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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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)

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Template and chalk marks.

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Done!

 

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.

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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!

1870s Day/dinner Bodice

After I finished my 1870’s ballgown, I started thinking on making a day bodice to go with it. A fair number of existent dresses come with a bodice for day and one for evening. This way you basically have two dresses for different occasions, but only need one skirt! As skirts take up a lot of fabric, they would also have costed quite a lot. Having two bodices means you get more use out of it. For me, making my own dresses, it means I only need to make an extra bodice to open up a whole array of occasions to wear the skirts.

An existent example of day/dinner/evening dress combinations.

 

My design for the bodice was based around a couple of things. First, I knew I wanted a low, square neckline. These are more for dinner, or visiting dresses than for outside walking. However, you can add a gilet or chemisette to fill in the neckline and still wear it outside (as shown in the first existent dress of this post). I like versatility, so wanted to go this route. Because I owned the Truly Victorian 400 pattern, that decided the shape of the front, and I also used the peplum back.

This resulted in the base bodice! I flatlined the silk in white cotton first. Then I sewed the main seams and the darts. That’s where it went slightly wrong, because I hadn’t pinned the darts properly. After sewing, it became apparent that the silk had shifted and not all fabric was caught in te darts as should be. So, out came the seam ripper, and I took them out again. To prevent this from happening again, I first basted the darts this time. This fixed the problem. You can see how far off I was in this picture, the old puncture marks are where the first dart was, while the basting is a couple of mm inside the line of where it should be…

After getting this fixed, I could put in the sleeves and finish all the edges. The center front is finished by folding over the silk to the inside, the top and bottom I finished with bias binding. This was a first for me, before I always turned over the outer fabric to the inside. However, I’ll say that the bias facing is definitely easier, as it goes along the curves way better, so I’ll probably be doing this in the future!

The finished plain bodice:

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And an inside view. All the seams are tacked in place to prevent fraying.

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For trim, I had some lace left I’d used on the over skirt. I was further inspired by this dress:

Wedding dress, English, ca. 1869-70. Two pieces. Blue silk grosgrain with white lace trimming around edge of bodice and cuffs.:

 

I really love the cuffs, which seem to be fake, made out of trim only. I ended up making my fabric trim slighlty narrower, but it was made using a similar technique. I tried out something new for this trim, so the seams on the end of the fabric wouldn’t show. Don’t know if this is period, but it does give a nice result! It is best used for narrow trim though, as it’ll eat fabric when you make it very wide.

I started cutting strips of fabric, a little over 2x as wide as my eventual trim would need to be. I wanted 3cm wide trim, so I cut 7cm strips. I then folded the strip and hemmed the edge with a narrow hem. The next step was to iron the strip flat, so that the seam was in the center. I then sewed gathers along the top and bottom edge of the strip. And the final step is to gather the strip both top and bottom!

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This trim still has a raw edge on the back, but as I’d be sewing it to the dress both top and bottom, this didn’t matter overly much. You could, in theory, turn the strip inside out before ironing and gathering. Mine were rather narrow though, so it would’ve been a bit of a pain and so I didn’t bother.

With the trim made, it was time to plan where to put it! I knew I wanted the cuffs and lace and trim around the neckline. Ideally also around the bottom, but I didn’t know if I’d have enough lace for that. I pinned the cuffs and neckline first, to see what was left.

In the end, I didn’t have enough lace to fully go around the bottom. I did really want it there as well though, if only to visually separate the bodice from the same-colored overskirt. So I ended up cutting the lace in half horizontally, and stitching the fabric trim on top to hide the edge. This makes for slighly more narrow lace at the bottom, but it worked! After pinning down everything, I spent a full day stitching it all down top and bottom. My fingers were rather sore afterwards from stitching through all those layers of densly woven silk. The result is definitely worth it though!

To finish the bodice, I covered some buttons with black silk I had a little of. The bodice closes with hooks and eyes, so the buttons are just there for visual interest. They do really add a nice touch I think!

Finished:

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And some detail shots:

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Let’s hope it stays dry this weekend, because there’s an event I’d love to wear this to. Pictures with the whole day-version of the dress will follow when that happens!

Of ballgowns and trains

The early 1870’s fashion absolutely loved its trained gowns. I followed that when designing the train for my own ball gown, I knew I really wanted to have one.

foto van Atelier Nostalgia.

My train

 

Although practical and train-less dresses do exist they are a lot more difficult to find than their trained counterparts. Small trains were even worn for morning wear, and there’s plenty examples of walking dressed (obviously meant to wear out of the house), still with a small train. And you can be sure those wouldn’t always only be worn on perfectly clean pavements!

