How can I not love Victorian clothing? Not only does the very thought of it bring up feelings of romanticism and by-gone eras but it’s the perfect way to show off a beautiful hourglass figure while remaining perfectly modest. And all those corsets and petticoats…

My first Victorian dress was a transitional type between the round crinoline and the bustle. I used Truly Victorian patterns for the dress, Laughing Moon Dore for the corset and a Simplicity pattern for the crinoline which I don’t recommend. The shape of the crinoline should have been perfect but the lengths of wire asked for must have been wrong as they asked for a shorter one below a longer one and nothing I tried would enable me to wear it for a day without it drooping in the back and the top front where the bones stopped curled in.

The first photo here shows the finished garment while the back of the skirt still had some spring and all in all it wasn’t bad for a first attempt.

1860s Victorian dress from Kathelyne's Wardrobe. A first attempt at a Victorian style dress.

1860s Victorian dress from Kathelyne's Wardrobe. A first attempt at a Victorian style dress.

1860s Victorian dress from Kathelyne’s Wardrobe

My next attempt at Victorian was of a round crinoline from the late 1850s

This time I used all Truly Victorian patterns and I highly recommend them. I’d never sewn anything from a pattern except for one regency dress from a not so simple simplicity pattern and was really worried about how hard patterns are to use. Truly Victorian are easy, designed to fit YOU and fairly accurate.

The first time I wore this dress I wore a make-do bonnet (the one I arrived the day after the event) and while I’d made undersleeves I LEFT THEM AT HOME! Oh my, I felt quite naked.

First attempt at a 1850s dress from Kathelyne's wardrobe.

The next time I wore it to a Victorian picnic I DID remember my undersleeves and My bonnet had arrived and been decorated.

1850s dress from Kathelyne's wardrobe

My Victorian was another attempt at an elliptical dress. This time I used the Truly Victorian crinoline and it went together like a dream and also took a lot les time and effort.

I’ve worn this dress multiple times and each time I’ve added to it. I made a little oops with this dress as I forgot to add ease for the boning so my perfectly fitted toile became a smidge too small bodice. The first time I wore it I wore it over my steampunk corset but in order to lace that small enough it made a bone sit in an uncomfortable position on my ribs. Here is the outfit’s second wearing and you can probably tell I’m wearing it over an underbust corset.

1865 dress from Kathelyne's Wardrobe-- unfinished.

1865 dress from Kathelyne's Wardrobe-- unfinished.

I was working on a new corset but I decided to splash out and buy one as I had too many projects already. The new corset was custom-made by RedThreaded and fit perfectly, being suitable strong enough to pull my waist in that extra half-inch but still comfortable over the lower ribs and relatively light weight for its strength.

Here I am wearing the dress for the first time oer the new corset. You can also see I’ve added the hand made trim to the hemline.

1865 dress from Kathelyne's Wardrobe-- nearly finished.  Since this photo I have added a collar, cuff trimmings and bodice trimmings.  Thanks to  Jeff Fitzpatric for the photo

Thanks to Jeff Fitzpatric for the photo

Here’s a close up of that trim

1865 dress from Kathelyne's Wardrobe-- detail of hem.

Basically I cut strips of the dress fabric, pleated the top one way and the bottom the other so that the top hid the gold and the bottom showed it. I then made piping out of the silk I bought to do the piping and buttons for this dress and piped the top of the trim and sewed the fringe onto the bottom. I put the dress onto Cecil (my dress form) and spent and evening arguing with her how high to place it.

I’ve made a few modifications since this wearing, mainly the cuff details and I’ve added a collar which finishes the dress off.

Somewhere between the beginning of the above dress and it’s final completion I attended several of our Heritage Balls which are held once a year in winter. Of course one must (ok, you don’t have too… but if you’re a costumer in love with the Victorian era) attend in Victorian dress. Following advice from my friends I decided on a round crinoline dress for my first year. I made it out of bright pink shiny polyester satin! Actually, I didn’t. I made it out of a sheer cotton but lined it in the pink so it showed through. I normally don’t touch polyester but made an exception for this one time.

