1880s Evening gown – Skirts

And then suddenly over 2 months have passed without a post!

I the meantime I have been working on the gold 1880s dress project that I talked about last time. In fact, I’ve now finished it, so time for some catching up. In this post, about the skirts!

I started this project with the train. Not because that made most sense per se, but because I knew it’d take the most fabric, and I wanted to make sure how much I’d have left.

I used the TV Butterfly Train pattern, in the shorter version. I cut the fabric on my living room floor, as it’s the biggest in the house and actually allowed me to lay out the pattern fully. I chose to slightly piece it to save on fabric. With the pleating in the train, it will be nearly impossible to spot when it is worn anyway.

Cutting on the floor (spot the cut lines!) and piecing in the corner

I cut the silk, and seamed all the pieces together. Then I did the same thing with the lining. I chose to line it out of plain black cotton. While black isn’t the most historical lining fabric, I knew I’d wear this with a black underskirt and I wanted it to be the same in case the train flips over and you see the inside. It’s a bit less conspicuous this way.

Construction was extremely simple. It’s bag lined, so lining and silk sewn right sides together and flipped inside out. Then the two sides were pleated up, and the top left and top right part were attached to the waistband. The top center is finished by turning the edges in, and then it is pleated up from the center and attached to the center of the waistband. This creates the ‘butterfly’ effect like poof that the train is named after.

Laying the silk on the cotton lining to pin it in place for the bag lining & a top view of the pleats attached to the little waistband piece.

The train has its own waistband which hooks unto the overskirt (as that needs to close center back, so under the train). I also tried out some methods to bustle up the train, as I also want to be able to dance in this dress. Eventually, I settled on attaching one ribbon center back, with two button holes. There are buttons lower on the train to button it up. Then on the sides, I attached ties, as well as a bit further down towards the center. These tie to each-other to bring up the sides. It shows a little bit of the black lining when bustled up, but I don’t really find that bothersome as the underskirt is the same color.

Trying out how to bustle up the train with the lining fabric only & the train waistband which hooks onto the overskirt waistband in the back.

The front overskirt is of the same gold, and I patterned myself with a little help from examples in Izabella Prior’s the Victorian Dressmaker books. I mocked it up from a sheet, and basically played around with pleats and length until I got the look that I wanted. It’s a basic rectangle type shape which is pleated up the sides. I ended up pulling the bottom side points of the rectangle over the back of the bustle and attaching a hook to keep them in place there. This makes sure that the overskirt has the feeling of volume and pleats without hanging down too low. The overskirt is attached to a black waistband ribbon, closing center back, with eyes to hook the train over. The back looks a little funny on its own (and I have no clue if it resembles period patterns), but with the train on top it looks like I meant to!

Patterning the overskirt out of an old sheet – the handstitched hem – the sides are pleated up and sewn down by machine (they won’t be visible), attachment to the twill tape waistband – the finished overskirt from the front – the finished overskirt in the back, this is covered by the train.

Then, finally, there was the black underskirt. The base was really quick to make, using the TV1880’s underskirt pattern, but of course adding a pocket. It’s made out of black twill cotton, as I wanted a solid base. Base, because the skirt is almost entirely covered in trim! I ended up taking inspiration from an other original 1880s dress, and settled on one row of knife pleats, two rows of stacked box pleats and a large ruched panel.

To try out the design, I copied the underskirt of the original dress I liked and pasted it on top of my picture, painting it black. Then I could measure the height of the pleats and the ruching.

The pleats took a little time to make and prepare, and various calculations were done and re-done to ensure I had enough silk (I’m still not sure I did it right, but I had enough fabric, so it’s okay). The pleats were all hand pleated, pinned in place, sprayed with a vinegar/water mix to set the pleats, steamed, and taped in place with painter’s tape. This last step ensures that the pleats can fully dry and won’t be distorted when handling them later. The ruched panel is one large piece with gathering stitches running horizontally. I ended up not giving my piece a lot of extra length, so the ‘poofs’ aren’t quite as poofy as in the example, but I actually quite like this slightly flatter look. The entire panel was then stitched on the skirt, together with the pleats. Only after doing this, did I finish the side-seam, so I could include the ruched panel in the seam. It took some fiddling to then make the pleats match over the seam, and if you look closely you can see that the pleats aren’t quite the same there. It’s not noticeable if you don’t look closely though, so I really don’t mind.

Pleating the knife pleats, stitching down the stacked box pleats, and gathering the ruched panel on the base skirt. This is why I didn’t sew the final seam yet, makes it a lot easier to lay it out flat!

And that completes the whole lower part of the outfit! I’m really happy with how luxurious the gold and black work together so far!

7 thoughts on “1880s Evening gown – Skirts

  1. OMG I LOVE it! It looks so nice. Copying the images together to get an idea of the look is so smart! I need to learn to do that on my computer… But anyway it looks so pretty! I can’t wait to see it on you. Great job!

  2. The skirt is gorgeous, and the way it is made of multiple pieces, I can imagine you can get different effects down the road if you like. For instance, the underskirt can be the base for a visiting dress, too. Appreciate your explication of the construction: crystal clear.
    Very best,
    Natalie in KY, USA

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