Challenge: A 1884 Evening Gown in 24 hours….


the target

 I have been planning to make this gown for the last 8 or 10 months.  The fabrics were all stacked up in my workroom, trims waiting in drawers and the only thing i needed was time. Alas, most of my time is usually spent working on commissions, so I can only  make things for myself once i finished the paid stuff.

  But I did want to wear the gown for our Spectacular!Spectacular ball. so can cindrella go to the ball in a new frock?

 I finished the last commission on thursday 25th, 5pm. the ball is on Saturday 27th, and I theoretically need to  finish the gown  by Saturday morning – as organizers we need to leave and arrive early, so there wont be much time to fuss about.

  24 hours is all I have.  A piece of cake! ( ha! I wish!)

 Thursday, 18.900. The fabric, James Hare silk taffeta in seafoam green is ready to be cut.


in the foreground a mannequin with my bustle cage and a flounced petticoat, ready for action.

I cut out the train first, decided not to line it ( the only available silk was orange – pluys the silk was very stiff and crispy, so will have to do.  put it aside fro later,

Cut out the skirts panels – the skirt is lined in cotton lawn. I was hindered by my feline assistant – indeed, his eager help over the last year or so resulted in my husband to come up with a saying: as useful as a seamstress’ cat… amen to that…


Merlin helping…


Skirt panels all cut out and pinned together with their lining – the skirt will be flatlined, a common option in the Victorian times. Starting  to sew the thing together.


Skirt sewn, seams treated with pinking shears and pressed flat, pleats ion the back pinned, all sewn into the waistband.


skirts basics al in place…


back pleats. no button or buttonhole yet

Length corrected on the dummy, time to bind the hem.


hem bound, pinked seam 🙂

22.20  time to cut out the lace flounce. not too keep on the fabric, as looks like net curtains, but will have to do… the skirts hem circumference is just about 5m, so i need 10m of lace  to be gathered. I hemmed the top of the lace and gathered using gathering attatchment.


lacey flounce on!

23.00. Too late to make a start on the ruffle for the skirt, so decided to spend the last hour  preparing the apron front –  lining with silk taffeta and sewing the darts, and then relaxing on the sofa playing scrabbnle and hemming the train part by hand.

24.05 – overskirt parts ready


and yes, Merlin as helpful as ever

Enough for tonight – off to bed!

Friday, 26th May.

8am. am up, fed and ready to continue!

8.20 starting on the ruffle –  14metres of silk fabric and 14m or lining ( cotton organdy) cut out, starting to stich them together.

9.30 ruffle sewn, pressed and ready for pleating..


 now for pinning the pleats – 14metre need to be pleated into 5m ruffle… tedious work, but have my audiobook on, so rather relaxing!

11. ruffle pleated!


as always, tons of pinns used, some time was wasted on rummaging for some extra as ran out!

11.45 –  ruffle pressed and starched


ruffle ready to be sewn onto the skirt

12.00 the skirt is almost ready! will need the decoration later on…


Time to celebrate the skirt with lunch and a short break and then get a move on the overskirt. As I prepared the apron front and the train yesterday, I could start with arranging the side pleats on the apron and the train.


apron pinned…


and the train pinned too.

1.30 – sewiong the two parts together at the sides, and inserting the waistband.

2.30 starting on to flowers. the original had flowers of varigated colours ( pinks and reds) and flots of dark green velvet or satin ribbon. I decided on pink flowers and velvet ribbon. alas, since i bought the components so long ago, some time was lost looking for the ribbon! i found only half of what i had bought, no doubt the rest was lost in the black hole that is my workroom ( it warps the fabric of reality that room, it really does…).

The flowers were a bastard to stitch on, as you had to sew through the glued parts. fingers got tired quickly, so soon resorted to using pliers to frew the needle through. Still, took much more time than I had anticipated.  But at  5pm t was done! flowers attatched to theoverskirt and the skirts, with onle layer of the ribbon – the second one will have to be added later on…


skirt and overskirt ready!

