Tuesday, February 7, 2017

18th Century Maternity Plans

Every now and again I get REALLY ambitious with my costuming plans.  Like, this-event-is-in-a-week-and-I-need-a-whole-new-ensemble-including-underpinnings ambitious.  Case in point, this weekend I'm attending a Mitts, Muffs, and Hoods workshop, and while participants do not HAVE to dress up, what fun would it be to not?

Good news:  I have plenty of 18th Century casual wear.
Bad news:  None of it fits now that I'm five months pregnant.  :p

Well, my petticoats will fit fine, but the jackets won't.  And those stays that I've been working on for three years?  They definitely won't fit.  What I need is maternity stays!  Yes!  That's totally a thing!

I first learned about the existence of maternity stays back in 2013 when I was just starting out at the Costume Design Center at Colonial Williamsburg.  In October we had the annual CDC Open House, which was a lot of fun to be a part of, and on one of my breaks I went around and took pictures of all of the displays of costumes and accessories.  One of the displays was a set of maternity stays, and I was fascinated by them:

I decided I definitely needed a set of my own someday, and of course now is the time!  I have been doing much research, and the stays are currently in progress.  I will blog about them soon - most likely after this weekend.  (In the meantime, follow my progress on Instagram!)

So that's underpinnings sorted.  What's next?  Well, I have a jacket that I cut out last year and never put together:

It's a zone-front style, so my thought was that it would look totally natural to add a stomacher of the yellow linen inside the center front edges to make up the extra space needed.  Also, the linen is the EXACT same color as this beautiful lightweight wool I recently bought from The Homemade Historian:

I can make a petticoat from the wool, and after I've had the baby I'll make an English gown from the rest, and have two ensembles!  Bonus - I can do the other side of the linen stomacher in the wool, and have it work for pregnancy now and normal wear later!

I cut out the stomacher, but before I started to sew it up I realized that I could save time by simply adding a stomacher to any of my three existing jackets, and then I wouldn't have to assemble a jacket OR make a petticoat from scratch.  Duh!

Here are the three jackets I already have:

Green Swallowtail
1785 Block-printed Jacket
Coral Floral
Any of them would work with the addition of a stomacher.  I have fabric left over from the first two, but not the third.  So Coral Floral is out.  I like the 1785 Jacket better (also I had momentarily forgotten that the Green Jacket existed), so I dug out my scraps of block-printed fabric and quickly discovered that none of the pieces were large enough to make a stomacher.  Never fear!  I can piece one:

Here's how it looks on Elsa, padded up to approximate my expanding figure:

Not bad, eh?  There's just one problem, which I realized after sewing the stomacher together.  This jacket has long sleeves, and the workshop involves making mitts, which need to be fitted to my arms up the elbow!  The sleeves are too tight to roll up, so back to square one.

This is when I remembered the existence of the Green Swallowtail Jacket, and while it doesn't excite me, it will do in a pinch.  I think I'm going to attempt to make the new yellow ensemble, because that's more fun, but if time runs out (remember I still have those maternity stays to make!) I'll whip up a quick green stomacher and wear the Green Jacket as plan B.  If time REALLY runs out and I don't have time to even make another stomacher, I'll use 1785 Jacket as plan C.

Ok, back to sewing boning channels!


  1. This is great! The stays are going to be so neat and the long sleeve jacket is so cute! I love that you can just add a stomacher to any given jacket. Was this a thing then for modifying clothes for maternity wear? I've never had a reason to research this and now I'm so interested! Have fun at your workshop!


    1. I'm not sure about the historical accuracy of adding a stomacher to a jacket, but it made sense to me. My research indicates that quite often women just wore a large kerchief and an apron to cover any gaps in their normal clothing. There's some very good information about maternity wear (and children's clothing) here: https://www.history.org/history/clothing/women/motherhood.cfm

    2. Interesting! Thanks for the link :)