I have loved the absurdity of the 1830s since I first discovered fashion plates of it almost 20 years ago. I’ve made four previous 1830s dresses and love wearing them but I had been longing for a formal dinner party. Wandering a historic site just isn’t quite as glamorous as candlelight and friends. Finally a friend suggested if you can’t find and event, make one! So the Young Victoria Dinner was born.
But what to where?! Obviously any of the four other perfectly serviceable gowns I own just WOULD NOT DO. Why?…because I said so and it’s my party.
When looking around at fashion plates I realized there’s a pretty large range of things to choose from, but evening ensembles seems to have a few common threads.
Short sleeves, or short sleeves with a net over sleeve, wide necklines (some off the shoulder even) and they are made of either silk or a sheer. In today’s world that sheerness in not-a-silk would be cotton or if the fabric gods love you a wool but I’ll never find that in my life time.
I also really enjoyed the delicateness of many white gowns I found. Which I would hazard a guess is a hangover from earlier in the century when delicate white muslin gowns were all the rage. If it’s not broke don’t fix it? slash use up the fabric you already made…
All of the inspiration images I liked best (slash pretty much all the images of early-mid 1830s gowns) have huge delightful sleeves, full skirts and a wide waistband. Or what I’m assuming is a wide waistband because they’ve accessorized with a belt or sash. But you know same “wide band of waist” thing.
In the end this image from the 1832 Costumes Parisiens is what stole my heart. Except not in that shade of yellow/green as this heart looks very sickly in that shade. So I decided to do a smash of the white airy dresses and the hanging ribbons with lilacs (or maybe hydrangeas hard to tell)
I’m sorry to tell you I took not-very-many construction photos because I don’t really deem my Victorian dressmaking all that interesting. The dress is made out of Pure Silks cotton organdy which was both very reasonable in price, got here quickly, had a nice stiff hand and smelled funny. I flatlined the bodice and sleeves with a white cotton broadcloth.
I used the Truly Victorian 1860s ballgown bodice as my sloper…Yeah I know it’s marketed as being 30 years later but I promise it really is the same shape. Please note how far ON my shoulder it sits. I didn’t change this angle at all, the gravity and heat of my body caused my final neck shape to stretch. You have been warned if you make a cotton dress.
Standard Robin bodice construction
- Cut everything out. Forget something. Cut more. Hate cutting, and neglect to cut sleeves.
- Sew; side back seams, front seam, side seams, shoulder seams.
- Finish neckline with a bias strip facing, machine sew to right side, then turn inside and whip stitch.
- Turn in center back opening 1/4″ and then 1/2″, whip down.
- Try on bodice. enlist well trained husband to pin the back closed, remembering why back closing dresses are dumb. Pin in the darts.
- Contemplate making darts even, then realize I’m crooked so it’s probably better this way and sew darts as they were fit. (don’t do that it’s wrong)
- Realize you didn’t cut out the sleeves. swear at past Robin and cut out sleeves.
- Finish the arm slit in this sleeve pattern. gather giant circle into armscye.
- sew sleeves. take out part you caught from the underside. swear more. redo. ta-da have sleeves.
- Sew hooks and bars up centre back.
My sleeve pattern is figure 30 in the plate above. Previously I’ve used the one from Patterns of Fashion that is a circle with no flat side, but my intelligent self didn’t pay attention when lining up my pattern and it hung off the side of the fabric so flat side it was! I did use the vertical slit opening from PoF though instead of the centered circle. Also my sleeves are always a 30″ circle as it’s an arbitrary measurment I picked the first time and it worked great.
The skirt is super easy. It’s 3 straight panels of 54″ width with a 6″ hem. I gathered it down to a waistband.
I re-gathered to a new new-long-enough waistband and then tried it all on with the skirt over the bottom unfinished edge of the bodice and pinned where it wanted to sit. I then carefully hand backstitched through all the layers.
I tried to drape the bertha on Polly (my dress form) but Polly was a Christmas present in college back in *cough2001cough* and she just hasn’t…grown with me as a person. She’s kind of stuck in the days of our youth
And it turns out for almost-off-the-shoulder-just-kidding-it-stretched-all-the-way-off gowns you need an actual SHOULDER to drape the bertha around. So on Friday night before the party Amanda was super kind and did it on me. (and convinced an old lady it was my dress from our wedding-which-had-already-happened). The bertha is just a rectangle I ironed the edges under and gathered down the CF, the shoulders got pleated and to be honest I need to try ironing it a little flatter as I’m not a huge fan, it’s a wee bit to enthusiastic for me.
The ribbon is from RibbonStore on Ebay and I give them two thumbs way up. The quality is great and shipping was immediate. The flowers were from Michael’s. I looked for vintage millinery or paper ones but that many flowers was prohibitively expensive.
I styled the dress with two pearl necklaces (more is more), new earrings from Dames a la mode that I LURVE and a pair of matching bracelets.
My I-N-C-R-E-D-I-B-L-E hair was a combo of custom piece from Jennylafleur and some cheap side curls from ebay. My apollo’s knot is probably the most beautiful hair I’ve ever had. My wedding included. It was fantastically easy to wear as well. I put my own center section into a high ponytail and pinned the hairpiece in front of it. I braided my hair and wrapped it around the base. My side sections I braided and crossed in the back and wrapped around the base as well.
Katherine found amazing square toed shoes and I ordered a pair from ebay. They came super quickly and the size 8s fit my dead average size 8 feet. Very comfortable, would order again.