V332: New Project: Giant “Green Acres” Bustle Gown

I am suffering from severe CADD (Costume A.D.D.) lately.  My ’30s plaid Christmas dress sits on the mannequin, nearly complete, but with the arrival of a giant roll of green silk, new Truly Victorian patterns, and a healthy dollop of inspiration, all I want to do is sewing a giant green bustle dress.

I have made a bustle or two in the past, but it’s not one of my major periods of study.  Pity, that, because I absolutely adore the styles, and I have far more opportunities for 1870s-80s dress up than 1770s-80s.  This dress will be used in an upcoming photo shoot for the “Tavistock” button boots, as well, so the project has an element of theatricality to it, in that sense, and is all about texture, color, and mood.  Here is the initial inspiration:

Michael Eastman: Cuba: http://eastmanimages.com/cuba

Yep, it’s a room, an incredible room.  That color!  I imagine a historical gown of the same color, overflowing with ACRES of pleats, frills, ribbons, beads, fringe, trims of all variety, all in that green, all in different textures.  These were my inspiration sketches:

I settled on something along this line:

I am using Truly Victorian patterns TV261 (skirt), TV364 (apron), and TV420 (bodice) with some alterations.  The skirt pattern also makes a great petticoat, which I whipped up last night, shown here over a wire collapsible bustle, bump pad, and two petticoats:

The fabric I have chosen is a rich green raw silk.  I know slubby silk is not accurate for historical reproductions, but I chose this fabric for three reasons: color, texture (this gown is geared towards theatricality and how it will look in the photo shoot), and price.  I ordered 15 yards and I’m nervous it won’t be enough.

In addition to the silk I would like to use a matching or black velvet ribbon, and a matching or black sheer of some sort, perhaps a net or a point d’esprit, for effects of this nature:

The Met, 1881-84

I have also acquired an antique fluter, also called a crimper.  It has not arrived yet, but I’m looking forward to testing it out, and fluting a bajillion yards of green silk trim – more on that later. 🙂  This is the one I bought on eBay:

So…back to the sewing room!


  • jennylafleur

    December 11, 2012 at 10:54 PM

    Ooh what a fun project and a great name for it too! I'm really interested to see how your fluter does on silk. I've only ever seen them used with linen or cotton, fixed with a vinegar or starch mixture (which I assume one can't do with silk).

    • Lauren Stowell

      December 12, 2012 at 8:00 AM

      I'm curious to use it on silk as well. Alicia of Litttle Bits Clothing Company sent me an excerpt from the 1881 "Household Discoveries" book that mentions the fluting of silks, so I shall give it a try…on a small scrap only, though, at first 🙂

  • Zach

    December 11, 2012 at 11:00 PM

    Oh my gosh!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'm SO very excited for this project! I absolutely LOVE your design!!!! I just can't wait to see your progress! Good luck with all of the trim! My neighbour is an antique-aholic (like me)and she has one of the fluting irons, but I haven't a clue how to use them.

    • Lauren Stowell

      December 12, 2012 at 8:01 AM

      Thanks Zach! I don't have any experience with the fluter either, but from what I understand it is heated in the oven, then the fabric is dampened before pressing with the crimper. Hope it works as easily as that sounds, haha…this could be interesting…

  • Lauren Hairston

    December 12, 2012 at 1:07 AM

    I saw Michael Eastman's exhibit of photographs. It was absolutely magnificent. The colors were breathtaking–it really made me want to go to Havana.

    Looks like the dress will be gorgeous. I love green.

    • Lauren Stowell

      December 12, 2012 at 8:05 AM

      Hi Adi – sorry if my reply is weird. I hope I understood the question – how to make the petticoat to train? This petticoat has a total of four pieces – front, sides, and back – and I cut the back piece considerably longer than the other pieces, then tapered the sides into a "U" shape, with the deepest part of the "U" at center back.

      désolé si ma réponse est bizarre. J'espère avoir compris la question – comment faire le jupon de former? Cette jupe a un total de quatre pièces – avant, sur les côtés et à l'arrière – et je coupe le dos beaucoup plus de temps que les autres morceaux, puis les côtés coniques en un «U», avec la partie la plus profonde du «U» à au centre du dos.

  • AuntieNan

    December 12, 2012 at 4:30 AM

    I bet you can make that 15 yards work with a less generous cut on the skirt than your petticoat has. 1881 was a narrower line, right? And, if the crimped trim isn't just the self green, but maybe has some blue or black (or both?) organdy, with a bit of black velvet for contrast… Well, you might make it work, right? The green will be absolutely worth all the work and the BEST color for you!!! (the plaid dress in the background looks a little jealous !)
    Best of luck!!!
    Nancy N

  • vintagevisions27

    December 12, 2012 at 2:11 PM

    Oooh what a great color! I've never made a bustle gown but its on my list. 🙂 I've been looking for an antique fluter too. I found one at an antique shop this fall but it was waaaay to expensive. What are some people thinking when they price stuff? It will be interesting to see how it works with silk. Test it on some scrap silk first.
    Can't wait to see your finished dress!

  • Anonymous

    December 12, 2012 at 9:53 PM

    I think you are going to run really really close to maxing out on the fabric, 7yrds on the skirt; 4 on the bustle, and 1 1/2 for the bodice will only leave you 2 1/2 for pleating, and if you are going all around the bottom of that skirt, plus the bodice & apron/bustle combo it will be very close. You could always order more, hopefully from the same dye lot roll, and fashion a great bonnet to match if you have any leftover fabric. Always better to have too much, than too little. Good luck and will be keeping an eye out for your future posts.

    • Lauren Stowell

      December 12, 2012 at 10:12 PM

      I'll have to be clever, hehe. The skirt only took 4.25 yards, and the apron calls for about the same. The bodice calls for 2.75 yards, but without the sleeves, and the neckline cut quite low, it will be less. That leaves me, rounded, about 5 yards to cut ruffles and pleats out of. If they are fairly narrow strips fluted instead of pleated, I think quite a lot can be achieved. (haha, famous last words). I may be off to the store to find a complimentary trim fabric!

  • Vienna La Rouge

    December 13, 2012 at 4:29 PM

    This is going to be STUNNING.
    Even though the first half of the 1870s has never been my favorite time period fashion-wise, I still see the occasional plate the peaks my fancy. Possibly enough to take a jab at it. Some early bustle styles were just too high-wasted for my taste when paired with such voluminous skirts. This project of yours may just give me the inspiration to do one of my own too.

    • Lauren Stowell

      December 16, 2012 at 4:08 AM

      I agree, I prefer the later 1870s, with the long lines, into the '80s. This gown is kindof a smoosh of the two decades, with a goth-steampunk twist. So far the amount of fabric in just the underskirt is insane!

  • Miss Daisy

    December 15, 2012 at 4:53 PM

    I can't wait to see your progress! I think you will do a wonderful job as always! 😉 I think you will have fun with this era… especially since the 1870's-80's drew elements of fashion from the 1770's-80's 🙂

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