February dress 1876



1876 February ensemble


It all started innocently enough – ‘Historical Sewing’ posted a fashion plate on their timeline – February 1876, from Englishwomen’s Domestic Magazine

1. the inspiration...

I liked it, and pinned it to my Pinterest board, stored away on a wish list of items to make one day – there were already too many other things to be worked on.  Over the last few months I got the fabrics bit by bit, so that everything would be ready for when I eventually decided to go for it – no hurry, no pressure.

But then, due to a sudden change of plans it turned out that we would be attending a Victorian Christmas Market at Stoke Rochford Hall, near Grantham. In itself, noting extraordinary here, until it was pointed out to me that there would be a skating rink on site! That was all I needed to get my imagination going and I immediately saw myself gliding effortlessly across the ice, swathed in that lovely February attire.

The timing was tricky – I had commissions to work on first of all, but I reckoned if I got them sorted out and could have a day to  get most of the work done with the machine, then I could spend Saturday at the market hand finishing the last bits, and Sunday would see me wearing the completed outfit.  Just about doable…

As a matter of fact, I managed to finish the commissions early enough, so had half of Thursday at my disposal – it almost seemed too good to be true, so I embarked upon the project. And it was indeed too good to be true – my new machine threw a wobbler, and as a result it was sent back for servicing/repairs… meaning that I ended up with a brand new semi industrial machine in its place!  So don’t be surprised if you see different machines in the pictures.

I did manage to do all of the machine work on the Friday and took the lot to be hand finished at the event.

Anyway – a step by step account  below, should you wish to recreate the outfit for yourself!



3. materials assembled

Wool (with nap, so limits the direction of cutting) – 6m (5-5.5 would probably do the trick if using plain fabric with no nap)

Black silk for the bodice front insert – 0.5m

Lining – cotton, 5m, two varieties (I used up left over bits)

Fur trim – 12 yards (an Etsy find)

Velvet ribbon, narrow – 25 m

Double sided velvet ribbon, wide – 15m

Bits of black silk velvet for binding,

Buttons, covered with black velvet – 20

Waist stay – cotton tape

Hooks and eyes for the waist stay,

Boning for the bodice and tape to form boning channels


Total cost of the materials –  Fabrics ( wool and  lining) £115, trims, notions etc – £ 130 ( fur trim was a bit pricey… )

The skirt and the overskirt.


4.skirts pattern

In the original the skirt is trained, but since I wanted to use the ensemble for winter sports, a train would probably be a bit of a hindrance– so a walking skirt length was required instead. As such, I simply used one of the patterns that I have been using for my walking bustle-skirts.

The overskirt pattern was a bit of an adventure – given the limited time allowance, I sketched the shape more or less, cut it out, and it sort of worked.  On second thoughts I think I should have made the hem more curved – a suggested improvement is marked on the drawing. Mind you, keeping the shape rectangular makes sewing the ribbon trim rather easier than following curved lines – if you plan the trim, it is easier to change the upper part of the piece – (also marked on the drawing)

The skirt.

  1. Cut out your pieces in top fabric and lining. The skirt will be flatlined, so pin or baste each piece together (front top fabric to front lining) before assembly.
  2. Mark and pin the darts in the front piece. Sew the darts
  3. Assemble – sew the side pieces to the front piece.
  4. Decide where you want the opening to be – centre back, if you are not cutting the back piece on fold, or side back, as I did.
  5. Stitch the back piece(s) at the side panels. Press the seams open, if you can (not advisable on my napped wool – heat flattens the nap and leaves marks  )
  6. Pleat the pack of the skirt so that it matches the length of the waistband.
  7. Place the waistband on the skirt (right sides together), pin and stitch.
5.pleating the skirt

pleating the skirt


7.sewing the waistband on

sewing the waistband on

  1. Grade the seam, reducing the bulk of the pleats, then flip the waistband over and secure it with small stitches (or run the stich on the sewing machine). Since my fabric was quite bulky, I cut the waistband with the selvage – so that I didn’t have to turn it under and create another layer of volume
8. waistband sewn - back view

waistband sewn – back view

9.inside view of the waistband being slipstitched

.inside view of the waistband being slipstitched

  1. Add a button hole and a button.
  2. Place the skirt on the dummy, over the undergarments that you plan to wear. Adjust the hem, marking any corrections. Just to be absolutely sure, try the skirt on – again with the undergarments on, and the boots you will be wearing.
  3. Once you are satisfied with the length all around, finish the hem. You have a few options here – you can bind it; you can fold the hem over, secure it with stitching and then add a tape-over to straighten it (see my previous article on how to make a walking dress ). You can use a facing too. Here, I simply folded the allowance under, basted it and then, on the right side, sewed on the velvet ribbon. A tape stitched to the inside hides the machine stitches and protects the hem too.

10.close up of the hem with the tape stitched on

  1. Finish the interior seams – trim them, making sure the lining seams are shorter. Secure the seam allowances with small stitches, sewing them open, to the lining
11.inside of the kirt - mark the finish of the seams and hem

inside of the kirt – mark the finish of the seams and hem

  1. The skirt is now ready.

12. skirt ready

The overskirt.

The front part.

  1. Cut out the piece in top fabric and lining. Assembly will depend upon the amount of time and the kind of fur available. With ready trim, either hem the piece, stitch the trim on and then add the lining, or, do it all in one go, treating the fur trim like a piping. This can be tricky, but saves time . If you are working using fur trim cut out from a plate, baste the two layers first and then bind them using the fur strip as binding.
13.'piping' the apron piece with the fur trim

‘piping’ the apron piece with the fur trim

  1. Mark and sew the darts

14. sewing the darts

and the front is ready!

15. front piece ready

The back piece.


  1. Mark the position of the ribbon trims, (or use your machine’s guidelines). Sew the 3 rows of ribbon trim.

16. sewing the trim onto the back piece

17. back piece with the trim on

  1. Hem the piece

18. backpiece  heming

  1. Stitch the fur trim onto the hem. Pin the lining and sew it alongside the fur trim.

19. fur tim on, now stitchign the lining

  1. Again, if using fur strips from plates, binding the piece will be easier and less time-consuming.

Pleat the panel and to the desired width and pin it onto the waistband. Pin the front piece onto the waistband – it should overlap at the sides. Try it on a dummy to see if the overlap is sufficient.

Adjust as necessary, and sew the waistband on in the same way as you did the skirt’s waistband


20. waistband inserted, secuing it on the inside  this time by machine

waistband inserted, secuing it on the inside this time by machine

All you need to do now is to finish your overskirt is to add the decoration – but that can wait until you have bodice made, as it is then easier to judge the best position for the bows. Here shown already decorated

21. overskirt decorated with bows and buttons



Pattern – again, I simply adapted my template bodice pattern by making it slightly longer in front, and adding a bit of fullness at panel 2 to mirror the shape on the fashion plate. The back pieces are substantially longer and flare quite dramatically . Neckline was adapted too.

