Charlotte’s Toil



Lynn Forster


(click images to to enlarge)

Other Credits

HLF, who made me do it. BAL, who handled a bad model.

Outline the story …

I was a girl when I first read The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi. It's the story of a young woman who finds adventure and intrigue on the high seas in 1832. By the end, she found her moral compass and followed it.
Reading that book made me love boats and the ocean, and it inspired me to live according to my own truth.
I always wondered what happened to Charlotte in the many years from her first adventure to the time she narrated her story as a fully adult woman. I hope she found a balance to her life. I hope she found love for herself and for another.
I wanted to make this outfit as a blend of what she might have had to make to fit her body as it changed from a 13-year-old girl into an adult woman, all the while surrounded by men. Would she have tried to fully integrate into the rough world of a sailor, or would she have held on to the feminine gentility that she enjoyed when she was young? I'd like to think that she struck a balance. That's why I tried to convey here.

Outline the construction…

I used and then modified the "Pirate Shirt" as presented by Bernadette Banner's YouTube video. While I drafted it based on my shoulder measurements, I soon realized that it was a bad idea as I have narrow shoulders. So I inserted a side panel to increase the chest circumference. I used linen cloth with linen thread.

For the vest, I used a modern pattern, but I modified it by adding eyelets and lacing so it can be a supportive garment. Since I wasn't going for historical accuracy but more of a history bounding look, I felt that using a modern pattern with a fabric that had a historic feel would achieve the look I wanted. The vest is made of thick cotton fabric and lined with the same linen as the shirt is made of.

My idea is that Charlotte might have had to modify her own skirts and shifts in order to make clothing more suited to the job she had to accomplish as a sailor in the 1830s and beyond.

All items were hand sewn using a mix of modern (interfacing, princess seams) and historic (tacked in lining, felled seams, arm gussets) techniques. I even made a historically adequate pocket as an afterthought to go along with it.




  1. Avatar Alexa Harding on March 12, 2021 at 9:50 am

    I love that shirt such some amazing stitch work. I have vest envy too.

    That linen looks lovely – where did you get that from? 🙂

    • Avatar Lynn on March 13, 2021 at 3:51 pm

      My mother sent me the linen, and I think she got it at
      The more I wear the vest, the more I like it. I wore it with another, modern, shirt the other week, and got so many compliments.

      • Avatar Alexa Harding on March 13, 2021 at 4:48 pm

        And so you should it’s a lovely vest. I’m going to have to steal this idea for my shirt I’ve made for my self same style just very red! I will also check out the site. I love increasing my fabric supplies thank you.

  2. Avatar Manon L'Hostis on March 15, 2021 at 3:01 pm

    Your stitching is wonderful! Very neat and delicate. Love your pieces♡

  3. Avatar Phanuel Jagna Levinsen on March 20, 2021 at 11:10 pm

    This is such a beautiful combination of garments! The vest and shirt really compliment each other well and it just looks wonderful. Amazing work and love the attention to detail with the eyelets!

    • Avatar Lynn Forster on March 22, 2021 at 12:39 pm

      Thanks so much! I thought the eyelets would be nice and not take me very long. I was wrong! They took soooooo long. But it was worth it!

  4. Avatar Patricia Forster on March 23, 2021 at 6:44 pm

    Sewing has run in the Cameron/Forster family for 3 generations–so I’m sooooo pleased to see your beautiful handwork ! I must confess to having used the “machine” most often,tho. Love’n hugs, Muzzi

  5. Avatar Laura Wemyss on March 24, 2021 at 1:44 am

    I like how you’ve decided to interpret the character! And your choice of fabrics is lovely. I’m always a sucker for those colour combinations! Your stitching looks very neat and precise. Very nice.

    • Avatar Lynn Forster on March 26, 2021 at 6:26 pm

      I think about this character a lot more than is likely healthy! Lol. Historical costuming just seems the right way to interpret her. Thank you!

  6. Avatar Stephanie Murison on March 26, 2021 at 5:10 am

    Beautiful! I love the fabric and I’m actually jealous of how neat your lacing and eyelets are!!! This is a wonderful outfit!

    • Avatar Lynn Forster on March 26, 2021 at 6:27 pm

      Thank you so much! I must admit that taking a technical drawing class around the same time was very helpful in accomplishing those eyelets!

  7. Avatar Kikkii von Fustian on March 29, 2021 at 12:54 pm

    Beautiful stitchwork, the eyelet holes are just.. *chef’s kiss* <3

  8. Avatar Nina Martin on March 30, 2021 at 7:39 pm

    Wow, I’m in love with this vest!

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