Posts Tagged ‘Victorian Costuming’

One aspect of bustle gowns that make them so fun is the usage of a lot of different techniques and options in decoration. To not use enough of them you could arguably be accused of “modernizing” your gown – that is making it more palatable to 21st century tastes by streamlining it and removing the complexity. So here is a question in translation: does one make the gown pleasing by 21st century standards, or add the complexity and then risk criticism. When making drawings, one often wonders if a viewer will look at the gown and whisper that loathed phrase about the kitchen sink. This is a natural thought to a 2011 designer of a bustle gown.

Current designers are doing away with the complexity and trickiness that was fashionable a few years before for all that’s flow-y and drape-y. I am not unhappy about this move, and am affected by the morphic resonance. When approaching this next bustle, I feel compelled to be more thoughtful about the decorative and structural additions, making sure that they add something to the whole and the drape. But in this I am running the risk of deviating from authenticity and applying 2011 aethestic standards. Here are some random thoughts running through my brain as I plan:

  • Pleats: Contrary to intuition, they look divine in motion. Very few things can capture undulation like pleats at a full-bodied hem.  No point in pleating anything other than silk, light-weight cotton or linen, and don’t put it anywhere it won’t move if you want it to look good. To be entirely authentic, you could put them anywhere. But then you are taking the risk it will look stuffy to modern taste.
  • Ruching: Use with caution. Though ruching is great, it is currently a tad associated with grabby brides. Though this is probably a transient association, it does influence. I certainly want to avoid using it on a large scale to avoid modernity. One imagines the bridezilla stretching her hands across her waist saying “it makes me look so much thinner.” Hm.
  • Trims: Don’t use them unless they are an authentic material, or at least are a good-quality substitute. If you can’t afford silk fringe – or can’t find it – do some ruching, pleats, or clever usage of fabric. Simplicity is better than cheap trim.
  • Hems: early period and mid period bustles should have hems that move, or else they miss the mark in the romantic category. Late period bustles should move no where except the back  – and only if you have a train. Otherwise, one doesn’t really have a late period bustle.
  • Linings: No point in lining the WHOLE thing. This was a mistake I made in the last few dresses, when I was in love with the idea of lining the whole thing in silk. I’m over it now. Most dresses of he period were not completely lined.  Save yourself the trouble and the distraction and just do some facing.
  • If you are doing a high fashion bustle, mix up the fabrics. Our modern inclinations urge us to keep it simple with one type of fabric. The tastes of the time period were the opposite. Think of the architecture: exteriors could covered in gingerbread, shingles, clapboard, brick, iron, and half-timbering on one house. Upholstery would be patched together as well. It’s easy to get a little confused by the usage of multiple fabrics and textures, but it really has to be done. If you can’t find the fun in it, then you might want to try a dress from another period. To play a conservative route, one could use a silk and velvet in the same color, or the same colored silk with two different textures (My previous posts of the antique Victorian mid-bustle era gown I own showed lots of use of both matte and shiny silk satin. The pictures show how well this can look.), but the creation of depth and varying reflections of light and variations in tactility are absolute essentials for a fashionable Victorian bustle. Otherwise, you should just make a 1950s gown and save yourself all the trouble.

That’s all my thoughts for today.

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Hi, guys. I’ve been gone for a while after a baby and a big move.

Winter will shortly fall on our heads like a sharp and brittle wind-blown icicle. As I currently live in a city, skiing opportunities will be scarce though the winter will be colder and darker. A project is needed.

When we left off I was about to start an Edwardian corset, and had all of the materials to complete said project. Now, though I live in a bigger city with greater resources, and I intend to allow the fabric to do the inspiring. Though I wouldn’t rule out an Edwardian, I feel as though a luscious silk velvet bustle beckons – one such as the ladies in my Victorian city neighborhood would have worn when these brick row houses, and copper clad mansions were new. ‘Tis the season for velvet, eh?!

Onto those sketches!

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Dress Front with sleeves pinned on

The underskirt is 99% finished. Hah! All that remains are some extra hooks for closure. The back portion of the underskirt I trimmed differently then the front portion, which was common for the period. I was rather sick of rigid, straight up and down pleats, so I took a long piece of doubled over 16.5″ wide plum silk (8 inches when folded and turned), and pleated it in on itself  4 times every 8 inches. 8 seemed to be something of a magic number with the underskirt, because lots of things ended up being done in 8s. I don’t think there is any significance to this.

