Printed cotton dresses were worn in the Victorian era in the morning while doing the housework, often with a floral pattern on dark ground. Because of the pattern, they don’t show dirt so readily; and, as they’re cotton, they can be easily laundered.
The fabric of the bodice was a skirt before I got my hands on it. 😉 Some parts of the skirt were quite sun-bleached, but it adds authenticity to the dress (some Victorian cotton dresses are heavily faded, especially on the shoulders and sleeves).
The hem of the skirt was printed a la disposition which made the fabric so suitable for a Victorian print dress. Many dresses in the Victorian era were printed a la disposition.
However, I hadn’t much of the fabric so I had to piece the bodice at some parts (the straight seam in the photo). But the pattern makes the piecing hardly noticeable; and it adds authenticity to the dress as well (Victorian dresses were often pieced together to save fabric).
Usually, Victorian dresses consisted of a bodice and separate skirt. Working dresses, however, were sometimes one-piece dresses. This dress is a one-piece dress closed with a dog-leg closure and buttons in front.
The dress has princess seams at the back like this 1860s gingham cotton work dress.
The bodice is unboned. Here you can see the interior of an 1845 unboned challis gown with front opening (in the middle of the page). I’ve lined the bodice with old cotton scraps. Sometimes, scraps of old dresses were used to line working dresses.
The dress is sewn by machine. There were already readymade machine-sewn work dresses sold in the mid-Victorian era; however, most Victorian dresses were still sewn by hand.
The pagoda sleeves may be worn with or without engageantes (false undersleeves).
‘A white cap, a close-fitting jacket, with sleeves neither so tight as to hinder movement nor so loose as to lap up the gravy or sweep off the sherry glasses, and a short skirt of simple stuff – plain or many-colored as it may be – make an approbiate costume for the household servant.’ (The Bazar Book Of Decorum, 1870, p. 162)
The flowers and color of the skirt fabric matches the fabric of the bodice. However, I hadn’t enough of this fabric either. So I had to sew a piece of black fabric between the bodice and skirt. This printed working dress is also pieced at the skirt. I would’ve liked the hem of the skirt to have the same print a la disposition as the sleeves, but there was just enough fabric for the pagoda sleeves.
My dress reminds me of this floral printed dress in the 1853 painting The Sleeping Spinner.