For my first dress, I decided to make an early bustle dress. I looked at many fashion plates, as well as paintings and photographs. My main inspiration comes from fashion plates (my favorite magazine is Le Monde Elégant- their plates are gorgeous. I have a bunch of prints saved on my Pinterest board). My general sense of style is feminine and cute, formal, and the fancier the better.
To be practical, I decided I wanted to make a dress with two bodices- a day bodice and an evening (ballgown) bodice. This was common practice in the past to maximize the economy of a dress, allowing it to be worn on different occasions when strict rules were entrenched in society.
The main fashion plate that my dress is the pink dress from the fashion plate below.
It is pink, has lace, ruffles, a bow in the back and appears to be some sort of day dress (reception dress?).
I decided to base the patterns off Truly Victorian patterns TV108 1870 Trained Skirt,TV400 1871 Day Bodice and the TV416 1875 Ball Gown Basque.
The fabric I chose was a pink silk taffeta flatlined with a cotton organdy. Flatlining is a sewing technique in which two fabrics are stacked and sewn as one fabric. Flatlining the slippery silk made it very easy to sew.
I chose to sew the apron separate from the underskirt to further increase the versatility of the dress.
The underskirt in progress
The “dress form” that the skirt is on is my corset around foam and pillow filling wrapped around a pole on wheels.
Anyway, I made the ballgown bodice first because I figured that it would need less altering of the pattern, because I was not basing it off a fashion plate and I would follow the instructions. The day bodice would need the front altered into a point and I don’t even know what the back is supposed to look like.
The bodice and overskirt in progress, trim merely pinned on
It was around here, when I was trying on the dress, that I felt that it didn’t have the right silhouette. The bustle was too low, and the waist too long (around 1875/1876 the bodice starts to get longer and the bustle smaller). The early bustle era has a higher waistline, and therefore higher bustle than the late bustle period. After going back and looking at more fashion plates and photographs of the era, I realized that it seemed common to either a really short bodice, or have the bodice tucked into the skirt. Tucking in the bodice presented an easy solution to the length, and the bodice could always be revisited later.
A side view of the dress being worn.
As for the bustle, I decided to sew some wires together to make an additional little bustle to make the bustle taller. I didn’t use a pattern for this; I just cut out a half moon shape of fabric, and pinned the wires( 1/4″ steel boning left over from boning the bodice). Additionally, I added ruffles to the back of the mockup of the skirt I had made to make a ruffled petticoat.
extra bustle device
Both of these helped create a better silhouette.
The improved silhouette
This shape is probably less flattering to modern eyes, but was the fashionable shape back in the day.
I have velvet ribbon that I ordered online (the quality was a little disappointing) that I plan to edge with a thin lace before sewing on vertically on the overskirt. I also plan to add pleating to the bottom edge of the underskirt. I am still unsure of what the design will be in the back; I think I will add the bow featured in the fashion plate but am unsure of what else to do.
The trimming I plan for the bottom, maybe without the flowers
This blog is now caught up to myself sewing, so anything here on out will be done as I progress sewing.