Thursday, February 21, 2013

1883 Bustle Gown Sewing Project

1883 Bustle Sewing Project

Okay, well the gown is finished.  It was a great sewing challenge, and just what I needed these last few weeks to keep my mind busy. 

I used two different patterns, the Burda 7880 for the bodice, (Most of you reading this blog will recall my review on this pattern in late 2012) and the Butterick B5696 for the skirt. 

The Butterick skirt pattern had a very poufy “waterfall” drape to the bustle train, which was exactly what I was looking for.  It was already in my pattern stash, so I thought to give it a try, and I very much love the way it turned out. 

 I saved the buttons to sew on last.  Sad thing, I lost ALL my buttons in the move recently.  I have not been able to find them anywhere.  Hundreds of buttons, some wonderful vintage glass buttons from the late 1800’s, real pearl buttons, all the buttons I had just purchased in December, plus the hand painted Limoges cabochons with the perfectly matching coral colored roses that I was going to use for this gown – such a disappointment!  I used a new sewing machine with a built-in automatic button hole sewing feature, and now I love sewing button holes!  The Bodice took two days, and the skirt took about seven days of "on-off" working.  There is  approximately fourteen yards of the fashion fabric, and everything is lined with the exception of the sleeves.   The fabric is a cotton voile with a very subtle plaid stripe, it is then stamped with the coral roses.  The train is four feet wide and nine feet long.  I lined the train with organdy to give it more structure and body as the floral fabric is very sheer and light, and I wanted the poofs to puff correctly - LOL!  The gown is shown over a lobster-tail bustle cage. 

What really drew my attention to the inspiration gown was the floral fabric.  When we look around at vintage pictures and even the actual gowns themselves, we do not often see the bright florals in the 1880's - obviously they were out there, and we know the Victorians loved bright colors, so I thought this gown would be great to re-create.

I did make some slight changes - first of, the apron front, I did not opt for the side drapes, not my personal favorite style, so I left that off.  Secondly, on the bodice front, it was hard to tell if the white lace at the "V" point went all the way around the hem of the bodice or was simply an accent, I opted for the simplicity of the accent of white lace due to the bodice design of the bustle back.  Next, I used some creative liberty interpreting what I think the back of the gown may have looked like based on the back of the other dress to the far left.  Lastly, the description of the original gown was "Ecru with Pink Carnations", and my fashion fabric is "white with Coral Roses".  I wish I had thought before had to give the gown a quick dip in a tea stain dye before I added the white lace to make in more inline with the original, but I thought about that after the fact.  Next time!

The lace is vintage and is in perfect condition.  It is the first lace I could not identify, so if any of you know what it is, please let me know!  It is cotton, 4" wide, white, and very sturdy.  I purchased eight yards of it years ago from a seller in England.  When I was pressing it, it had that "old" smell to it.  Those of you that purchase vintage textiles know what I am referring too yes?   I thought it was just the perfect lace for this ensemble and added that authentic detailing. 

Overall, I very much enjoyed the project and working with the new Butterick pattern for the skirt.  I will be posting up a pattern review on the skirt next week.  Enjoy!


I did use a 4” vintage lace for the apron trim and the bodice front, plus a 1” vintage lace trim for around the cuffs on each arm.  Lastly, I used a wonderful vintage lace jabot at the neck opening of the bodice.  The bodice went together much fastest this time around as I decided to go with “flat lining” instead of the bag lining as I did the last time.  There is a simple 4” pleated ruffle off each cuff and at the bottom hem of the bustled train.  I will post a “Pattern Review” on the Butterick Pattern in the future.  For now, I will state that the pattern is not period correct in its construction.  The skirt proper is only 3.5 yards.  The train is four feet wide and nine feet long.  Next, I added the 12” fancy pleated ruffle at the hemline.  I also elected to make some changes to the pattern; I lengthened the apron by approx six inches to get the right look to match the fashion plate, I also opted to change the apron design as I am not a big fan of the split “v” apron personally, so I kept it simple with a longer rounded hem apron, and I changed the double row of pleats at the hem for a 12” fancy pleat to also match the fashion plate.   However, I did keep the 4” pleated ruffle on the train.  I decided to go with a 3” faux horsehair trim into the hemline to give it some extra body as the cotton was very relaxed and I had the same idea for the train.  I lined the entire train with single piece of cotton organdy to help give it body and hold the poufy look I wanted.  I went with ribbons and loops to bustle up the train instead of just sewing it into place.  With this option I can tie the last two rows higher and get the train off the ground if needed. 

While this ensemble will not be to everyone’s taste, I do very much love the overall effect and look of this gown.  It brightened my day every time I looked at it, and every time I picked it up to work on it.  Funny how a piece of fabric can make you smile isn’t it?  Enjoy!



  1. We'll start hunting for more buttons to start a new collection for you! This came out very pretty.

    1. Yes, I will need to rebuild my collection! Another great reason to shop the antique markets!

  2. Lovely use of your GD finds and what a great way to lift your spirits! How awful that all your buttons vanished in your move! I hope they turn up eventually in an unexpected place.

    1. I can only hope they show up someday, but I do not think they will. I will just have to shop the antique malls and maybe a quick trip back up to LA Textile Markets