1885 Velvet Evening Gown (Part II)

Part I – Undergarments

Part II – Skirt, Bodice, and Bustle

Part III – Mantle and Accessories

This was a very ambitious project. I’d recently fallen in love with the Late Bustle era, and was invited to be part of a group of the same, inspired by Game of Thrones. (Which I’m not a huge fan of, but hey, anything to make fancy gowns…)

I zeroed in on three Worth dresses, and decided to go for the character Melisandre, as she wears only red.



I armed myself with three Truly Victorian patterns and one Black Snail Patterns:

TV416 – 1875 Ball Gown Basque (heavily modified)
TV361 – 1880s Butterfly Detachable Train
TV292 – 1893 Bell Skirt (this was a bad decision – it’s not made to go over a bustle!)
Victorian Underwear Sewing Pattern #1115 (this includes a trained petticoat and traveling bustle)


I started with the lining, because cutting into that velvet terrified me. It went together like a dream and moved wonderfully! I was very excited after this step.

The fabric is a shot poly taffeta. I found myself wishing several times in the ensuing months that I had just made the whole gown out of this…

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About two weeks later I finally picked up the velvet and went at it.

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The velvet I used is pretty drapey (and slippery…), so it ended up not making much of an impact alone. I went on a research binge and ended up ordering some 3″ horsehair to sew to the lining.
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A VAST improvement. Now it drapes and folds exactly like extant gowns!
Some pleating detail….

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I was also happy with how smoothly it lay on my waist.

So, one big hurdle done! Woo-hoo! Time to take cute pictures, and nobody will know that the top half is missing:

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I actually made the bustle last out of everything. The idea of working with that much velvet was awful.

This was a twelve hour project, but only because I spent four hours of that time staring angrily at fabric, hoping that it would grow hands and sew itself. (It didn’t.)

You can tell that I really enjoyed this part.


The instructions for the butt-bow are to hook it over the tail of the bodice, but I didn’t particularly want to do that, so I just hooked it to itself and let the bodice tail sit on top. (Which is what one of those Worth gowns does, so I felt fine about doing it that way.)

I don’t have any other pictures because the pattern for this is basically just a big rectangle – there wasn’t any point. And I was mad at everything.


And the fun part! (Was it fun? Not really. Ah, well.)

Truly Victorian bodices come with a rather unique sizing system, so I measured all my bits and went with the pieces they recommended. It did not work at all. Seriously – four inches too big. I’m not really sure what was up with that, because I double and triple-checked my work, but next time I’m just cutting a straight size.

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I brought the bodice back home with me for winter break and had a local friend help to fit it properly on me. (There was no hope of me doing that by myself.) She gave me some more motivation, and I started flatlining the velvet to some white cotton denim.

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The combo of denim and velvet ended up making the seams VERY thick, even after whipstitching them down. I had to remove and recut my back panels to add an inch so that everything would close. What a day…

Time to sew the eyelets! I started with a proper eyelet stitch but it looked terrible, so I whipstitched them instead. I made sure to concentrate them by the waist, and I used spiral lacing thanks to this Worth dress:

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(I modeled the entire back of my gown on this one, actually.)

Pinned and laced with some satin ribbon (eventually trashed because it was so thick that it didn’t look good)
The tail of my bodice ended up a lot more square than I wanted, but I’m still not sure how I was supposed to turn that much velvet and denim into a point….

26909814_10214855899407248_2145765023_o 26941338_10214855899167242_926988384_o

I was so psyched to see these photos. So good.

Also, I posted them to one of the FB groups with thanks (they had helped me with a few questions months earlier) and got so many compliments that I was just blown away. Without any more ornamentation, this dress really does resemble the very first gown that I had gotten it into my mind to make. (Though my seams weren’t yet turned under, so the bodice is a bit higher.)

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Anyway. Ornamentation. I tried the bodice on once I’d turned the edges under, to plot out where I needed the details…

So Smooth!

…and then handstitched all of the drapery down. Finicky work. Never want to do it again.

This served the purpose of widening the bust area. It doesn’t look perfect, but it’s close to what I was going for. I was aiming for this, which somehow looks more bosomy even though it’s pretty similar….
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I used the little ribbon ties from that reference as well, but I positioned them on top of the shoulders.
And that’s the dress done! On to bigger and better things…

Part III – Mantle and Accessories

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