Peculiar Pocket Project



Penny Henschke

Outline the story …

For my competition entry I was inspired by a dress illustration I saw from Le Miroir des Modes September 1917. I have always been enchanted by the fashions of the 19teens, particularly the wonderful details that appear practical but are not, the pockets on this dress are a case in point.
To address the theme ‘A Natural World’ I looked at the Art Nouveau movement, which was heavily influenced by shapes from nature, and coincidentally very popular in Paris, which seemed to fit since this is a French design. I decided to embroider an Art Nouveau design onto my pockets in sandy colours onto a deep ochre linen, these ochre colours are the colours of Australia, wherever you travel, that is the colour of the soils. There was a gilet in the design, I made it out of fabric dyed with eucalyptus leaves in direct contact with the cloth, giving imprints of the leaves, although the leaves are green when fresh, some varieties give this stunning red colour.
For my corset I found a fabric printed using May Gibbs illustrations of Australian plants in children’s stories. She wrote and illustrated her stories about the same time that this dress was designed, it was one of the first examples of Australian plants being featured in fiction.

Outline the construction…

The corset was made using the Rilla pattern by Scroop, and the dress was the Eloise pattern by Wearing History. I drafted patterns for the camisole and petticoat.
The Eloise dress needed some adjustments. The skirt in the illustration was not very full, I decided on a fuller skirt, so that my waist would look smaller in comparison. In addition the bodice and skirt were gathered into the waistband, that is not very flattering for my figure type, so I pleated the bodice into the waistband, stitching the pleats a few inches above it. I redrafted the skirt into four gored pieces, again to reduce the bulk around the waist, but keeping the flare I wanted. The dress had a very complex closure that entailed half of the skirt being free of the waistband, which could not work with my pockets. I settled on appliqueing on the pockets, which means they are removable. They were positioned using the front seams of the skirt, and a gusset in the skirt matches up with the side seam of the bodice and waistband to create a side closure. Since this whole project was about pockets, I also created pockets in the skirt front seams.
Although I have sewn for many years, my adventure into historical sewing is recent. One of the things that excites me is creating a garment that fits me well not relying on ease. I enjoyed immensely the embroidery, also the challenges in adapting the pattern to my initial inspiration.




  1. Avatar Molly Molly N on April 28, 2023 at 12:59 am

    I was excited to see a costume design from the mid ninteen-teens, as it’s a time period I’ve been researching hoping to make some items myself in the future. Yours has come out so beautifully!

    I love the contrasting texture of the embroidery and the colour pallet you’ve chosen. The silhouette has also come out really well – it’s such an interesting structure and so different from modern garments.

  2. Avatar Steffi Wee on May 10, 2023 at 12:45 pm

    The colours of the embroidery and the different fabrics work so well together! Great job!!

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