An 1898 Striped Wrapper

I currently have a fascination with 1890s work wear. Last summer, while working at Stuhr, I learned firsthand the benefit of loose cool clothing in the heat, and while blousey shirtwaists and neat skirts are not unpleasant, I have been wanting some wrappers for informal days spent in and around the house at Stuhr.

Enter this fabric:


Wrapper Fabric


I got a Joann Fabrics email in February, mentioning free shipping and new prints, half price. Now, usually their fabrics aren’t that exciting for historical purposes — I mostly get flannel with knitting sheep and things like that from them. But I looked to see what they had, and this jumped at me. It tackled me and screamed WRAPPER!!! So of course I had to order it.

I’d been wanting to find some trim such as was used on the readymade wrappers of Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward, and managed to find some antique trim on Etsy for pretty cheap. That was an awesome find!

The next step was to decide what the wrapper, on the whole, should look like. I knew I wanted to copy another wrapper of Marna’s, from The Domestic Lady’s Dressmaker , but which one? She has several readymade wrappers in her collection from the 1890s, but I finally settled on one in particular, a black striped number from approximately 1898 with an interesting yoke. We are in 1898 this year at Stuhr, so it was perfect!

The first thing I always do when making a historical garment off an original is to sketch it out. This helps me to get a feel for the seam lines, proportions, and other design features of the original. As I sketch, I write notes to the side of my sketch about details I see in the construction and finish, which help me think through how, exactly, I’ll execute the pattern and sewing of this garment. You’ll see I later changed a few of my opinions on the shape of the yoke.


Sketch First

The next step was to draft the pattern. There are no photos of this process. I used my slopers, as usual. Then cut the fabric, and sew!

There is one hard and fast rule about historical sewing: no matter what you are making, there will be a small piece you have to fiddle with and make before you can start with the big sweeping seams and get stuff done. This dress, that piece was the little back belt thing. Luckily, it was made with speed sewing techniques. Was it hemmed before applying trim? No! No such nonsense here! The raw edges were pressed 1/4″ to the right side, and the trim was then machine stitched down to cover the raw edges. Slick.


The subsequent seams were also sewn together in a beautiful time-saving way: you make a sandwich of the linings right sides together and the fabric right sides together and sew them all as one, then fold out and press. Raw edges are all enclosed! This should only, however, be done on loose fitting garments that won’t need size adjustments.


After I got the whole back together, I sewed the front fabric yoke. Since this wrapper is lined with a fitted lining down to the high hip, I sewed the Mother Hubbard front separately from the lining, then sewed it to the lining at the shoulder. I then sewed the shoulders together (with a flat felled seam felled on the outside!) and sewed the side seams. Pocket went into the right side seam, belt went in the sides, and wing ruffles went on the shoulders.


What’s wrong with my ruffle?!

This was when I realized that my little standing ruffle was not level. So I fixed it. That was annoying.


Next was to sew the buttonholes, then sew down the trim outlining the yoke, and to make and apply the collar and binding. It really started to come together at this point! The trim stitching holds the bottom of the yoke to the fitted lining, the Mother Hubbard front is loose below that.


Back Yoke Detail

Last was the sleeves, with their loose non opening cuffs and trim, and the skirt flounce with its little standing ruffle. The skirt itself is actually quite narrow above the flounce, about 84″ including seam allowances. The flounce is three widths of 44″ fabric, seamed together with a 2″ hem. The sleeves are not very puffy, coming as they do at the very end of the 1890s. However, the shoulder ruffles really make up for the lack of actual sleeve puff!


1898 Dress Front


1898 Dress Back

Before the flounce, I also applied a patch pocket like on the original, edged with trim at the top. It should come in handy.


Pockets for All!

Another thing I’d like to mention is that this wrapper buttons left over right. This is actually super common in the late Victorian era. Overlaps were not yet standardized for women’s clothing, and were often left over right instead of right over left. I decided to make mine left over right, since the original did so.

I haven’t worn this dress at all yet, I’m of course waiting for the summer season at Stuhr to start, but I’ll likely first get to wear it sometime in May. Pictures then, I promise!

Oh, and because this was my project for the March Historical Sew Monthly challenge, here are the details for that:

Make something to wear around the (historical) house.

What the item is: 1898 Readymade Wrapper
Material: Reproduction Cotton Print
Pattern: Self – drafted from an original.
Year: 1898
Notions: 6 China buttons, thread.
How historically accurate is it? 90%. I actually got to historically use machine buttonholes! But I used poly blend thread throughout the dress.
Hours to complete: 12?
First worn: Not yet, this summer at Stuhr.
Total cost: $45.

Published in: on April 13, 2018 at 9:51 pm  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. That looks great! And what an interesting, uncommon type of thing to reproduce (uncommon in terms of reproductions, obviously not uncommon in period!).

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