1880s Winter bustle – pictures

Yesterday I wore my 1880’s dress for the first time, to the Midwinter Fair. It was really nice to wear, and even though it was rainy I had a good time.

Because of said rain, we only took some pictures inside. By this time my curls had started to sag a bit, but I was quite happy with how my hair turned out. Not having bangs, I flipped two curls towards the front and pinned them in place underneath the hat. Looks ridiculous without the hat, but with hat you’d never know!


Today it’s been snowing all day. Snow doesn’t happen that much around here, and when it does it usually disappears very quickly again. So I thought I’d take advantage, and dragged my boyfriend outdoors for a couple of minutes to take some more pictures. I didn’t curl my hair this time, too much effort, but the braid this way also works okay. And the dress looks really pretty in the snow!


You can’t really see it in these pictures above, but I’m wearing my winter boots with them! Very nicely warm and comfy.



Some more pictures!


Construction post is here!

1880s Winter bustle – construction

If you’ve been following this blog you might remember that when I got the Victoria winter boots from American Duchess, it got me thinking of wintery wool bustle dresses.

The shoes. I’m still in love (and they’re so comfy and warm!)


So when I was making sewing plans in September, an 1880’s winter wool bustle dress was put on the list next to the golden 1660’s gown. I had an event to wear it to in December, so a good deadline as well!

I decided on making it in burgundy, with black faux fur and black trim. This was the plan.

Winter bustle


It’s strongly inspired by fashion plates and pictures. The main inspiration was this one, mainly for the shape and fur placement.

1880s winter ensembles


But as I also really love the loopy trim that became popular, I wanted to incorporate that.

This plate is awsome as well.

early 1880s winter ensemble


And this is a great example of swirly trim.

Close up of 1880s photograph depicting a Victorian jacket with beautiful soutache decoration, embellishments. Passementerie. Detail.


The fabric I’m using is a wool/polyester mix. Not accurate of course, but it is a nice quality fabric still and has the advantage of being a bit cheaper than full wool. The fur trim is black faux fur.



Main construction was relatively straight forward. I used the 1880’s underskirt from Truly Victorian, which came together really quickly. Only change was that I added the pocket from the 1870’s underskirt, because pockets are awesome.

Pleating the back. They’re cartridge pleats, so much width had to be fit into the back normal pleats wouldn’t have worked. Pretty!



The bodice pattern was adapted from the 1883 tail bodice from TV. I took away the pleats in the back and lengthened it a bit. That lengthening caused it not to close in the bottom (I should’ve also added more width), but I actually really liked the look, so I kept it. Make a mistake and like the result anyway: just pretend it was done on purpose.


Fitting the bodice. Another mistake: making the mock-up of cotton instead of wool, which makes it looser. The wool version was a bit smaller, oops. It worked out in the end though.



The eventual shape of the bodice, falling open at the bottom. We’ll just pretend I planned it that way.

The overskirt I ended up draping myself, because I wanted that particular shape seen in the fashion plate. Took some fiddling with old sheets, but I’m quite happy with how it turned out.

Rather bad lighting, but the base of the under and overskirt together.



Then it was time for button holes! I spaced them really closely together, as seen on the photo I showed above. I didn’t have much overlap, so needed small buttons, and those always look better without too much space between them.



With the fur trim on it already looks almost done, but I wanted more trim, and loops, and more loops. I eventually got 50m of the cotton cord for a bargain, because I needed 30 and the whole roll was 50 and the seller didn’t really feel like unrolling so much.

The overskirt first got a velvet ribbon next to the fur, and then the cotton cord next to that, with a knot in the corners.


The inspiration for the knot:

Military Braid, Gold Lace, and Other Trimmings for Uniforms and Decorative Accents


The underskirt also got a velvet ribbon, but then more loopy trim and another cord above that. I made a template for this one to get the sizing the same everywhere. And it miraculously almost fitted around the whole skirt without weird overlaps being necessary! (I’d like to pretend that was measured out and done on purpose, but I was too lazy do do that so it was pure luck)


Template and chalk marks.




