Saturday, August 6, 2016

Bib Front Dress, Pt I: Sources and Construction

You can read the second entry on this dress here

This was my first 'bib front' dress. The original pattern was draped on me by my friend Hannah, and I took elements from several primary source examples for the details. 

Photo by the lovely and talented Asha Ananda 

Sources and Inspiration 

I actually did this so I would have an earlier style of dress to go with this amazing red bonnet by Lynn McMasters. 

It was one of the prototypes for her Jockey Cap pattern, taken from an 1809 fashion plate. 


I copied the back pleats from this example in the Snowshill collection. (You can find it in Costume in Detail on page 95.)

I actually only did the outer pleats where the stitching would show by hand, the rest are done by machine. Early on I had some crazy idea that this would totally be the dress I just 'whipped' out for once (HA!).


I looked at a lot of examples with amazing details for these, but in the end settled on some simple top stitched darts.

You can see an example of these in this original on Betsy Bashore's website.

I included tapes on the inside to tie down a pad and another to tie around the waist.

There are several extant examples of tapes being used to help secure the fit of a dress, such as the bib front dress on page 52 of Patterns of Fashion.

Construction Techniques 

Skirt Sides 

One thing I've heard folks say is tricky on apron front skirts is having the opening on the side of the skirt lay flat. One way to do this is to cut an extra piece into the front panel of the skirt which can be laid over the back panel.

Fred is unimpressed at mommy's ingenuity.

There is an example of this graphed out in Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion on page 49.

I sewed the sides of the skirt together right up to this point, then turned town the side of the back panel in the slit. 

Inside of skirt- front panel pushed aside for better view. 
It will end up in front of the back panel. 

I flat felled the side seam with the front seam allowance encasing the back. Snip the back and fold in place for the slit *before* you tack down the front felling bit- that way you can nicely wrap the back part of the slit up in your felling from the front. 

Next I folded the extra front piece over and pin in place over the back panel and sewed it down about an inch and a half up the slit. 

Outside of skirt- stitch about as far up as the pins. 

This way the front side nicely overlaps the back without creating any gaping. 

Skirt Bottom: Piecing 

I have really been thinking lately that we need to be doing more piecing in our recreations to be historically accurate. So many of the original examples are pieced, sometimes to a degree we can hardly imagine.

So of course the universe sent me something I would need to piece!

It may be hard to see, but there is a separate piece worked in between the bottom tuck and the hem.

The ornamentation on the bottom was originally on the side of fabric, perpendicular to the pattern. My original plan was to cut it and piece it onto the bottom.

 I also forgot to take the extra length for the tucks into account when I cut it, so I had to piece in an extra four inch piece between the main skirt and the trim. Careful what you wish for, I guess! 

Shoulder Straps 

I was able to take advantage of some of the wonderful skills I learned at the Burnley and Trowbridge Pelisse workshop here- fitting pieces on the body and then just top-stitching them in place. This was especially helpful when it came to the bust darts and shoulder straps.

Brian pinned them in place where they wanted to go for the best fit, and I just stitched them down.

Not only do I have asymmetrical shoulders (more on this in the next entry) but I found that adjusting from the shoulders was able to help with a lot of gaping and other fitting issues in the bust. 

This has already gotten pretty long, so I am going to save some of my fitting lessons learned for another post.

Till then- what do you all think about the terms 'bib front' vs. 'apron front'? I would generally use the first to refer to a garment like this where part of the bodice is attached to the skirt, and the second to a garment where the skirt is separate from the bodice but still on a string like this. However I feel like there is still some variance. 

Please let me know in the comments below!

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