20090511_0002I have some sleeves, though they are not lined, sewed in, finished off, or decorated. They are pinned on for the photos. I used the plaid because I had a good amount of it left over and hated to waist it. It’s not one of those fabrics that you can coordinate with a lot of other things. It’s demanding stylistically, but wonderful, wonderful to work with. As far as fabric goes, I can safely say it’s the best I have worked with. It ranks a 10 in texture liveliness, personality, color, and ease to work with. I bought it on e-bay, and basically based the entire dress around it.

The sleeves are made in two pieces, so they have a slight natural bend at the end. I cut a big circle, then a hole in the middle, and ever so slightly gathered it into the bottom of the arms at the 4 cardinal points of the sleeve hole. I think I’ll sew plum pleating to the inside – if I have time – and I will trim where the circle meets the sleeve with a bow and such.

The side view looks so much better when worn, primarily because the dummy bends to the right and back, and because it has no derriere. Absolutely none.

20090511_0003I’m sewing some antique lace to the inside of the collar. It looks authentic because it is real antique, probably late 1800 lace. There was exactly the right amount.

The back bow will be basted, because there isn’t much on earth that looks more stupid than a screwed up out of place bow moving around a dress, or moving around anything for that matter.

This dress would not have been worn in high summer, but this time of year is perfect for it. It would have been a walking dress, worn to parks. I like to think it’s Parisian. Who else but a French woman would wear purple plaid silk?


I wish so much I could let everyone feel the dress! It feels fantastic with all of that silk, and the rustle is so inspiring! What the previous red and black bustle dress did for drama, this one does for texture and tactility. You just want to touch it!

She will embark on her maiden voyage in less than 48 hours… no more posts for a couple of days. Back to work.

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Center panel

Center panel

Not much action here as far as the dress goes. Lots of stuff to do. Time sensitive. Responsibilities.

But I have made the center panel. It’s not crazy exciting, but there’s a reason for that. I think the polonaise is way exciting by its own. One could have gone all out with the center bodice panel, just for the sake of going all out, and to show off. But, no. That was not done here. Restraint was used.

Why did I decide to construct it with a center panel? Doesn’t it make it more complex? Yes, it does. But it also leaves some room for fudging in case I gain or loose weight. I often imagine I may need to wear the dresses I make more than once, though it rarely happens. Yet, I am hopeful.

The center panel is interlined in heavy canvas. There are two 4 inch bones crossing the waist vertically. I also sewed a piece of cotton tape horizontally across the waist to reinforce it. Most of the brute force of holding the bodice on the body should be taken by the waist plackard (see previous post), but structural integrity is important, and, well, why not?

The center panel buttons on the inside with metal snaps. Hook and eyes could not have worked, because they would show. The snaps make the join flat, without leaving the gap between the base of the hook and the eye.

The center panel is lined in lilac silk. I pleated two pieces of a plum sash into the top side of the panel and tied them into a bow. I’ll iron the bow to be more flat and such later.

It’s hard for me to make the dress look good on the dummy. First, though its close, it’s not exactly my measurements. Second, it can not stand up straight.

20090508_0002To the right is the lovely back, all plaid and poufy.

I have some antique lace I will sew into the neckline, and the plan is to make a scarf that ties around the waist for yet another exciting bow.

The back half of the underskirt needs its pleats. I’m waiting to see how much plum I have left before I make them. The plan is to make the sleeves plum with some plaid trim. Almost all of the fashion plates I have seen using plaid fabric have the sleeve fabric contract from the bodice: either the bodice is solid and the sleeves plaid or vise versa. Again, there is also so much going on with the polonaise. It’s good to give the eye a break.

The dress will be photographed at the Lilac Festival here in Rochester, so it will have to be done soon. I’ll be making a hat, too.

20090508_0003Since I don’t have much else to show, I am posting a picture of my garden gnome. He’s really cute. One could stare at him for hours…

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So far.

So far.

The Polonaise is far from finished. But the components are slowly taking form. It will be so satisfying when I can breathlessly sew them all together. That’s the easy part.

The picture is not so good. But, what is shown in the photo is polonaise back train with it’s fronts turned back with little tassels, the finished side panels, and the unfinished back pouf. The back-top ouf still needs plum trim and tassels. Also, I might sew little lilac or plum bows above the tassels. Still haven’s decided. And also, the way it is turned back isn’t quite right in the photo. Why did I bother to post one at all?! I guess because I’m trying to show the progress.

The back pouf, or top layer, will have a sash that falls just above the points. I will probably tie it in a bow.

