Saturday, January 3, 2015

Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge #24 - All That Glitters

A little thought and a little kindness are worth more than a great deal of money.
John Ruskin
Costuming Can Be Expensive!!!!!!!!!!!
Jeanette Murray
Right??  And after all those hours and expenses to create your costume, there is the cost of the event!!  When I made my first costume for Halloween 2007 I hadn't sewn since high school and had no idea what I was doing but had an idea of what I wanted to make.  Without the skills to start from the beginning I bought a 1970s used wedding gown on eBay and with the addition of a circle overskirt, a corselet, some red ribbon, and a covered straw hat and parrot parasol, I made this - my first costume and my version of Mary Poppins Jolly Holiday gown:
Later I found another inexpensive wedding gown and used the beautiful ruffled skirt for this Victorian Natural Form Era dinner gown:
In 2010 I upcycled a cocktail dress for the skirt for my Tombstone Birdcage Saloon costume where I was Carrie Cardinal.  I won 1st Place Saloon Girl at the costume contest (I still believe I am the oldest saloon girl ever at 60 years old).
I am still a firm believer in recycling, upcycling, using thrift store finds, bed sheets, and whatever else will give you the impression you are seeking while being gentle on the pocketbook.

In 2012 I was going to make a gown for a Victorian Ball and had found an inspiration gown that I loved.
While searching eBay for fabric I found a prom dress that had the bodice style and color I wanted and I knew another upcycle was my plan.
Ebay also yielded a beautiful beaded sari panel,
...and an imperfect embroidered and beaded/sequined net remnant for an underskirt.
I now have a total of $55 spent for this gown and am thrilled!  When the prom dress arrives I dismember it into a lined full length skirt portion, an unlined full length skirt portion which was bustled on the front of the original skirt, the bodice, and a sheer overlay.
In the stash I find some silver satin for an underskirt and using Truly Victorian TV261 1885 Four Gore Underskirt pattern I make the base which fits beautifully over a lobster tail bustle.

Now it's December 2012, the Victorian Ball is in January, and I can see I won't have time to finish the gown.  I attend the ball in another gown, have a great time, and the unfinished gown goes into a plastic bin and is stored.
Fast forward to November 2014 when the plastic bin is opened and the project continues for this Challenge because the one thing I know this gown will do is glitter!
Using the beaded net, I make another TV261 skirt with a single piece of fabric the circumference of the skirt hem leaving the portion open where the back bustle draping fits.
Using some of the unlined skirt portion from the original dress I cut the bustle draping section and fit it onto the net, add the bustling ties, a waistband, and the first overskirt is finished.

The beaded sari section is the length of the skirt and 16" wide at the lower edge.  It's really beautiful with sequins, seed beads, rhinestones, and small pearls.  I cut a piece of unlined fabric to line the sari section and hand hem the edges.

Using the lined skirt section of the original gown, I open one seam and resew the edges, drape the overskirt in an asymmetrical design, add bustling ties and pleats and a waistband.

The bodice has a corset style back and some beautiful pleating and all I have to do is cut the lower edge into the correct shape and hem.

With all the pieces on the dressform I drape and pin and pinch and hang all kinds of lace and trims and the sheer fabric from the original dress onto the bodice to get the look I want.  In the end I make shoulder pieces from the portions I cut from the pleated bodice hem and with all the glitter of the necklace, earrings, tiara, bracelets, and silver gloves and shoes, I decide the gown has all that I need.  Here is my finished glittery aubergine ball gown!


And here we are, the last Challenge of the Historical Sew Fortnightly 2014.  I admit I'm feeling emotional about this - in a good way, of course!  I've learned so much about history, historical costume, sewing techniques, and also about myself.  There were 24 Challenges and I completed all and several of them twice.   I've surprised myself by staying on schedule and stretching in ways I didn't believe possible.  But the greatest gift of HSF '14 was the people I've met and friends I've made.  A truly wonderful experience and an amazing year!
Historical Sew Fortnightly
What It Is:  Victorian Ball Gown
The Challenge:  #24 All That Glitters
Fabric:  Satin, taffeta, embroidered/beaded net
Pattern:  Truly Victorian TV261
Year:  1885
Notions:  Thread
How historically accurate is it?  Made from a modern-day upcycled prom dress to an historically correct silhouette.
Hours to complete?  15 hours
First Worn:  Victorian Diamond Ball on the Victorian Dance Cruise late January 2015
Total Cost:  $55 for prom dress, imperfect embroidered net remnant, beaded sari panel
Photos in January!
Love always,


  1. I can barely find words for how beautiful this is! I love how you combine and reuse different materials, and the sparklies make this just droolworthy!

    1. Thank you for the very nice compliment, miss.impossible!!

  2. Beautiful Jeanette, you have amazing talent for upcycling :-) (Kate B)

  3. Oh how gorgeous! I love that you used a little of this and a little of that and ended up with this stunning dress! I cannot wait to see you in it!!!

    1. Thank you, Gina! I did add a lot of pieces and I do love all the sparkle! I think it will be fun to wear and even more fun to dance in!

    2. Oooh! Dancing!! You will sparkle like Cinderella at the ball!! What fun!!!