I’ve already mentioned my propensity towards urging my friends to attend historical costume events with me, so it should be no surprise that for an upcoming Victorian ball I managed to convince a friend to let me outfit her in something appropriate– in this case, an altered modern ballgown (of course).
Hello, all! So Halloween is approaching, and while I know I’ve already posted about the Great Hat Project, I thought I’d mention that there are a still few hats left for sale in my Etsy shop! (there are a even a few that aren’t listed, so if you’re interested just shoot me a message and I’ll find pictures of the unlisted ones for you). Here are some examples of what I’ve got in the shop!
These are on major sale right now, because I’m looking to make space in my closet for more projects. Here’s hoping that someone out there can give them a good home!
And now back to your regularly scheduled programming…
To really get the elegant silhouette of an 1890s ballgown I needed a good petticoat to go under the skirt. Just like the skirt, it would be relatively narrow at the top with a really wide hem for maximum swishiness. I made it out of 5 yards of white polyester taffeta.
Originally I’d planned on making the gown from scratch using some Truly Victorian patterns, but when I realized that the event was only a month away I nixed that idea as too difficult. Instead, as I’ve so often done before, I turned to eBay to locate an appropriate pre-existing dress that I could modify. Or rather, dresses (plural) because unless I found an absolutely perfect gown I was going to need some serious extra fabric to make the design work.
Luckily, I hit the jackpot with two identical dusty lilac gowns that had most of the required elements: boned bodice with center-pointed waist, faux two-piece design so I could completely separate the bodice from the skirt, and lots and lots of skirt fabric to work with. The spaghetti straps were a problem, but I figured that I could add shoulder straps and raise the back of the dress to an appropriate height, and rely on neckline decoration to disguise the joins.
Going off momentarily in a different direction, I also started on a 1920s-style day dress for yet another vintage-themed event I’m attending this month…
I admit it– I’ve never really been a fan of the standard 1920s silhouette. It basically makes everyone look shapeless and dumpy– I mean, if even the ladies of Downton Abbey look like they’re wearing gussied-up hospital gowns, what chance do the rest of us have? But when I got the chance to attend a 1920s lawn party I figured I may as well give the look a shot– after all, the columnar silhouette was popular for years, it couldn’t be all bad!
I even had the beginnings of a day dress in my fabric stash already– some vintage pre-embroidered white cotton that had originally been set up to make a Victorian or Edwardian blouse out of. I couldn’t be sure of the precise time period, but the padded satin stitch embroidery just screamed “turn of the century” to me. I found it on eBay and bought it for a song, and it was just long enough to make a knee-length dress out of! (photo darkened so you can see the embroidery pattern)
I decided against using the embroidered neckline as an actual neckline– it was too wide and drew too much attention to the bust– so I turned the whole thing upside down and decided to use it as a hem decoration. There were also some smaller areas of embroidery that I could use to decorate other parts of the dress. I sketched out my basic design, planning on using a variation of the One-Hour Dress I’d seen online.
I bought some vintage insertion trim to add some interest to the body of the dress– it has an area of central embroidery and cutwork, with entredeux on either side. What is entredeux, you may ask? It’s basically an embroidered ladder-like trim, often inserted between fabrics to make a decorative line of openwork. It helps make the embroidered insertion look more deliberate, in my opinion, and less as if it was just pieced in.
So, let’s see how it works out!
The period spanning the late 1890s and early 1900s has always been my favorite when it comes to evening wear. You’ve got the slim waist, slightly fitted hips, and the elegant swoosh to the bottom of the skirt, which all combine for a breathtaking silhouette. Plus, you’ve got gorgeous fabrics and trimming, which can run the gamut from embroidery to lace to faux flowers to beading… the possibilities are endless. Which is why, when I heard about a Victorian-themed dance weekend in my area, I knew I’d have to make something for it.
I browsed through Pinterest looking for inspiration, concluding (as I’d always known I would) that the spectacular gowns by Charles Frederick Worth were what I’d eventually end up mimicking. Just look at the gorgeousness!
After I’d finished drooling, I decided that I’d want to do some kind of embroidered embellishment to go down the front of the entire gown, much like the butterflies you see above. And because I always have to make things difficult for myself, I eschewed the idea of embroidered roses (which I could’ve done using pre-made appliques) and decided on wisteria. I was really inspired by this Japanese fabric:
So, the gown will be purple, with trailing wisteria blossoms and leaves, possibly some flowing water lines at the hem. Simple, right? Famous last words…
When designing this dress in my head I knew I wouldn’t be content to just let it be plain and unadorned– there would have to be some detailing somewhere. Review of fashion plates and images of antique gowns indicated that elaborate detailing around the hem was more prevalent during the 1815-1820 period, which was a little later than I was going for (waistlines were also starting to get lower, which did not fit my main dress pattern), but I figured it was close enough. I looked around for some ideas for trimming, and came across this fantastic page explaining how to hand-sew various types of pleated and gathered trim.
The trims on the page probably aren’t quite period-accurate, but since I knew that similar trim was used pre-Regency in the 1700s, and since fancy trims of all kinds were popular during the later Regency period, I felt safe using it on my dress.