Victorian ball gown – Images

A slightly different post. Last October, I did a photoshoot with my victorian dinner dress. We mostly took more fantasy-styled images with a vintage-inspired jacket and a hat (it was getting colder), but I now also have some lovely new images of my dress. Many thanks to Martijn van Huffelen, the photographer!






And, because they’re so lovely, some of the other images:




Regency dress – Red & White bodice

As I mentioned in my regency petticoat post, I’ve finally started work on the red/white dress! I first blogged about this dress back in March 2014, so nearly 2 years afterwards, it’s actually happening!

This was the plan:

And the method for putting on the dress will be like this image from my post on v-neckline front closing gowns:

Regency dresses - Cross-over Slit

The only thing left to decide for construction was how to create the little ‘modesty placket’ in the center front, filling up the v neckline. I’ve seen this on a lot of paintings, but couldn’t find any actual dresses which had it.

My original inspiration has it:

And so do these inspiration paintings:

In the end, I had 2 theories. The first is that it’s the bodiced petticoat peeping through. The only problem I have with that theory is that the paintings show the same lace on the placket as on the dress. And I don’t think it very likely that petticoats would have lace matched to the gown. The second theory is that it’s constructed to the dress somehow. It seems most likely to me that in this case, it’s an extra bodice piece connected to the sides of the dress which goes underneath the overlapping pieces.

In the end, I chose to make it in this second way. Basically, I made 4 front pieces. 2 For the outer layer which create the v-shape, and 2 which form the ‘lining’, and have a piece of fashion fabric which peeps out underneath. If this is unclear, there’s pictures of how I did it later in the post! (If anyone has information on how plausible this method is I’d love to know!)

So, on to making the bodice!

I started with adapting the bodice pattern I used for my blue dress, which was again an adaptadion of the Sense & Sensibility’s Elegant Ladies Closet pattern. This actually happened pretty quickly, as I had saved my mock-up. Although the blue dress has a back closure and a gathered front, I made the mock up for the lining with a fitted front and a front closure to make fitting easier. This meant I only had to change the shape of the front panels.

I cut out the pattern pieces, and the lining. For the front lining, this was basically a long strip of which I checked the length later.

I constructed the lining and the outer layer separately, and then put them together and hand-sewed them together. These are the little stitches visible on the side and back panels of the bodice. Next up was finishing the neckline, which I did by turning over the outer fabric. I whip-stitched this down on the back. For the neckline, I again used the little stitches. Because of the construction, there’s no lining directly under the outer fabric for the v-shape.

For the front lining, I cut an extra piece of ‘outer’ fabric for the center, the part which would show. I attatched this to the lining piece, again by hand.

The bodice without sleeves:

Before making any of the closures, I first wanted to attach the sleeves because they can change the fit quite a bit. I cut out the sleeve pattern from both the cotton and the outer fabric and flat-lined them together.

Next up were the little red wings on top of the sleeve. I drafted a pattern based on the sleeve pattern and checked how it looked in cotton. It seemed to work fine, so I cut 4 pieces from my red fabric. I hemmed the pieces by hand, which was quite fiddly because of the strong curve, but I think it turned out all right.


I then gathered the top of the wings and pinned them to the sleeves.


Last step were the sleeve bands, which I decided to decorate with piping. I’d never made this before, but I like how it turned out. I made the piping, and attached the sleeve bands.




The very last step was to attach the sleeves, and the bodice is done!

Well, nearly, because there’s no closures yet. I want to try to attach the skirt first to make sure the fit is good.

Some pictures! A slight note, that my dress-form is quite a bit ’rounder’ at the top than I am when wearing stays. So the bodice fits more smoothly on me.



The bodice witht the front ‘flaps’ turned back looks like this:


On the left side (on the picture, right side on me) the large strip is attached.


Normally, a lining like this would close in the center, but that would show. So I made a ‘long’ right (left on picture) flap and a short left (right on picture) one. It now attaches to the side. In the picture it closes with a pin, this will probably become a hook and eye closure.