Time for a coffee break, and a 30 min rest  – playing with the cat in the garden and relaxing on a swing in the sun.  a much needed break…

18.00 starting on the bodice.  the work was made easy as i already had a fitted pattern of my wedding bodice. desperately hoping that i havent put on that much in the last 18months, I used the pattern, ading just a little bid extra on 2 seams, just in case…

Each part was cut out in the silk, cotton organdy lining and the lace overlay, all pinned and ready to be sewn by 19.30


bodice parts

dinner break now – and resuming work at about 8.30pm.

after dinner sewing all the parts together – first the darts in the front parts, then all the seams.  eyelets were added on the back panels, – one thing I tend not to do myself if i can avoid it –  so I mark the position of the eyelets and my husband has all the fan on banging on the grommets.

21.30 – bodice ready for to be tried on. And  oh dear, I shouldt have bothered adding that extra  – a tiny fraction too big at the waist:-) easily remedied..


the bodice here is worn over my fully steel boned corset

also, armscythes need to be remedied – also easily done.


 And as i already had it on, i decided to cut a bit of fabric and experiment with the assymetrically draped part of the bodice.



Draping and pinning took a bit of time  ( and a bit of pain, when you stab yourself with long pins), but it was achieved. i took the thing off and secured the draped panel with tiny stitches.

next step – bind the edges in the self fabric bias binding.  I auways machine sew the first part, then flip the binding over, enclosing the edges and secure it by hand. the last part, handsitiching the bining  was the usually relaxing sofa and scrabble job.  it was midnight – so the only thing left for tomorrow is puttiong some flowers on the bodice.

saturday 27th April .

9.30 – Had a bit of a lie in, but stitching the flowers by 9.30.

10.30 – ready! true the interior seams are just pressed flat and pinked, not finished by hand yet ( can wait till after the ball), but the bones are inside the front, and the fdarted flowers are on!


 I have just enough time to get my mask ready – I bought a white metal mask and used acrilic paints to paint it, and stuck some bling on it.


 and so by 11  all was sorted. by 12 we were packed, by 1 lunch was eaten and we were en route to the ball..

And so it could be done – but i must admit  i wouldnt have been able to pull it off a year earlier. the only reason why it worked was the fact that i have made about 20 victorian gowns before and i didnt have to think  of the pattern, and what goes where. i didnt have to worry about mock up as I already had the bodice pattern too – without that experience  the challenge would not have been completed in time – in fact, my first ever victorian frock took me over a week to complete.  so definately not a project for a beginner!

At the ball-  alas, as an organizer i didnt have time to take many photos and have very few pictures of the gown – but some friendly guests sent some pictures and i was  in them!  I will get better pictures of the gown ( with all the ribbon this time) in a weeks time as I will be wearing it to 2 events in May..


frock in action!

Image  more pictures from the ball, and a write up here



Since that ball I wore the gown for our Victorian Ball in Bath in 2015


as well as for work in the Leighton House 🙂






And even to a dance demonstration – you can see the video here   🙂


11 thoughts on “Challenge: A 1884 Evening Gown in 24 hours….

  1. Pingback: Spectacular! Spectacular! Masquerade Ball 2013 | A Damsel in This Dress

  2. I shall have to remember that phrase and apply it to Branston – I threw him out of the room last week for leaving claw marks in silk velvet and he sat outside and howled for an hour.

    The dress is lovely, and I love the colour – although I would never wear it since all pastels seem to hate me, it must be my skintone

    • thanks! the colour was chosen since the original stated seafoam green, but also because i like greens, and the gown was for me. am sure it would look equally stunning, if not better in red with black lace, or peacock blues. or purples…possibilities are endless:-)

      • I love greens too, but now you mention it purple would be spectacular.
        I made an effort to try and wear summery colours a few years ago, and spent ages trying on various pastels, all of which looked terrible on me, so am always envious of people who suit them

  3. Pingback: Sewing Fast and Slow | A Damsel in This Dress

  4. Pingback: Bath Victorian Ball 2015 – and what a ball it was! | A Damsel in This Dress

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