1895 Ball gown – Bodice

The ball I was making my 1895 gown for was supposed to be today. Instead, it’ll happen next year. But the dress is finished, so to celebrate the occasion, instead here’s my post about making it!

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The bodice of this dress was difficult mostly because for a long time, I didn’t know exactly how to trim it. I knew I wanted extravagant trim, but not exactly what. I had an antique beaded collar-like piece which seemed perfect first, but had rather wide shoulder pieces which didn’t fully fit the 1895 style. So when I started off, I decided to just do the base bodice first.

I used TV493 – 1896 Plain Bodice as a base. It’s not a ballgown bodice, but the goal was to get the basic shape and as usual for me with TV patterns, it fit almost perfectly out of the envelope.

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First bodice fitting, pretty good!

 

The bodice is made of 3 layers, silk organza, silk dupioni and white cotton. I sewed all layers together and then treated them as one.

After the base was sewn and the bottom finished with binding tape, it was time to decide on the neckline. My original piece of trim was definitely too wide for the shoulder, but I got another one, and this one was more promising.

Left the original plan. Super pretty, but too wide for the shoulder. To the right the new plan: it fits better, but needs something more.

 

The new beaded piece was also in a bit of a shabby state, as the threads had faded from black to light brown, something you see more often with old black dyes. I decided to re-dye the piece to make it look better. I tested first on another old faded piece, and when the threads didn’t disintegrate, I moved on to the trim piece. It’s still not 100% black, but the brown is a lot darker and less noticeable.

Before & after dye. The little round thing was my dye test.

 

Aside from the beaded piece, I knew I wanted something more. In the end, I found this fashion plate which has a somewhat similarly shaped front piece. I took inspiration from that and created organza ‘poofs’ running from the beaded piece unto the shoulder line. I also found black antique lace in my stash, and used that to both fill in the neckline and create extra interest around the sleeves and back neckline.

The rough  inspiration for the bodice

 

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Trying out stuff. The only piece I ended up leaving out is the little extra beaded piece CF at the top.

 

Finally,  I added velvet trim. The skirt has velvet trim as main accent, and I wanted to create a bit of cohesion. I added it along the bottom, and then decided to also put it on the back seams.

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The sleeves were created after most of the trim was put on, especially the organza poofs and lace run into the sleeve seam, so had to be done first. I used the TV495 – 1890’s Sleeves pattern as I wanted different sleeves as came with the bodice. I ended up using view 5, but without the ruffle to get short ballgown sleeves. The sleeves have a fitted inner layer, and an outer layer of the organza + dupioni. To make them poof, they have a structure between those two layers. As the inner layer is fitted, it’s not possible to wear separate sleeve supports. So instead, I consulted Janet Arnold and found a ‘sleeve interlining of black stiffened cotton’ in the pattern for the 1894-5 London Museum dress. Via the Foundations Revealed live-calls, I’d already heard Luca talk about these, and I made mine of tarlatan after his suggestion.

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Comparing sleeve shapes from TV & Janet Arnold

 

This layer of tarlatan is pleated and attached at the top of the sleeve. It stands out sharply, and holds up the outer sleeve perfectly! I just have to be careful not to squish the bodice. Of course, it would also loose shape when wet, but given my dress is silk I planned on avoiding that anyway.

 

The sleeves were stitched in by hand, as I was handling a good nr. of layers. Silk organza and silk dupioni in ruffles, pleated tarlatan ( so 3 layers at times), cotton inner sleeve and the silk organza, silk dupioni and cotton of the bodice. I also made sure to attach the sleeves pretty high on the shoulder, as is typical of this era.

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The very last thing to do was to add boning, and closures. The dress closes center front, underneath the beaded trim. I debated putting in a center back closure, but eventually decided this’d be nicer for getting in/out by myself. There’s hooks and eyes center front, and the beaded piece is only stitched down on one side. When the center front is closed, the beading can be closed on the other side as well with hooks and eyes. This does mean the beading is handled on closing the bodice, so to give it a bit more stability I backed it to another layer of black silk organza. The lace filling up the neckline is attached to the organza on both sides, so it closes with the beading.

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Backing the beaded piece with organza

How the bodice closes:

 

Because I didn’t want to directly put the dress in my closet again, I wore it for pictures across the street last week. I’m already looking forward to wearing it again next year!

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I also took it for a twirl!

