Workwoman’s Guide Dress

I recently put together this 1840s era work dress based on drawings from the Workwoman’s Guide by a Lady. I used pattern #017 by Saundra Ros Altman of Past Patterns. The Workwoman’s Guide refers to the cut of this dress as the Full French High Body.

My rendering of Past Patterns #017 in reproduction cotton print
Pleated bodice detail with hand painted china buttons.
I opted for a plain bodice back to keep the silhouette sleek- retaining most of the fullness in the front.
A signature of a Maggie May dress is our contrasting hem protector. It adds just a splash of color to your skirts as you walk!

The Workwoman’s Guide Dress is shown over our extra full petticoats, chemise, corded petticoat, and over bust corset.

According to the The Workwoman’s Guide (c.1838), “It is very bad economy to purchase, for articles of clothing, cheap bargains. They generally consist of damaged goods or are otherwise inferior in their quality as it stands to reason that no mercer would feel inclined to sell his stock at a lower rate than what its worth.” (Chapter 2, pg 11).

This makes me laugh as it is SO RELEVANT today. Who would have thought?

Love this gown? Make one for yourself. You can get your very own pattern over at!

This gown is headed to Barrington Living History Farm (now Barrington Plantation) in Washington, Texas. View more of our custom made historical garments in our catalog! Or contact us at!

About Susan

My interest in historical costume began at a very early age. I knew by age 5 I wanted to be a designer. Over the years I have been fortunate enough to turn my passion into a full time business. You can find my costumes onstage in NYC, on the big screen, and in museums around the globe.