An 1895 Traveling Jacket ~ Part One

A slight technical glitch prevented me from getting this up on Tuesday as planned. But it seems to be resolved now . . . so here is the post that should have gone up yesterday!

All sorts of things come into the Library’s Archives, almost on a daily basis.  Fashion catalogs, commercial patterns, odd bits of paper brick a brack, so that when a package comes, it’s always a surprise and a treasure hunt when I get to open it.

There’s always swoon-worthy stuff . . . from that amazing chic 1950’s ensemble, to the complicated design of early century evening gowns.   But – even amongst so much eye candy, there sometimes comes something exceptional that just grabs me.

This 1895 “Robe de Voyage” or Traveling Dress is from a copy of La Mode Illustree dated May 5, 1895. (I’ll write a longer post on the history of La Mode Illustree at another point.)

When I opened up this newly arrived issue, and saw this jacket, the first thing I did was scan the included pattern sheet to see if it was there . . . and found it!  Not all of the garments shown in an issue are included in the pattern sheet, so it was just good luck that this jacket that I was so taken by was included.


In all of the 1895 archives that the Library owns I have never seen a design like this one.  I went to work to replicate the pattern from the pattern sheet, and get it set up in electronic format. When the formatting was completed, the pattern pieces look like:

Listed from upper left, going clockwise – the pieces are:

Jacket Trim


Jacket Inset

Jacket Front

Jacket Back

Jacket Side Form

Sleeve (at bottom)

As with most of the patterns from this period from La Mode Illustree, there are no sizes given.  Typical of these early patterns, I presumed that the jacket would run very small.  Especially through the armscye and the bust area.   Measuring the pattern through the approximate areas, I came up with an estimate of an 18″ waist and 30″ bust.  (Clearly a lot of adjustment is going to need to happen to make this wearable for me!)

Looking at the illustration of the front and back, the jacket looks to be constructed using princess seams, which appear to be lapped (or welted) seams with top stitching.   The shoulder seam is placed directly on the shoulder, and the collar is a standing,  mannish style that folds over on itself.

The sleeve is huge – it measures 32-1/2 inches across at it’s widest part.   The leg 0′ mutton sleeve has the lower part fitted closely from the wrist to the elbow by a series of pleats.   Many of these sleeves had a lining, and used netting or crinoline in between to keep the poofy shape of the sleeve.  This pattern does not have a sleeve lining pattern included.

The jacket trim is a separate piece, that gives the illusion of a double breasted closure, when in fact the jacket opens at the center front.  It is interesting to note that the lower edge of the center front does not meet, but wings open slightly from about the hip bone.  (My best guess based on looking at the picture.)

The original text indicates that it is to be made of a gray-blue serge and trimmed with large metal buttons.

There is also a skirt pattern given with this jacket, and the text indicates that a “chemisette-blouse” was to be worn underneath.  In an issue of Harper’s Bazar from about this same period, a similar jacket and skirt is shown, with a sleeveless blouse, that was to be worn underneath the jacket, with the understanding that the jacket would not be taken off in public.  I am guessing that the “chemisette-blouse” might have been something very much like that.  Especially looking at how tightly the sleeves fit in the lower arm, it would be uncomfortable to say the least to try to get an arm through there with a long-sleeved blouse! (I will include a picture of the full ensemble with the skirt later this week, in the next blog post. )

Given how small the sizing is on this pattern, my usual method of sewing a muslin and then slashing and adding is probably not going to give as good results as starting with a pattern that is closer to my dress form’s size.   I have a set of princess pattern blocks from String Codes, which I’ve had for quite a while, and haven’t put to use. I’ve heard mixed reviews about how accurate they are for pattern design – I’d love to hear from anyone who’s used their product.   I think in this case, even if they don’t turn out to be very accurate – they will provide a jumping off place to start working with the original pattern pieces.

**Next post which should be up on 09/10 or 09/11 I’ll have information on the skirt, and redrafting the pattern.**