Saturday, February 18, 2012

Cutwork and Soutache Bodice, circa ? (date this bodice!) Part 1

Before I dive in, first a personal note: those of you who stop by regularly (hi mom) may have noticed the looong periods of silence. I'm afraid I go through bouts of the-rest-of-my-life-taking-over, during which no costuming happens. I know you know what it's like, and thank you for coming back whenever I manage to find something to post about. :)

Tonight I'm taking a break from rest-of-life because I just acquired something AMAZING.

This is a vintage bodice that I bought earlier this week from Via's Vintage in Minneapolis, from her etsy shop (Kellie, the shop owner, is super nice!) I usually stay away from vintage garments that are this old, mostly because I want garments I want to be able to wear, and I worry about 100+-year-old clothes being too fragile. The other reason I stay away, is that I'm simply NOT shaped like a Victorian, and vintage garments from that time from just won't fit me.

This one, however, DOES. In fact, it's even a tad large.

This bodice is composed of a great deal of soutache and cutwork silk applique on mesh (probably cotton), lined with silk.

The exterior is in remarkably good shape.The silk cutwork is shattering in some spots, and bits of the soutache are coming off here and there, but all of the work is almost entirely intact. The lining is another story, and I'll explore the interior in another post.

The sleeves are a little extra long, and end in these wonderful peaked cuffs that extend over the back of the hand.

This is the fun part. The bodice has a long tail, also covered in cutwork and soutache. It was probably also lined once, but as you can see the lining stops short of the waist.

In this batch of photos I have the bodice on over a mid 1870s bustle and an unfinished petticoat I had laying around (yes, I have a lot of random, unfinished bits laying around). In the next post I'll show you what it looks like over other shapes, and I will solicit your opinion on the probable date of this bodice. In the meantime, here are a bunch of gratuitous close ups!

Side front of the bodice, featuring what looks
like tatted knotwork, but is really a couched
boullion type of thing (I'll have to look it up)
Side of the collar, which features a patch
decorated with chain stitch embroidery. There's a
matching patch on the other side.

Back of the collar.
Outer sleeve.
Close up of the upper sleeve. Both sleeves are
frayed the same way, and I think this spot is
where the soutache joined.
Back waistline, with more of the couched "bullion."
The unlined tail.


  1. Wow, that is SO beautiful! you are very lucky!
    I am glad to see another post here. :-) You have a great costume blog!

  2. Thanks, Julia! I'm sorry my posts are so sporadic. I need to beat down the rest of my life so that I can costume. Thanks for sticking with me!

  3. That is SOOOO drop-dead gorgeous, and what a lucky buy! *grabby hands* I can't really tell what age it is, having never seen one this style before. But wouldn't that be fun to do all that soutache?

  4. Thanks, Val! The soutache is all applied by machine. It's the CUTWORK that would drive ya nuts!

  5. Its absolutley,gorgeous.If the soutache is done by machine,This would make the coat,I would think early 1900's as sewing machines,which were used in the home, only sewed a straight stitch,and there was a handle attatched to the wheel of the machine,which the person turned so that the machine would sew.I would think making sewing difficult as you could only use one hand to guide the fabric.If this was made in a factory,they may have had machines,which could sew decorative finishes.

  6. I actually saw a dress that was a similar black on black cut work with soutache deal from the 1900s recently. My guess is that time- perhaps later in the decade since it reminds me of some 1910s coat styles?