Inspiration – Victorian summer dresses

It’s been unusually warm and dry here in the Netherlands (and in most of Europe, I believe). That’s gotten me thinking of light, summer style dresses. I don’t have any at the moment, all of mine are either silk, velvet or wool. So one of these might have to go onto the (long) list of things I want to make one day…

Last year I did a post on summer dresses of the period just before the Victorian age, so for this post, let’s look at some Victorian examples!

These dresses are all made of very light cotton. They protect the skin from the sun, and the white is relatively cool. The cotton is rather thin, and breathes well. Of course, a fashionable lady would still seek out the shade, and wear a bonnet and parasol as well to protect from the sun.

Some crinoline styles. In this era, flowers on white seem tho have been quite popular!



I particularly like the pin-tucks on this bodice.



Some nice stripy contrast!

Day dress, late 1860′s From the John Bright Historic Costume Collection


PRINTED DIMITY DAY DRESS, 1860s 1-piece, white, windowpane-woven w/ small red flower print, self fabric belt, trained skirt.


Organza dress ca. 1865. Bodice has muslin foundation trimmed in needlelace accented with bows. Time Travelers Estate Sales


Some solid white, as we’re moving into the bustle era.

Dress, ca. 1870


But dots are nice too!

Day dress, American (attrib.), ca. 1873-77. White cotton printed with red circles. Bodice: fitted over hips, ruffled edge, long sleeves. Skirt: bustle with white cotton and red trim. Overskirt: as draped apron. Kent State Univ. Museum

Two afternoon dresses in printed cotton, ca. 1875. Part of the Jacoba de Jonge collection, which is now owned by the Mode Museum in Antwerp. Filep Motwary blog


And, to finish, two more solid white dresses from the 1880’s this time

Dress, European, ca. 1885. Cotton plain weave with cotton cutwork embroidery (broderie anglaise) & cotton needle lace. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Rebecca Thelin/Flickr, and thecourtesanblue/Flickr

Dress ca. 1885 via The Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Refashioned hoop

Because I recently made a new 1860’s hoop, I no longer needed the old one. The main problem with the old one was that it was made out of plastic piping and ducttape. The piping was sewn onto the vertical supports with little pieces of ribbon, but they frayed terribly and so the hoops kept falling loose of the vertical supports. Moreover, to keep them in the right location horizontally, I attached the hoops to the ribbons with ducttape. This wasn’t very sturdy either. Although this meant it was a terrible elliptical hoop, the piping itself was quite sturdy, and I felt like just throwing it out would be a shame. So I took it all apart, and fashioned it into a regular 1850’s bell shape!

For anyone interested in the process, I strongly recommend the tutorial by the Dreamstress. I made my hoop in a similar way.

I first designed the hoop to check for the desired hoop sizes. I drew a picture of the shape, checked for scale and looked at the diameter of the hoops and accordingly calculated the circumference of the hoop. As turned out I had one hoop less than I drew in, so I shifted all the hoops down and didn’t use the last one.


One of the main problems with the old hoop were the vertical ribbons, so this time I decided to do it properly and used a double ribbon for each support. I put a hoop every 13 cm, and sewed the ribbons together at those points to create the supports for the hoops.

I then attached the hoops to the vertical supports with rope. It’s not very pretty, but as I couldn’t sew through my hoops, this was the best way. My piping has ridges, which stop the rope from slipping, so it works fine. I used the same method to clasp the hoops together in the front, and further supported it with a bit of ducttape.



I used the waist-band from the old hoop, and voila! It’s no beauty, but it works!



Now I just need a 1850’s petticoat and dress. Nothing planned yet, but who knows.

For now I’ve just tried the hoop with one of my long non-historical skirts. It’s quite pretty this way! I did have to put another two layers underneath to make sure the first hoop didn’t show too much, so I’ll definitely need at least one petticoat.



Hoop skirt finished

It’s done! My new elliptical 1860’s hoop skirt. Some info:

Pattern: Truly Victorian 103

Fabric: White cotton

Notions: Loads of bias-tape for the bone casing, white tapes for the vertical support, 11mm steel hoop boning, 8 end-caps for the half-circle hoops and heat shrink to clasp the bones together.

The hoop is not entirely even, but close enough that it doesn’t matter with a petticoat over it. It is also similar enough to my previous hoop skirt to still fit with the petticoat and skirt I made before. It feels a lot sturdier than my previous hoop, and I’m very happy with it. I’m making my previous elliptical hoop into a 1850’s round hoop, but progress on that will follow later.



The side view. Here it’s still knotted together at the waist, but by this point I’ve a clasp in place to reduce the bulk a bit. The tapes holding the half-hoops together behind the bum and legs also don’t work quite as well on the mannequin as on me, as it doesn’t have legs. The ‘gap’ between hoop four and five isn’t as obvious when I’m wearing it.





A close-up of the half-wiring at the back.






Another perspective.





And the back view.



With petticoat and skirt. The skirt is slightly long on the sides, but I’m confident that will be less when I wear it, as the mannequin was rather low and the hoop stands out a bit more towards the back on me.