Sunday, January 23, 2022

Mrs. Hudson's 1890's Skirt and Shirtwaist (McCall's 8231)

Late last summer a herringbone cotton flannel in the Plaiditudes collection at Joann's caught my eye. It was thick, soft, and had an amazing drape. Immediately I started thinking it would be a fantastic fabric for a new 1890's ensemble for my sister. A few weeks later my sister told me she was going to play Sherlock Holmes' land lady, Mrs. Hudson, in an upcoming play.

 Well look-y there - A perfect excuse to buy the fabric and make my sister a new 1890's ensemble!!

I told my sister I had her costume covered. She came to visit me one weekend and we made a trip to Joann's and bought 5 yards of the flannel. It was happening.

My plan was a basic 1890's skirt and shirtwaist, and then, if I had enough of the the herringbone flannel left once the skirt was cut out, a matching jacket or capelet. I certainly had patterns in my stash that would work for this ensemble, but then the new Angela Clayton pattern caught my eye - an 1890's skirt and shirtwaist ensemble. Just what I needed! I snagged that pattern at the next pattern sale and cut it out in my sister's size.

The skirt panels in this pattern are HUGE! They give you a delightfully full and swishy skirt when all is said and done, but they're certainly fabric hogs. 

 Before I cut into the fabric I measured the length of the skirt panels and called my sister to have her measure the length of the last 1890's skirt I made her. I discovered these skirt panels were a good 6" longer than my sister needed. I folded that length out of the pattern pieces to save myself a bit of fabric - but even so 5 yards of 44" wide material was barely enough! A matching jacket or capelet would not be happening.

I flat lined all the panels with some midweight cotton from my stash and added a pocket, specially adapted to hold my sister's insulin pump, into the right side seam.

Once all the panels were seamed together, the pocket was added, and the waistband was attached, all I had left to do was add the waistband closures and the hem facing.

 I'd grabbed some green-ish polished cotton from my fabric stash to make the hem facing from, but upon unrolling the fabric I discovered something interesting.

This polished cotton came to me second hand and I'd never bothered to unroll it before and see how much fabric there actually was in the bundle. Well, upon opening it up I discovered this wasn't some plain cut of fabric, but a partially assembled 5 gore skirt - longer in the back and shorter in the front. Amazingly, it matched up almost exactly with the hem shape and circumference of the skirt!

I decided to just use the whole thing as an extra deep hem facing on the skirt - why not??? It saved me the work of cutting a hem facing and gave the skirt a nice shape and body - even without petticoats.

To go with the gray herringbone skirt I had it stuck in my head that a green and white striped shirtwaist would be just the thing. However, green and white striped cotton proved rather tricky to find.

After weeks of searching, I finally came across some with the Christmas fabrics at Joann's. Unfortunately, the stripes are just printed on, rather than woven in - but it works!

My sister doesn't like tight collars so I shortened the collar piece and made it to open at center front rather than buttoning off to the side the way the pattern recommends. The collar still looks good this way, and my sister finds it comfortable!

The other change I made was at the waistline. The pattern has you make fabric ties to cinch the waist in - fairly historically accurate, but a bit too fiddly for a theatre costume. I want the easy route and just put elastic at the waistline of the shirtwaist so my sister wouldn't have to mess with it when she put the costume on.

Other than those minor alterations, I pretty much made the pattern exactly as written, and my sister and I couldn't be more pleased with the results!

The waistband of the skirt dips a bit in the back, due to the weight of the pleats, but that can be easily fixed with a small bumpad. 

The skirt has a fantastic shape and swoosh factor, and the blouse is a wonderful basic 1890's or early 1900's shirtwaist. I can certainly see myself using this pattern again.

My sister played the role of Mrs. Hudson to perfection in the ensemble!

She crocheted herself a beautiful shawl to wear in the "outdoors" scenes, and topped the outfit off with a hat I wore in one of my high school plays, once upon a time. 

Along with acting and looking fabulous, my sister also made quite a few of the props for the play - including crocheted dead geese! Her crochet work is quite impressive!

When not on stage, she quite enjoyed frolicking about in her skirt. If you're looking for a skirt that has some flair to it - this one really can't be beat!



  1. I love how well you adapt designs for the preference of individuals!

  2. I would love to see a post on how you alter pockets for your sister's insulin pump. I have a friend who wears one, and this would be really helpful. You are all so talented, I love to see the things you and your family do.