Sophie’s Wedding dress

Sophie's Dress-5-2


It is always a pleasure to make clothing for friends – and even more so if it is the wedding dress they are after! And since apart from he historical bits ( Prior Attire) we also provide bridal gowns ( Prior Engagement)  it was a pleasure to be asked:-)

We have known Sophie and Chris for several years as we tend to attend the same events – they are accomplished musicians and provide music from medieval to modern times ( Blast from The Past). indeed, they were also our musicians of choice when we organized the Spectacular! Spectacular !ball ).  Over the years we have become good friends – and it was with joy that I agreed to making Sophie’s wedding dress.

Sophie was no stranger to our bridal fashions – indeed you will see her modelling a part of our Winter Bride collection back in 2013


The first stages was agreeing on the styling, foundations etc. Sophie created a secret Pinterest board where she pinned her inspirations and we discussed the choices. in the end we ended up with a simple and yet surprisingly elegant design. Based on late Victorian fashions, the dress was basically an evening outfit from the late 1890 – a simple bodice and a flowing skirt, both decorated with elaborate lace.

Since Victorian fashions need a corset, a corset was the first to be created…. here at the fitting stage – we decided on a white sateen, with a gentle blue flossing. The corset needed to be providing the correct silhouette ( the whole dress may serve  Sophie as an evening Victorian gown in the years to come, perfect for  her work – concerts etc), but be comfortable enough so that she can stay in it all day, dance eat and enjoy the day.




a modified TV01 pattern was used, white sateen, busk, flat and spiral steels from Sew Curvy


Over that a bodice in champagne satin was assembled ( lined with cotton lawn and lightly boned), with a back lacing and a rather stunning lace going over the neck and shoulders


first fitting of the bodice


The skirt of the silk satin and lawn lining was next – here  at the first fitting, with lace pinned up. It as worn over a lacy and fluffy petticoat – an original one I lent Sophie for the wedding.






the lace was  arranged and pinned over the bodice at the last fitting


and then it was down to hours of stitching the thing on 🙂



A shaped green silk sash/belt completed the look.


On the day, since we were invited to the wedding too ( yay!) I arrived early to help Sophie dress…

Chris and Sophie-00063

and once we were ready, the fun could begin…..

The wedding was a truly amazing day – relaxed, full of love, laughter and happiness, with great company, excellent food , moving speeches, and, needless to say, fantastic music…

Pictures below by Pitcheresque Imagery – Lucas was providing a back up photography on the day, a few more snaps here..

Sophie's Dress-1-2 - Copy Sophie's Dress-4 - Copy Sophie's Dress-4-2 Sophie's Dress-6 Sophie's Dress-7



It also turned out that Sophie had all of the important three from us too – something blue ( flossing), something old ( antique petticoat) and something borrowed ( the petticoat – and my own bridal veil).

Lovely natural make up by Sarah’s doo-wop-dos


all together – a fantastic day was had by all – congratulations to Sophie and Chris!

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Vampires at Gosfield Hall



I have never actually been to a proper Halloween Party, but this year we were seduced into attempting one. Admittedly most of the seduction was done by the location – we have been to Gosfield Hall before, to shoot our Summer Bride collection last year – and loved it! So the tickets were bought, and since it was Lucas’ birthday on the 1st, I treated us, as a surprise, to securing the sumptuous Bridal Suite for our stay.

And with a venue like that and  lodgings dripping with gold, I obviously needed suitably splendid attire….

Fortunately I had a cunning plan – I have designed the Batdress   several months ago, a spur of the moment thing,  and then was lucky enough to get a bargain fabric –  15m of crushed silk velvet – useless for historical outfits, but perfect for a bit of Halloween fancy dress.

The original sketch,


and a work in progress sketch – yep, that’s how I make skirts and gauge how much fabric  to use…



the foundations first – a cage crinoline, mid Victorian design, and a muslin petticoat from one of our bridal frocks….


then the skirt….


The corset was a bit of a challenge – because it was to be worn over a crinoline and not  underneath, it had to be much shorter, allowing for the skirts to billow up. As a result, it turned out to be a surprisingly comfortable  wear:-)

The corset used plain coutil as a strength layer,  tape castings for channels and cotton for lining. Decoration – silver and black lace appliques, silver thread flossing and red beads.




insides before fitting in the lining


close up of the lace


decoration complete


The overskirt/wings were made of the same fabric and lined with faux duponi silk from James Hare – and boned with thin metal flat steel.

other accessories included these..



