How to Sew a Victorian Costume

Written by laura britton
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How to Sew a Victorian Costume
Pictures from books and advertisements can inspire a Victorian Era costume. (Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

Fashions in Victorian Era England and America were diverse enough that you have several patterns to choose from when planning your Victorian costume. Standard pattern companies, such as Simplicity and McCall's, offer complete pattern designs for men, women and children, including Victorian accessories and undergarments. If you decide to take advantage of the large array of patterns offered by these companies, you will be given complete instructions to create a very good replica of a Victorian "style" costume. However, if you're interested in reproducing a Victorian Era garment as a costume for historical purposes, you must be choosier in your pattern and fabric selection. You will also need to be certain of your sewing skills since you may be working without direct instruction. This tutorial offers tips for sewing a historically-accurate Victorian costume.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Library access
  • Internet access
  • Photocopier (or scanner & printer)
  • Dress form
  • Newsprint or butcher paper
  • Muslin
  • Antique or period-style reproduction fabric
  • Embroidered ribbon, glass beads, or other embellishments as desired

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  1. 1

    Research Victorian clothing and patterns. There are caches of patterns and detailed pictures of garments online and in library books. There are even a few pattern companies that specialise in reproducing historical patterns. Although these patterns can be quite costly, they are very well researched and often come with literature regarding the reconstruction of the pattern.

  2. 2

    Enlarge and copy the patterns you find. Most of the patterns that you discover will be the size of a picture or a sheet of paper. Enlarge them for your use and copy them onto either newsprint, which stores well because it is thin, or butcher paper, which holds up to heavy use.

  3. 3

    Use a dress form to alter patterns and make mock-ups. Victorian Era women usually worked in pairs to piece dresses by draping muslin directly on each others bodies. You can achieve the same effect with a dress form built to your size.

  4. 4

    Make a muslin version of your garment. Muslin is inexpensive so you can more readily afford to make a mistake or alter the basic pattern when you use this fabric. Your muslin mock-up is your first preview of the pattern's fit and function.

  5. 5

    Sew the finalised pattern in antique or historically-reproduced fabric. Again, there are companies that specialise in weaving fabric from specific historical eras. If the price is too steep, do your research and buy fabric that is a close facsimile. Keep in mind that you will always need to buy natural fibres since synthetics were not in use during the Victorian Era.

  6. 6

    Trim your costume authentically. Embroidered ribbons, glass beads, lace, feathers, semi-precious stones and wooden and leather notions are all appropriate to the time period. Remember that synthetic materials were unknown and have no place on a historically-accurate garment.

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