About a month ago I bought a great late 19th century bodice. I got it on a whim, thinking from the photos that it didn’t look like it was made out of silk. I’ve been trying to avoid silk because I can’t take care of it as well as bast fibers. Well, when I unpacked the bodice, I found that it was completely cotton! Tiny happy dance.
The bodice is sized for a teenager. This means that the style it is made in is neither for a woman or a child – it’s like transitional fashion. I’m guessing it was worn with a long skirt, as women wore, but there’s a possibility that it was worn with a mid-calf skirt, the way tweens dressed. I’m not completely sure yet.
It’s completely handsewn, except for the topstitching on the flap at the front, the cuffs, and the little red sleeve caps. It was probably made from a pattern by a fairly experienced but non-professional seamstress – it’s a complex pattern, but I can see where the seams were once sewn in, ripped out and resewn. So … there’s no tag. Nothing that would make tracking it down easier. Boo.
It doesn’t have any boning or boning channels, which kind of strikes me as odd for a bodice from this period – but unboned bodices from the 1880s-1890s are out there.
So I know it’s from the 1880 or 1890s. I’m figuring between 1885-1895, because the sleeves are just a little gathered underneath the sleeve caps, hinting at those huge ridiculous poofy sleeves that came into fashion in the 1890s. It doesn’t have the long slender waists of the 1870s/early 1880s, either, which were called cuirass bodices.
Here are some similar bodices, all from the early 1890s.