Just to avoid those images which might have the label ‘walking dress’ stuck to them without provenance, an example with the text next to the fashion plate. A walking dress for winter, you can be sure that train didn’t keep clean!

Winter walking dress and bag c. 1874:

 

You can imagine that if an informal morning dress has a train, that an evening dress or ball gown would practically always be trained. For a formal event, or attending the opera that’d be fine, but for a ball one needs to be able to dance. In a waltz, that includes being able to step backwards without tripping over your dress.

This train is stunning, but there’s no way I’d be able to waltz in this as it is.

Met Museum

 

So two questions arise: how do you keep your train clean, and how do you avoid stepping on it? Both questions are now rather relevant for me, as I’m wearing my 1870s ballgown to a ball this May, and I definitely want to dance!

The first answer to keeping your train clean, is to add a balayeuse. Or, in English, a dust ruffler. A balayeuse is basically a separate piece of fabric, attached to the underside of the train. It makes sure the train fabric itself doesn’t touch the floor, and it gets dirty instead. The idea is that it’s detachable, either by buttons or just unpicking some stitches, so you can wash the balayeuse without having to wash your train.

This image is from the late 1870’s, but it shows the general idea. A separate panel attaches to the underside of the train. This one seems to have a lace layer ‘on top’ between the balayeuse and the floor.

Tygodnik Mód 1877.: Trains' detachable balayeuse.:

 

Not all balayeuses were totally practical, especially for evening dresses they could be made of layers of lace, peeking out underneath the hem. After all, your ballgown is generally only worn inside, so it wouldn’t get quite as dirty as outside.

So that takes care of the dirt, but what about the dancing?

First thing to keep in mind is that not all evening occasions would be balls, so it wasn’t always necessary for an evening gown to be fit for dancing. However, if it needed to be, the practical solution was to simply bustle up the train!

Now, annoyingly, I couldn’t actually find period images of the same dress (either fashion plate or existant) with either a long train or a bustled up one. I’m pretty sure they did this though, so if anyone has a source I’d love to know!

I rather suspect this dress though, but alas, only one photo I know of exists…

Gown, 1874, Charles Frederick Worth, Medium: purple silk faille and is trimmed with silk lace, silk fringe, and velvet bows:

Worth dress, Kyoto fashion institute

 

Aside from bustling up the whole train, one could also use a ‘loop’ to hold it up while dancing. I found this wonderful image showing the process.

SAGE GREEN BUSTLE EVENING DRESS, 1880s 2-piece silk faille, red velvet panels, ecru embroidered lace trim:

Sold by Augusta Auctions

 

So, back to my own gown! In the end, I decided to make both a balayeuse and a method to bustle up my train. The way I ended up bustling it it still drags just a little bit, so the balayeuse protects the edge on the ground.

The balayeuse I made is rather simple, I just traced the part which was on the ground in white cotton, and then made ruffled strips of pinked fabric to stitch onto it in half circles. Credit for the method goes to Prior Attire, who has a tutorial here.

foto van Atelier Nostalgia.

 

It attaches to the train with buttons. The button holes are on the balayeuse, the buttons on the underside on the train. (Obviously, as otherwise there’d be holes in my train).

To bustle up the train I played around with the fabric a bit. In the end, I attached two small strips with button holes to the sides of the train. These attach to a button at the sides of my overskirt. Since my train is attached to the overskirt in the first place, this is a good way to pull up the sides. For the center I sewed a strip of cotton tape to the middle with button holes. I then sewed buttons to the train, spaced wider than the holes in the strip. This way the train bustles up evenly in the center.

The proper look:

foto van Atelier Nostalgia.

 

And because I love inside-out views, one of the train. Left two are bustled up, right is let down. That weird ‘swag’ on the side is hidden by the overskirt when worn right.

foto van Atelier Nostalgia.

 

 

Bustle Skirts

Since my last post on my 1870’s dress, I’ve continued working on the skirts. In total the skirt consists of 3 garments, an underskirt, overskirt and separate train. The separate train isn’t really a typical thing for the 1870’s, most of the time the underskirt would be trained and could be bustled up. I wanted to be able to remove it completely though, so I decided on a separate train.

The underskirt was made with the Truly Victorian pattern TV201.

TV201 - 1870s Underskirt

It was a great pattern, very easy to put together. My only note would be to check the length you need before you cut. I ended up doing a white cotton hem facing so I only needed about 1 cm of skirt fabric to do the hem, but I also didn’t really have much more! I consider myself short, but I have to remember that’s by Dutch standards (I’m 1,67m). So if you’re average or taller, check if you don’t need to cut extra length on this pattern.

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The hem facing on the underskirt. It was machine-sewn to the bottom and finished by hand at the top.

Also, this pattern has a pocket option! To make it a bit more sturdy I made the main part of the pocket from cotton instead of the silk.

