Bridget Woolven

(click images to to enlarge)

Outline the story …

This suit was created for Amelia Peabody Emerson, amateur archaeologist, and sleuth, in ‘The Deeds of the Disturber’ set in 1896 by Elizabeth Peters. I discovered this in a large pile of second-hand books I acquired to get through 2020!
Apparently, most of Amelia’s historical mystery adventures are Egypt-based and this is one of the few located in England. Therefore, I opted for a dark fabric a) because there are comments on arrival about how grimy London is and b) to mark the change from a pale colour scheme which Amelia probably wore in Egypt’s climate.

When not at home, most of the action comprises visits to the British Museum and interviewing witnesses. There are few references to Amelia’s clothing and so as befits Amelia’s practical personality - headstrong, confident, and strongly in support of women’s rights - I felt a suit would be better than a dress. Her corset and petticoat are simple and functional.

The hand-applied soutache braid on the skirt is in a chain of loops – a single loop is the Egyptian hieroglyph for ‘R’ – to reflect Amelia’s devotion to her very precocious 9-year-old son ‘Ramses’.
I used two slightly different shades of pink braid on the skirt and jacket to provide some depth. However, the loop design was too large for the waistcoat front and because I wanted some visual detail between the edges of the Eton jacket, I added a more muted design in a thin scrolling purple cord.

Outline the construction…

This was the first time I had attempted to draft patterns and I did these for the corset, petticoat and waistcoat.
I drafted the corset from Cathy Hay’s instructions for the Symington c1897 (style 2360) and, although not confident I could master the instructions, I was delighted to find that the first mock-up was almost right, needing only slight reduction. By adjusting the width of each rectangular panel, the corset fitted me perfectly.
The waistcoat, created on the stand, started life as a bodice until my costume idea changed. However, once I had made up the jacket and skirt, I felt they needed a waistcoat, so I re-purposed the bodice shell.
The jacket and skirt are from patterns TV498 and TV297 respectively and the shirt pattern was from Black Snail.
The suit fabric is a 50-50 wool and cotton blend which I sourced online and loved the colour and design. On arrival it was very soft to handle and I decided to flatline every pattern piece with a tightly woven medium weight cotton to stabilise it. For additional structure, I felled the seams of the skirt and jacket. I opted not to line the skirt but applied soutache braid by hand.
The shirt is made from a very fine cotton poplin with shell buttons. The jacket and waistcoat are silk-lined and the same silk backs the waistcoat. The waistcoat has self-covered silk buttons and scroll detail in 0.3mm cord.




  1. Avatar Anna on March 12, 2021 at 8:54 pm

    Lovely! It’s easy to imagine Amelia stirring up trouble in her purple suit. The braid is an especially nice detail, the change of scale from skirt to jacket is perfect. (And the subtle homage to Ramses the ultimate egyptological touch.)

    • Avatar Laurie on March 13, 2021 at 5:35 pm

      Excellent suit and outfit with thoughtful character details!

  2. Avatar Kylie ~ ePrintDesign on March 12, 2021 at 11:44 pm

    you have done SUCH a beautiful job! Loving it all, from inside to outside! x

  3. Avatar Manon L'Hostis on March 15, 2021 at 2:41 pm

    The braid detail is stunning! And that silhouette is lovely♡

  4. Avatar Kristina on March 22, 2021 at 3:40 pm

    I am simping for those sleeves! As an absolute beginner I don’t know what else to say, except that I LOVE this dress!

  5. Avatar Jennifer Bowman on March 29, 2021 at 5:45 am

    I would wear this outfit every day! This is like a dream project for me, and you did an amazing job on each and every layer to bring the whole ensemble together. Stunning work, especially with the challenging details of trim, and THOSE SLEEVES! I think she would have love this suit. Yes! Bravo!

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