So… you know how I said that I’d sourced all of my fabrics, and had picked out a dusty pink cotton I already had in my stash to use for part of the bodice of this dress? Well, I lied. Not so much lied as had second thoughts. And third thoughts. The pink was fine next to the striped fabric, but the velvet I wanted to use for the lapels was so deep and saturated that it just made the pink fabric look washed out and plain. The tough part was that I didn’t know what else to use– I didn’t want another patterned fabric that might clash with the stripes, but I hadn’t been able to find any other solid cottons that matched well. I couldn’t use taffeta or jacquard, because that wouldn’t work with the cotton main fabric– too fancy. I could always choose white, but that seemed like giving up.
Finally, I came across a line of fabrics called “peppered cottons” by Studio E Fabrics. They’re shot cottons– fabrics with the warp and weft threads in different colors so they change color at different angles– and they came in some lovely shades. I ended up picking “Fuchsia,” which has plum-colored threads in one direction and hot pink in the other.
It works as a nice “bridge” between the cooler-toned squirrel stripe and the warmer-toned velvet. I also used it as the reverse side of the velvet collar and cuffs.
Anyway, once I had the fabric issue resolved, I was able to use my revised pattern to cut out the real bodice– I was able to use my new rotary cutter and cutting mat, which made the process so much faster! In order to get the stripes to be symmetrical I cut out my striped fabric one piece at a time, mirroring the somewhat see-through lining fabric to get the placement just right.
I will note that I made a tactical error in laying out my front bodice pieces– I should’ve taken note of the dart placement to ensure that the darker narrow stripes weren’t going to get swallowed up by the darts. If I’d had the darts take up the wider, lighter areas between the stripes, the design would’ve had a flattering taper at the waist– as it is, the stripes disappear into both darts, leaving a large stripeless area that doesn’t look quite as nice. Sadly, I didn’t realize this until I’d actually assembled the bodice, which made it far too late to fix.
With my skirts basically finished, it was time to start work on the bodice. I specifically planned to make it before pleating up my trim for the skirts, since trim can be pieced together and fudged a bit, whereas the bodice needed to be perfect (and stripe-matched). Anyway, I used Truly Victorian 466, the Alexandra Bodice, and I admit that at first glance it looked pretty daunting. So many pieces! Obviously, I started with a mockup.
My first try wasn’t awful, but it needed some work:
The sleeves were too far off the shoulder and I think the back of the bodice was just a touch too long, which made the whole back wrinkle oddly. I took some width out of the shoulders, and shortened the bodice at the shoulder seam because it was loose in the upper chest and back. Plus, once I had all of my skirts on the added bulk at the front required some extra room over the tummy, which I achieved by adding a little extra flare to the bottom of the side pieces. Oh, and the sleeves were far too loose for my arms, so I took out a whole inch of width all the way down the back seam, and shaved off some of the curve at the elbow because it pooched weirdly when my arms were straight. So basically I changed everything. 😉
I was pretty excited to get started on the overskirt for this dress– the draped front and puffiness of the back was what really made the “Bustle Era” look for me. I used Truly Victorian 265, the August Overskirt, and while I did have to fiddle with it before it looked right to me, it turned out great.
I cut out my fabric and stitched up the front panel, then pleated the sides according to the directions and pinned it to my dress form over the underskirt. Immediately I knew I was going to have an issue– the swags just weren’t holding their shape, instead looking rather droopy and making the whole front a lot longer than I’d expected. Before cutting anything off, though, I decided to try a few fixes.
I know it’s been ages since I finished this dress, but then I had to make a hat to go with it, and then I had to find a time to put on the whole outfit and get decent photos, which always takes forever. In any event, I finally got around to it one lovely September afternoon, pinning my hair into a makeshift Edwardian updo and grabbing an old edition of Pride and Prejudice for a prop. I wore my adapted Edwardian strappy shoes, though they weren’t particularly visible in most of the shots due to my poses.