Once the dress was done, I have 6 hours to make something more before we hit the road – and in a mad rush I made another corset, satin and calico , with lace and silk tulle decoration:-), styled for a Bridal vampiric  look…

The plan was to arrive early and shoot the bridal stuff first, then change and have fun in the Bat dress. alas, we underestimated the traffic – Friday, end of half term, halloween – we were stuck on the motorway for  much too long. as a result, we arrived in time to get ready, but not to shoot the bridal stuff – that will have to be done the following morning!

We were surprised , very pleasantly, by a nice card and a bottle of white wine awaiting us in the suite – a present from our friend Eleanor, who was also attending the party! 🙂


not a good picture, but captures the grin… and the room….

Before the party a girl needs to relax –  a bath and a face mask was in order. Lucas did have a bit of a shock when i joked I could go to the party wearing this….



but at last the clothes were on, make up and hair was done and we could take a few pictures….

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The event was very atmospheric – an amazing singer in one room, roast boar dinner and a cobweb covered pianist playing tunes from the Phantom of the Opera in the other, fireworks outside – amazing!

apart from relaxing, eating and enjoying ourselves, we did take more pictures  at the end of the night….


Batdress in its full glory



Gosfield Hall Halloween 2014-42




and one from the end of the night…. corset undone, hair loose – and yet it worked too 🙂


as to the question i was asked a few times at the party – how do you go to the loo in that?

well, the answer is simple – wear split drawers ( or none….) and go in forward….



In the morning we got up early and  shot the Dracula’s bride styling – corset with lace, with a scrap of lace as a headdress, my bridal veil and a silk chiffon skirt….

Gosfield Hall Halloween 2014-80


Vampires-11 Vampires-7

Vampires-2 Vampires-5 Vampires-6


nom nom nom

we were having so much fun we almost missed breakfast – as a result i rushed downstairs half dressed – don’t think many people minded though – the corset looked great with jeans too!



I must admit I loved wearing the Batdress – but it was a one off and is going to be put on sale ( though not before we shoot it somewhere else – the original idea was a forest or a cemetery), just like the bridal corset – no doubt next year I will come up with a different kit: – )

hope you enjoyed the madness – we did, and are planning more Halloween outings in the future!




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 It still took some time, bur Sarah explained every step so I at least knew the basics.

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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 :

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:’_Nine-Gored_Skirt%3A_Circa_1900.html



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:


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:-)


Yellow frock shoot – 18th century bridal style!


Well, if your hubby is an eager photography enthusiast, I suppose one has to suffer for it… So when Lucas  was in need of a model to practice new lighting/exposure/new gadget/ ( insert a suitable photography magic jargon word here) and take photos of the spring fields, what can I girl do? I rummaged through my frocks and the bridal samples to see what would fit me and look good with the back=ground we had in mind, and finally settled on  a frock from our Summer Bridal collection – Jeanette. It is an 18th century inspired dress in lovely silk taffeta –  the look, and styling is based on the 18th century aesthetics, the finish, construction and the cut is modern.


  In the Summer Bride photoshoot it was worn over a big hoop and net petticoat  suitable to the bridal theme, but for the field version we decided to make it more historical than bridal.   And so, proper stays, pocket hoops, stockings and shoes are worn underneath to render the silhouette a bit closer to the historical ideal. Minimal make up, a re-styled straw hat on braided hair and a basket with freshly cut lilac ( my favourite flowers!) completed the look.  a nearby field was picked and Lucas set to playing with the light…


speedlight in a fancy poke bonnet 🙂


dramatic skies in the background…

I spent most of that time first in the car, then standing in the field, huddled in a jumper and wellies…


and taking bad selfies to pass the time….


Once everything was ready, tested, set, re-set etc, i could ditch my jumper and wellies and start doing my job – try to look pretty and graceful while trying to avoid standing on dog turds, puddles, mud etc. The results – below – enjoy!



Photography: Pitcheresque Imagery

Dress: Prior Engagement

Shoes and stockings – American Duchess





my lovely shoes and stockings – tried to keep them s mud free as I could!











Garage Fire and Post-Conflagration Photoshoot


As some of you may already know, on December 28th we had a garage fire – a faulty socket started a rather unexpected conflagration. The fire was discovered by our neighbours and the fire brigade was called….


whatever you do, do not open the door…. raging inferno inside….


fire quenched…. all steaming nicely…

The firemen did a starling job, and an hour later the garage was soaked in water, steaming like hell, but secure – and so the boys left,  bearing quite a lot of our post Christmas posh choccies –  at least a token of gratitude.

