Dickensian Dress Resource Guide


With the upcoming Christmas season, many of us have been busy creating new garments or entire outfits to show off at popular holiday costuming events such as Dickens Fairs, Victorian Balls, or even Christmas caroling. In an effort to aid research, I have compiled a resource guide focusing specifically on sources that detail Dickensian dress and how to make it. The following guide includes eleven sources available in print or digitally that focus on female dress between 1830 and 1860 from England or North America. 

Research Guide:

The Workman’s Guide by A Lady (1838)

– Patterns of Fashion 1: Cut and Construction of Women’s Clothing 1660-1860 by Janet Arnold (1972)

The Cut of Women’s Clothes: 1600-1930 by Norah Waugh (1968)

Corsets and Crinolines by Norah Waugh (2017)

Corded Petticoat Sewing Workbook by Jennifer Rosbrugh (no date)

The Victorian Corset Sewing Workbook by Jennifer Rosbrugh (no date)

Period Fashions Reference Library: Mid 19th Century by Catherine Bishop (various dates)

Costume in Detail 1730-1930 by Nancy Bradfield (1997)

The Victorian Dressmaker by Izabela Pitcher (2018)

Victorian Costuming, Vol. 1: 1840 to 1865 by Janet Winter (1987)

The Dressmaker’s Guide 1840-1865 by Elizabeth Stewart Clark (2009)

Tips for Further Exploration:

– If you’re an experienced sewist, try taking what you learn from these resources and drafting your own garments based on period illustrations, such as ones seen in Godey’s Lady’s Book. This can be a chance to practice your sewing and design techniques and learn more about period construction.

– Visit museums in person that have garments on display from this time period. This can be a great chance to explore the garments in person and really learn about the little details of construction. Some museums offer the opportunity to view items in their collection personally; don’t be afraid to get in contact with them!

– Visit your local library to check out their resources on historical sewing. They often have significant collections of historical sewing books that may be expensive to purchase otherwise.

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