20th Century, Sewing

The ca. 1905 Time Lady Shirtwaist

I’m so excited to show you my latest creation for three reasons.  First, it means I finally have something to wear with the Faille Skirt of Fail.  Second, Lauren of Wearing History gave me the e-pattern to test over a month ago, and I’m so pleased I finally had time to make it up.  Finally, there were just so many gorgeous images from the photoshoot I did that I might have to do two posts about it!

So, without further ado, here is my ca. 1900 ‘Time Lady’ shirtwaist.

The 'Time Lady' 1900s shirtwaist thedreamstress.com

I’ve been making it over the last week in between finishing tap pants and making pineapple reticules and sewing dozens of hooks and eyes on to Lynne’s 1905 Greek Key frock.

I wanted to test the Wearing History pattern just as it was, so I blithely ignored Lauren’s wise instructions to make a full toile before cutting into your fashion fabric, and used this blouse as a working toile.  Only, being me, I meticulously finished every seam, which meant that when it was mostly done and I realised it didn’t fit right, I had to do a bunch of unpicking to adjust it for my sloping shoulders and back-set chicken neck and preference for tight sleeves.

This end result of this is that it wasn’t done when I left Wellington for Thanksgiving weekend in Nelson with my in-laws.  So my kind MIL let me borrow her sewing machine, and I finished the machine sewing on the shirt on Friday (we celebrate Thanksgiving on Friday because Friday in NZ is Thursday in the States) in between making stuffing and mashed rutabegas with ginger-roasted pears and pineapple-lemongrass punch and roasted veg and everything else I was in charge of for Thanksgiving dinner.

Saturday morning I hemmed the neck and sleeves by hand, and Saturday evening, in the slanting early summer sun, my MIL and sister (the Naiad) played paparazzi with me.  We started out in my in-laws beautiful garden, with me posing beneath the rose arbor, in front of the hydrangeas and beside the goldfish pond.

The 'Time Lady' 1900s shirtwaist thedreamstress.com

The 'Time Lady' 1900s shirtwaist thedreamstress.com

My one huge regret about this photoshoot is that I didn’t press my skirt.  This time it wasn’t my fault, and I’m quite grumpy about the reason it didn’t happen, but I just have to move on, because the photos are gorgeous, rumpled skirt and all…

When we had exhausted the possibilities in the garden we popped in the car and whizzed out to Isel Park, for photos in the beautiful grounds surrounding historic Isel House.

The 'Time Lady' 1900s shirtwaist thedreamstress.com

The 'Time Lady' 1900s shirtwaist thedreamstress.com

The glorious slanting sun gave me the perfect opportunity to show off the latest thing the outfit fairy brought me: a fabulous antique parasol that perfectly matches my outfit.  I found it in a Nelson antique store on Thursday, just after arriving in Nelson, with the whole outfit already packed in my suitcase.  How’s that for luck!

The umbrella is probably 1910s or early ’20s, and is in robust working order.  And I think it’s awesome!

The 'Time Lady' 1900s shirtwaist thedreamstress.com

The 'Time Lady' 1900s shirtwaist thedreamstress.com

I’m calling my blouse the ‘Time Lady’ shirtwaist, because the patterning of the embroidered cutwork voile/broderie anglaise/whatever it is called reminds me of the intersecting circles that you see in Time Lord design.  Also, I noticed just as I wrote this that my parasol is Tardis blue!

The 'Time Lady' 1900s shirtwaist thedreamstress.com

After collecting 11,362,971 gorgeous photos in Isel Park (some minor exaggeration may occur), we headed home, only to discover that the light had changed and was even more fantastic.  So we took more photos in the garden.

The 'Time Lady' 1900s shirtwaist thedreamstress.com

The 'Time Lady' 1900s shirtwaist thedreamstress.com

Basically, I’ve never met a sunflare I didn’t like.

The Challenge:  #24: Re-Do

Challenges I’ve re-done with this shirt:

Fabric:  1.5m of circle patterned cotton broderie anglaise ($12pm)

Pattern:  Wearing History’s 1900-1910 Edwardian Blouse

Year:  ca. 1905

Notions:  8 vintage shell buttons, cotton twill tape, cotton bias tape, thread (all from stash).

How historically accurate is it? Lauren’s pattern is beautifully researched and a good balance of period cut for a modern body.  The pattern of my fabric is a bit modern, and that meant I used some techniques that were less-than-period, such as reverse flat-felled seams rather than french seams.

Hours to complete:  3.5 – most of it re-doing the sleeves and neck.

First worn:  Sat 30 Nov, for the photoshoot.  