1850s ball gown from Kathelyne's wardrobe

1850s ball gown from Kathelyne's wardrobe

Have you ever made an entire costume just to get to wear the hat? If you haven’t you’re not yet a costumer. The following gown was a dream dress for me and it started with a hat workshop!

Here’s the hat.

Hat from Kathelyne's Wardrobe

The colours aren’t accurate, that’s a soft peach not an orange. And those table cloths are actually part of the finished gown.

The colours in this photo are accurate.

Turn of the century dress from Kathelyne's wardrobe

Ok, so truth be told, this did get nicknamed “the dress of awesome” while I was making it. My mum re-nicknamed it the peaches and cream dress. It’s inspired by a 1902 dress that was inspired by a 1901 dress so it could be Edwardian or Victorian.

Here’s a detail of the front.

Turn of the century dress detail from Kathelyne's wardrobe

The details of the hems of under and over skirt are in the photo with the hat. To make the hem of the underskirt I pleated strips of the fabric, sewed it on, cut some lace down the middle (it was very wide), dyed it, applied it then decorated it with pearls. I did the same for the front of the bodice except without the pleating.

The beading on the overskirt was actually a small amount of VERY expensive beaded bridal lace that I bought and cut up and sewed on. You can’t see (unless you look really close) where the lace stops on the fabric, that big seam in the skirt is actually where I pieced the skirt and the original skirt I based this on was pieced here also.

For my next ball gown I decided to make an elliptical dress. I still had a small amount of the fabric used for the under dress of my turn of the century gown left over. I made a green silk skirt, re-used the underskirt from my gown as an overskirt and used the left over fabric to make a new bodice.

Because everyone had warned me about dancing in an elliptical hoop and because my round crinoline skirt had twisted in my energetic dancing the year before (causing me to trip on the hem as it’s longer at the back than the front.) I set up a system to lock everything in place. I made holes in the back of my crinoline waist band and passed my corset laces through these before tying it off. I also sewed a hook  in the front of my skirt and a bar on the inside of my bodice and connected my skirt to my bodice. Nothing shifted!

1860s ball gown from Kathelyne's wardrobe

For my next ball gown I thought I would be clever. I discovered that the elliptical skirt fit over the new bustle from Truly Victorian so I wore the above over my bustle without the overskirt. It make quite a different ensemble. My friend did my hair for me in a beautiful bustle hairstyle but unfortunately I don’t have any good photos. I was having trouble breathing and was feeling sick so so sat out the dances, loosening my corset bit by bit and it wasn’t until they made me take off my corset and the symptoms continued to worsen that I realised it wasn’t my corset but a new food allergy. So I didn’t have the best night. Also, if you ever eat something and it makes you feel sick, give you difficulty in breathing and numb/tingly lips you’re meant to call an ambulance, not go home and get your mum to make sure you don’t stop breathing.

But that outfit was the closest I’d come to a historical bustle, and I’d gotten the bug. I used the last of my green silk as well as the ivory pearl silk I use for my turn of the century hat and some gold silk to make a day outfit for my green was-elliptical now-bustle skirt. By the way, that green, peach and gold fabric cost me $5 a metre and frays as you look at it. Just so you know, it’s a bitch to sew. I’m quite glad I’ve used it all up!

Green and gold silk bustle dress from Kathelyne's Wardrobe. Worn once, not quite finished!

Green and gold silk bustle dress from Kathelyne's Wardrobe. Worn once, not quite finished!

One thought on “Victorian

  1. These are gorgeous!! This was a lot of research and hard work, but the results are wonderful. The one with the pink petticoat beneath the sheer white is my fave. The “peaches and cream” dress is also exquisite, but all of them are tremendous and I take off my hat (bonnet?) to you.

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