When you get to this stage in projects, you start to have doubts. Will people notice my little plum tassels? Should I redo that part I’m not happy with or leave it alone? Will it all matter anyway? I’m sure we’ve all experienced this. Then I remind myself, this is a Victorian bustle dress. Try your best, and see what happens.

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I’ve postponed finishing the skirt, primarily because I can’t make up my mind yet about how to allocate resources. In the meantime, i have started the ever so particular polonaise. Below are shots of the plaid pinned to the interliner, which is then loosely pinned to the dummy.

I changed the design. There will be a heavily pleated panel extending from the mid-back bodice (under the ‘V’), which will probably be poufed. From the side back bodice panels, I am sewing two side panels. You’ll just have to wait and see what it looks like.

Side Bodice

Side Bodice

Back center bodice

Back center bodice


Side from a distance


Back from a distance

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Bustle Portion of the skirt is attached to the top of the 3 panel train

Bustle Portion of the skirt is attached to the top of the 3 panel train

I made some small progress on the underskirt today.

The train is gathered and sewn into the cotton tape. The idea is that more cotton tape will be used to do more rigging in the future. But I decided that I wanted to cover the rigging with a darted panel. So the darted panel was sewn to the cotton tape as well. I will sew more rigging when I’m ready to attach the whole thing to a waist band.

An Apron is sewn onto the front 3 panels. It's gathered at the sides.

An Apron is sewn onto the front 3 panels. It's gathered at the sides.

I cut the apron and trimmed it with a pleated flounce. The apron is then sewn to the front panels.

The front panels and back panels are still not attached to each other, but I’m basically ready to sew them all together then insert the whole contraption into the waistband. Maybe tomorrow?

A friend wants to take photos of me and the new dress, so I have a deadline for completion: a week and change. Should be fun.

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Front Panel

I started cutting into the gown fabric today after making the pattern pieces and a mock up of muslin. I will document here how to construct a dress. I couldn’t work on it too intensely today, so everything is all basic.

Here is a shot of the front panel pinned to the dummy.  Understand, this is the base skirt. It will be adnored with puffs, pleats, scallops, and an apron that is also adorned. I’ll get to the apron later.

Front panel with wedge-shaped side panels

Side Panels attached to the front panel

There will be an attached back train of modest size.  It is made up of three panels of the silk, sewn together. I gathered the train into a piece of sturdy cotton tape. Right now, it’s just pinned to the tape. The train is not yet sewn to the front panels for reasons that will become clear later. Basically, it’s being held on the dummy by friction.

Keep in mind, that the three train panels are something like 7 feet across, all of which needed to be gathered into the 19″ piece of cotton tape. There is a lot of stuff going on there, and things are not as simple as they appear.

Back train attached pinned to front panels

A rather wide apron will be attached going across the three front panels and sewn into the seams above the train. The cotton tape that holds the train will be held to the waistband with rigging, and two purple panels that cover the rigging.

The Brown dress in the middle is the inspiration for my Polonaise design. Coming soon.

The Brown dress in the middle is the inspiration for my Polonaise design. Coming soon.

To the right is the 1874 Godey fashion print that is the closest thing to what I have in mind for the back of the polonaise. Of course, it’s brown and not plaid. 

The proposed underskirt will be much more elaborate than the one shown on the brown Polonaise in the 1874 print. Also, the front of the Polonaise will be shorter, which will allow for a lovely apron. But I really liked the long train effect on the brown polonaise.

I am already in love with my grape-popsicle colored silk. It’s so soft, so sturdy, an so easy to work with. It rustles and drapes like a dream, and the color is just so Victorian.

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Polonaise of Marie Antoinette, with a back pulled up from the dirt

The Polonaise of Marie Anntoinette pulled up from the dirt

The Victorian world saw an explosion of advancement, growth, and manufacturing. Factories were raising from the gentile fields of Europe, and America was stalking and pouncing on the power of steam and mechanization with a covetous hunger. From all the clank and soot arose new millionaires, all eager to establish themselves in society and ensure themselves a place in social/congregational heaven. But how so? How can these nouveau riche of Western Society be squeezed into an inherited pattern whose foremost requirement is that entrants not be nouveau riche? How can society create order with such seeming economic chaos? Easy. Give those mass produced parlor sets crotch mahogany veneer. Make all the new stuff nobly pay tribute to the old. 