The next morning we inspected the damage….  there was a lot of personal items there, bikes, re-enactment stuff, tools, tents, camping gear, furniture etc – but also almost all my stock – both finished items ( including the gowns from the Autumn Bride collection) and  wool, silk and linen awaiting their turn to be sewn up into lovely costumes. It also contained quite a lot of other people’s items,  things left  behind, or brought for re sizing, embellishment etc…

The inspection did not bring good news – just a few pictures here…


that heap contains most of our re-enactment footwear – Regency riding boots, 18th century shoes, medieval ones, my cavalry boots ; all melted….


that’s what remained of my bucket tops cavalry boots….


unlikely survivors… fire-starters… how ironic!


the culprit



the clothes were ruined – the ones n plastic covers, or in the wardrobe were covered with melted plastic, charred, some burnt. some , mostly wool, were just dirty – but changed size a bit – being first hot, then wet, and then drying up in still hot garage overnight, the wool shrank…


  Fortunately we were insured – unfortunately I didn’t realize  that in order to cover the 3rd party items i need to have an additional third party option – public liability was apparently no good, as the folks who lost their things would have to claim on their own insurances and prove that I was liable – negligent, or actually starting the fire. since it was plain I wasn’t – they would lose the case. So now it looks like the money the insurance is going to pay for the stock and business equipment  is going to be mostly spent on paying up other people. The insurers were a bit surprised that that ‘s what i need to do – they clearly though that was other people loss and nothing to do with me. It was just as clear to me, that i cannot afford to treat my clients so – and they are all being reimbursed ( about 4 grand…) as soon as the money arrives..   lesson to other costumers etc – do check your insurances for the 3rd party damage!  I have learnt my lesson….

 I will  just have enough to pay up for the new fabrics to help me rebuild the stock ( will take a few years…).  oh well. Not a good start of  the year, but nobody was hurt – and most of the possessions are just that – possessions….

 There was a silver lining though – we decided that the lovely charred wall in the garage and all the damaged items are only too good not to take advantage of, so we held 2 photo shoots in the garage, exploring the post apocalyptic, distressed ideas, letting the gowns shine one last time….









a bit of Judith and Holofernes going on here….


good acting, Lucas!




a bit of lady Borgia….


Pride and prejudice and the Zombies!



 Many, many thanks to the models who come over and got dirty with us!

 photography – Pitcheresque Imagery

models: Miss Lilian Love, Helen Underwood, Jenny Bowers, Izabela Pitcher, Lucas Pitcher

Robe a la Polonaise en Fourreau


Well, we have done the Francaise and l’anglaise style, time for a little polonaise… The idea for this one sprouted as soon as I saw the fabric at the market – a lovely silk brocade in ivory, yellow and green, in a fitting 18th century pattern.  the fabric was bought and put aside for the project. The project itself was kick-started by an offer to participate in a bridal photo shoot organized by Lavinia from Events in a Box. The venue, Harrowen Hall,  was an 18th century mansion, so apart from the modern dresses, they wanted something ‘more period’ . A perfect occasion to showcase the 18th century collection – and the polonaise was scheduled.

 There was a complication ( there always is something, isn’t there?). The shoot was to be on the 18th April ( my birthday!)  and on the 13th I was having a surgery on my shoulder….   the other gowns were to be worn by models provided, but this one had to be modeled by me.  still possible, if I sewed most of it before the op, and finished the neckline after the op – I needed to make the bodice a bit bigger than usually, to accommodate the dressing – I gathered a size bigger would be ok, I would simply lace my stays loosely.

  The making of the frock was surprisingly easy – and pleasant.  The pleated back looks complicated, but it was rather straightforward pleats, and stitching them down was relaxing. I used the pattern from Janet Arnold and bodice pattern from the l’anglaise.


pleats pinned down


back lining piece determines the final shape of the top fabric


back cut out


securing the pleats with stitching


half way through!


pleats done!


inside the bodice part

 Once the pleats were done, it was time to get the front of the  sleeves and the front part of the bodice sorted.



sewing the parts together – seam pinked


Next – the skirts were pieced and hemmed. Here showing the pocket slit


pleating the skirt at the waist…


pleated skirt attached to the bodice


back of the dress

 Finishing the bodice was next. the silk parts were hemmed and mounted onto the linen lining.


bodice front hemmed


pinned onto the lining…


and stitched together

sSeeves were next on the agenda


pinning the sleeve


sleeve insertionImage


finishing the lining inside the bodice


the innards


sleeve cuffs were decorated with self trim and linen lace


hooks and eyes in place…

  And that was more or less it –  the skirt were polonaised using inside tapes, as indicated on the pattern – and most importantly, the dress, though as planned just  tad too big for me, worked perfectly with my shoulder dressing:-)  fortunately the big dressing ( pictured below) was removed the day before the shoot…. no way I would be able to fit anything over that! well, maybe a Robocop costume… 🙂


the big dressing after the op…


all put together 🙂

Petticoat was made as well – in ivory taffeta, with a flounce. For skirt supports I used a big bumroll/ false hips, and the gown is of course worn over the stays.

