Our task: create a Victorian-inspired suit, shirt, and vest — sized for 18″ dolls.
We started by doing a little research. While mens’ suits have followed the same basic silhouette for the last 150-200 years, there are some key differences, such as the dropped shoulder in the sketch below.
Once we decided which details to use from each era, it was on to sewing. Since we usually focus more on dressmaking, this project afforded us plenty of opportunities to learn new techniques.
Traditional tailoring is, by definition, taking flat fabric and shaping it permanently into a new, person-shaped form. Usually this is accomplished by extensive hand-stitching, steaming, and even some strategic padding. Hand stitches help to hold layers together invisibly but permanently, and allow you more control over the shape you are forming than machine stitches.
Steaming enables you to actually stretch or shrink the fibers – literally changing the shape of the fabric! Wool is so responsive to steam that it’s quite possible to take a straight grain piece and gradually steam it into a curve. And of course, a little padding inserted in key areas, such as the shoulders, supports the fabric and makes up for any figure deficits.
Welt pockets are another aspect of traditional tailoring – basically, it’s a tidy way of cutting a hole in the garment to allow entry to a pocket. When you’ve successfully made such a pocket, you have clean, finished edges, square corners, and a smartly precise band of fabric to mark the entry point. =)