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Pocket from the inside.

From this same pattern, I also made an extra petticoat. Although my bustle has ruffles built in, the weight of the skirts and train warranted an extra layer. The only thing I did different was that my petticoat doesn’t have a pocket and I made ruffles for the petticoat.

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Ruffle

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A rolled hem on all the ruffles.

I made some pictures of my skirt over the bustle, with & without petticoat. These were taken before I trimmed the skirt, and really show the difference.

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With bustle cage underneath

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With bustle & petticoat underneath

 

The basic construction of the overskirt I patterned myself and already blogged about here. The only addition I made was black lace around the edges.

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The train I patterned myself as well. It’s basically a rectangle with a curved end, pleated on the top side to lay smoothly over the bustle.

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First stage of patterning, old sheets!

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The eventual pattern on paper. Every square is 5cm.

I didn’t want to add an extra waistband, so I’ll be attaching the train to the overskirt. The overskirt has ties on the inside from the bustle. In these ties I made small buttonholes near the top. The train has buttons at the top to attach it to the overskirt.

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Buttonhole in one of the bustle-up ties on the inside of the overskirt.

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The top of the train, with 3 buttonholes to attach to the ties. In the photo it just lies on top of the underskirt, that’s the waistband you see behind it.

Unlike the base and over-skirt, I did line the train. Because my fabric is super thin and light, I wanted a bit extra weight to make it fall properly. The whole train is lined in white cotton, the silk edges flipped over and sewed down by hand. The very top of the train is made of just white cotton, as this part won’t be seen anyway. It’s hidden beneath the overskirt.

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The finished train from the inside. The lining starts where the silk does on the outside,

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The edge of the train. The silk was turned over twice on top of the cotton lining and sewed down by hand.

 

Next it was time for decoration! I used a very pretty black tule lace as main decoration. The lace was sewn to the train both near the top and at the bottom to make it stay flat. At the top I used black thread to blend with the lace, at the bottom pale yellow so it wouldn’t show if the train happens to flip over a bit. For the skirt it’s only attached at the top.

As the top of the lace is cut tule, I also wanted something to cover the top. I looked at various trimmings and eventually settled on this ruched design. I generally like pleated trims better, but they are very geometrical and in this case a more organic design fitted better with the lace. The added bonus is that this trim is relatively quick to make and takes relatively little fabric. Only about 2 times the finished width instead of 3 as for pleats.

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I made small bits of trim to check whether to do pleats or ruches.

I debated whether I would hem or pink the edges of the trim. Pinking has the advantage of being much quicker and saving bulk, but hemming is more common. I eventually settled on pinking for practical reasons. Most Victorian pinking is shaped in half circles with small triangles. Modern pinking lacks the half circles, especially when using a scissor as I did. But I figured since the trim design leaves the edges slightly curved anyway it’ll barely be noticeable.

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Strips for trim cut with pinking scissors

For making the trim, I first cut strips and sewed them together. Next was measuring and drawing the seam lines. My strips were about 8 cm high, and the triangles have a bottom length of 8 cm as well. After drawing was sewing the gathering stitches. I ended up sewing per 3 lines, not wanting to gather huge pieces with 1 gathering string. Final step was gathering the trim. And, of course, sewing it on.

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Marking triangles. The cutting guide of lined pattern paper came in handy to measure every 8 cm

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Gathering stitches

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The finished trim.

All in all, I sewed on about 10m of lace and 9m of trim (made from 18m of strips) by hand. For anyone who thinks sewing the dress together takes most time, not quite ;). The trim really does make the dress though.

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To finish up this post, some pictures of the different layers while worn! (Apologies for the weirdness of my chemise in the back… It’s not supposed to be that wonky)

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Bustle cage

When I started my 1870’s corset, it was mostly as a patterning exercise. But halfway through the patterning, I decided to start a new project, namely a 1870’s bustle dress! So I decided to fully finish the corset. Of course, I now also needed a bustle cage. I already had the pattern for the Truly Victorian 101 petticoat with wire bustle. It suited very well, as it’s a wire bustle with additional ruffle overlay so you don’t really need an extra petticoat. (Although it never hurts of course)

The pattern went together really well. It’s also remarkably light to wear, and it folds up really well. No problem moving and sitting at all, definitely reccomended.

I forgot to take any in-progress pictures except of the cut fabric.So instead, some images of the finished bustle!

From the front. My only mistake was making the waistband way too long and I didn’t want to unpick it, so I just fold it over till it fits.

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The back. Ruffles galore! I’m getting better at folded hems…

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And of course, the most important part, from the side! Really looking forward to making a dress to go on top of this! A post about the plans is coming soon.

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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).

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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.

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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.