Alas, the models provided for the other dresses were about 2-3 sizes too small so it was a challenge to get the frocks looking good,but  the photographers  worked wonders and we did get a few great pictures – please excuse the modern bridal headgear –  showcasing work of another company too! 🙂

Photography, Shears and Mockford – and indeed that was our first shoot together – little did we know we would end up working regularly on a variety of projects!



Robe a l’anglaise in dusty pink silk


  This was my first proper l’anglaise and a bit of experiment ( which project isn’t?).  It was originally intended as a show piece for the bridal branch of the business, Prior Engagement, and serve as an example of an 18th century frock for a historically minded bride….

 The styling was loosely based on one of the gowns from the Kyoto  Costume Institute , particularly this one. the petticoat and the robe were made form the same fabric and since i had quite a lot of dusty rose silk, the idea of making everything in it suited me to a T.

  The stays were first –  half boned, with coutil/canvas strength layer, boned with reeds, bound in silk.


getting started….


all pieces ready….


all pieces whipped together, ready for binding


tedious binding process…..




was so excited i popped them straight over my top… love the silhouette! worn on a random shift below…Image

The petticoat was next in line… – an easy rectangular shape, and nice and easy pleating did the job


front pleated


insides – the extra fabric is folded down and pleated, i secured the edges with piking later.

Then only a waistband and it was ready!


waistband pinned in


just needs pressing….

Then it was time for the robe itself…. Mock up first. I used a pattern based on the Janet Arnold polonaise ( used for my very very first polonaise years ago!)


My very first 18th century gown, all handstitched.


experimenting with the mock up


lining is made first and seams boned


for boning I used think but strong reed


then silk was mounted over the lining


Piece by piece, handstitched.  Sleeves were next…Image


lining the sleeve


setting in the top part of the sleeve


and the shoulder strap is covered with silk, hiding the sleeve attachment

Bedford Borough-20120115-02119

the neck and sleeves were decorated with Valencia lace and silk ribbon.

 Once the bodice part of the gown was done, it was time to start pleating the skirts….

Bedford Borough-20120115-02117

pleats pinned

Bedford Borough-20120115-02120

and sewn in:-)

 and it was ready!

It was first worn for the wedding photoshoot at Harrowden Hall – alas on a model that was 3 sizes too small 😦


at the Bridal shoot photo by Mockford Photography

 Also, I wasn’t convinced about the petticoat in the same colour – looked a bit boring.  However, it looked much better with ivory taffeta petticoat ( part of another outfit….). a bright shawl, worn on beter support, with a wig and a hat, it looked much better! -Here worn at a Georgian picnic at Grassenholm Farm, photography by Pitcheresque Imagery


and with another hat….



  As you can see this bridal project turned out to be a re-enactment item in the end – and love it too much to sell on….  a couple of things i would change, and probably will as still have bits and pieces of that silk – the sleeves are just a tad too tight, so will need to amend that inconvenience!

 Altogether I must say that I love the simple style much better than the ornate grandeur of the robe a la francaise – simple lines, minimum decoration somehow work well for me:-)

Robe a la Francaise in yellow brocade


 There comes a time in every costumer’s life when you just cannot put it off any longer – you need to have a go at the sack back, or robe a la francaise. I have been meaning to play around with it for quite some time, but was waiting for the opportunity to arise – and for the right fabric to turn up. And then, in 2011,  I snatched a bolt of silk brocade in bright yellow, with lovely 18th century pattern in white. Not my favourite colour, but the pattern was simply too good to miss.

 And so, the French adventure started…

 I already had stays, in linen,  fully boned, based on the ones in KCI, but I needed structural support…


linen stays, handsewn…


stays in action..

  I used the pattern for pocket hoops from the Corset’s and Crinolines, and it it was easy to run a pair of them in no time at all – the instructions were simple and easy to follow.


pocket hoop fabric ready for assembly


ta dah!

Now for the frock itself. I followed the pattern from Janet Arnold,  Patterns of fashion 1 ; the one with comperes front, ( buttoned up)

the petticoat was first: the construction was pretty straightforward, though the flounces were a pain – the fabric frayed like mad….


trim in the making…


more trim on the petticoat…


the skirt…. 🙂

  Then it was time to address the main article – the robe itself.  Again, the pattern is simple, as is the principle – the difficult part was lack of an assistant who would be able to pleat  and pin the thing on me… had to improvise with a dummy.


pinning away…


the front…


sleeves taking shape…. the bodice part and sleeves are made in linen.


the front part….