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1870’s Mantelet

When my 1870’s ballgown was nearly done, I also started looking into making a quick cape or coat to go with it. I’ll be walking to the ball after all (no fancy carriage, alas), so a little something warm will be welcome. I also had a 1,5m by 1,5m wool coupon in my stash with no specific plans for it yet. It would be perfect for this plan!

So I started looking at capes and coats, and quickly found loads of original online patterns for different Victorian eras. It’s really nice to see the progress in shapes! Generally speaking, the 1860’s see large almost ‘sack’ like capes falling over crinolines. In the early 1870’s a type of mantelet with two long extensions in the front and a fitted back become popular. In the 1880’s, coats become more popular, being even more fitted and having sleeves more often. In the 1890’s you see the rise of short (waist-length) circle shaped capes.

The patterns I found for the 1870’s were these:

Der Bazar 1874: Springtime mantelet from black elastine fabric with black guipure-lace, grosgrain ribbons and atlas lining (also suitable for confirmands); 38a. front part, 38b. back part:

Der Bazar 1873: Springtime mantelet from black cashmere with black lace and silk-reps adornments; 23a. front part, 23b. back part:

Der Bazar 1874: Springtime mantelet from black cashmere with black lace and…:

Der Bazar 1873: Springtime mantelet from black elastine with black guipure-lace and grosgrain ribbon adornments; 24a. front part, 24b. back part:

All very similar in shape. I settled on the last one, because I liked the square bottom front and fitted back. (Also, even though it has nothing to do with the pattern, the bow at the back might have influenced me slightly 😉 ).

I slightly adapted the pattern to fit me, mostly the back was way too narrow and the front slightly too wide for me. I didn’t have a narrow neckline anymore after I was done with the adaptions, and decided to leave it as it was. So mine is slightly wider then the originals probably were.

These patterns have no instructions, so I just made it up in the way I thought easiest. First I assembled the wool fabric pieces. I then trimmed the edges using velvet and polyester ribbon. The polyester ribbon (obviously not historical, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen actual silk ribbon for sale) was pleated every 1,5cm. All 10m of it.. Suffice to say that took a while, it was a relaxing task though, and perfect for the start of the holidays. (Very obvious in this image, I tend to group pins by color…)

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After trimming, I lined the wool with cotton by sewing it together right sides together, leaving a little part to turn it inside out. That part was hand-sewn shut afterwards. To keep the back close to the body right before the ‘flare’, I sewed a cotton strip of fabric at that point which closes in the front. I don’t know if this is period, just something I thought convenient.

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It closes with a fancy closure at the top and little hooks and eyes to keep the front together.

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I also placed a velvet bow at the center back, inspired by the pattern picture.

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To finish, a couple of images of me wearing the mantelet over the ball gown.

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Black bustles

Time for pretty pictures again, this time of black bustle dresses. I’d guess ranging from ca. 1875 to ca. 1885. All from La Mode Illustree. Beware of a very image-heavy post, because I’m bad at choosing. They’re placed chronologically, so you can see the progress in styles from big and fluffy to sleek to the revival of the bustle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1860’s Balgown – photos

I finished the ballgown bodice for my black velvet 1860’s dress quite a while back. I’d hoped to wear it to an event back in April, but it was rainy and too cold, so that didn’t happen. Luckily, I had another event last weekend and this time the weather was perfect! So I finally have some photo’s of the new bodice on me, together with the new hoop and petticoat I made.

The whole outfit:

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A close-up

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And some better pictures of the bodice!

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1860’s Ballgown bodice

My 1860’s ballgown bodice is done! Over a year after first drafting the pattern, but it was always meant to be a long-term thing. I drafted the pattern back when making the dinner bodice, just as a try out. I then cut the fabric a little while later, because I also wanted to make my Irish dance dress out of the same velvet. Luckily, I had enough!  The construction was started a couple of months ago. I’m afraid I didn’t take a lot of progress pictures…

This was the drafting stage

The front. Don't mind the ugly left part, that was just for fitting and I didn't have enough fabric.

The front. Don’t mind the ugly left part, that was just for fitting and I didn’t have enough fabric.

And here I’m planning the lace trimming. I looked at a lot of extant ballgowns, and most actually have more complicated trimming. I really liked the lace though, and even though you see this more on 1850’s bodices, I decided to go with 2 rows of lace. It could be a re-fashioned bodice, right?

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Planning the trimming. I decided I liked the lace sleeve best.

