An 1893 Hunting Suit, from Harper’s Bazaar


Many years ago, I bought a book of plates from Harper’s Bazaar.  If you’re a costumer, you probably know the one, put out by Dover, big thick thing with a slightly weird shade of brown cover, full of designs from 1869 through 1899.  One in particular that caught my eye was this plate, from fall 1893:  FB_IMG_1510952779432

“Lady’s Hunting Costume”  I am a country girl, and grew up shooting and hunting, and this plate just enchanted me.  Here was a very proper lady all dressed in the proper costume for hunting,and she’s got her own shotgun, AND a shotgun shell belt!  She’s not some flighty lady who only sits inside and drinks tea, she goes out and has fun in the great outdoors!

So I dreamed about this ensemble for years.  In 2012 I posted this picture on Facebook, saying I hoped to make it soon.  I finally bought the wool in spring of 2016, but stalled.  It had to be perfect, and I didn’t feel my tailoring was up to snuff yet.  Finally, this year, my husband told me to just make it for the State Make it with Wool contest.  So now I had a deadline, two months out.


Leor Helped Warm up my Wool

I dug out my wool, pulled down my slopers, and started drafting.

For the skirt, I simply cut off my favorite skirt pattern at a length that would just hit the top of my calves when finished, and took just a little bit of fullness out of the center back.


I omitted my standard haircloth interlining, and simply lined the skirt with sateen (so as not to bind on the wool knickers), and faced the hem with a deep twill cotton facing.  I decided to machine stitch the hem, as this needs to be a durable skirt rather than fancy, and machine stitched hems were surprisingly common in the 1890’s.

This is where I discovered the need for a walking foot.  I did not own a walking foot.  Had my fabric been a herringbone tweed rather than a plaid, it probably would have been fine, but there was a definite jog in the hem right at the three rows of topstitching.  So I ordered in a walking foot, and tore out the hem and redid it.  So much better!


Walking Foot in Use, Topstitching

The moral of this story is that walking feet are the most awesome thing, and you all need one too.  I used it for almost the whole rest of this ensemble.

The bodice was pretty easy and straight forward to draft, and not too terribly difficult to put together.  I used my skirt pattern again for the peplum, and lined up the front left bodice overlay with the edge of the front panel.  It worked amazingly well that way.  The left bodice and right lining button together at center front, and take most of the strain of the  closure, while the overlay on the left side is an extension of the right bodice and just hooks over at the waist and shoulder.

I used a sleeve lining from a shirtwaist to make the actual sleeves (just the right shape), and fussed around with my standup collar pattern to make the opening at the right place.



I moved the pocket from the right breast to the right hip, because a pocket on your chest right where you will shoulder your gun is an exceedingly bad idea, but pockets are always awesome.  (I also have a hidden large pocket in the skirt, right between right side and right back.  Pockets!)

I bound all the edges of the bodice, peplum, and the inside of the collar with bias made from the plaid.  Because I am insane, I pattern matched it.  It was also mostly cut from scraps, because why cut bias out of good large pieces you could use for something else when you have scraps?

So then, pants. Knickers. Jodpurs.

My wonderful friend Marna of The Domestic Lady’s Dressmaker helped me with the pants, sending me instructions for drafting my own to size from Edwardian Ladies’ Tailoring: The Twentieth Century System of Ladies’ Garment Cutting (1910), by J C Hopkins.  (I know it is from the 1910’s, but it was that or basically a drawers pattern with the crotch sewn shut, which would not be that fantastic for actually doing daring things in, and I have also seen riding pants patterns for women similar from the 90’s.)

So that all turned my brain inside out.  All the points in the draft seemed to be pretty arbitrarily named, A, B, 1, 4, etc., BUT.  The first and only mockup fit really well!



Tada! Mockup Accomplished.

So the pants went together well, with a regular placket and waistband like a skirt. I made them of the same wool as the rest of the ensemble.

The last step was the leggings, or spats, or gaiters, however you want to call them.  My husband had promised to help me with this project, so…. heeheehee.


Duct Tape Fixes Everything!

See, the gaiters have to fit over the pants at the top, but they have to fit snugly to the legs, so the best way to accomplish making a pattern is to put on your shoes, stockings, and pants, slip on a trash bag, and tape up your leg!  This is easier if your husband is willing to tape you up.  I drew a line for the center front seam, and very very very carefully cut myself out.  I was then able to cut apart the taped pieces into my pattern pieces, and trace and add seam allowances.

Then it was an entire evening of buttonholes, and another entire evening of buttons to finish!  The next morning was Nebraska Make it With Wool!


This is my friend Alyssa.  During the same time as I was making this hunting suit, she was working on this lovely ensemble, which is a different color copy of a suit in the Platte County Museum in Columbus.  She learned how to draft her own patterns and use a lot of Victorian sewing techniques in making this dress, and I am very proud of her.  She won the senior division of the Make it With Wool Contest.

I styled my hunting suit as a hiking suit for the competition, because my cartridge belt wasn’t done yet (I had an awesome guy in a local leather shop make one for me.), and carried a walking stick.  My hat came to me as a ratty old thing, but I cleaned it, steamed it into shape again, and put new feathers on as the old ones were completely falling apart.  I used two pheasant feathers given me by my friend Lisa. Really, this would make an awesome Victorian hiking costume as well.  I earned first in the adult division at Make it With Wool!

Of course no historical ensemble is complete without a quality photoshoot.  (Also I need proper photos to send to nationals.)  So, yesterday, my husband and I went out to do just that.  My friend Ross lent me his absolutely amazing 1877 English Pape 16 gauge side by side shotgun.  It is fully engraved, with Damascus barrels.  I really don’t know if I’ve ever held a more beautiful gun.  He also lent me a pheasant rooster he shot on Thanksgiving day with that very gun, (and promptly froze), to use as a prop.  My dad tagged along for the photoshoot as well, to help carry things.



I never felt restrained by this ensemble as well.  I was able to move just as comfortably as in a t-shirt and jeans.  Actually, I have greater range of motion in these pants than in my favorite pair of jeans, and a well-fitted sleeve is a joy to wear.



“I would like to see every woman know how to handle guns as naturally as they know how to handle babies.” –Annie Oakley





We took some hiking photos as well, for some variety.



I will close by saying that this is probably my favorite ensemble to date (of course, I say that almost every time I finish something), and this ensemble has really shown me how no seamstress stands alone.  From Marna, who helped me with resources for the knicker pants pattern and taught me how to draft my own patterns; my mom who encouraged me and went with me on several Hobby Lobby trips for thread, fabric, and buttons, and also last year told me about the garage sale where I found the hat (and the 1840’s dress!); my husband who put up with my sewing mess, taped up my gaiters pattern, made my walking stick and also came with me to Make it With Wool even though I know he would be bored and gave him a free pass to skip out; to the Leather Shack in Central City for the awesome belt; Lisa who gave me pheasant feathers; Ross who lent me a beautiful historical gun for the photoshoot; my dad who tagged along and lugged things out into the back pasture for photos, and all my friends who encourage me whenever I embark on crazy sewing adventures.  For all your love and support, I am eternally thankful.  None of my endeavors would be possible without all of you.


“God intended women to be outside as well as men, and they do not know what they are missing when they stay cooped up in the house.” –Annie Oakley



Published in: on November 27, 2017 at 5:10 pm  Comments (2)  
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