22. bodice pattern

Normally I would have made a mock up, but with the time constraint I decided to risk it – after all I know the pattern fits me well as I have made a few bodices based on it – so in theory it would be fine!  Still, if you have time – do make a mock up…..

  1. Cut out the pieces in top fabric and lining. Pin or baste the wool and lining pieces together – if authenticity is not a priority, you can overlock (serge) the pieces – much easier to work with and will save you hours of hand finishing the seams.

23.tracing the template - you can just about see the lines as i made the piece longer

24. piece complete with the lining pinned securely

25. all pieces cut - 1 side shown


  1. Pin  and sew the front darts

26. sewing the darts

  1. Assemble to bodice – sew the front piece to the side, then add side back (leave the seam from the waist to the hem open between the side-front and side-back panels) and back. Repeat on the other side and lastly, sew the two halves together at the back-centre seam.
  2. Sew the shoulder seams. The mini bodice is now assembled

27. bodice assembled,insides...

  1. Try it on. There is still time to check the fit, and make adjustments. In my case it was evident that the front darts were too short – and the shoulder seam needed taking in.
28. trying the bodice on - the darts are too short - you can see the wrinkling clearly.

trying the bodice on – the darts are too short – you can see the wrinkling clearly.

29. back looking good, though the back seem needs to have waistline lowered by about half inch

back looking good, though the back seem needs to have waistline lowered by about half inch

  1.   Once that was sorted I only needed to reduce the flare in the front panels at the hem – just half an inch  less did the trick
30. darts and shoulder sorted, no horizontal wrinkling!

darts and shoulder sorted, no horizontal wrinkling!

31. taking in the excess fullness

taking in the excess fullness

  1. Once satisfied with the fit, press the seams open (if your fabric allows for it!) and you can start working on the sleeve. I did cut mine with a loose fitted cuff and pinned it on my arm to make sure that it looked correct

32. working on the shape of the sleeve

  1. Sew the sleeve parts together along the back seam. Before you sew it to the front one, sew the ribbon decoration onto the cuff – this is much easier than dealing with a closed sleeve!
33. working on the sleeve's cuff

working on the sleeve’s cuff

  1. Decoration on, complete assembling the sleeve. Pin it into the arms, matching the back seams, and ease it in. (you can do that after decorating the bodice itself – easier to manoeuvre the bodice without the sleeves!)
34. sleeve ready to be inserted into the bodice

sleeve ready to be inserted into the bodice

  1. Bodice decoration – apply the ribbon trim to the required parts of the bodice.The original here didn’t have any ribbon on the front part – since I had some left over ribbon at that point, I added it there too. Next, add the fur trim.

35. sewing the trim onto the bodice peplum

  1. The front part – I simply bound the front edge in silk velvet strip.
  2. The mock vest – this step can be skipped if you plan to wear a blouse or a chemisette underneath. I had just about sufficient scraps of silk taffeta and decided to go for it.
  3. Trace the shape of the piece onto a scrap of calico and adapt it until you get a result you are happy with – I used 2 calico mock ups to arrive at the piece with a collar pointing downwards.
36. working on the false vest insert

working on the false vest insert

37, shape emerging



  1. Cut your pieces in silk – you will need 4. Sew them with right sides together, alongside the collar edge. Trim seams allowances, turn inside out, and press. Apply ribbon to your liking

39. done - just need hemming and inserting into the bodice

  1. Before you mount the piece onto the bodice, finish the neckline of the bodice – hem it, and apply the fur trim. Add fur onto the cuffs too.
  2. Pin the insert in and stitch it in place. Try it on to see if the position is satisfactory, and whether you need to put in hooks and eyes. Trying to emulate the original, I also added a wide ribbon trim going from the shoulder to the centre front, with a bow conveniently hiding the hook and eye closure.

40. insert in...

  1. Add lace frill if desired.

41. velvet ribbon and lace added

  1. Next step – add buttons and buttonholes, or settle for hook and eye closures.  I admit I did neither – since  the straight stitch machine doesn’t do buttonholes and I had no time to stitch them by hand, I settled for buttons and hidden loops – once I have my proper machine back,  (or more time on my hands to fiddle with hand stitched buttonholes), I will remove the loops.  It will also make the jacket a little better fitted)
  2. Finishing the seams – unless you have overlocked them, you now need to deal with the insides of the jacket – as I bet it is looking pretty messy!  Trim the lining seam allowances, as you did with the skirt, and then shape the top fabric allowances to reduce bulk, then finish the seams by hand.   Armholes – trim and bind in cotton tape

43. seams finished, boning chanels being applied 42. finifhign the armhole

  1. Make boning channels out of tape ( or, if your seam allowances are big enough, you can actually place  your bones inside  the seam allowance and stitch it closed – (a good post of that by Historical sewing – http://historicalsewing.com/boning-in-bustle-bodices), insert the bones and secure the boning to their corresponding seams
  1. Stitch your waist tape to the centre back, and to the seams, over the boning – it will reduce pull on the buttons.


44. waist stay ( opted for a fancy one! being secured

waist stay ( opted for a fancy one! being secured

Last thing to do – decorations!

Put the whole ensemble onto a dummy and plan the decoration placement.

I had sufficient buttons to go on the apron front and lots of bows made out of double-sided ribbon to go on the bodice and overskirt

45. bows ready!

How to make bows – beautifully explained here (http://historicalsewing.com/how-to-make-ribbon-bows-for-victorian-costumes).


Stitch on the decoration , and you are done!

46. finishing touches...

finishing touches…

Now, only a muff, hat, gloves – and we are ready for a winter outing. Alas, no skating – the ice rink at the event turned out to be a tiny affair with plastic ice. I tried it out on Saturday with a friend, and my skates did manage a bit of a glide, but the ones for hire there were hopeless – plus, the plastic ice was sticky.

47.trying on the ice rink  - fail....

We just took a few pictures and decided to have a proper skating photo-shoot later on in the winter, on real ice.  So instead, it was promenading on the lovely grounds -:-)

 49 48 50 51 52 back view LJP_9277


Things to change – make a better hat, for once.  I have also learnt that the ready made fur trim is stiff and that stiffness translates onto the garment. Next time, I will save for a few high quality plates and work with them to achieve a wider and softer trim.

The skirts – looking at the pictures the lines are not exactly right – the original’s overskirt is a bit more slanted. Easy to remedy though – will fiddle with the length of the pieces at the waistband as indicated on the pattern.

Working with wool – sheer pleasure. It is the second Victorian outfit I have done in wool and I love it. It doesn’t fray, has just a little tiny bit of stretch in it to make fitting easy and wrinkle – free, and is a pleasure to wear too.


hope you enjoyed the post:-)


and a few   more pictures from the day – the place was a heaven for photographers!

IMG_00002688 LJP_9115 LJP_9117 LJP_9147 LJP_9201














My Big Fat Victorian Wedding – St. Audries Park, West Quantoxhead, Somerset. 17th October 2011

3 years ago- happy anniversary to my dashing husband!

