Post-Civil-War Victorian Sewing and Needlework Patterns from Harper’s Bazar

Title: Reconstruction Era Fashions. 1860s sewing patterns

350 Sewing, Needlework, and Millinery Patterns 1867–1868


Reconstruction Era Fashions: 1867–1868 sewing patterns
Reconstruction Era Fashions contains a comprehensive selection of women’s styles from the years immediately following the American Civil War. By late 1867 the large, elliptical dress skirt of the mid 1860s had evolved into a smaller, looped-up, “polonaise” overskirt. This attractive silhouette was inspired by 18th-century fashions. Historical interest was also expressed by “Watteau” back pleats, “Pompadour” necklines, and “Marie Antoinette” fichus. The appeal of these styles was intensified by rich fabrics and lively colors.
The 350 patterns and 609 illustrations in this book are drawn from a rare complete bound volume of the first issues of Harper’s Bazar, from November 1867 through December 1868. Harper’s Bazar was the most sophisticated American fashion magazine of this period. It weekly published sewing, needlework, and millinery patterns illustrated by exquisite engraved plates. These practical patterns enabled every woman to make her own entire wardrobe. They were supplemented by columns that advised readers on planning their outfits and by articles that focused on specific techniques.
This unique book provides sewing patterns for day dresses, evening dresses, accessories, outerwear, lingerie, corsets, crinolines, bridal wear, and clothes for riding and bathing. Instructions for enlarging, fitting, and using the patterns are included. Patterns for garment trimmings use such techniques as heirloom sewing, embroidery, crocheting, knitting, tatting, and ribbon work. Millinery patterns include bonnets, hats, and evening headdresses. Additional articles give instructions for authentic dressmaking, corset making, millinery, hairdressing, crocheted tatting, and netting. Selections from fashion columns describe materials, colors, shoes, jewelry, trousseaux, and mourning. In short, this book contains all the information needed to create a complete outfit—or many.
Reconstruction Era Fashions is a rich pattern source for sewers and needleworkers who recreate period costumes for the theater, living history, bridal wear, or dolls. It’s a valuable identification and dating tool for costume historians and vintage clothing collectors. And it will spark ideas for fashion designers.


This comprehensive book contains patterns, fashion plates, and assembly instructions for:

The wide variety of illustrated needlework patterns for garments and trimmings includes:

 Only 13 cents per pattern! Also included are:

Table of Contents (readable with Adobe Acrobat)
Index by Construction Technique (readable with Adobe Acrobat)


“Grimble extracts a marvelous picture of America’s Reconstruction Era. . . . This book will exorcise many bedeviling details for costumers, living-history reenactors, dress designers, and crafters. . . . Those with an interest in the Victorian lifestyle will find something they can use in Grimble’s latest volume, whether they sew or not.”
—— Today’s Librarian
“This [book] has appeal for the serious researcher, the casual reader, and the costume maker. The casual reader can enjoy the text and illustrations as they unfolded season by season for the original reader. The researcher has access to nearly original documents. Someone trying to recreate a costume from the era can pinpoint information using the indexes provided by the editor. . . . Reconstruction Era Fashions is a well-thought-out publication and a useful resource for those studying the late 1860s.”
—— Costume Journal (Journal of the Costume Society of Ontario)
“Scads and scads of diagrams.” “It . . . has so many details and embroidery patterns and just . . . well, it’s a great book.” “Both [the knitted and crocheted corsets] look appropriate for CW and early bustle work/sleep/wrapper corsets.“ “It’s a bargain when you consider how many [original] magazines you would have to buy . . . to get all of this information.” “I have rarely seen any books with such high production values.” “One of my favorites.”
—— Reader comments
“I have a much-thumbed copy of Reconstruction Era Fashions on my bookshelf. It’s bristling with bookmarks and Post-it notes. Though I’ve been reproducing garments from a slightly earlier era, I find that the sewing techniques are unchanged. Everything you want to know is there—piping seams, working buttonholes, sewing braid on a hem, pleating a skirt, and on and on. I love the section on making corsets and all the trim-making articles as well. Not only is this a useful volume, it’s beautifully laid out and printed. Even if you don’t plan to sew, it makes a ‘good read.’
I’ll tell you what I found most useful for the Civil War reenactor in Reconstruction Era Fashions:
  • All the sewing techniques (equally applicable to the CW years) in the appendix and throughout the volume. I was familiar with ‘Making Corsets’ on page 348 from Der Bazar—but it’s nice to have it in English. The gore insertion is particularly clearly stated. It’s exactly the technique I saw in the museum corsets I studied. Everyone making a corset from the mid-nineteenth century should look carefully at all your corset info.
  • The articles on how to make trimmings. Almost all of that is applicable to a few years earlier.
  • The chemises and drawers haven’t changed by the late ’60s.
  • I personally loved the garden hat on page 248 because I had copied a very similar one at the Costume Institute. Alas the pattern wasn’t popular enough to stay in the Simplicity catalog.
Your books are just wonderful. Your choices, your organization, the layout, the indexes—all so carefully thought out. I praise your books constantly and will continue to do so.”
—— Martha McCain (Simplicity costume pattern designer)
“Each of these four volumes [After a Fashion, Reconstruction Era Fashions, The Voice of Fashion, and The Edwardian Modiste] is a unique compilation . . . and an enduring source of inspiration for anyone in the field of vintage clothing and period costuming. But it is the acquisition of the complete . . . series that has the highest recommendation, especially for professional costume designers, vintage clothing collectors and dealers, and academic fashion history reference collections.”
—— Midwest Book Review

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, Fashions of the Gilded Age, Volume 1: Undergarments, Bodices, Skirts, Overskirts, Polonaises, and Day Dresses 1877–1882, 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.

Publication Data

8 1/2” x 11” quality paperback
529 pages
609 illustrations
Resource list, metric conversion table, 3 indexes
ISBN: 978-0-9636517-4-7
LCCN: 2001088460
Cover price: $45
Lavolta Press home page

Web page text (except for reviews by other authors) and book cover copyright © 2001–2024 by Frances Grimble