Plaid Olive 1880 Bustled Walking Dress

There's 2 weeks until Halloween and I have nothing to wear! 


Well, that's not entirely true. Sure I have a lot of cosplays and a whole wardrobe full of 18th and early 19th century dresses at arm's length (get the pun?), however that's my dilemma: I have so many outfits, I just can't decide what to wear! 


Ultimately, I've decided to just go with my new outfit I'm working on. This is mostly because I've already got 5 yards of fabric that was in the queue to be another victorian gown, and given that I live and work in an old Civil War/ Victorian town anyway, why not wear it for Halloween?


Choice of Fabric: Olive/Purple Tartan Plaid shirt fabric; purple quilting cotton fabric (lining for the jacket)

Pattern: Simplicity 1558 and Truly Victorian

Year: 1885

Notions: hooks & eyes; purple cotton thread, snaps, buttons, ribbon (to make bow for back of the jacket), binding tape

Historical Accuracy: The pattern is as close to accurate for that time period. With late victorian fashion and styles changing from time to time, I took advantage of the styles and sort of merged 1870 and 1880 together, turning it into something I thought would look popular at that time.

Hours to complete: I lost count (really need to set a timer when I work on lengthy projects like this.) 

First worn: Halloween 2017

Total cost: $40 


When deciding on how I wanted the skirt to look, let's just say Pinterest was my Bible. I looked at every fashion plate from 1877 to 1885 and studied each piece from peplum to flounce, to apron and silhouette. Most of the dresses I've found were either already bustled and had the apron over top. Except for one.... 

All the ruffles!

I thought this was very interesting and had a different flair compared to all the other gowns I've come across. So I went looking for more examples. Sadly I could only find this example aside from the fashion plate (this time, with an apron). 

Getting started was pretty easy. I already had a pattern that was similar to the examples (Simplicity 1558) and estimated how many flounces I would need to make the ruffles and if i wanted to add an extra flounce on the bottom for added effect, as well as whether or not to add an apron. 

Simplicity 1558
After cutting the pattern out and doing some draping to the back so it would fit well over the lobster tail bustle and the cage bustle, I decided to keep the skirt open so i could line the flounces correctly before closing everything up. Also, during the construction process I ran into a snag... 

...a few snags...

...a lot of snags. 

Who know that the shirting fabric would fray so badly?! Even with the pinking sheers and sewing over top of the frayed areas, it still caused a problem; I've considered fray check but I'd probably need 2-3 bottles. My only option I could come up with at this point, was to get scrap fabric and top cover the frayed seams with hand stitching like with this shirt for example.

tape or strip of fabric covering up the seamline

In retrospect of making the skirt, I really had a fun time putting it together. I love how full it is in the back due to the bustle, the supports underneath, and with the apron over top (which was a pain to work on-and I'll get to that later). I also learned that with after putting everything together, it does get very heavy.



Just as I had done before with the red plaid jacket, I used my pattern from Truly Victorian 460 and used the interlining and lining from cotton quilting fabric for stability and warmth. 

Truly Victorian (TV- 460)

Gowns of Tennis Flannel

Over the weekend I cut out the pattern pieces on both the plaid, interlining, and lining fabrics and sewed each as separate pieces and then sandwiched them together using a top stitch to make the jacket. To decorate, I just went plain and simple and added snaps on the inside of jacket and added buttons for decorum (me being lazy) and added bias tape for trim (though in hindsight, I wish I had used the same fabric to make it more uniform instead). 

The purple bias is a bit too bright and does not blend in

So, I did a quick fix by putting the new bias strip made from scrap fabric over top which made it look a lot better and to my surprise, made it much more sturdier. 

Dramatic Effect!!!

In retrospect for the jacket, I really should have slowed down a bit and not have been too hasty despite the fact that I'm trying to get it ready for Halloween. Lessons learned here. But as a whole, the whole project comes down to this: while plaids are hard to work with (especially if this is the 2nd time using it for a large project) it can also a very fun challenge and does give the outfit character. I would imagine this is as close to accurate as far as the style goes. But hey, practice makes better, and I can definitely say there will be a lot more "practice" coming down the chute in the near future. 


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