Total cost:  $18

And for a last look, check out what you can just see in the top left corner of this photo.  Green Gables!

The 'Time Lady' 1900s shirtwaist thedreamstress.com


  1. Oooh, that is beautiful, and I love both the Anne Shirley and the Doctor Who references!

  2. I love the name. Just what a timelady might wear (well the doctor always wears somehting with a hint of edwardian).
    And in TARDIS blue and white. All you need is a pocketwatch. Is it a sonic parasol?

    • Thanks LadyD! I do need a pocketwatch! I wasn’t planning for a Dr-Who photoshoot when I packed – more Anne Shirley, so the parasol was a bonus. I do have a nice pocketwatch, so I’ll have to do a fully Who themed shoot now! More action, less dreamy!

      I actually thought of the parasol more as a portable TARDIS/time jumping device than a sonic parasol. Stand under it and off you go! The TARDIS could, at one time, change its appearance after all! I want a sonic chatelaine instead!

      I’m so envious that you got to do the DrWho anniversary experience! I read your post with such drooling, but couldn’t leave a comment.

  3. It’s so lovely. We have a photo of my grandmother as a teenager in a very similar outfit, probably around 1915. She was not a delicate shape at all, being my gran, but her hair and clothes are so similar, it makes me smile a lot. So you my not give yourself a 100% historically accurate rating here, but you get 150% historically accurate evocation! xo

    • Oh, how wonderful! I’d love to see it! I’m actually really pleased with the silhouette for historical spot-on-ness. Full credit to Lauren of Wearing History!

  4. Lynne says

    Very pretty indeed! And what a lovely garden your mother-in-law has!

    • Thank you Lynne! It is a pretty garden – much more orderly and manicured than I’d every manage, but I think I like the whimsy and discovery of the type that are overflowing with every sort of wonderfulness – rather like your garden!

  5. Love this shoot, and you do indeed fit that period incredibly well. Born in the wrong era yet again — your hair is perfect for that time!

    • Thanks Theresa! I was a bit worried about this period actually – the blouse looked so puffy and I felt so big, but once you add the skirt it balances. And I was very grateful for the hair 😉

      We should do an Edwardian shoot next time you come to Welly!

  6. It’s fantastic, both the blouse and the skirt, and now I’m experiencing an accute want, which means a lot, because I’m not that into this era. But the delicate simplicity of this is perfect!

    And so is the parasol/umbrella. And the whole Time Lady-ness of the outfit. And the light.

    Basically, yay!

    • (Actually, I was inaccurate in the claim that I was not that into that era. The skirts themselves I love very much.)

    • Oh wow, thank you Hana!

      I can understand your love of the skirts and reservation about the blouses. They can be a bit much!

  7. This is stunning! I LOVE what you did with the shirtwaist, Leimomi! You are completely a perfect Time Lady! I guess I never considered that Thanksgiving would be celebrated in anywhere but the US (where I am) Thanks for the perspective 😀

    • Thanks McKenna!

      Thanksgiving isn’t celebrated in NZ as a matter of course, but as I’m a US expat my in-laws do it with me every year 🙂 A lot of other American expats do Thanskgiving as well.

  8. Anne Shirely would make a most wonderful (and highly entertaining, I think) Time Lord – I love it!

    The shirtwaist is lovely, and so are you!

    • Thanks Carolyn! Wouldn’t Anne be fun as a Time Lord? I can imagine episodes where the White Lady birch trees come to life, and one about what really happened that walk home through the woods from Diana’s place! And the Shore People! It’s just dripping with possibilities!

  9. YAY!!! I LOVE your version of this! Your photos are otherworldly- totally dreamy. I’m such an Anne girl, that this gives me so much happiness!
    I’d love to include a photo of you on my fb & pattern website, if you’re willing. If not, it’s ok, too!
    Thank you so much for sewing it up! I’ve so been looking forward to this post 🙂

    • Oh Yay! I’m glad you like it! Of course you can include photos! I would be honoured!

      Mine is a slightly altered version of the pattern – I used the neckline for collars, but without a collar, and took it in a little with pintucks to tighten it to my neck. And I tightened the sleeves at the bottom so that I could just slip my hands through the cuffs.

  10. Jane the Bookwitch says

    I think the rumpled skirt is even more “Time Lady”-looking. Adventurers aren’t going to look flawlessly pressed when they’ve just been climbing skyscrapers to convince alien warlords to stop turning tea plantations into runways.

    • Not in over a decade (I always seem to be too busy, or there when it is closed) but I do remember how striking they are!

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