A detail of the stitching on the bodice back which attatches the lining:


And of the top of the bodice at the back, where it’s whip-stitched to the lining.


And the sleeve:


And a detail, showing the stitches from the lining.


A bit of a weird perspective, but this shows the shape of the wings.


And a close-up of the piping and sleeve band!


Next up will be the skirt and closures.

Inspiration – Outfit break-down

I’ll be trying a new idea in this post. As anyone following this blog might’ve noticed, I have a tendency to think about and plan sewing projects a bit faster than I actually sew. That’s probably because you can dream and plan on the train, or at work in breaks, but you can only sew at home. As I work full time and am away a couple of evenings per week and travel quite a bit, I don’t get around to actually doing as much sewing as I might like sometimes. But I also know that reading about actual sewing, and seeing work in progress is the best part of reading a blog like this (at least, that’s my personal experience with other blogs). So I’m trying something new, which is a little closer to actual sewing than a pure inspiration post, but doesn’t require me to do the sewing.

With this concept, I’ll be taking 1 outfit from a painting, fashion plate, or an extent ensemble. I’ll try to analyse what’s going on, and how one would go about recreating it. From fabric, to possible techniques and patterns. I might do more in the future! And I hope that if you’re the type to look at images and dream about recreating them (like I am), this might give some insights on where to start!


So, for this outfit break-down, I’m going to start with one of my personal all-time favourites. This bustle-dress from ca. 1880, owned by the Met.

I loved this dress as soon as I saw it. I especially adore the gold fabric, and the neckline treatment.

So, let’s say I’ll ever get around to making it, where to start?

Well, first it’s always a good idea to see if there’s more images of a dress. For a fashion plate or painting we usually only have one view, but with an actual dress there might be pictures of the sides and back!

Luckily for us, the Met usually has their collection photographed from different angles. So we also get a shot from one of the sides and the back. Unfortunately, they only photographed one side, which for most eras would be enough, but this dress is clearly a-symmetrical, so the other side remains a bit of a mystery.


So, where to start? Well, fabric is a good first step. What is this dress made of? In this case, we can just check the museum website. Most museums specify the materials an object is made of, which in case of garments is usually the fiber content. For this dress, it reads ‘silk’, so we can safely assume that at least the outside (visible) fabric is silk.

So, what type? Silk exists in many different versions, usually named for the way the raw silk is processed, the way it is weaved or the weight. You can determine the type of silk in several different ways. Most practical in this situation, you might be able to distinguish types visually. Not all silks reflect light the same way, or have the same visible weave. Another good way to start is to first determine what fabrics were used in the period. I won’t go into too much detail here, but Izabela from Prior Attire has a very complete post on what fabrics were used when here.

In historical uses, most silk used in dresses is taffeta, followed by satin, brocade, damask and velvet. Taffeta refers to a pretty stiff silk with a smooth finish. Satin is much drapier than taffeta, and usually has a bit more shine to it. Brocade and damask are patterned fabric, and the term refers to the manner in which the pattern is created. (This post by the Dreamstress is a great post on the terminology) Velvet is created with a pile, which is the softness you feel when touching it. Be aware that these terms refer to the process of making the fabric (or the weave), and are also sometimes used on other materials than silk. Taffeta can also refer to rayon fabric, and satin to polyester. And velvet can be made out of cotton or polyester as well. So a historical taffeta or velvet might not look the same as a modern one!

So how do you see which is which? Velvet can usually be identified by the way it catches the light. I’m personally not familiar enough with them to distinguish brocade and damask, but you can see what they are if there’s a pattern woven in the fabric (so not printed or painted or embroidered on!). To distinguish between taffeta and satin, look at the stiffness and the shinyness. Satin is much shinier, and very drapy. Taffeta could be so stiff it would stand on it’s own.

