Goose Mother:  Now that we’re going to revert back to costumes, there’s one I’ve been waiting to hear about and that one is the 1895 walking suit.  I’ve always liked that pattern. (Simplicity 4156)
Andrea Schewe:  When I was invited to attend the 2005 Costume College, I was really excited.  It is a bit different than the Costume Con conventions I had attended previously. Many of the past attendees I’d spoken to told me about all the interesting classes and most especially the traditional events that included a formal ball and an afternoon tea. You can see a variety of photos from these events by searching “Costume College Ball” on line.  And Valarie LaBore has a very nice photo chronicle of the event.  Costume College is an exceptionally fun event.   The theme for the 2005 tea was to be Gilbert and Sullivan and, at that time, I was actively performing Gilbert and Sullivan operettas at two different theaters where I live. So, I contacted the person organizing the Costume College event and offered my services as the tea time entertainment. She found a pianist and with a lot of early planning, sending music across the country, and one short rehearsal we were ready to perform … BUT … I had nothing to wear!!
Goose Mother:   How many times does a woman say that in her lifetime?!!  (Laughter)
Andrea Schewe:  This was a great excuse to make a design of my own choice and I chose a day dress from 1895; the year when the leg-o-mutton sleeve was at its height in popularity and it was also at its peak in size.  This is an easy period to research. There are so many books full of fashion plates and pattern diagrams.  After spending quite a bit of time searching and poring over photographs, I found a walking suit that was the classic shape of the times and it had some diagonal striping that I thought would give the illusion that I had a tiny waist like the tightly corseted ladies of that era. 
I believe it worked out well. I think my waist measured about 29” at that time and I am 5’ 6”. Here I am at the tea with Valarie LaBore and a young lady, whose name escapes me … apologies.  I began this project by dragging out every period pattern book I own and began by making starter patterns.
After constructing some working patterns and after a bit of sewing, I finally had a muslin that I could try on and fit. This particular costume I made had a heavily boned bodice so I didn’t have to wear a corset or all the other layers and layers of underclothing, but I did make a correct petticoat, for the period to give the skirt the right shape. It is visible in the photo of the muslin bodice.



 The dress was a success at the tea. Here I am actually singing in it!
Many people asked if I had a pattern for the dress I was wearing.  Ummm, well I did (my own personal pattern), but I didn’t (a pattern authorized for publication by Simplicity).  My answer to the question was, not yet!  Of course I was hoping I could convince Simplicity to allow me to convert it into  a commercial pattern.  I would have hated to have all that work developing that pattern come to naught!! So, when I returned home I suggested to Betsy Burger that it be turned into a Simplicity pattern. All I really had to do was size it down to a Simplicity size 10.  I’m about a size 14, so not too difficult. Here are my working patterns for the size 10.   I was very fortunate to have an assistant at the time, Debbie Jacobson, who was a perfect size 10. Here she is modeling the walking suit that we made for the catalog.




Goose Mother:  What a lovely model your assistant is!  Very stunning!
Andrea Schewe:  We decided it would be nice to make a different bodice to create a ball gown, too.
I used this image from Harper’s Bazaar for inspiration.  This is a photo of the ball gown with its trim just pinned on.
But then, as has happened many times before, after I sent in the patterns and garments, I was informed the two garments were not going to fit into one pattern envelope. Simplicity wanted to create a second pattern number for just the ball gown, but also wanted a second view.  So, I whipped up another dress in a peach brocade and trimmed it differently. (Simplicity 4078)  
In general, any design I make for Simplicity that is not considered standard construction, I will submit the design accompanied by a series of photographs which depict the various stages of construction of the garment or piece. This is for the purpose of assisting those who are writing the commercial instructions and/or preparing another constructed garment of the same.  In the case of the walking suit, I prepared more than the usual amount of photographs in order to depict the trickier parts of the construction.   The series of photographs concentrated heavily on the construction of the sleeve.  I wanted to be certain the folks at Simplicity understood how all the layers of very stiff netting had to be sewn into those huge sleeves to keep them huge and puffy.  Here are only two of those photographs showing the inside of  the sleeve. 
So, that is the story of how the 1895 walking suit and the ball gown came about.
Next, I will tell you how Simplicity allowed me to redesign several of their long time staple patterns. I have quite a few patterns that will stay in the catalog for a long time!
To be continued ….
Honk Honk


  • Val LaBore says:

    The young lady in the photo with Andrea and I was Cindy.

    • The Goose Mother says:

      Thank you for clearing that up, Valarie and thanks for stopping by! Our mystery lady is Cindy!! Goose Mother

  • Liz says:

    Oh my goodness! It’s such a treat to get a step-by-step look into the creation of a pattern directly from the designer herself! This series is such a treasure, especially this bit about 4156. I was actually lucky enough to find a copy and I’m planning on giving it a try. It’s so unfortunate it’s now out of print (I almost felt guilty using my copy. It was like cutting up an antique wedding dress!). The 1890s are really lovely and so full of outrageous character. Andrea found the perfect balance between propriety and boldness. Thank you for sharing!