1884 Gown: Vest and Interchangeable Plastron - Part 1
I am making this a two part post. In this post, you will be seeing the vest, and in the next, the Plastron.
Here is a close-up view of my original fashion plate inspiration. There is really not much to be seen of the shirtwaist or vest or whatever it is under the jacket. It's really a huge guess. But I did a little research, and I found out that most of these sort of decorative 'shirts' were really interchangeable plastrons, like this beautiful one from the Met Museum. (This example is dated 1887, three years after my gown.) They were worn over, or attached to, simple vests that are not seen because they are worn under the jacket.
Natalie let me borrow her copies of "Fashions of the Gilded Age: Volumes 1 & 2." Edited and with Additional Material by Frances Grimble. (Books may be found HERE for purchase.) In Volume 1, there are some examples of these vests with interchangeable plastrons, from the year 1879...five years before my gown. So, I know I'm doing the right thing. The real question is, how were they made.
Well, in "Fashions of the Gilded Age" a scaled pattern and description is available, and basically the vest is more-or-less a high-necked, sleeveless, button-down blouse...short in the back, and long in the front. See my horrible sketch above, that is lacking all seam lines.
The plastron is then made separately, with a collar, and is attached to the vest, down the sides, with buttons. Buttons, buttons, everywhere for this project. It's a good thing I can use a machine to make the button holes. But still...I had to hand sew on 21 of them just for my vest alone. That's not including the ones needed to attached the plastron. The vest/plastron in "Fashions of the Gilded Age," because it is an earlier version than mine, is extremely frilly, with layers of tulle, lace and bows. Mine will be a bit more simple than that. I'm using the same purple silk I used for my corset, and I will be pleating the silk onto a base fabric made of cotton, sort of like my sketch above.
Here's my vest. Very plain and unadorned, made from cotton. I used the Truly Victorian French Vest Bodice pattern as a guide to get the seams and size correct. What I love about this pattern is that it is made so that you can use one size of pattern for the back pieces and another size for the front to get a more accurate fit. I still had to take in the darts to fit it to me, but other than that, it was perfect.
I altered it, by cutting off the tail/peplum in the back, and gently curved that down to meet the longer front area.
This is the best I could do, and I hope my interpretation is correct.
It won't be seen anyway, since it will be covered by the plastron in the front, tucked into the skirt, and covered by the jacket everywhere else. But, I still like to know that it is done correctly. Oh, and the buttons... They are a mismatched bunch of small plastic buttons, probably made within the past 50 years, but they are what I had on hand, and again...since no one will see them...oh well.
Hopefully, by the end of next weekend, I will have the plastron finished.