So, back to the dress. My best guess is that the purple fabric is a taffeta (very sure), and the gold a brocade (a little less sure). (When in doubt, zoom in! Not all websites upload in high resolution, but the Met museum does, as well as the Dutch Rijksmuseum).



Now, if recreating this dress, you might also go for other fabrics or combinations. I usually decide based on 1. How accurate do I want it to be, 2. How much time am I willing to spend finding the fabric and 3. How much am I willing to spend. Silk is expensive, and that also means I usually can’t find it anywhere. We don’t have so many fabric stores around, and the markets usually cater to the more budget-aware. And there are many good quality polyester fabrics out there, so not a lot of people are using real silk anymore. I usually try to find something which feels accurate, with the right drape and shinyness. If I can find a true silk or wool that’s great, if not I’ll go with what I can source. (because ordering from China online for a lot of money is just scary!).

For the rest of the dress, we’ll need a little more materials. The lining of the fabric will probably be in cotton. The bodice will have boning (usually baleen or steel), and there looks to be lace underneath the train. Then we can see that the front closes with covered buttons. And, if we again zoom in, a row of pearls next to the neckline and cuffs, and the keyhole closes with a hook and eye.




So now we have an idea of what we need for the dress! Now how do we get it to look like in the picture? The first step would be to ensure the proper underwear. In this case we’re talking about the 1880s and there would be a shift, drawers, corset, bustle case and petticoat. There might also be a corset-cover, and maybe a second petticoat. I’ll not go into this as much here, but a dress like this will never look right without the proper underwear, its absolutely a vital part of the outfit!

So, assuming we already have all the correct underwear, how to make a dress like this? It’s time to start looking at the possible patterning. A good first start is to look at available historical patterns to see if there’s anything which matches. A next step would be to modify existing patterns, or look for historical patterns which need to be drafted to fit. A final possibility is drafting the pattern yourself, but that will take more experience to get right.

For this dress, a great place to start are the Truly Victorian patterns. They’re one of the main pattern companies for Victorian historical patterns, and I’ve had a very good experience with them. What’s more, they have some patterns which suit this dress perfectly!

To break it down again, there’s patterns needed for the bodice/train, the overskirt and the underskirt.

You can see in the pictures that the bodice and skirt are connected. I’ve never seen a pattern for this, but Truly Victorian does have a pattern for a bodice with this exact neckline treatment, and another train pattern which looks very similar.

TV462 is the bodice pattern:


And TV361 the train:


So, what about the skirts?

This is where it gets a bit trickier, as there’s no patterns for this exact shape. A good starting point for the under-skirt would be TV261-R, which is a base-underskirt.

The bottom of the trim can be made with box pleats. The middle seems like wide box pleats with a big of baggyness at the bottom, and the top is yet another type of trim.

For the over-skirt, both TV368 and TV365 could be used as a base, if made a little shorter.

I hope this post was able to inspire! For anyone interested in this dress, I’d invite you to take a look at Fashion through History’s version, her posts are here and here.

Simple Regency petticoat (+pattern)

My first project of the year is done, and it wasn’t even planned! I started work on the red/white regency dress (an update will follow soon), and while I was working I noticed the fabric was a bit sheer. No problem of course, that’s perfectly period, but it does require a petticoat beneath the dress.

Well, unless you’re portraying a very fancy French lady, in which case you might go for this look:

Louis Léopold Boilly, Incroyable et Merveilleuse in Paris, 1797


But that wasn’t exactly my plan, as I believe it was reserved for the very fashionable, and mainly worn in France. (Also, in the image above the man is trying to pay the lady as he supposes she’s a prostitute because of her clothes, she’s making the cross to ward him off).

I also had some fun looking at the caricatures of sheer dresses at the time. It definitely wasn’t for everyone.


Anyway, a petticoat it was! I’d originally bought cotton to line the dress, but afterwards found that generally, only the bodice of Regency dresses are lined and not the skirts. So there was plenty of fabric left to make a petticoat. Generally speaking, there’s two types of petticoats, namely those with bodice and those without. The petticoats without bodice usually do have straps, to keep the skirt up at the empire waistline.