A Damsel in This Dress


 Our wedding day – well, where shall I start? So much was happening in the lead up to this day, and so much happened on the day!  We got engaged on the 1st January, in the midst of Scottish highlands, a few hours after midnight, and a day later most of the details were in place – apart from the venue. We knew precisely what we wanted – a venue with a character, able to accommodate the wedding party on the day, an also one that would allow us to do a post-ceremony hack on its premises – and the last bit proved to be a bit of a problem for many venues.

Image Hunting on Quantocks – view from the hills towards the venue

One thing was obvious from the beginning – although we both currently reside in Bedford, it was Devon and Somerset, especially the Quantocks Hills that…

View original post 2,875 more words

Making My Victorian Wedding Dress, Part 2

32. close up of the day bodice - slightly distoretd in my new husband's forceful grip...


Welcome to Part 2! in Part 1 we covered undergarments, skirts, overskirts and trains, now it is time to talk about the bodices and accessories:-)



The bodices and accessories

Originally, a Victorian bride would get married in a day dress, with full or ¾ length sleeves. Often, it would be her travelling gown if she was to leave for her honeymoon straight afterwards. I wanted to keep with the tradition and have a day bodice for the ceremony and a short hack in the side saddle, but at the same time I needed a ballroom bodice for the evening – inside the venue it will be quite warm and no doubt I will be hot later on, waltzing the night away. There was no way about it, I needed 2 separate bodices.


It is tricky to fit toiles on oneself, and I did not want to risk any problems and mistakes at that early stage, which presented me with a bit of a dilemma. Luckily, a friend who is also an accomplished costumier, Gini Newton, offered to help with pattern developing and toile fitting.   To make the pattern developing stage easier, we first had a good look at a few extant garments and discussed the techniques employed and the patterns used. Then we tried a few Victorian and Edwardian bodices of Gini’s, swiftly finding one which was not almost a generally good fit, but was also easy to adapt to create the shape I wanted for the day bodice.  We then used an existing pattern, dug out somewhere out of Gini’s pattern library, for the evening bodice.


Similar patterns are available from Vena Cava designs:




The day bodice


1.5m of silk satin duchesse,

1.5m of cotton lawn for lining

15 pearl buttons,

5 m of grosgrain ribbon

1.5m or antique lace

A piece of thicker fabric for sweat guards and the collar

6 flat bones

2 pairs of hooks and eyes


  1. Cut out the pieces in calico or other fabric for a mock up.
2. mock up pieces

mock up pieces

  1. Sew the darts, sew the back, sides and shoulder seams.
  2. Try it on your underwear – corset and bustle or bustle pad. Adjust any problem areas, mark the desired length and shape for the hem and the neck opening.

3. marking the neckline

Marking the neckline


  1. Once the correct fit is achieved,  you can either unstitch the mock up and use it as a pattern for the bodice proper, or, if the adjustments were minimal, just mark them on the pattern and use the paper to cut out your pieces
  2. Cut the pieces of the bodice in top fabric and lining. Like most Victorian bodices, mine was flat lined, so ever piece was pinned together with its lining straight away to avoid confusion later. If necessary, baste the two layers together, it is much easier to deal with them as one.
  3. Sew the darts in first and press them first open, then to one side.
  4. Sew the pieces together, stating from the back pieces. Every seam needs to be pressed – and it was also a period technique to pink the seam allowance to reduce fraying. If you can, pink and shape yours, it does help and looks rather pretty too. Alternatively, fold the seam allowance over and slipstitch to the lining.

4. antique bodice showing the seam finish inside

Inside an antique bodice, showing the finish of the seams


  1. Pin the folds at the back if you plan on that particular feature. Don’t worry about the sleeves yet.
  2. Try it on – again, make sure you are wearing all the layers, including the skirts. Check all the details: pin the front opening together and mark the overlap if closing it with buttons. Mark where you want the collar to go and see if the armholes are big enough.

5. trying the bodice on - the front 6. trying the bodice on - the back, showing the pleats pinned

Trying the bodice on – the front and the back 


  1. Once everything looks as it should, work on the sleeves – sew the sleeve together, press the seams and pin it into the armhole. Try it on. Adjust as necessary and sew in if it fits fine. Press and pink the seams.
  2. If you want, make sweat guard out or a tightly woven fabric – I cut two circles out of mine and stitched them into place in the underarm area. Any sweat will soak into them and prevent the silk of the bodice from unsightly stains. Once stained (and no doubt stinky), the guards can be easily removed and washed or replaced.
  3. Cut out the collar in satin and in sturdier fabric.  Lay the satin pieces right sides together and sew.  Baste the sturdier piece on top of one piece; so that once the collar is flipped onto the right side, the piece stays inside, supporting the shape of the collar. Press the seams.
  4. Lay the collar on the bodice right sides together, pin and sew through the outside layer of the collar and all layers of the bodice. Cover the seam by folding the inside layer over the seam and slipstitching it to the bodice.
  5. Time to tackle the front edges…Fold the edges inside and slip stitch to the lawn or simply run a seam along the edge. Press.
  6. The bottom of the bodice is bound – you can use a readymade bias tape or make your own. I usually make my own, it is fast, easy and you can match the fabric perfectly. Here I used the same fabric as the bodice – cut strips of the fabric on the bias, and either use the bias maker and iron or simply fold the edges inside and press.  Although the second method is more time consuming and doesn’t give such good result as a bias maker, it still works in emergencies.
  7. Pin your bias tape to the bodice right sides together, and sew. Press the seam, encase the edge in the tape and sew the inside part to the lining– you can do this part on the machine too, but it means the seam will be visible on the right side and it doesn’t give such a nice finish.
  8. If you have pleats at the back, arrange them, press and stitch in place. I also added a small rectangle of fabric to which I sewn the pleats – it covered all the rough edges nicely

6a. pleats pressed and secured

  1. Mark the buttonholes and work them  either by hand or by machine, then add the buttons.


  1. Time to add some boning! I made the bone castings out of a grosgrain ribbon, but you can buy readymade ones. Select the bones you want to use, put them into the castings and stitch the castings inside the bodice – in my case the bones went on the front edge, over the darts and at the sides. A useful trick – have the bones in the castings ready early on and cello-tape them to the seams at the fitting stage


  1. You can now add the waist tape with hooks. It keeps the bodice in place preventing it from ‘riding up! Wish I remembered to hook mine; the tape was dangling out during the ceremony…

8. the back pleats - mark the bound edges , the tape and the bit covering the upper edges of the pleats

The tape secured at the centre back

11. inside the bodice, on the button side - there is one more bone under the seam allowance at the front edge. mark the sweat guard in the armhole.

Inside the bodice, button side

12. inside the bodice, buttonholes side

Inside the bodice, buttonhole side


  1. Last thing – decoration.   Cut 3 pieces of ribbon, one for the neck and two for the cuffs. Sew lace onto a ribbon and then attach the ribbon sewing it inside the cuffs and the neckline, including the collar.  I didn’t sew very diligently – just like in the original, I used larges stitches – it was later easier to take the lace off for washing.