I admit that I probably relied a bit too much on the book to pose with (I have soooo many pictures with me “reading”)– for some reason I just can’t come up with interesting poses that don’t look forced, and for this particular outfit I wanted to show off the columnar lines and button details, which constrained my angles a bit. But I had fun, and managed to get pictures taken before the last of our summer flowers wilted, so I’m counting it as a win!
Overall, I love this outfit– it’s so cool and comfortable, and perfect for a casual picnic or afternoon event. Now I just need to find one to attend!
Also, look how well the picture converts to black and white! Love this one…
I did some Pinterest searching to find out what shape hats would be worn with the kind of streamlined afternoon dress I already had– there were a lot of different styles, but it looked like they were often reasonably wide, with some decent volume in the crown to give them some height and drama.
First, I sewed up the underskirt, which is Truly Victorian 261. I did the plain back rather than the bouffant back, since I’ll be putting an overskirt on it anyway.
Like the petticoat, I lengthened the pattern for this one a bit– the finished skirt length was originally supposed to be 40″, and my actual finished length was 43″ including the height of the 1″ waistband. Also like the petticoat, this one came together really easily– it’s just rectangles and slightly shaped trapezoids, and the notches match up to make everything easy.
Because I had extra length from my patterning I ended up making the hem just a little bit deeper than called for– more like 1.5″ instead of 1″ (after the initial 1/2″ turnover). The curved hem of the back panel made the hem a little difficult, but I managed with judicious pinning. For some reason I decided to hand-stitch the hem, even though it’s going to be completely hidden by ruffles later on… I guess this will make it easier to re-hem if it gets dirty or ends up being too short or too long.
No ruffles yet– I want to finish up the main ensemble pieces so I know how much extra fabric I have to make my pleated trim, plus I need to make a pleater board.
Anyway, I’m very happy with it, and I can tell this pattern will make a great base for future bustle dresses. I’m tempted to add a bustle pad on top of the phantom bustle for a little extra oomph, but I’ll have to see how it looks with the overskirt on top before I make any decisions on that.
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:
I have a new project in the works– a bustle dress! Or more accurately, I’ve realized that I have at least three bustle dresses planned for the hypothetical future, and it’s about time I finally get off my butt and start making the appropriate underpinnings! Anyway, I already have a “phantom bustle,” which I made at Costume College a few years back, accompanied by many giggles and jokes about my “spring-loaded butt”.
Because of the way the dress was put together, I had to add most of the fussy details before actually constructing the dress (hence my “details” post coming first). Once I had the buttonholes and piping in, it was time to actually sew everything together.
The bodice is a basic kimono-sleeve, which I generally cut out in the same way as my pale peach Edwardian afternoon dress. When stitching it together, I left one side seam open for later insertion of the invisible zipper.
Above is a picture of the bodice piece before I attached the lower section of the back with the piped seam and buttonholes. I will note that while the waist is cut straight across here, after several tries I ended up curving it upwards at the sides so I could cut the back shorter and avoid excess blousing in the back. I added a 1″ waistband to the bodice, just in case I ever wanted to wear the dress without the belt. Due to the fabric layout I had to make the waistband out of two strips of fabric joined in the middle, and annoyingly (as you’ll see in the closeup below), I realized later that I’d cut the waistband so that the stripes were offset by one when you compared the front half to the back half. A tiny error, but I noticed.
While putting together this dress, I had a lot of fun putting in small, fiddly details that I think make it look more authentic. Many of them had to be planned and inserted before the dress was actually constructed, so I figured I’d post about them first.
For example, I added piping to the seams between the striped and blue fabrics– I made it out of the extra fabric I cut out of the sides, and because I’m insane I cut it on the bias, requiring me to piece together a few dozen short sections of fabric to get a long enough strip to make piping. (yes, I know it’s normal to make bias piping, but since this piping was only used in straight lines it really wasn’t necessary)
I also added a wholly unnecessary seam across the back of the bodice, which I piped before adding a row of fabric-covered buttons (size 36, if you’re curious) to it, just for fun. I stitched buttonholes, too, which are barely visible under the sewn-on buttons but which add to the illusion of a complicated Edwardian closure. I’m probably going to have to improve my posture now to avoid leaning back in a chair and hurting my back on those shank-back buttons…