny. Not more than ¼” in total diameter and many of them much smaller than that. The lacing cord is about 1/8″. Notice the long metal aglet on the end to prevent fraying and help lace the eyelets.
What are your thoughts on this unusual bodice with the lacing on both front and back? Have you seen another original with the same application? Please share!