9. the collar detail, the ribbon with the lace

The collar detail

10. sleeve decoration

Sleeve decoration

  1. The bodice was ready!

13. finished bodice



The evening  bodice


1m of silk satin

1m of lawn for lining


Lacing cord

Flat bones


The method was very similar to the one I used for the day bodice.

  1. Prepare your mock up and try it on as before .You will need either someone to pin the back for you, or use a lacing strip to lace the mock up if you are working on your own. Do not skip this step.
14. evening bodice mock up pieces

evening bodice mock up pieces



15. evening bodice mock up, front 16. evening bodice mock up, back

Evening bodice mock up, front and back

  1. Once the correct fit is achieved, cut out your pieces in top fabric and lining, basting or pinning every piece as you go.
  2. Sew the darts.
  3. Sew the parts together starting from the centre front. Pink and press the seams
  4. Try it on! Again, the trick with using the bones at that stage can be employed, pity I learnt about it too late – here you can see the bodice being put on without the bones and I was really upset as I didn’t know how to get rid of them. Putting the bones at that stage would have saved me the worry, cause, as it turned out later, the wrinkles disappeared once the bones went in…doh!
17. trying the evening bodice on

trying the evening bodice on


  1. Time to work on the back – fold eth edges over and stitch to the lining, then run a single seam along the edge – wide enough to accommodate a flat steel bone.
  2. Mark and set the eyelets, then insert the bones.
  3. If everything is ok, you can finish the edges: prepare the bias tape and bind the bottom, neck and armholes. Finish by securing the tape by hand and press. Add lace – I added some for the neckline, to prevent wiry stems of my flowery decoration from scratching my skin.
  4. Attach the bones.
  5. The bodice is theoretically finished, all it needs is some ornaments and a lacing cord.
18 evening bodice inside - finished, just awaiting decoration

evening bodice inside – finished, just awaiting decoration


The decoration I used here is almost identical to the one I used on the apron skirt and on the bands used to bustle the train and the manufacture  process is almost the same too – stitching the flowers onto a strip of fabric ( added some lace here though)  and the strip is then hand stitched to the bodice

22. the flowery band with the loops  that would go over the buttons on the apron skirt 21.attaching the flowers to the bands od silk

The main outfit is now ready – all it needs is the accessories.

23. completed bodice, with the decoration sewn in

 The veil



Silk net tulle, 4m, from Silk Society

5m Brussels lace from MaCulloch and Wallis


A plastic transparent comb




That was easy.

  1. Round the corners of the veil and decide on the point where the comb was to be attached.
  2. Sew the comb in

24. comb attached tothe veil

  1. Sew the lace on the hem. I cut my lace in half, lengthwise – it was too wide otherwise, plus worked out much cheaper. Then carefully stitched it onto the tulle.
  2. Press – and it is ready.

25. brussels chantilly lace, cut in half and stitched onto the tulle


The purse


A friend embroidered bits of silk for me as a wedding present. I then simply stitched the pieces together, lined them and decorated the edges with a cord and a tassel – spectacular work from Gina Barrett.

26. the silk purse, embroidered with silk threads by Sand Raidy, tassel and cord by Gina Barrett

The fan – antique item from Etsy, came in the original box and with the original tassel in a very poor condition. Again Gina was great making a tassel that closely resembled the original one but also one that worked with my colour scheme

27. antique fan, tassel by Gina Barrett

Other accessories included:

White leather gloves, present from my mother

A freshwater pearl necklace

Amethyst and diamond earrings (borrowed, from my matron of honour)

Cotton stockings, clocked, in blue – from Dressing History

Boots – for the ceremony and riding, an ebay find – if i was to do it again, I would get the lovely Renoirs from American Duchess!

28. boots for the ceremony and riding

And for the dancing, Supadance shoes in white satin

An antique tiara: wax orange blossoms, again, an etsy find

29. antique tiara of wax orange blossoms ,copyright Lensmonkey Photography


And antique side saddle cane – a surprise present from a friend, Becca Holland.




Hair was a bit of a challenge. I knew I was going to do it myself and I knew I needed a hairdo that would be easy to recreate for me quickly as I may not have a lot of time  (( well, since the ceremony was at 3.30, we had a hunting meet in the morning and went  hunting on Quantocks…). wisely so, as we did get back late and I had had about 20 minutes to dress myself, do the makeup and hair.


The inspiration for my hair was the movie Daniel Deronda, and a friend specialising in vintage styling took on the challenge  https://www.facebook.com/sarahsdoowopdos. It still took some time, bur Sarah explained every step so I at least knew the basics.

Bedford Borough-20111001-01228

at the hair trial, experimenting with different looks


For the wedding I decoded to use extensions with my own hair as a base.




On the day  I simply bunged all my hair high up in  an bun, used one set of curls to create the upper part of the hairdo, pinning the ringlets with pins, and clipped in the other set just below. It took me 3 minutes, and for a rushed job didn’t look too bad!


And that’s the finished outfit.   Oh, and well, a groom wouldn’t be amiss  here Lucas is wearing a 1815, ‘Mr. Darcy’ outfit made by Gini Newton, and Farthingales (the breeches)

33. bridal party having fun-)

bridal party having fun-) and yes, I made all the dresses too….

30. on the day - walking down the aisle, the lace on the veil showing nicely, bridging the gap  between the skirts and the train 36. 35. a sliglthy better view of the evening bodice - and no wrinkles in evidence!copyright Lensmonkey Photography


Cost –  all together, the cost of the materials alone was about £2000 – the silk duchess satin from Silk Society was £70 a metre – and now I know similar one can be purchased from James Hare  at a better price..

Altogether with labour, accessories etc I closed the deal in £3000….. not bad for a wedding dress – especially since I have worn it for Victorian events and demonstrations since then, so a bit of an investment paying off:-)


For more pictures, our official pictures, by Lensmonkey Photography, can be viewed here:


To see it in action, there are some public video clips available here : http://www.youtube.com/user/priorattire.

Since the wedding I have opened a bridal branch – Prior Engagement with alternative bespoke bridal fashion – many of them historically inspired:-)


I hope you have enjoyed reading the articles as much as I writing them – they did bring all the happy moments back!


And if you are curious about what we did on the big day – the blog post on the wedding itself is here



Making My Victorian Wedding Dress, part 1

1. finished outfit, evening version

In a few days’ time  it will be our third wedding anniversary – and to celebrate we decided to make these articles available for free – enjoy!



To be wed in Victorian finery! What can a bride-to-be want more? Well, probably a costumier who would do all the fiddly work for her.  Alas I wasn’t that lucky – and the tight budget meant that if I wanted a fancy frock for my wedding, I had to make my own.

Victorian was a fairly new period for me at that time – so in order to allow the time to learn the secrets of Victorian costuming, I decided to make the bridal party frocks first – 4 different styles of Victorian outfits. The reasoning behind that was that by the time I start work on my own outfit, if I was to make any mistakes, I would have made them, and learnt from them before I cut into the hideously expensive bridal satin.  The cunning plan worked, and the results will be presented to you in this article, so that, if you wish, you can duplicate the look without having to negotiate such a steep learning curve.

