Now sadly this ensemble is a total historic fabrication for the era of the movie. Elizabeth Gaskell wrote and set North and South in the 1850's. This sort of blouse and skirt combo didn't become a thing until the 1860's. Furthermore this kind of smooth topped gored skirt is much more of an edwardian fashion than a thing of the 1850's. Skirts in the 1850's and 60's tended to be gathered or pleated into a waistband to assist in creating the bell shape that was popular at the time. All those inconsistancies noted. I love love love this outfit, and wanted to use it as a jumping off point for a historically accurate ensemble. I may still make the right hand blouse though, because it's so pretty.
Since the pairing of a blouse with a skirt is a later construct, I fished around and came up with this stunning photo from the 1860's. And the resemblance to the Margaret Hale costume is really remarkable: although the skirt has more volume and is pleated (the movie skirt had to have been heavily gored, because it had a fair amount of volume around the hem, and she was definitely wearing petticoats) we see a full sleeved light colored blouse, and an accent belt with a decorative buckle. This lovely photo became the basis for my own ensemble.
So, having dithered around finishing my corset (which I needed to have to get the waist measurment for the skirt) until I only had a week left, I took my several yards of blue plaid in hand and went forth. Right from the start this was less of an exercise in creating a historcally accurate garment, and more of a process of fudging modern materials to create a historically accurate look. This started with the purchase of reasonably priced fabric that had far too soft a hand for this kind of skirt. Well, unless I planned on wearing a hoopskirt under it, and I do not. This will become a article of clothing I wear around the house in winter, and believe me when I tell you, hoopskirts are not a practical item of dress in a house the size of mine! So that means the fabric itself has to have a bit of bounce. Thankfully one of the beauties of underlining is that it allows you to fudge the weight/hand of your fabric. Ideally I would have underlined the entire thing with silk organza, which would have given it marvelous volume and made it a joy to work with. Unfortunately I do not have that much silk organa lying around, and it would get pricey underlining that much skirt with it ( I routinely use it in collars, cuffs, waistbands, and anywhere else I used to use the icky commercial underfacings, so I always have some on hand just not you know, six yards). After a lot of dithering in the fabric store, I finally settled on using netting as an underlining, the heavy kind used for modern crinolines, as it's cheap and bouncy. It is NOT a joy to work with, but with a lot of pins and basting, it's doable.
I very carefully measured the panels so they started and ended at the same point in the repeat, and cut along the lines of the plaid. Then I underlined all the panels with net, and basted all four sides to keep the net in place. All the preparations finished, I lined up the panels.... And discovered that somehow I had missed the fact that it was a directional plaid, and had not cut all the panels running in the same direction. So I had three panels, one of which would never line up properly. Thank goodness I had measured for the skirt by stepping on a couple inches of the tape measure and measuring up, so I had almost three inches of hem. I flipped the offending panel and realized that I was only going to lose about an inch off each end when I lined everything up and trimmed things to be the same length. Problem solved, although not without much moaning and groaning and drinking of tea. This is why I so rarely work with plaids. They're a pain in the bum and and even when you think you're being careful, they find a way to trip you up.
|My sewing buddy practicing his stitches with a|
scrap of fabric.
With the skirt together I measured and calculated for the pleats. Since this challenge is "blue" I wanted to highlight the blue stripes. So I counted how many blue stripes there were, and divided the waist measurement by that number. That told me how many inches (in this case 0.5 inches) of each blue stripe should show. I then test pleated a piece of the waist in several different ways to decide
exactly how i wanted to pleat it. Then I pinned it all and attached it to the waistband, and added long modesty placket (I set the waist of this skirt to two inches less than my current corseted waist, so it should fit for a while.) and finsihed the inside of the waistband by hand. A buttonhole and a button finshed the waist. I didn't worry too much about the waistband being less than beauteaous because it will be covered by either a belt or a bodice (if I have enough leftovers to make one) at all times
|Pinning in the hem facing.|
|Skirt flipped back to show lining.|
|a couple petticoats would widen the bottom.|
|it really spreads when you sit!|