 

The bodice is made with a point in front, just in case I ever want to wear it over my skirt. I have a belt for the skirt with a big bow though, and I love the bow, so I’ll probably tuck the bodice into the skirt. So, now onto the photo’s of the finished thing! (The lace is nearer in color to the velvet in real life. The lace reflects much more light, and these photos were taken with a flash because it was dark, so it show up a little lighter).

Front:

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And the back:

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You’ll have to forgive my dress form for not filling up the bodice completely, it’s just a bit smaller than me in the waist. Wrinkles should be a lot less on me! (photo’s with the dress on me will follow soon hopefully)

The trim is 2 rows of lace on the neckline and 1 on the sleeves.

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2 rows of lace on the neckline and 1 around the sleeves

 

The back has little hand-sown eyelets (20 of them… why do I keep doing stuff like this?) and laces closed. They’re not extremely even and round, but overall I’m happy with them.

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Eyelets. There’s 2 more at the top (between the layers of lace) and 2 more at the bottom

 

And with the skirt! (and new 1860’s hoop!)

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Sewing – Progress on the 1860s dress

This summer I unexpectedly had extra time on my hands, and I decided I’d try to make a 1860 black velvet mourning dress. The only problem was; I didn’t have any Victorian undergarments yet, so I’d have to make those as well. Of course, my planning was way too ambitious and in the end I didn’t even start on my dress, although I did finish my corset and crinoline, and got halfway with the petticoat. I’ll post about those garments later. This Christmas holiday, I finally started working on the dress and made some good progress on the bodice.

The inspiration for the dress was this 1861 dress from the Met museum:

I fell in love with it as soon as I saw the picture. It’s so dramatic, and that without too much details and trimming. As this is my first Victorian dress, I didn’t want to make it too difficult for myself, so it was perfect. I bought the fabric back this summer, and it was actually a challenge to find black velvet of good quality at a reasonable price. There’s way too much stretchy, shiny stuff out there. My usual fabric market didn’t carry what I wanted, but the second one I visited had just enough left in pieces of 3 meters that I got it at a very good price. It’s so lovely!

For the bodice, I decided to use Truly Victorian TV400. It’s slightly later than this dress (early ’70s instead of ’60s), but the shape looked very much the same to me, and this was the only pattern I could get second hand. The only thing I changed was the length of the sleeves, and added the flare at the bottom. My mock-up fit almost perfectly, so I didn’t have to make any alterations to the pattern.

Next up was the scary part, cutting into the velvet. I still get nervous whenever I start cutting, and spend a lot of time rearranging the pattern pieces on the fabric!

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he sleeve pieces. I ended up shortening them even more.

Once cut, I first attached the lining of the front bodice to the velvet in the center, as this is where the bodice will open. Once I got this right (after 3 tries, as my velvet stretched differently than my lining and the machine pulled terribly…), I stitched the velvet and lining together at the other edges to avoid any more slipping of fabrics. Next, I pinned and sewed the darts.

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The front panel, pinning the darts

Next up was stitching the back and side pieces together and pressing open the seams.

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The back and side panels put together

I then sewed the front and back pieces together, cut the boning and sewed on the boning channels. I forgot to make pictures here. I used large cable ties as boning.

Final step of construction were the sleeves. I first sewed the under and upper sleeves of both the lining and velvet together, and cut the flares. I knew there was a way to sew these together in such a way that no seam would show, but it took my 30 minutes of staring at the fabric pieces and 3 attempts when pinning to get it right. The second sleeve only took 2 attempts, so I guess I’m getting better at this… At least it worked out!

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Pinning the sleeves together. How do these fit together again?

Finally, after sewing on the sleeves, I pinned on the buttons and fit if they were placed correctly. I changed the placing slightly and sewed them on. I’m so glad I found velvet-covered buttons in the right size! I was afraid I’d have to cover them myself, and as I’ve never done this it would’ve been very time consuming. Luckily, there’s a shop in Utrecht which is completely filled with buttons and lace and trimmings. Whenever I need something specific, I know that if they don’t carry it, it can’t be found. They’ve never let me down so far.

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Pinning the buttons on the front.

So this is where I’m at now. I just have to sew the buttonholes, and I’m currently debating if I should do them on the machine or by hand. I don’t really care if it’s a 100% historically correct (I did all other seams by machine), but I’m afraid they’ll look too sloppy. On the other hand, I’ve never done them by hand before, so I’d need to practice first. After the button holes, it’s time for trimming! I have the most lovely black lace, so I’m looking forward to this.

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