I am going to discuss the layers briefly, and then provide instructions how to make the following: a steel boned bustle, a soft bustle pad and a flounced petticoat, a foundation skirt, apron overskirt and a detachable train; an afternoon and a ball bodice and a veil.  Most of the garments have been presented in the individual articles (apart from the bodices); this one deals with all the garments in once place so that it is easier to use it if you wish to replicate any –or all of the items.


Background information and research

The style I wanted for my outfit was around 1883, so just after the Natural Form when the second Bustle style comes into fashion.

I had to consider a few factors: the dress would be worn not only for the ceremony, but for a hack on a side saddle, and then, with the evening bodice, for dancing.  The two factors, riding and dancing had a huge impact on the underwear I chose to make.

I already managed to acquire a few antique items I planned to wear – a lovely camisole, a pair of drawers (in the earlier style, but I decided to wear them anyway, since time to prepare the whole bridal trousseaux was short) and a bodiced petticoat.

2. camisole

A corset cover in cotton

3. drawers

Split drawers

4. bodiced petticoat

A bodiced petticoat

I needed a corset, a bustle pad – to support the skirts for riding, a full, long, steel boned bustle, ideal for supporting the skirts for dancing, and a flounced petticoat to provide the volume.

The corset

To take some weight off my shoulders and save me some time – and possibly mistakes, as well, I engaged Cathy Hay from Harman Hay to draft the pattern of the corset and create the mock up. Once that was ready, I was presented with ready pattern pieces and could make the corset myself – a great solution as a perfect compromise, saving me both time and money.

Since I wanted to be using the corset for all kinds of activities, it was essential that I made sure the corset did not restrict my movement. Cathy’s mock up was fully boned and behaving just like the real thing, so I was able to test it in a variety of situations. The mock up fitted almost perfectly while standing and moving around – but it was a different story when I used it for more energetic activities!

I tried it on horseback, and it was evident almost from the start that it needed it to be much shorter than I originally thought as the front busk kept digging in my thigh, and a jump resulted in a spectacular bruise.

6.close up of the mock up showing the busk - too long for riding

Testing the mock up in the saddle- busk is visibly too long


7. side view of the mock up - back just a bit too high

8. mock up in action - sides half an inch too high, and digging into armipts when riding - mark the arms position

You can also see that the sides and back were just slightly too high for riding – mark my awkward arm position at the jump.

Since it was just a mock up, the alternations were not difficult to reflect on the pattern, and as a result I ended up with a corset that not only fits well, but that also works well for all kinds of activities.

9. corset amended, with a shorter busk, here still before  binding and finishing touches

Corset in cotton coutil and taffeta, fully boned – here just testing before adapting the sides, binding and decorating

Almost ready – just flossing to do (done 18months after the wedding! )

 10. finished corset ( just flossing to do...)

 The bustle cage (lobster tail) and the petticoat

I have already written an article on making the bustle cage – here, and the petticoat tutorial is here

Testing the layers in the saddle…

48. back view - note the unbuttoned petticoat

back view – note the unbuttoned petticoat

46. Stocking, drawers, corset and the petticoat, worn on the bustle pad,  at trial riding

Stockings, chemise,drawers, corset and the petticoat, worn on the bustle pad, at trial riding

 The pad or the bustle?

Some skirts can be worn on either, depending on the style and dating.   The pad is great for walking and, in my case, I made one for walking down the aisle. I was riding side saddle just after the ceremony and there would be no time to change – so the pad worked very well.

The long bustle was simply amazing for dancing. My wedding gown had a long train which bustled for dancing, but the weight was substantial, and it was still trailing on the ground. The bustle kept the excess fabric away from my legs, making waltzing much less difficult!  Despite the steels, the bustle is very comfortable to sit in too – it simply collapses flat!

31. side view of the  day bodice

Victorian wedding gown – skirts and train worn over a pad.

 41. train bustled

The same gown, though with an evening bodice, worn over the steel boned bustle.



The Skirts

We will discuss the construction and decoration of the skirt, apron skirt and a detachable train suitable for the Victorian fashions of the Second Bustle period – although with small changes the items will also work for the Natural Form era.

My wedding gown is used here as an example – but the items can be rendered  in any  suitable fabric and used for travelling, visiting, promenading or ball gowns – or Steampunk versions of thereof!

The pattern

For my wedding attire, simplicity was the main concern. I needed the skirt to be versatile: wide enough to dance and ride in, but without  a bulk; also, I wanted it to be worn with a later outfit, late 80ies, maybe even 90ies so  any excessive decoration was really not an option.

1. 9Gore Skirt pattern with notes

In the end, and with some help from another costumier, Gini Newton, we decided on a 9 gore skirt, with a slight train.  We based our pattern on the skirt discussed in Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 2 –  1882 dinner dress from The London Museum and adapted it accordingly arriving at a pattern very similar to the one of gallery of English Costume C1895, also in Janet Arnold. We did try a number of skirts to see which one would sit best on the bustle and the last one did the job just fine!

The London Museum skirt consists of front panel, front side panels, back sides panels and a back panel. We have added a side side panel as well – it provides a good fit at the upper part of the skirt in front and flares beautifully at the bottom; it can be worn with a bustle or, for later styles, without.

A similar pattern is available from Vena Cava designs:




All the components of the whole wedding outfit were made out of silk Duchesse satin. I bought mine from the Silk Society, and although absolutely stunning, it was also very expensive, retailing at £70 per metre. In the hindsight, I know now I could have obtained a fabric of similar quality but at half the price from James Hare.  James Hare’s duchesse satin has also the advantage of coming in a non-curl version – and for anybody who has ever had to deal with the curly satin, the advantages would be obvious!

The skirt took 3.5 metres of the 140cm wide top fabric and the same amount of lining (in lawn). If you plan to decorate your skirt in more complex and bigger ruffles, add at least 2 metres.

5 metres of crin tape for the hem

The same skirt can be made in plain wools, silk taffetas or satins as well.


Since the satin I had was of the curly variety, I decided to flat line the skirts to stabilise the top fabric – a method commonly used in the period.

  1. Cut your pieces in lining first, labelling each one as you do so.
  2. Place the lining pieces on the left side of the top fabric, working one by one and starting from the front

–          Place the centre front lining panel on the fabric. Pin the two layers together, than cut out the top fabric. You now have a piece consisting of two layers, securely pinned. Make sure your labelling is visible – best place it next to the seam on the lining – it will be very helpful when assembling the skirt! If your fabric is very slippery, it is worth your time to baste the two layers together.

–          Repeat for all the other pieces; it really helps if, after cutting out you place them in the order they will be sewn.