A bodiced petticoat:

And one with straps:

I opted for the straps option, mostly because it was easiest. I made up the petticoat very quickly, and without any decoration, as it’s mostly so I can wear my dress when finished. It’s basically just a skirt pattern with some bias tape finishing the top, a slit in the side and 2 straps. I don’t know how accurate this construction is, but it works!

The front:




And back:


The closure:



As it’s so simple, I drew out the pattern I used for this. I made it to scale, if you click on it you should get the full scale version. 100 pixels is 10 cm. Some notes: My ’empire-waist circumference’ (under-bust measure) is about 75 cm, so the back panel ‘gathered to fit’ in this case means gathered to 75-55=20 cm. If you have a different circumference, you might want to scale up the width in both pattern pieces. The 110 cm in height is also for me, I’d strongly suggest measuring yourself for the height. Measure from your empire waist to where you want your petticoat to hang. I also put in 110 cm both for the front and back panel, but I suggest cutting the back slightly higher than the front, as you’ll be attatching the straight back side seam to a tilted front side seam which will be longer. I did this, and just cut off the exces after attaching the panels. For the straps, the length is also based on me, and I suspect will be different for everyone. Just put the petticoat on you, pin the straps to the back at the side of the panel and check the length in the front. The same goes for the position of the straps in the front. This depends on your empire waist circumference and cup-size probably. And, just in case, always fit over your stays! This way you can also check the placement of the straps to make sure they won’t show with a gown with a wide neckline. Finally, there’s no seam allowance in this pattern. I used the selvedge as hem and bias binding at the top, so I didn’t need an allowance at either. If you’re hemming the top and/or bottom, don’t forget to add this. Same goes for the side-seams. I measured the pattern after sewing, so no allowance included. Good luck!

Petticoat pattern

2016 – plans & dreams

After the 2015 year review, it’s time to look forward to the next year!

I will actually start with finally making my red-white regency dress, which was already on the planning for last year. I promise, however, that it’s actually going to happen now! It’s first on the list, and I already started working on the pattern for the bodice.


After the dress, the red spencer should finally be made! The plan is still more or less the same, something like below with a lot of braid, but in red.


The other unfinished item on last year’s list was a red cloak. I’m not entirely sure about that anymore though. It might get made that way, or it might become a red regency cloak. I still love the whole red-riding-hood vibe. In any case, if I’ll make it up it’ll be near the end of the year.


Because I also have my Edwardian outfit to finish. I still need a hat!


And because I still have quite a bit of tartan wool left over, I’m thinking of making a short Edwardian jacket to go with the outfit. I haven’t settled on a style yet, or been able to find a pattern base to work from, but it would be really nice to have a jacket… This is the style I mean:

That’s the concrete list of plans! If I have time, I might also start on yet another regency dress. I recently bought some fabric which, although not really historical (I’m sure it’s not a natural fibre), is close enough to satin to work. It’s also really pretty, a gorgeous light blue with a silver braided trim on both sides. I just couldn’t resist.

And who knows, maybe I’ll even dive into a new era this year! Currently on my interest list are late 18th century, Tudor and 1880’s, so who knows!

2015 – Year review

It’s Januari again, so time to look back at what I did last year! I made a post in the beginning of the year with my plans. I think I did all right. I managed the first portion of the list at least ;). The rest is still on the schedule, but will have to wait a bit longer. And I also made more than 10 modern pieces this year which weren’t included in the planning.

Let’s start with the historical projects.

I started off the year by re-furbashing my old elliptic hoop into a round one. I’ve not worn it yet, as I don’t really have anything to wear over it, but if I ever get around to 1850’s costuming I’ll have a hoop!


After the hoop, I finished my 1860’s ballgown bodice.


And made a new petticoat for my new 1860’s hoop!


Then it was time to start on the new project, Edwardian! A whole new period, so first up was the underwear.

