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!

Winter bustles (and new shoes!)

I know, it’s the middle of July, and where I am it’s the middle of summer. Despite that, I’m doing a post with pictures of winter bustle dresses. The main reason is that I got new shoes! American Duchess was having a sale, and I couldn’t resist, and I got the Victoria carriage boots. They’re black winter boots with bows in the front, and I really love them. It’s quite difficult to find proper warm winter boots that look good underneath a skirt, so I splurged, and suspect I’ll wear them quite a bit out of costume as well!

They’re so pretty!


Of course, having Victorian winter boots got me dreaming about wool and fur bustle dresses. So now I want to make one. I have a lot of fabric for other planned projects though, so who knows if and when that’ll happen, but until then, inspiration pictures!

Let’s start with some early bustle beauties.

La Saison 1874

Les Modes Parisiennes 1872

Les Modes Parisiennes 1874

Le Moniteur de la Mode 1874

La Gazette Rose 1873

The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine


There are also some beautiful examples from the 1880’s.

La Mode Francaise 1887

Le Salon de la Mode 1886

Der Bazar 1883

dessin original : ANONYME VERS 1870 N°9

1880s winter ensembles


Aside from these colored plates, I also found some black-white examples. I particularly love all the braiding on the first one.

early 1880s winter ensemble

1883 Winter

Written on border: "Jan. 1883" Printed on border: "No. 8." "Cloth and fur, either brown or grey. The under-skirt is edged with plaiting, and the over one is turetted. The readingote has a shoulder cap[e] and cuffs trimmed with fur. The waistband is fastened with a smoke[d] pearl buckle. Pattern of redingote, 3s. 1d."


New shoes!

Accessoires are important for a historical outfit, they complete the look. Think jewelry, purses, hair accessories, gloves, stockings, and of course shoes! Shoes are arguably the most important, after all, you can’t go out without them. But proper historical footwear is difficult to find. My solution so far has been to look for shoes which look plausible, and wear those. As my regular style is already historically inspired, that tends to work okay. But, of course, nearly all modern shoes don’t pass closer inspection. What’s more, it’s often difficult to find historically inspired shoes which have a medium to low heel. I’ve no problem with wearing heels, but I don’t like them too high. And as I wear my outfits mostly to events where I have to walk all day, a low heeled, comfortable shoe is preferabele.

For this reason, I’ve been eyeing the shoes made by American Duchess for a long time. This is a small American company specializing in historical footwear, and they make absolutely gorgeous things. The only problem: I’m on a different continent than they are, and ordering shoes online is scary enough if you can return them without extra costs. With shipping overseas, the costs would be on me if the shoes didn’t fit. This is, of course, completely understandable as a small company can’t afford to pay for return shipping constantly. But it does make ordering a bit more of a risk. And then there’s the question of import taxes, which are always very difficult to guess at but can add quite a bit to the price. All in all, with shipping costs, tax costs, and the chance that the shoes won’t fit right, I’ve never dared to order.

So when I was in California last month for work, and actually staying in one place for a couple of weeks, I figured it was now or never and placed an order. I’d left a little room in my suitcase, and  finally took the chance to buy proper Victorian boots! Although I love all American Duchess styles, I opted to get the ‘Renoir’ Victorian button boots. Because they fit with early Victorian, and can pass with late Victorian/Edwardian. And because button-up boots are impossible to find as a ‘modern’ reproduction, because we’ve become too used to zippers and laces. And because they’re just very pretty!


Aren’t they lovely! And the heel is actually quite low, so they should also be comfortable to walk in for a longer time.

Additionally, I also got the shoe painting kit. The Renoir boots come in Ivory, but American Duchess also sells kits to dye your shoes and has tutorials online. Although the ivory is lovely, my only current Victorian dress is black, and I suspect black will go with any future projects just as well as ivory. So I’ll probably be painting them. Because I might want to paint other shoes in the future, and I wasn’t 100% sure on the color yet, I got a kit with different colors.

I got the international shoe painting kit, because I had to take it on the airplane with me. There’s also a US version, which includes primer to remove the paint on the leather before dyeing. I e-mailed to ask which version to get, as I didn’t know why the primer couldn’t be shipped abroad. I got a very quick and helpful reply explaining that the primer couldn’t be shipped because it is explosive. This allowed me to check with my airline, and I found that I wouldn’t be allowed to take any combustive substances on board with me. So the version without primer it was! I now just need to get some turpentine, as that will do the same job.

Finally, I added a pair of silk stockings, because I was ordering anyway and I’ve been wearing modern panty’s under my dresses. Not very accurate (and the stockings are so pretty too!)


My experiences:

Shipping was very quick, and free for me as I was ordering from the US. The shoes came in a gorgeous blue shoe-box, wrapped in plastic and filled with paper.



Unfortunately, I had to throw the box out, because it wasn’t going to fit in my suitcase. I was really happy with the plastic bags around the shoes, because these protected my shoes after they were stuffed in my case! There was also a lovely little etui with the button hook. (And extra heels, which are on the box in the next picture)


The only problem with the package was that the stockings weren’t in them. I got an e-mail from American Duchess on the day the package arrived (it was tracked), including the statement that I could e-mail them if anything was wrong. I asked after the stockings, and immediately received a reply with apologies and an offer to send them out as soon as possible. This was on Monday evening (I opened the package after work), and the stockings arrived on Thursday. All in all, the service was great, with very quick and helpful replies and quick shipping.

The shoes are now back home with me, waiting for their adjustments. They’re a little tight, so I’ll probably be wearing them a bit around the house first. I ordered a size 6, which is charted as a European size 36/37. As I usually wear 36, very occasionally 37, I guessed that this would be good. For my feet, these work, but if your feet are a little bigger (say, usually size 37 sometimes 36), you might want to go with a size 6.5. American Duchess also allows the option of measuring your own feet and comparing it to a chart, but I didn’t bring my measuring tape to the US, so couldn’t use that. For me, at least now I know that their size 6 is good but tight. If I order from them again, I’ll probably measure and see if 6.5 might be better.

The buttons on the shoes are not exactly in the right place for my feet, which is actually normal. Because they’re meant to fit tightly, moving the buttons is recommended. (Also, there’s a video tutorial online to help!). First up will be painting though, and then I’ll be looking to see if I can find black buttons the right size to put on. I’ll keep you posted!