–          Cut out the waistband and the placket

  1. Baste or pin the front and side pieces together. It is not necessary to baste all the way down, at the moment you only want to see if the skirts lies correctly on your belly and hips. The back panels will be pleated into the waistband, so the snugness is not necessary there.
  2. Try putting the basted pieces around your waist, while wearing your undergarments. This is essential – when you wear your corset the shape of your body changes – even if you do not go for tight lacing, the shape of your waist and belly will be different and that will be reflected in the fit of the skirt. If your skirt is to be always worn under an apron skirt or other drapery, a mistake here will go unnoticed. For later period however, a perfect fit is required.
  3. If the fit is to your satisfaction, you can sew the pieces. Again start from the front centre panel and add the side centre panels.
  4. After each panel press the seam flat (or you can do it once all the seams are sewn). You can also finish the raw edges with pinking shears to limit fraying, or  finish the stitches by hand.

Flat lined seams from the left side

 2. flatlining the skirt

If your skirts are in wool, or you wish them to be light, without any lining, simply sew the pieces right sides together, press the seam flat and either pink it or finish the edges by hand.


  1. Remember to leave an opening in the back seam for the placket (or a side seam if your skirt closes at the side instead).
  2. Arrange the back panels into pleats and pin the skirt to the waistband.
  3. Try it on, on all your undergarments.
  4. Tweak any problem areas and if everything is as you desire, sew the waistband to the skirt, placing the two layers right sides together. Fold the waistband  over, covering the edges, and hand stitch in place
3. waistband

3. waistband


  1. Prepare your placket and attach it to the opening on one side. Fold the edges of the opening over and hand stitch, securing them.
5. back pleats

5. back pleats

4. the placket

  1. Add a button and a button hole – or hooks and eyes.
  2. Time to look at the bottom hem now.  Try the skirt on, or put it on the stand, worn on all your undergarments and check the line of the hem. Make sure the length is appropriate to the shoes you will be wearing and make necessary adjustments.
  3. Take the skirt off; flip it on the left side.  Pin your crin. There are two ways  of working with that, you can either fold the hem and hand stitch it to the lining of the skirt  and then place the crin on top , covering the folded hem. Or, hand stitch the crin band to the lining, a little above the hem. Then fold the hem over it and stitch in place.  Press. The second method works much better on curly or flimsy fabrics, producing a nice finish to the hem.

6. skirt without the ruffle

Finished skirt without the ruffle


  1. You can add a short dust ruffle at the bottom as well. I added mine after I have finished all the garments as I wasn’t sure how much fabric I would have left!
  2. Cut the desired length of the ruffle in top fabric and lining. I realised that for every metre of the finished ruffle I need about 3 metres of fabric.
  3. Place the top layer and the lining right sides together, and sew. Once sewn, unfold and press the seam, then fold again making sure the top fabric extends a bit on the left side at the bottom hem of the ruffle. Press.
  4. The upper edge of the ruffle – you can either fold the top part over and stitch o4 fold both layers inside and stitch at the hem.
  5. You should now have quite a long, narrow strip of fabric. Since it is narrow, you can use a ruffle attachment on the machine to pleat it – it takes minutes instead of hours!
8. ruffle pleated and awaiting application

ruffle pleated and awaiting application


  1. Once pleated, press the ruffle carefully and pin to the hem – I placed mine over the crinoline strip, completely covering it.

9. ruffle being pinned to the skirt

Ruffle being pinned to the skirt

11. inside the ruffle

Close up of the ruffle

Stitch the ruffle in place – make the stitches in strong thread but remember that do not need to be tiny – after all you will be taking off the ruffle to be cleaned!  

The inside of the skirt showing the ruffle

10. the inside of the skirt showing the flatlining and the ruffleYour skirt is now ready.


12. the skirt in action - note the delicate edging of the ruffle

the skirt in action – note the delicate edging of the ruffle




Optional decoration

If you want you can add ruffles , flounces and other decorations to  the bottom of your skirts , simply repeat the steps  with a ruffle of your choice sewn to the outside of the skirt. A variety of options are possible here – one wider ruffle, few narrower ones, a flounce – the possibilities are endless!

For a simple, unlined ruffle, cut the desired length of the fabric – min 3 times the length of the finished ruffle . Hem on both sides and pleat – using a pleater, or a ruffler, or traditionally, with pins…

Press the finished ruffle with starch – or vinegar solution and sew onto the skirt.

13. skirt decoration - 2 rows of pleats

Finished skirt with 2 rows of pleating

You can experiment with the direction, sizes and shape of the pleats too – here’s an example of that!

14. 1 row of knife and box pleats

Alternative knife and box pleats, with the top being shaped as well

14. gathered flounces on the skirt

And an example of gathered flounces on a Natural Form era skirt, here on one of my bridesmaids

15. ruching panel and 1 row of pleats

And a combination of a ruffle and a ruching panel on a narrower skirt

The apron skirt

Fabric – 2.5 satin duchesse; again, wool, taffeta, satin etc will work just as well. If you want your skirt lined, the same amount of lining fabric will be needed.

2m of calico for mock up and experimenting

3m of decorative silk fringe


There are several patterns available online  – mine was based on  this one: http://www.venacavadesign.co.uk/Products/1883_August_Overskirt.html


Since I didn’t actually buy the pattern (a pity since I have no doubt it would shorten the whole process considerably!), I decided to make mine first in calico and experiment.


Experimental  method : worth trying if you have never done this skirt before, or simply want to see the possibilities, in particular if you are working with a new fabric. Skip this step if you have a readymade pattern!

Cut two pieces in calico – front and back, both in trapezoid shape, with the back longer. Stitch the sides together and put it on the dummy. Try different kinds of pinning the folds:

16. calico mock up 1 - fail!

calico mock up 1 – fail!

Folds pinned facing downwards first. Epic fail

17. calico mock up2 - not too good either

calico mock up2 – not too good either

Folds pinned upwards. Better, but not what I was after.


At that point, I took the thing off, re-cut  the pieces in calico, this time placing them on the bias.  Stitched them together, put the skirt on the dummy.

18. calico mock up 3. bettter but not much

calico mock up 3. bettter but not much

Folds downwards: not very good, though better than before

19. calico mock up 4. bingo!

calico mock up 4. bingo!

Pinned upwards – result!


Just to be on the safe side, I took a length of the satin and pinned it as the front on the dummy, to see it the satin would behave like the calico. It did. Pinned the fringe on, to see if it would work with the heavy trim as well. It did!


 The making of the apron skirt proper.

  1. Cut out the pieces in your fabric (some fabric will require bias cut, some won’t – crispy taffeta looks good both ways!)
  2. Mark and sew the darts in the upper part
  3. Sew the pieces together, leaving the top of one seam open. Press the seams open and pink them.
  4. Cut out the waistband.
  5. Pleat the back part to fit into the waistband. You can add cotton tapes to the inside – they would control the folds at the back


  1. Sew the waistband in the same way you did with the skirt, add buttons/hooks and eyes)
  2. Fold the hem over and secure it with small stitches. Add fringe or any other decoration
  3. Put the skirt on the dummy and pin the folds carefully.