And there it is! 🙂 my first attempt- a few things i can improve upon, but happy with the first go result.



 and worn  on me – here on the set of Horrible HIstories



Horrible Histories set – you can just about spot me in the back…

We also used the frock for an 18th century themed bridal photoshoot  in Harrowden Hall- a mix of 18th century frocks and modern styles – alas models turned up to be 3 sizes smaller than requested, so the frocks are not displayed at their best – but still Mockford Photography and Pitcheresque Imagery  managed to get a few good shots!



the three frocks  we used – from the left – polonaise en fourreau, robe francaise, robe anglaise


the Anglaise in dusty pink


and the polonaise in brocade. made a bit to big ( the shoot was 5 days after my shoulder operation, so made it a tab bigger so that i could squeeze my dressing into the sleeve:-)

 The Yellow francaise ended up, very appropriately, in Paris – and is now living  a rich and meaningful life, mostly being used for side saddle riding – shown below as a masquerade attire, on the day when we delivered int to Paris, on its new owner – Anne-Beatrice:-)


  Now, I still have some more of that fabric – am tempted to make a caraco jacket in it…. 🙂

2013 in pictures


New Year’s Eve party – by White Mischief

exactly what is says in the title –  a collection of what was happening here in the last 12 months! enjoy – and- Have a lovely New Year!


the first event of the year – Katherine of Aragon festival in Peterborough…



from our Winter Bride collection, shot in January


Prior Engagement team at the EWE in Birmingham





Dianas of the Chase point to point race – sidesaddle…


Easter in Devon: running ..


and hunting – the coldest ever!


and shooting bridal frocks in St. Audries Park – where we got married in October 2011!. good memories:-)


then it was time for the Spring Bride Collection…


in April, we organised a big ball – Spectacular Spectacular, in Pinewood studios…


May was busy – here at a Georgian picnic


doing a Victorian Striptease inn Dragon Hall in Norwich…


entertaining Queen V at Leighton House


June – being a bit silly at a bridal shoot for Events in The Box and Mockford Photography… alas that gown suffered in the recent fire:-(


at the Heritage Festival in Peterborough, in June…


July – Kelmarsh festival, building a bed in the tent…. 🙂


and sweating buckets in Regency gear at Hereford…




went to our first Steampunk markets that summer too – here in CambridgeImageand Stamford

we shoot our Steampunk Amazones in August too: part 1, in Yorkshire and part 2 in Thurleigh




 and did a Summer Bride shoot too…


one of the Summer Brides dresses…


September – at Steampunk Asylum, here just before the fashion show…


and at the market:-)

more markets followed – ILHF and TORM


please, please, can i have some more fabric????


sometimes the markets were busy – sometimes – not so much….



we did some crazy things in October….

in November we also shot the Autumn Bride


alas most, if not all of the Autumn bride dresses were damage in the garage fire….. including this one….


we spent 6 evenings working in Aston Hall with Black Knight Historical…Imageand returned thee to film Regency Christmas  for NBC – the resulting feature can be viewed here: 


we snapped a few pictures making the best of the spectacular autumnal colouring…


and being silly at a Christmas Market at Stoke Rochford…


and enjoying working at Holkham Hall for two very busy weekends…


and seeing Christmas in London, celebrating my last outfit for the year – a mixture of late Victorian and modern:-)

 Over the year we also enjoyed a few good Stitch and Bitch sessions with Julia from Sew Curvy – it is great to have friends you can work side by side with – rather rare for me, so thanks Julia for your friendship!


good times!


looking classy even at work…

Alas the year didn’t end on a good note – we had a garage fire on the 28th – in which most of my stock, fabrics, dresses etc was damaged.. 😦 lots of private re-enactment , camping and sport equipment also vanished:-( still, we were  insured, so hoping some of it can be rebuilt – it will take a while though! 😦


fire started in the evening – faulty socket is to blame…. here the fire is over, just trying to get rid of the fumes..


the wardrobe where the dresses used to be….



mind you, some of the charred, sticky, smelly items may have just one more chance to take to the stage – we plan a postapocalyptic shoot… it is not everyday  you have a beautifully charred wall in your garage, is it?


  and so –  that’s it – goodbye 2013, welcome 2014! bad or good, it will no doubt be interesting – Happy New Year everyone!