For the bodice I took the photo of the original bodice shown above as inspiration, but omitted some loops as my cord was a bit on the thick side.


Playing with the trim to settle on the design.


Finally, I trimmed the sleeves, and then decided the back was too empty, so I trimmed the back of the bodice as well.


And then it was done! I’ll be wearing the dress next weekend, so proper pictures of everything finished and worn will follow!

1880s corset

The mid-1880’s are all about the dramatic silhouette. The bustle is back in full force, and the fashion is for a small waist, full bust and relatively broad shoulders. In fashion plates you can clearly see this fashionable shape, which is of course exaggerated to near impossible proportions.



I’ve started working on my first 1880’s dress, which will be a burgundy wool winter gown. Although I already have a 1870’s corset, I wanted to try to approximate the fashionable shape of the 1880’s a bit more. In my case that meant padding in the bust area, as there’s no way I can achieve (or even approximate) it naturally…

That’s when the idea for a new corset started, to be patterned on top of a padded bra. In my previous post I showed the process of patterning, and afterwards I could finally start making the corset!

It’s a single layer coutil corset, so there’s no extra lining or fashion layer. First order of business was inserting the busk. Because there’s no extra lining, I cut a facing for the center front, and the bust is inserted between the facing and outer layer.




I really love cording on corsets, and wanted to incorporate it in this one as well. As first I was wondering if it’d be possible with a single layer, but then I saw this corset on a visit to Stockholm. As you can see, there’s an extra piece of fabric placed on top of the main fabric to serve as corded panel.

Corset ca. 1860-90  From the Nordiska Museet


I decided to copy this method. Using small pieces of black taffeta, I stitched 15 thin cords onto the two front panels (on each side). As in the example above, I left the bottom and top piece of the taffeta uncorded.

I made a test piece first. cm next to it to see the tiny cords.



After that, I corded the actual corset panels.




Construction was done after the cording, and was pretty straight-forward, I didn’t take a lot of pictures of these steps. All pieces were stitched with wrong sides together, leaving the seam allowances on the outside.

The boning channels were made from a cotton polyester mix, leftover fabric from my red spencer. The red with the black gives a lot of extra drama, and you do see contrasting boning channels in the 1880’s quite a bit, such as this yellow-black combination.

Corset, 1880-93


5cm wide strips were cut and sewn into tunnels with a 5mm allowance, creating 2cm wide tunnels. Those were then stitched on top of the (trimmed) seam allowances and stitched on in the center and to the side. This created space for 2 5mm wide bones (synthethic whalebone) in each channel. The center back also has a facing, creating 2 layers for the eyelets and an extra channel next to the bones. I also added one more boning channel for 1 bone next to the eyelets. Both this one and the center back were flat steel bones for extra strength.




After the boning channels the boning was cut, the edges molten (plastic is so much easier to finish than steel!), and inserted into the corset. The binding was machine stitched on, I used regular black cotton bias tape.




The final big step was the flossing. I love the fancy decorative flossing you see so often in the 1880’s. I looked around for inspiration, and eventually settled on the design of the corset below. I like the flowers, and how it covers 2 bones.

Terminology: What’s the difference between stays, jumps & a corset | The Dreamstress


I made a little prick-template so I could place dots on strategic places of the embroidery pattern. This way, all the bones will have the same size and proportion flossing. I adapted the pattern slightly to also floss the single bones in the center back.




Before you begin flossing it feels like you’re almost done, but I think the embroidery might’ve taken as much time as all the rest of construction… I did 20 double bone motifs and 4 single bone, the double bone ones took about 25 minutes to complete each. And that’s without the test sample.

But, it’s done! I’m really happy with how this came out and I really love the shape. If I ever find some narrow antique black lace I might decorate the top, but as I don’t have that in the stash for now I’m calling it done.