  1. Take the skirt off, and secure the folds with stitching – either by hand or by machine.

10 Attach the decoration (optional).

22. apron skirt, with the folds pinned

apron skirt, with the folds pinned

24. apron skirt - trying the decoration band

apron skirt – trying the decoration band


Your apron skirt is now ready – decorated the sides of mine with removable flower bands – more information on making them later!)


The train


Fabric: silk duchesse satin, 4.5m (including the pleated section)

Lining – silk taffeta for the train, 2.5m

Lining for the pleats: 2m of cotton lawn

10 metres of cotton lace

12m of grosgrain ribbon

4 m of cotton tape

9 ivory roses for decoration

The train I had in mind had to serve several functions.  It had to be pretty (obvious, really!) and for that I chose the finish I saw on the Worth Evening dress (1881) at the V&A – scallops, pleats and lace.


I also wanted to make it long enough to look spectacular as I walked down the aisle; it also had to be easy to bustle up for dancing or to remove for riding.


That was the easiest part.  I cut a rectangle of fabric (220 x 1.35cm) and simply rounded the bottom corners of the train.


  1. Cut the train in your top fabric and lining.
  2. Spread the top fabric left side up  and draw the scallops
  3. Cut out the scallops.
  4. Hem the train by folding the edges in and securing with small stitches; alternatively leave it as it is for the time being – you can do it later by machine as well!
  5. Place the top fabric on the lining, pin it and cut the scallops in the lining. You can now stitch the lining in by hand. It is possible to do it with a machine, though with scallops it tends to be a bit tricky. I opted for the hand method as it gave the scallops a nice finish.
  6. Pleat the top of the train and secure the pleats with pins.
  7. Cut 3 lengths of cotton tape – they will keep the train bustled up.  The length of the tapes will depend on how you want to bustle the train, mine end at about a foot off the ground.
  8. Pin in the tapes to the left side of the pleats – two at about 2 inches from each edge and one in the centre.
  9. Attach to a waistband.  The waistband can go all around the torso, or it can be a short one with tapes for tying it around your waist.

train pleats in the waistband

Train pleated to the waistband

28. the tapes for the train

Inside of the train showing the placement of the tapes.



The basic shape of the train is now ready, time to add all the embellishments


  1. Take the lace and the grosgrain ribbon. The ribbon should be long enough to go around all the scallops
  2. Attach the lace to the ribbon, gathering it slightly as you go.  Machine ruffler would be no good here as the lace was too delicate, so the process took some time, but it as an easy and nice job.
  3. Pin the finished  lace frill to the hem of the train and hand sew in place

      29. ataching the lace 30. train with the scallops and lace attached

Train with the lace layer sewn on




The pleated layer


  1. Cut out the length of fabric in your top fabric. Again the ration of 3:1 works fairly accurately here.  The finished length should be the length of the bottom hem of the train, without the scallops, times 3 – or more if you have enough fabric! The width of the piece should be enough to cover the whole scallop and extend beyond it for other few inches. Mine was 14 inches wide (36cm).
  2. Cut the same piece in lining, but make it 2 inches narrower.
  3. Place the two layers right sides together and sew along the length of the upper and lower part. Leave the short sides open.
  4. Flip the piece right sides out and press carefully, making sure the edges are even. Secure the ends by folding the fabric inside and stitching the layers together.
  5. The next step requires a great deal of patience and even a greater deal of pins. Decide on the size of the pleats –  ( mine were just over an inch) and pleat the strip,  securing each pleat at both ends

31. pleating ....


Pleated piece


  1. Once pleated, sew near the top of the pleats, securing them – you can stitch over a grosgrain ribbon as I did. Keep the pins in the bottom part as they are
  2. Press carefully.
  3. Put your pleated ruffle left side up, spread it slightly to reflect the curve of the train and place another length of the ribbon in the centre. Stitch it on by hand; it will make sure that the pleats will stay together and the ruffle won’t lose shape.

32. adding the support ribbon

Adding the support ribbon

33. finished ruffle, ready to be added to the train

Finished ruffle, right side view.

  1. Place the ruffle on the left side of the train ( right side of the ruffle to the left side of the train), pin and hand stitch – make sure the stitches catch only the lining and the tiniest bit of the top fabric between the scallops, and that the stitches at the deepest  part of the scallop are the strongest – they won’t be visible since there will be roses on top of them, and they will be the ones responsible of holding the ruffle in place.

34. pinning the ruffle into the train

Ruffle pinned to the train

35. the ruffle added to the train

Pleated layer stitched to the body of the train

  1. Sew in the roses or any other decorations.


36. the train decoration finished

The train is almost finished – all it needs now is a balayeuse.


Cotton twill, lawn or silk – here silk was used – 3m. Cotton would be a much more practical version, but for the wedding dress silk just looked better. Plus, having washed the silk in the machine on low temperature setting it looked as if the washing didn’t do much harm, and indeed I have washed my balayeuse since then and it did survive the experience

Broderie anglaise lace trim. –   10 m

Buttons – 14



Determine the size and shape of your balayeuse by noticing how much train will be lying on the floor. Mine is a semicircle, with the straight line reaching across the train from the first scallop on both sides.


  1. Cut the base out, hem the edges.
  2. Cut the flounces – there will be a lot of them!
  3. Make the flounces just as you did the ruffles for the skirts: hem the fabric (hemming foot was a blessing here), add the broderie anglaise or any other lace, then pleat the ruffles (again the ruffle saved tons of time!)
  4. Attach the ruffles to the base.


37.  Balayeuse ready


  1. Make buttonholes on the straight line and along the bottom.
  2. Mark the position of the buttonholes on the train proper. Sew small buttons onto the train.
  3. Button up the balayeuse to the train.

38. Balayeuse buttoned into the train

Balayeuse attached to the train


All that need to be done is putting hooks and eyes (or buttons – in the hindsight, buttons work better, as hooks tend to unhook!) onto the bustling tapes and onto the train. Do experiment with it, making sure the placement of the hooks creates the effect you want.

I also used bands with flowers to keep the train bustled up – the same band were used to decorate the apron skirt and, later on, the evening bodice.




fabric roses  – 30

bunches of small paper roses -25

Strips of fabric to attach the flowers to


  1. Prepare 5 strips of silk – two to go on the sides of the apron skirt, 2 to be used for the train.
  2. I used  4 inch strips, which I folded in half stitched on the left sides, turned,  finished the edges and pressed.
  3. Attach the decoration. Pin the big roses in first, sewing them to the strip to ensure they faced the right direction and then place the small bunches around, securing their wiry stems around the big rose. Stitch them all down carefully.
  4. Once ready, stitch the bands on their appropriate places – the apron skirts ones went just over the side seams of the apron skirt.
  5. The train bands were given loops at each side and decorative buttons were sewn onto the apron skirt next to the decoration – the bands simply button in place


The train in its full glory: unbustled:

40. the train's full lenght shown while walking


And showing the train bustled up for dancing.