Victorian Revival of the Polonaise

Victorian Revival of the Polonaise with a Watteau back

My next project will be something of a revival of a revival  – a purple plaid polonaise c. 1874-1876. The Victorian Polonaise was meant to be a revival of a Roccoco style ‘gown’ for the aristocracy that was intended to copy the dress of rustic Polish peasants. Of course the Rococo Polonaise and the Victorian Polonaise little resemble that which the 18th century Polish peasant actually wore and were made of much more expensive materials, but that’s beside the point.

The Victorian Polonaise is something of an evolution of an evolution. In the age of Marie Anntoinette, when dressing like a simple, silk-clad, puffed, and embroidered peasant girl was a la mode, fashions were adopted by designers that wished to give elegance to the ‘simplicity’ of peasant life. In order for designers to credibly claim their designs were peasant-chic, they would slap names on their garments to evoke some foreign, and perceived simplistic culture.

Sleeveless Polonaise

Casual blue sleeveless Polonaise

La Polonaise was a safe bet for a name of such a garment, first because Poland was a long way away from France, and second, because the former queen, and grandmother of the current King Louis XVI, Queen Marie Leszczyńska, was Polish and reknowned for her piety, simplicity and charity. Unlike Marie-Anntoinette, she had a well-deserved reputation for charity, piety, thrift in a decadent court, and she was popular. Also, Poland was poorer than France, so there must be simple peasants there.

What was a Polonaise? Basically a bodice that is shorter in front and with a very long back. The original intention of the 1770s Polonaise was to bunch the back, so as to imitate peasants who pull their robes up out of the dirt. Aristocracy, you see, didn’t need to pull their robes up from the dirt because they had peasants to walk on when the ground was muddy. [It's a joke]

A Sporty Polonaise from 1883. The styling here was the most common.

A Sporty Polonaise from 1883. The styling here was the most common.

The Polonaise came into style just about the same time as the bustle. As the Victorian era grew older, it became sportier and sportier, loosing the old pick-up-from-the-dirt idea and turning instead into to simply  a long-backed bodice. Some of them were made with faked shorter bodices, with long attached ‘tail’ or skirts. Eventually, they just became something of a jacket, but retained the name.

The Polonaise has likely existed in some form or another for quite some time. I remember seeing images of Tudor women, working class women from the 17th century, and 17th century courtiers wearing gowns of a similar concept. An Elizabethan gown ‘In the Polish style’ meant simply that it was high-necked, without a train, front closing, and decorated with horizontal braid across the front opening. That which would be most similar to the Polonaise was called an “open gown” or “loose gown,” which isn’t nearly as catchy, chic, and French as Polonaise. So when the term was coined, it stuck for a little over a century.

The polonaise I intend to make will resemble it’s Rococo ancestors only minimally.

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1840s silhouette

1840s silhouette

After consuming a significant number of books on scientific advances in the 1840s, I wonder why, in such a highly charged atmosphere of innovation and energy, their clothes and hairstyles were so dreadful.As much as I enjoy championing the champion-less, I would take up the cause of this decade begrudgingly, and only out of a desire to understand the physical aspects in which all these advancements took place. For fashion-wise, the decade was invidiously dowdy.

Scientifically and philosophically it yielded an extraordinary number of innovations and divergences in thought:

  • John Stuart Mill writes, Principles of Political Economy, in 1844
  • Start of the Computer Revolution with Charles Babbage and Ada Byron Lovelace
  • First Publication of The Economist, 1843
  • Marx & Engels write the Communist Manifesto, in 1848
  • First convention for Women’s Rights held in 1848
  • First use of general anesthesia in an operation in 1844
  • First telegraph sent, starting a Communication Revolution
  • The Political ‘Revolution of 1848′
  • Darwin’s preparation of his theory of Natural Selection

But the women’s clothes were awful. The fashions of this decade were the prudes of the prudish nineteenth century. Alison Gernsheim writes: “Never before or since has Western women’s costume expressed respectability, acquiescence and dependence to such a degree as in the 1840s, the most static decade of nineteenth century fashion.” And, I am inclined to agree with her. One would need to go back to the fifteenth century – and very arguably not even then – to find a decade of fashion so hell-bent of stifling what our genetic disposition would urge us to find attractive.

