1890’s Walking Suit: Simplicity 2207 & Butterick 5970

I’m done with the 1890’s walking suit for the character of Nina in Chekhov’s The Seagull. For the jacket, I used Simplicity 2207, and for the skirt I used Butterick 5970. This outfit will be worn in act 2 before Nina leaves home to become an actress. I wanted to make her something more wholesome in this scene, as I plan to make something much sexier when she comes home in Act 3 , two years later, after becoming the mistress to an older man and an actress.


1890's Walking Suit: Simplicity 2207 & Butterick 5970Skirts in the 1890’s were gored, and flared from the seams to give fullness, and generally not gathered at the waist. This gave them a nice slimming effect, and they are actually quite flattering! I’m thinking of making one of these in silk for myself. The pattern has a slight train, which I shortened a bit because I don’t want the actress tripping on stage. The jacket was pretty much perfect as is. Simplicity 2207 is a Steampunk costume, but the leg of mutton sleeves and tapered arms were really interesting, and I felt it would look period appropriate once sewn up in this cotton ticking fabric I bought at JoAnn fabrics.4d326c0b2aaec7bb108ddd3594a903d3 Simplicity 2207 & Butterick 5970The leg of mutton sleeve was very popular during the 1890’s. I probably should have made the sleeve more exaggerated as it’s not as big as I would like.

1890's Walking Suit Simplicity 2207 & Butterick 5970I need to take the jacket in a little at the bust still. If the jacket were really made authentically, I think it would have to be boned and worn with a properly built corset. But this is community theater and I have lots of costumes to make in a short time. And no assistant.

I recently bought a new sewing machine, a relatively inexpensive ( 300 dollars) Janome Magnolia. I bought it because I read that the buttonholes it made were quite good. I don’t need a lot of fancy stitches, because I don’t ever make quilts or do embroidery. The guy at the sewing machine shop confided in me that most people buy way too much machine for what their needs are. 1890's Walking Suitt Simplicity 2207 & Butterick 5970I love how the stripes match at the side seams.

1890's jacket Simplicity 2207Sewing on buttons close together makes a jacket look antique. Another sewing technique that makes clothing look authentically period, is adding an underlining. It gives clothes body and thickness and weight. If you examine antique clothes, many have an underlining. In sewing for the theater, underlining makes a costume more durable. It’s also a technique used in couture sewing often.underlining costumesTo underline a pattern piece, cut out an identical lining piece in cotton and then sew it to the pattern piece inside the seam allowance. It’s then treated as a single unit. Professional costumes are often unlined but they are underlined. Not lining them makes them easier to alter in the future.underlining costumes

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  1. says

    Very cool! I would do costuming as a hobby if I only had time. Maybe someday when I retire. That community theater group is lucky to have you!

  2. Jacqueline says

    Thank you for an interesting post – and particularly the detail on underlining: it’s just what I needed at the moment as I begin a skirt in a fairly lightweight fabric! How is your new Janome performing? – I purchased an entry level computerised Janome eighteen months ago and am smitten! It has been a delight in accomplishing every job that has been asked of it… I hope your experience is as positive.

  3. says

    So far the Janome is OK. But sometimes if I’m sewing quickly the thread seems to get stuck in the little tension disk on the top of the machine and it breaks.

  4. says

    Wonderful! I was wondering how well the Simplicity bodice pattern made up and it looks great! The classic floral stripe accented with black ribbon is just perfect for Nina’s character, too: that light, innocence with a touch of black hinting at the “darkness to come.” Plus, yellow and black was a very popular color combo in the 1890s!
    I was thinking about buying this pattern, but I was concerned it would be too short in the bodice since the fit on the cover model is so wonky. I know every body is different and some models are given clothes not perfectly fitted to their bodies, but did you have to do any alterations to the bodice to prevent it from riding up?

    • says

      The fit was actually very good, surprisingly! Its perfect for someone about 5’6. Its actually a little long on my actress who.is 5’2 but I didn’t do a muslin for her so it will have to do.

  5. Lis says

    What an interesting post, thank you! I am about to start a hefty challenge, making my daughter’s 1st communion dress. I’ve sewed many items, but never any garments.

    This sounds like an easy way to ‘line’ her communion dress and I was hoping for some clarification. When you wrote: “To underline a pattern piece, cut out an identical lining piece in cotton and then sew it to the pattern piece ***inside the seam allowance.***”

    Do you mean that if it is a 1/2″ seam allowance, I should sew the seam for the lining by measuring slightly less than 1/2″? Thank you so much for your time on my naive question.

  6. says

    ou sew the inner lining to the main fabric pattern piece on the edges, like 1/2 inch in. That way they function as one piece. It makes the main fabric thicker and the costume more durable. Its a way to back the fabric without interfacing.
    It’s not the same as lining. The raw edges on the inside will show when you sew the garment with this method. We don’t line things in the theater because it makes them too complicated to alter.
    I wouldn’t use this technique for a first communion dress unless you want it to have more body. I did inner line a baptism dress with flannel once for warmth. But you still need to line the bodice. Have you read my posts about making first communion dresses?

    • Lis says

      Thank you for your quick response. 🙂 I happened to stumble on this page, but will now look for your communion dress posts.

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