 1. finished outfit, evening version


In the part 2t I will talk about making the two bodices – and all the accessories:-)


1815 Redingote a la Hussarde

Regency Ball-1-2


For our  Regency stay in Bath I needed something for daywear. I had the evening attire, but apart from my riding habit, I didn’t have anything suitable. I had limited financial resources, but was able to put aside a few days for stitching – so the idea was to invest more in time rather than in the materials per se.  For Regency that simply meant using cotton:-) A quick browse though the costume books and boards, and I set my heart on that lovely redingote from the Kyoto Institute of Fashion, all in white cotton, with pom poms and insane amounts of piping.  Cotton fabric is cheap, so most of the expense would be the pompoms and the accessories – and so a decision has been made.



6m of plain cotton ( for top layer and lining) ( approximately £45)

66 pompoms ( all handmade in cotton by Gina B) ( £120)

piping materials – cord and bias cotton tape – 36 metres ( !!!) ( £20)

10 pairs of hooks and eyes ( £2.00)

cotton lace ( broderie anglaise) – £12

calico for patterning


Time – about  20 hours

I experimented with the patterning first, to create the collar and upper bodice pieces. I used first the dummy and once I had the basics in place, I put it on myself, wearing stays ( modern dummies have  their busts in a very different position!)

IMG_20140917_101934 IMG_20140917_101946 IMG_20140917_102346 IMG_20140917_103703

The skirts and sleeves were easy, didn’t have to do mock ups from them but used my blocks – so far so good!

The tricky part was the piped elements – I have never done piping before, and although it is strange to embark on a heavily piped garment without prior experience, I do Like a challenge. So I read some instructions  ( very good introduction on Historical Sewing!)practiced  on a bit of spare cotton,  and then whizzed all 36 metres of it.


that’s the first batch…

Then it was time to apply it onto the  tabs…


tabs on the front panel of the skirts

IMG_20140917_140752 IMG_20140917_140756

took a few hours, that did, very boring hours… first the sirs, then the bodice, oversleeves and  and cuffs…

IMG_20140917_162618 IMG_20140917_163038 IMG_20140917_170015

It was at that point that I noticed that the slits on the hem, oversleeves and collar are well, let us say, distinctively feminine looking, and from that point on the redingote got a working name – The Pussy Frock….:-)

Next stage was to mount  the piped elements onto the proper pieces… this stage had to be done all by hand, and it took forever. to sweeten the labour, a suitable viewing was required…. 🙂



2 episodes later, one side is done…


the oversleeves


the cuff


bodice piping mounted


The pussies on the hem….


Once all the piping was sorted and on, the redingote was assembled, lined, hooks and eyes added, belt added – and then the pompoms were sewn on:-)



all ready!

Regency Ball-3-2

Regency Ball-4-2

Regency Ball-45

Regency Ball-38


and then it struck me – I might actually need  a walking dress  to go on top of my petticoat….. we planned to do some  dance practice and redingote, lovely as it is, may not be the best choice to prance around the dancefloor…

a 4 metres of self striped cotton and 5 hours later I had a simple day dress sorted…

Regency Ball-53

Regency Ball-48


The proper hat was almost ready for Bath – almost, I had trouble with the cockerel feathers mounting so in the end I decided go go for a different bonnet – straw base decorated with ribbon s and flowers. I finished it later on – but still not happy with it, I am not re-thinking the feathers mount options….

still, for the time being we got this:-)

Redingote 2k-55 Redingote 2k-56 Redingote 2k-58 Redingote 2k-60

Redingote 2k-1

   As for the layers – I am wearing a linen chemise, a long line corset,  a petticoat,  a day dress, stockings, shoes, hats etc…. quite a lot.

  The whole outfit is surprisingly comfortable and the piping makes it quite heavy too.  the best things is, when it gets dirty, you just wash it  with no special care – after all, it is all cotton!

 What I need now is a spencer, I think…. and a woolen pelisse for colder days.. .and another ball gown….. 🙂


 clothes – Prior Attire;

 boots – unbelievably comfy ones from American Duchess – when they arrived I suspected the heel will chafe – but after 3 hours of walking and 2 hours of dancing, my feet were snug and comfy – so a great buy!

 umbrella – Sherri Light; I supplied the silk, Sherri covered an antique frame and added antique silk fringe. Love it!

 stockings, ribbons and  straw hat base – Dressing History

 pompoms – Gina B Silkworks

 photography –Pitcheresque Imagery

1630 Satin Gown in Bolsover


Can you do posh 1630  for a photoshoot  in Bolsover Castle? For next week? A friend asked… well,  I have quite a lot of kit, but my 1630 and 40 is middle upper class – but since I could get a few days free for making a new gown, and indeed I already had all the fabrics to make a stock 1630 frock, the answer was yes… The shoot was for English Heritage magazine, advertising masque event happening in Bolsover in July.

Since I had just a few days to play around with the frock, I decided to go for the styles I was familiar with – but also  use  techniques and information from a recently bought book –  Seventeenth Century Women’s  Dress Patterns ( fantastic book,  and volume 2 is just as good as volume 1, invaluable resource). I decided to base my bodice on the  slashed Ivory satin bodice ( p.70) but to go for tabs instead for peplum – in the styles of  a few of Maria Henrietta’s outfits. ( the inspiration board here)

Bodice, though based on a relatively uncomplicated pattern was tricky due to the amount of layers…


Bodice foundation in linen and linen canvas. there are 2- 3 layers in places, and they are boned with reed


bodice put together, boned and lower edge bound


the inside showing the layers

Once the foundation was ready, the bodice was covered with satin. It was time to  prepare the tabs, wings and lacing strips…


tabs – silk satin, decorated with silver metallic lace


lacing strips, 2 layers of linen, v=covered with silk, handworked eyelets


preparing the wings – they are boned with reed too

Tabs attached


time to place the wings on….


It was time for the sleeves next – the sleeves were made separately in silk satin, lined with white slilk, with the head partially cartidge pleated. they were sewn into the armholes using a string silk thread.


The skirts were very simple –  shaped panels were cut, sewn,  decorated and lined – the skirt was then cartridge pleated to the waistband



the last corrections and the stomacher could be made, and lace attached


On the day the dress was worn over a chemise, 2 petticoats ( a silk and a wool one – it was a bit nippy!) and a bumroll. The bodice was very comfortable, keeping all the things in and I was able to stay in it for about 6 hours including some stately dancing:-)

Very pleased with it – This particular gown has already been sold on to another dancing lady, but I do need one of my own – and I have an eye on a nice Olive satin – gold lace already purchased….

The results on the day:






and the spread in the English Heritage members magazine….



Silks – James Hare

metallic lace – Barnett and Lawson

reed for boning- Vena Cava Design

lace – Tudor Tailor

dodgy wig – Ebay…

clothes  the frock and the gentleman’s outfit – Prior Attire, naturally  ( and though the dress is now gone, we still have a bumrolls  available from my online shop 🙂

photography – Pitcheresque Imagery ( minus the photos as a couple – the local tog offered to snap them for us!)

Cost – fabrics  – about £300, not counting the linen; lace – about £60,  labour – £300.