1840 - 1860's Work Dress


1840's-1860 work dress made from rosewood red cotton with small white print. It closes in front with six fabric covered buttons, it has three darts, a closed front, bishop and cap sleeves with pearl buttoned cuffs,a lace collar and fabric belt. It is decorated with red cherry satin ribbon. The dress is worn over a white cotton chemise, long white flanel drawers, white cotton petticoat and a orange quilted petticoat.



Depictions of Mrs Cratchit from A Christmas Carol.




Original photographs of working class women and the original dresses.

Patterns used

Laughing Moon #118, 1840s-1860 Ladies Adjustable Morning Dress, Wrapper, and Maternity Dress

More information

This costume was born out of practicality. I was planning to attend a Victorian event without my husband. Which meant I would have to be able to dress myself and travel by public transport. In my case this meant that a corset, a bustle or a crinoline where no option. So I choose to make myself a 1840-1860's working class dress. When my husbands grandmother died I inherited her enormous amount of fabric and there was one fabric her fabric stash. There was this one fabric that just screamed Victorian costume, it was a slightly faded Laura Ashley fabric from a lot of years ago. I would never have bought this fabric myself but it was perfect for this project.

Generally I like making rich costumes and I found it hard to get inspired to make this costume. As the event I was making it for has a Victorian Christmas/Dickens theme I deciced to inspire myself with a female character from one of my favorite books, Mrs. Cratchit from A Christmas Carol. She, for me, embodies the early victorian working class woman. With her in mind it was easier to design the costume.

The book was first published on the 19th December of 1843 and was an immediate succes. So I decided that Mrs. Cratchit her dress would probably be from that same period. As the story is set around christmas and the costume would be worn in the winter I choose a quilted petticoat, with the advantage of extra warmth, instead of a corded petticoat. I did not make a corset but on the day itself I begun to regret that decision. As the weight of my three petticoats begun to weigh heavily on my waist and hips, resulting in a pain in my lower back. Next time I'll wear I will make sure to have a regency/early victorian corded corset or a pair of lightly boned victorian era sensible stays. The wide sleeves and buttoned cuffs make it easy for the sleeves to be rolled up. Which seemed practical for doing the household chores, like washing clothes and doing dishes. The cherry red ribbon decoration was added to create a little visual interest.

Alternate views


Outside, dress worn with red woollen cape, shawl and fingerless gloves.


Window shopping, close-up of my decorated black velt bonnet.


Talking to the organisation, good view of the back of my costume.

Costume made and worn in 2013.