Sick faces encased in poke bonnets or drooping, plastered hair

Perhaps, besides the Europe-wide famine, this was one of the reasons for the explosion in thought. It is difficult to imagine the female visage inspiring contentment and distraction for mankind when framed by such severely parted, drooping hair and visible only when her view is straight-forward on due to her deep-brimmed poke bonnet. Those wretched bonnets made the sideways glance in the park or the passing look on the street impossible. The sullen, sick faces of the fashion plates, stuffed into stovepipe-like contraptions or sad, plastered hair were little improved by a lame spattering of dinky lace and fake flowers. And the bodices! Their cut made the youthful and sinewy matronly, the tall and willowy gangly and angular, and the well-busted top heavy and immobile. The constriction of the skirts, pancake-like flattening and dropping of the bosom, all-over covering of the skin, and face-blocking unflattering hair emphasized that idea that women were indeed forbidden fruit, but not in a good way. Mystery was abandoned for sanctimonious righteousness, boring rigidity, and the stifling doctrinal tightness of fear and disapproval.

The fashions of the 1840s were a blight upon the eyes of men and an encasement for the expression of women. In 1839, the year before the plunge into this mirthless decade, Honore de Balzac bent minds into viewing fashion as “sort of a symbolic language,” and that “to be proficient in the science, every woman walks about with a placard on which her leading qualities are advertised.” It is sad to imagine that the language of fashion would be one so without poetry and voiced with a clipped, monotone lack of ingenuity and spirit. Clothing can be not only a sounding board, as Honore suggested, it can also be an entombment. Is it any wonder that George Sand dressed like a man?!

1847 Portrait of Lola Montez painted for the King of Bavaria

1847 Portrait of Lola Montez painted for the King of Bavaria

It is easy to imagine the lascivious and romantic beauties of their days, the Josephines in high waisted Empire clothes, lounging on chaises and eating strawberries, or the Marie d’Agoults attracting the young Liszts in their exaggerated puffed-sleeved of the 1830s showing off their little waist and luminescent faces with dangly earrings in the candlelight. Or perhaps the era of the hoop that was to follow in the 1850s and 60s. Though it is not my favorite period, it had more redeeming qualities than the 40s. It was when below the waist was just too large and festooned to be ignored and the bosom generously framed and available for visual consumption.

But the 1840s? Even Lola Montez – the courtesan who was rumored to have seduced the King of Bavaria by wrestling her way into his study, sliding her hips onto his desk, and cutting her bodice open with a rough pair of scissors without so much of an introduction – looks dowdy and prudish in the fashion of the time. Though the particulars of the story are exaggerated, Ms. Montez’s quick temper and overpowering lustiness were infamous. But in her high-necked black gown with her flat conical bodice, It is hard to imagine her irreverential gall and hedonism inspiring the discontent among the masses that led to the downfall of her royal lover and the end of her career as a mistress of state. Though to her credit, the decision of Ms. Montez to not rely on her fashionable clothes to capture the Wittelsbach King – and eventually a title – was a demonstration of good strategy.

The western world of the 1840s must have been a rather detestable place: cold weather, potato famines, cranky men and bad clothes. Is it any wonder that so many were disenchanted with their institutions?

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I wanted to post an 1885 photograph showing a group of tourists – including women with bustles – crossing the Mer de Glace. I don’t have a scanner, so I was hoping to find something like it online. But instead, I found this: a wonderful article on a team of intrepid climbers who chose to trace many of the famous hikes of the Alps in nineteenth century costume – and with period equipment – in order to demonstrate and bring awareness to how hiking technology has changed.


How could a post be better than one on glorious Alpine expeditions in historical costume! The only way I could have made this combination any more thrilling would be if the hike were accompanied by a dance done by Alessandra Ferri wearing Guerlain perfume and a narrative by Shadowfax in old English. Though I suppose that having Ms. Ferri and the Lord of the Maeras dancing around the hikers like Robin’s Minstrels would grow awkward and cumbersome. But for the few moments these aspects were able to harmonize, the sensory stimulation would be intense, probably overwhelming.

I will post the 1885 tourists photo when I find a scanner.

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The Skirt Exterior


Skirt Front

Skirt Front

This is the fun part… Since the skirt is asymmetrical with overlapping pieces and numerous interconnected layers, I will go clockwise around the skirt with the descriptions/explanations.

The base skirt is gold/tan cotton, the top of which can be seen at the waist. The base skirt is gathered into the waistband and sewn by hand.

The olive apron is sewed to the base skirt on a diagonal. At first I thought this may have been a repair for a ripping apron, but that is not the case as the top of the apron is the edge of the fabric and could not have continued.

