1880s Squirrel Dress, Part I- Fabric and Patterns

So this is my sketch for my new bustle gown project.

Looks pretty normal, right? But yes, you read the title right– it’s an 1880s Squirrel Dress. A bustle gown made of the most fabulous cotton print I’ve ever seen– at first glance it’s just an abstract floral-ish stripe, but take a closer look, and:

Blend - Garden of Delights - Squirrel Stripe - Green - Brooklyn Fabric  Company

Squirrels!!!!

The print is from a manufacturer called Blend, and it’s from the “Garden of Delights” collection. The specific pattern is “Squirrel Stripe,” and comes in a few different colorways, but this one was my favorite. I think it’s out of production now, unfortunately, but if you’re lucky you may find some online or at a local store!

Anyway, I knew as soon as I saw it that I wanted to make a bustle gown out of it. I bought 12 yards (9 from one retailer and then, once I panicked and realized that I’d need more but that it had sold out in the meantime, 3 from another one), and matched it to a fabric in my stash left over from my 1910 afternoon dress, plus an extra length of magenta microvelvet from Fabric Wholesale Direct, which was gorgeously saturated in color and really soft to the touch.

Anyway, for this dress I’ll be using all Truly Victorian patterns– the TV261 Four-Gore Underskirt, the TV365 August Overskirt, and the TV466 Alexandra Bodice. I picked this particular underskirt since my bustle isn’t gigantic and I didn’t think I needed a fuller skirt to go over it. The overskirt has the draped apron front that I like the look of, and doesn’t look too complicated generally– important since I really want to show off the fabric on this dress, and a more elaborate overskirt might obscure the print. As for the bodice, I just think it’s my favorite of the ones on the site– I always liked the look of tailored lapels, and I think the buttoned-up style will contrast nicely with the fun fabric.

I’ve decided to trim the skirt with pleats, rather than ruffles, so that’ll be an adventure in and of itself– I’ve got to make a pleater board! And I still need to find some appropriate buttons– hopefully I can locate some featuring acorns or leaves (which no one will notice but which I’ll get a kick out of anyway).

Can’t wait to get started!

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