Victorian seaside adventure!

Brighton Beach Victorian -  July 23, 2016 - 201 (9)

Some things start unexpectedly…. last January I picked some lovely silk that just screamed Victorian Seaside Bustle frock… And so for the summer I put a few days aside to make it – and to nip somewhere on the coast for the pictures.

But in the meantime loads of things happened – and to cut a long story short, in the end, we ended up for a weekend in Brighton, with 3 dresses to photograph for my incoming book The Victorian Dressmaker,  2 different swimming suits and a couple of friends….

As I was making different styles of gowns to go with different decades, it made sense to photograph them somewhere nice. And a friend of mine, Kelly, was up for a seaside adventure, so a hotel was booked and after battling the heat and hours being stuck in traffic, we arrived at our hotel facing the sea.


and unpacked all the finery, much to the puzzlement of the hotel staff….


The weather was lovely – sunny, rather warm and a strong breeze. we decided to jump in the deep end straight away – so donned our hastily made  Victorian swimsuits, packed out picnic and a camera and hit the rocky beach…


We took a few photos fully dresses, bestockinged and corsetted first then had a modern picnic and finished with more shooting and a nice plunge into the waves.

picnic…. modern, not victorian, since it was a very impromptu affair


then more pics and a splash….

at one point the waves caught us by surprise….

Brighton Beach Victorian -  July 23, 2016 - 201 (20)


And then, since I was wet anyway, I went on to have a swim with Lucas. Kelly stayed safely  on the beach, guarding our shoes, stockings and a corset. I was surprised how easy it was to swim in my suit –  the skirt, which I thought would be a concern, was short enough not to hamper any movements  after all.

General verdict after the experience was much more positive than I had anticipated. The suites were lovely to wear, comfortable ( corsets laced in a comfy mode, not super tight), not too hot – natural fabrics and skin being covered from the sun meant we were actually much cooler than the modern  folks in bikinis! Being made of cotton/wool mix, the suits dried  in a good time too. The silly caps proved amazing – sheltered not only our faces and eyes from the sun, but the flounce at the back protected our necks and shoulders. And, needless to say, great for folks  with body confidence issues!

oh, and the transpiration – Harpers bazar

The evening saw us  getting the 1887 yachting dress  on and snapping some pictures for the book – representing  the Second Bustle style. First we took photos at the band stand  and then walked over to the Brighton Pavilion

inspiration: the second dress from the left 
Stripy Victorian -  July 23, 2016 - 201 (12)

Stripy Victorian -  July 23, 2016 - 201 (14)

Stripy Victorian -  July 23, 2016 - 201 (17)

Stripy Victorian -  July 23, 2016 - 201 (24)

Stripy Victorian -  July 23, 2016 - 201 (28)


When we got back , quite late, we heard sad news of Kelly being unwell and unable to join us in the morning shoot for  which I made on of the dresses fitted on her.  So after a rather sleepless night ( Saturday night in Brighton, old hotel with no double glazing – no sleep…). we were up at 6, with 2 frocks to shoot.

The first one was representing a first bustle era,  a ‘Tissot’ gown – with the inspiration taken mostly  from this paining –  lots of ruffles, pleats etc and a  very light fabric suitable for a summer gown.

The frock took 10 m of cotton lawn in a popular shade of bright yellow ( quite a lot of examples on my board of this and other bright colours!), plus white cotton organdy for additional decoration and some lining

We drove  to the Brighton Pavilion – Sunday  early morning meant almost no people!

Yellow Victorian Toilette -  July 24, 2016 - 201 (1)

Yellow Victorian Toilette -  July 24, 2016 - 201 (19)

Yellow Victorian Toilette -  July 24, 2016 - 201 (17)

Yellow Victorian Toilette -  July 24, 2016 - 201 (10)Yellow Victorian Toilette -  July 24, 2016 - 201 (9)


On the way back to the car we met a splendid biker who admired the gown a lot – whereas we admired his bike! so yeah, this happened…

Yellow Victorian Toilette -  July 24, 2016 - 201 (28)


Then back to the hotel and time to change  in to the third gown ( Kelly’s) it was a bit too big for me,  and a little but too short, but clever positioning meant we could just about get away with it…

This one was another First Bustle era style, but this time a princess cut, with an option of a polonaise… in lovely striped silk.

Green Stripes Beach and Bandstand (8)

Green Stripes Beach and Bandstand (41)Green Stripes Beach and Bandstand (1)

Green Stripes Beach and Bandstand (5)Green Stripes Beach and Bandstand (7)Green Stripes Beach and Bandstand (35)

And  just recently we go Kelly over for a shoot in the gown – as you can see it fits her much better!  and she loved it and bought it straight away….

first unpolonaised

and then bustled up with interior tapes


The 1870 dresses will be used as day  dresses for our next Victorian ball in Bath – since the subtheme is the early bustle!

After the  shoot there was time for breakfast and we were off.  not bad for a short stay , lots of work was done – and we enjoyed it so much that next year we are making it into a public event – with a Victorian Beach picnic and a promenade, for everybody wanting to  flaunt their  historically accurate Victorian swim and seaside wear… – more details about the event here!

All three gowns will be used for the book – with detailed  photos and  step by step instruction of making them – for the progress of the book, follow us on fb!

The frocks were also used in making the video on how Victorians dealt with the summer heat – you can see it here!


costumes – Prior Attire

photography – Timelight Photographic

victorian boots ( Renoirs and Tavistocks) – American Duchess

Hats – Farthingale Historical Hats





5 thoughts on “Victorian seaside adventure!

    • they were not out for long with bare arms – usually out of the bathing machine into the sea and then back into the machine to change the wet suit. late victorian photos and fashion plates do show a lot of bare arm – usually arms and shoulders would be bared for the evening

  1. Pingback: Victorian tennis dress | Atelier Nostalgia

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