The front and side:



And side-front and back:


Corset patterning

I’ve started a new corset, 1880’s this time. My goal for this one was two-fold, firstly to try to pattern it on top of a padded bra to give a little more curve. Corsets tend to flatten me a bit up top, and while fashionable in some periods, the 1880’s were all about the hourglass. The second goal was to take a little more time patterning to get it just right.

I haven’t even cut the coutil I’ll be using yet, but that first step of patterning is done. I thought it might be interesting to see the process of slowly adapting the pattern to fit.

I should also give a shout-out to the corset making community of ‘Foundations Revealed’, a online magazine/coaching subscription website including facebook group, where I got some great feedback on my progress.

I started with the 1880’s pattern from Corsets & Crinolines by Nora Waugh.

1880 waugh


I didn’t have a scanner, so I eyeballed the pattern onto gridded mm paper until I had the height and waist measurement about right, and the pattern pieces had the same proportions as in the book. I then copied the pattern to full size cm paper and started from there.

The black lines were the pattern as roughly copied from the book. I measured it and found it small, so the red lines are the added width for the first mock-up.



When fitting, I found I shouldn’t have added the extra space, the corset was too big. So the second mock-up went back to the black lines. Additionally, I found that the corset was too short on me. So I lengthened the pattern by adding a couple of cm above the waist line. This picture shows that pattern, laid out on top of the original.



This one was much better, starting to fit. It was still short, so I added some more length to the pattern. I also added a little room to the hips on the side, and took some away from the bust and center front bottom curve, as those were too big.



This was the first one I made a mock-up off in sturdy fabric, including busk and lacing, but no boning yet. The overall fit wasn’t bad, but the busk was tilting quite badly. I’ve had this happen on previous corsets, and thought it might just be me not lacing it straight, but it was too extreme to be a coincidence.  I also didn’t really like the inverted ‘c’ shape the third panel was making over the hip.



I suspected the tilting was because I wasn’t symmetrical, so to test this I took a picture of myself, standing solidly on 2 feet. I then traced my outlines on both sides, and then copied the lines to overlap on the other side. As you can see quite clearly, one hip is both a little higher and wider than the other. The things you learn about yourself when sewing…



So, for the next mock-up I made a left and right version. Basically, I added some hip space for the right-hand version. I also transferred some hip room from panel 3 to 4 to make the pattern shape a bit nicer, and I added 1cm at the top. I’d added that in the previous mock-up and it was still a bit low, so I figured 1cm extra room at least would be good.



This next mock-up I also boned, which makes quite a difference. Also: the hip fixes worked, as it wasn’t tilting anymore, yay! The whole corset was still a bit low at the top though, and I still had too much room center front bottom.



I added even more space up top, and took away a bit of the bottom. I also took away more of the curve on the bottom of panel 2.



The final mock-up was really close. The height is finally good here, and it’s curving quite nicely. It was a slightly sturdier fabric than the previous one, and I noticed that made it a little tight in the hips.



So the only things I changed for the last draft was to add a little more hip room, mostly on panel 5 as that didn’t have much flare yet. In this picture you can see the final pattern, laying on top of the one I started with!



The main changes were that I added some length above the waist, and above the original bustline, lengthening the corset quite extensively. I took away some bust and tummy space, and added space for my hips. Finally, I made a left and right hand version to accommodate my own asymmetry.

Now it’s time to cut the coutil, and start planning the boning channels and cording. It’ll be a single layer black coutil corset with red external channels.


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.

Inspiration – Blue bustle gowns

I’m busy working on my regency dress, and it’s actually starting to look like something! No pictures yet though, but working with the lovely blue fabric is amazing. It’s such a lovely shade, and it catches the light in a very sublte way which makes it change color, it made me think of the color of the sea. A bit blue, a bit gray and a hint of green somewhere.

So as I don’t have any pictures yet, I was inspired to do a post on blue dresses. And because there’s so many amazing blue bustle gowns, a focus on the 1880’s.

Some deep-blue dresses from the period:


William Benton Museum of Art





And some blue/white seaside dresses in fashion plates:


And one extant example: