Tuesday, 27 January 2015

An 1858 Ballgown with petal skirt, part II

Having chosen my patterns it was time for a little research - if you can  really call drooling over fashion plates research!

I also looked at a few extant garments and was delighted to find that, although my fabric wasn't silk, the colour at least was very authentic.

An 1860s pink dress in almost exactly the same shade as my fabric! And it even has the moiré effect.
Pink seems to have been very popular, especially for evening gowns, and after looking at a number of fashion plates I noticed that pink combined with white and a touch of green seemed to be a common combination.







Flowers also seemed to be a recurring feature, so I went with a flower garden theme that fitted well with the petal effect of the skirt pattern.

This was my design sketch:

A quick pencil sketch of my design, looking a bit worse for wear after being shoved into various bags for trips to the fabric shop! I had quite a few of these on various bits of paper and the corners of notebook pages. I was so excited about making the dress that any time I had a moment spare I would make a little sketch of it!


And, once I had all of the necessary materials assembled, after a few days of very hard work and late nights, this was the final result:

A nice picture of the dress as it appeared at its first ball - and before it got creased!
I was very happy with the way that the dress went together. I found the pattern instructions for drafting the bodice quite easy to follow (with a bit of help from my Mum for the fitting) and I was really pleased with how well the bodice fitted when finished. The different size pieces for back and front was as system I had never come across before but it worked really well for me.

It was also my first attempt at boning. I used finished lengths of steel boning from Vena Cava Design in channels that I stitched from the lining material then attached by hand. It was a bit tricky at first but made a real difference to the smoothness of the bodice and made the whole thing feel very secure when it was on.

The skirt was very heavy to wear due to the weight of all the fabric and the layers and I didn't manage to neaten all of the underside of the petals where the white pleated ruffles were attached before the ball, but that didn't stop me from dancing the whole night long! I had never danced Victorian sequence dances before but I absolutely loved it. I was very glad of the fan though as it got very warm inside there!

I wore the gown with a pair of peach ballerina's demi-pointe shoes, which were the closest shape I could find to 19th century dance slippers, white cotton gloves (the gloves that my Grandma wore to her wedding) and a headdress that consisted of a white lace snood decorated with ribbon to match the dress and artificial white carnations.

All in all, I was very pleased with the final effect and very proud of my very first Victorian costume.

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