The Silk Tassels, hem pleating, and verticle pleating

The Silk Tassels, hem pleating, and verticle pleating

The apron is pleated into the side, which I shall show later. I am shamefully responsible for the spot o the lower middle apron, when I dropped some food on it as a girl. I have made no attempt to clean it, but am looking into some methods.

The gold tassels are made of silk, and sew to the bottom of three gold silk strips. The strips are back with olive silk and hand basted to the skirt. The skirt has a series of verticle pleats between the gold strips.

The entire hem is covered in three rows of very tight pleating.


Side of the skirt where the apron is gathered.

To the left is the apron draping I was talking about. The Apron is cut like a long scarf, where it’s sewn to the base skirt in the front on the diagonal. It is gathered on the side, and the gathers are covered in jet and glass bead work.


Photo of the beading, showing the gathering of the apron.

The gathering is sewn to a side/back panel, which is edged in gold silk rope. So, the scarf-like apron holds it is place. More on this later.

20081104_00052To the left is a shot of the back of the skirt showing the beadwork. There is another panel, also edged in gold silk braid show here. It is basted down close to the beadwork. In the beadwork photo, you can see the gold braid in the upper left hand corner. You can also see how the apron-scarf overlaps the panel.

20081104_0006To the right is a shot of the bottom of the scarf-apron,  which overlaps the largest back panel, and is gathered and billowed near the hem. The bottom is edged in the gold silk. In the photo, you can see where the panel ends on the right hand side and gives way to the 2 rows of pleating. You can also see the gold braid along the bottom, and the gold silk that trims the end of the apron-scarf.

20081104_00011Confused? I made a drawing. If you look closely, you will see that the scarf-like apron, the right back panel (panel #1) and left back panel (panel #2) are all basted together under the beading, and at the bottom gathering of the scarf-like apron (lower right corner of the drawing). It was indeed meant to be worn with a bustle, because without a bustle, the basting locations don’t work. But it was not meant to be worn with a bustle the size of what I made.

Onto the left side…


The left side is much simpler than the right. The apron is gathered underneath the back left panel, which itself is gathered over the location. The back left panel then straightens out and is trimmed with gold braid.

As I mentioned before, the pleating at the hem goes all the way around the bottom, even when it is covered up by the two back panels.

The Underside & Lost Train

The olive silk never touches the waistband. All pieces are sewn onto the base fabric. Under the apron, panels of olive silk and the gold strips with the tassels are sewn to the base fabric about 8 inches below the waist. The distance between the olive front panels and where the apron is sewn varies because the apron is sewn on a diagonal.

20081104_0035The Bustle area has rigging: two strips of black cotton tape. Loose threads on the base fabric (the gold fabric in the pictures) suggest that the base fabric was once basted at points to the rigging. It was NOT basted to the olive silk panels, probably because the stitching would be visible since the panels are not lined and there would be nothing by visible fabric to grab on to.

Do you see the white porcelein buttons? There are five: three on the base fabric, and two on the olive silk. The fabric underneath them is gathered, probably to strengthen the fabric to hold the weight of whatever the buttons were buttoning. What do I think they were for? A detachable train. Where is it now? It very likely no longer exists.


My guess is that the train would have had the 3 layers of pleats that we see on the bottom of the hem. The idea of it having a train makes the design make much more sense. The back panels are remarkably flimsy, being unlined, and merely interfaced with mitering. It seems remarkably insubstantial compared to the busy front, and this was a time period in which the fashion was to have your back be far more complex than your front. If the back panels and so forth were just the covering to hide the train attachment mechanism, then it makes sense. It explains why the back panels are only basted together and not basted towards the front of the skirt. If a train were to be attached, it would need the extra room to spread out. Another possibility is that the two side panels were basted together as they are later, perhaps after the train was ruined.

If I were to sew a train for this gown, I would interface the top with some stiff fabric, and then button the train right side of the fabric to right side of the other fabric, so the buttons would never be seen.

20081104_0037And the Hem…

Under the pleating, the hem is trimmed with a stiff fabric. I believe it is a heavy, dense wool. There is no lining to the dress, which is not surprising. The base fabric of the gown performs the same function.

Other Examples?

In all of my searching, so far, I have yet to find another skirt quite like this one, which is more than baffling. The front is typical, but the arrangements of the overlaying back panels, the sweeping scarf-like apron, and the possibility of a train are mysterious indeed.

If any of my readers have any more information on this dress, its function, or its construction, I would very, very much appreciate it if you could comment. Thank you!

To part, I will throw in a couple of photos of the bodice and skirt together:



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