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Victorian Dressmaking patience PAYS OFF by Alethea Sayers on 07-18-2009


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Victorian lady
Two years ago I purchased a book about the beautiful traveling doll display of artist, John Burbridge titled, "Les Petites Dames de Mode." If you're like me, you love drooling over fashion plates of period Victorian dress, and it doesn't matter if they are for people or dolls.1890 Gibson Girl

This terrific book has some extraordinary photos, which I poured over numerous times before deciding on which dress I would like to add to my gowns "to make" list. This is a gown likely that would have been worn to the 1893 Columbian Exposition in the evening.

Here's an actual souvenier postcard of the first Ferris Wheel shown from this famous World's Fair Exposition.1893 postcard

At first, I thought it would be fairly easy to get all of the trims and items I needed to reproduce this Victorian dress, but then I always underestimate the ability to find the perfect trim I envision in my mind. Thus, it has taken me two years to be able to cross this gown off of my wish list.

I finally found the black eyelash lace quickly and the perfect shade of pink taffeta at my local Joann Fabrics. But, it was the black jet beaded fringe that required the two years to find... It was the key element in my mind that had to be as close as possible to the real thing. Thank you, E-bay! I found several trim pieces over that period, but they were either too short or in too delicate of a state to use on a new dress that would be worn. And when this piece arrived in the mail, I was thrilled and eager to finally get started on my project.

Another small detail were the appliques that went into the center of the bows. After some searching, I finally came up with a way to make my own by sewing small lengths of black trim into circles, then hand sewing black glass beads onto them.

Victorian ladyI did the same with the trim around the waist, hand sewing black beads on regular English gimp. For the trim around the neckline, I had a good length of period trim with very tiny jet beads on it. While it was not perfect (with some minor loss of some beading) it is difficult to tell when looking at it even up close and the trim itself was strong. It is time consuming but as you can see, well worth the effort!

To get the bows to all be uniform in size, I cut strips of pink taffeta, sewed both edges down, and fold it in the center to gather. The tails of the bows are added, sewn on separately to each bow. It altogether was more time consuming than I had originally anticipated, but looking at the final results, I think it was worth the time and the patience to find all of the elements.

Of course, I have another one on my list from this book which I've been gathering up trims for and I'm hoping it won't take two years to find them all. But if it does, that's okay too because I currently have about 30 more gowns left on that same list.


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