A chemise:


Bust improvers


The corset


Then I also made  a corset-cover, (which needs re-making, as the ruffles are a bit too much)


And drawers, which I havent posted about because I only have pictures in which it needs ironing (sorry!)


Almost done with the underwear now, the final piece was the petticoat!


So, 6 items of clothing later, it’s time for the outerwear!

These are probably my favourite items of the year.

I made a white cotton and lace blouse:


And a high-waisted tartan wool skirt:


So the outfit is very nearly done! Now I just need to make a hat…


I also did quite a lot of ‘modern’ sewing this year.

A bunch of cotton skirts with flowers

20150330_185816 20150330_185731

20150330_190304 IMG_2965

And a dress of the same type.


And a skirt with belt which was a gift:


Then I made a corset. My first modern one, first underbust and first time drafting the pattern.


And I made 2 jersey dresses from fabric with vintage inspired prints.


Finally, I made 2 modern tartan skirts which I haven’t posted about.


So… on to next year! I already have plans and the first new project has been started. I’ll do a post with plans soon!

Edwardian Skirt & Petticoat

It’s done! My high-waist Edwardian Skirt is done, and with it the petticoat to go underneath.

Both the petticoat and skirt were made with the 10-gore skirt pattern from Truly Victorian. I made the base of the petticoat first, to test the fit. After slightly correcting the fit at the top (it was a bit too wide, otherwise it fit very well), I cut off the top part to make the petticoat sit at the waist. I added a drawstring to close it, and moved this closure to the front.

After hemming, it was time to add some trim and ruffle. I chose to add a broad strip of bobbin lace and one row of ruffles. There’s 2 meters of fabric in the ruffle alone, cut in 4 parts and sewn together, so 8 meters to gather and hem. I used a small rolled hem at the top and bottom, and gathered and sewed the ruffle to the underside of the lace.

The finished petticoat:



The hem of the ruffle.



The lace:



The cord and closure



In the mean time, I also started working on the skirt! Cutting the fabric was quite scary. I bought the wool in Edinburgh, so no possibility of getting more, and tartan wool isn’t the cheapest of fabrics. I used black cotton for the lining.


From cutting the wool I now know my living room is 5 meters long, it fit exactly… I spent quite some time laying out the pattern pieces, trying to get the plaid to match at the waistline.


I didn’t take a lot of progress pictures, so a quick walk through. The first step was to flat-line the lining to the wool. After that, I made the placket for the closure and sew on all the hooks and eyes.

Then it was time to sew all the panels together. Always the most fun, because it’s quickest and it now actually looked like a skirt!

Next up was making boning channels and inserting the bones and sewing the whole result to the seam allowances. Less fun, and loads of hand sewing. I used plastic boning, mainly because I’ll be wearing this over a corset anyway and it’s a lot cheaper than steel.

Next up, finishing! The top was finished with bias binding. Stitched to the right side by machine and turned over and hand-stitched down.


The last step was the hem. After trying on the length with the petticoat, I sewed hem stiffener to the bottom. Then I cut a broad bias strip from black cotton and sewed it to the hem as facing. Finally, I hand-stitched the hem-facing down. And we’re done! Technically, I finished the last hand-sewing on the 2nd of January, but as I did all the other work last year, I’ll count it as a 2015 project.

So, some more pictures!

First a comparison of with and without petticoat. I hadn’t finished the hem yet on these pictures, but you can see the difference the petticoat makes!

IMG_5333 IMG_5331


The closure:




One of the bones and the facing at the top:


And at the hem. The hem-stiffener is underneath.



The whole thing! I quickly put my blouse on top for the effect. (I was lazy and didn’t do any underpinnings for the blouse, sorry!)




My only regret on the skirt is that the center-back doesn’t line up. I matched up the pattern pieces, but made the mistake on doing it on one side of folded fabric. Turned out the fabric wasn’t lying completely straight. The other panels are fine, but one of the back panels was off. Ah well, better next time.




It’s still very pretty though…