Note: Fashions of the Gided Age, Volume 1 is currently out of stock. Volume 2 is still in stock.

Victorian, Old West, Steampunk, and Natural Form Patterns from Harper’s Bazar

Fashions of the Gilded Age: 1870s and 1880s women's sewing patterns

Volume 1

Undergarments, Bodices, Skirts, Overskirts, Polonaises, and Day Dresses 1877–1882


Book cover for Fashions of the Gilded Age: 1877-1882
Fashions of the Gilded Age contains a complete wardrobe of authentic women’s styles from the late 1870s and early 1880s. This “natural form” silhouette, with its slender bodice, graceful drapery, and flowing train, is one of the most elegant of the 19th century.
The 343 patterns and 798 illustrations in this anthology are drawn from numerous rare original sources. Volume 1 includes patterns for corsets, bustles, lingerie, skirts, day bodices, evening bodices, overskirts, polonaises, and day dresses. Volume 2 focuses on evening dresses, ball gowns, wedding dresses, riding habits, bathing costumes, and outerwear. It also includes millinery, accessories of all types, and needlework trimmings created by such techniques as embroidery and crochet. Each pattern is accompanied by practical instructions, and often by an exquisite fashion plate. For even greater variety you can exchange most pattern components, such as bodices and overskirts, with those of other patterns. Although enthusiasts will want both volumes, each can be used independently.
You can enlarge the patterns by several different methods, depending on the source. The German manual Vollständige Schule der Damenschneiderei, newly translated into English, gives patterns to be drafted with apportioning scales. Apportioning scales are special rulers that enable you to draft custom sizes, from queen size to doll size, without doing arithmetic. It also gives patterns you can draft with ordinary rulers, and patterns you can develop from a period “sloper.” The scaled diagrams from Harper’s Bazar and other publications can be enlarged by gridding or projection. Each volume contains clear, step-by-step instructions for all these enlargement methods and a full set of apportioning scales.
Extensive quotes from fashion magazines and etiquette manuals give you in-depth information on construction, materials, trimmings, and wardrobe planning. Volume 2 includes a substantial manual on 1870s and 1880s dressmaking and millinery, created especially for this book. A glossary, which appears in both volumes, explains period fabric names and dressmaking terms.
Fashions of the Gilded Age is a rich pattern source for those who create period costumes for theater, film, living history, reenactment, bridal wear, or dolls. It’s a valuable identification and dating tool for costume historians and vintage clothing collectors. This may be the only book (and the only patterns) you’ll ever need for women’s fashions of 1877 through 1882.


Volume 1 contains patterns, instructions, and fashion plates for:
Only 31 cents per pattern!

This 469-page book also includes:
Table of Contents (readable with Adobe Acrobat)
Index of Patterns by Enlargement Method and Needlework Technique (readable with Adobe Acrobat)


“When it comes to historical pattern-making reference manuals, my rule . . . is the narrower the focus, the greater the resource value. . . . Frances Grimble’s Fashions of the Gilded Age, Volumes 1 and 2 certainly has focus. Though micro in its historical time frame . . . it is macro in its coverage of the complete wardrobe of that era’s woman of social position and means. . . .
To the costume designer, the selection of styles, the articulation of contexts, the recommendations for figure types allow for visualization of an ensemble scene as well as the development of a character. Color palette options, fabrications, accessory requirements are all here too. To the costume cutter and sewer, the patterns—the bulk of this publication—are invaluable. . . .
There are probably other applications for this text, but I have approached my evaluation subjectively. I can honestly say that with my experience to date and in anticipation of future incarnations as a wardrobe technician of various sorts, I am sleeping better for having (the two of) these volumes on my shelf.”
—— Costume Journal (Journal of the Costume Society of Ontario)
“Packed from cover to cover [with] solid information. . . . A superb reference.”
—— Midwest Book Review
“If you are involved in making period costume, you will want this book.”
—— PieceWork
“Great books—so many pictures and patterns! I am very very happy! I can hardly wait to try one out!!!” “Your two-volume set, Fashions of the Gilded Age, is the best reference material I’ve ever found on that period.” “The pictures and descriptions within the book are an excellent reference if you are researching and intending on creating one of these beautiful designs.” “I appreciate the scales included that help me make other books without the scales more usable too, as well as the wonderful trimming ideas. I not only sew, but also knit and crochet (and want to learn tatting and macramé some day) so I like it that a lot of the books cover some of these aspects as well.” “When I fell in love with a polonaise pattern I saw in an original issue of La Mode Illustree, and to my delight came across the pattern in Fashions of the Gilded Age, I considered my options—either spend the time enlarging the original pattern or start with a pattern from a small historic pattern company and do heavy-duty modifications. I chose to do enlargement and it proved to be an easier task than I had feared. The pattern I used was 1/8 scale and I had no trouble sizing it up. It fit surprisingly well to start with and I only had to make a few fitting changes. I have also played around with the scales for enlargement and found that quite easy as well.” “I have used patterns from this in costume shops as base patterns for designs. They work up so quickly and have always fit the modern figure, whether corseted or not, when based upon correct measurements. I am most pleased and impressed with their accuracy and usefulness.” “We used these books in our construction of ‘A Doll’s House.’ Although I prefer draping to flat patterning, I found them extremely useful in the placement of seams and arrangement of back draperies. This period (between bustles) is hard to find, as many books just skip right over it.” “I have everything you’ve published so far. Just seeing your name on a book tends to make me give it a closer scrutiny.” “I just wanted to tell you that I bought both volumes of Fashions of the Gilded Age. I have enjoyed them so much, I will be buying all of your books.”
—— Reader comments

Author Biography

Frances Grimble is the author of After a Fashion: How to Reproduce, Restore, and Wear Vintage Styles, The Lady’s Stratagem: A Repository of 1820s Directions for the Toilet, Mantua-Making, Stay-Making, Millinery & Etiquette, Reconstruction Era Fashions: 350 Sewing, Needlework, and Millinery Patterns 1867–1868, Fashions of the Gilded Age, Volume 2: Evening, Bridal, Sports, Outerwear, Accessories, and Dressmaking 1877–1882, Bustle Fashions 1885–1887: 41 Patterns with Fashion Plates and Suggestions for Adaptation, Directoire Revival Fashions 1888–1889: 57 Patterns with Fashion Plates and Suggestions for Adaptation, The Voice of Fashion: 79 Turn-of-the-Century Patterns with Instructions and Fashion Plates, and The Edwardian Modiste: 85 Authentic Patterns with Instructions, Fashion Plates, and Period Sewing Techniques. Over 60 of her articles on sewing and vintage clothes have appeared in national magazines, such as Threads, Sew News, and Antique Trader Weekly. Frances Grimble has been a how-to writer and editor since 1983. She has worked for book publishers, magazine publishers, and software companies; she has written a number of user manuals and coauthored a computer book.
Frances Grimble has substantial formal education in researching social history and in clothing design. In 1974 she began making historical reproductions for periods from the Renaissance into the 1920s; she tries to schedule regular sewing time in addition to that required by her writing projects. Since 1972, she has collected vintage clothing and accessories from the late 18th century into the mid 20th.

Fashions of the Gilded Age Volume 1 Publication Data

8 1/2” x 11” quality paperback
469 pages
200 line illustrations
160 patterns
Glossary, bibliography, 2 indexes, apportioning scales, metric conversion table
ISBN: 978-0-9636517-5-4
LCCN: 2003114921
Cover price: $49 for Volume 1 only
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Web page text (except for reviews by other authors) and book cover copyright © 2004–2021 by Frances Grimble