1898 Black Moire Convertible Gown, Part II: Evening Bodice Base


To make the evening bodice for this outfit, I could’ve bought a whole new pattern but decided (after some conversation with Heather from Truly Victorian at Costume College last year) to modify my Truly Victorian 442 ballgown bodice, which is dated to 1860. I’d used it for my embroidered ballgown before and knew that it fit me well through the torso, so it was a good starting point.

I wanted to lengthen the bodice slightly at the sides to flare out just a bit over the hip, and also change the neckline to bring it up onto the shoulder, because I’d read that an on-shoulder neckline was correct for the period.

I had a whole post written out about how I adjusted the off-shoulder neckline to be on-shoulder instead, then cut out a squared-off neckline to complement the puffed sleeves I had planned– I even made the whole bodice and bound off the neckline, basted in the sleeves, and took pictures for this post!

And then I saw a fashion plate from 1899 with an off-shoulder neckline and instantly started picturing how my gown would look better with a wider shoulder to make my waist look smaller in comparison. I spent an afternoon trying to convince myself that my (already finished) bodice was just fine, but eventually I caved and decided to fix it. In other words, to undo almost all of my pattern modification and hard work. (sigh)

Because I was definitely *not* willing to re-cut and re-sew the entire bodice, I reminded myself that PIECING IS PERIOD and cut out just the top parts of the pattern pieces from the original pattern. I pinned the new pieces to the top of the bodice so the original lines matched up, then topstitched them together by hand– it was easier than trying to stitch things right-sides together, and besides the seam will be covered by embellishment later.


The bodice is underlined in plain white cotton broadcloth, but I opted to skip a regular bodice lining entirely since I don’t care about exposed seams on the inside.


Rather than following the pattern’s instructions for closures, I turned the left edge in by about 3/4″ and the right edge in by 1/2″, whipstitching them to the interlining. I added black hooks and bars (about 1 1/4″ apart) to close the back.

I boned the darts and side seams with synthetic whalebone, and I’ve ordered spiral steel for the curved back seams. I finished the bottom and neckline edges with black single-fold bias tape turned to the inside– I’ve deliberately left the boning casings out of the binding, so that I won’t have to remove the binding if I ever want to remove the bones (well, except for the ones in the darts) or otherwise change the casings.

As I did with my embroidered 1860s ballgown bodice, I ran a length of ribbon through the bias binding of the neckline, to use as a drawstring to ensure that the neckline fits snugly around the shoulders. Because this neckline overlaps rather than abuts, I stitched a tiny eyelet into the bias binding on the overlapping side to make it work a little better, kind of like I’ve done on my Regency gowns, but only on one side.




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