1880 walking suit in bluebells

 1880 walking suit in bluebells

Bluebell Victorian 1880s (4)

As a part of my incoming book, The Victorian Dressmaker,  I have been making a lot of new frocks. This one is one of the 5 or so different frocks representing the Natural form – and although the making up information, pattern etc will be remaining secret until the publication, I thought I would give you a sneak preview – and share some (ok, a lot of ) photos.

The photo shoot was a bit ad hoc – a friend of mine, Kelly who was working on her very first Victorian garments under  my tutelage,  finished the frock and while trying it on we realized that seasonal foliage would make a great background.  a quick plan was made for a shoot in a few days time – and I decided to change my schedule a bit so that I could make use of the bluebells as well.

And since a Natural Form suit was on the books, and I had all the fabrics for it, and the colours would work too, I went for it. With gusto!

This was the inspiration plate…


The dress is in silk faille – looks grey but in fact is a tiny white and blue stripe, from Renaissance Fabrics. It is paired with stormy blue silk taffeta.

I drafted the pattern for the jacket ( I hadn’t made a lot of jackets so far, this one was only a second one!),  made a mock up, fitted and was ready to cut the thing. For once I had to be careful – I didn’t have much of that faille, and I wanted to have enough for all those pleats! there were some serious calculations going on  before I cut the panels for the pleats…..

And this is what my freedrafting patterns looks like…..  don’t worry, the book will have more user friendly versions….


Once jacket was assembled, it was time to do the pleats…. they  are decorated with a middle stripe of the blue and lined with cotton lawn. And in a rare moment of insanity I decided to bind the pleats too…..

I had Merlin helping out – to his utter delight, since the dress was for myself and not for a client, he was allowed to take a more active role in the proceedings…


And in the last hour before the shoot I even managed to adapt a vintage hat to a fashionable 1880 shape. I even had a matching antique Victorian ribbon to spare!


Then we all packed ourselves into a car and drove to the woods. We had been scouting around for the best places and  a bit of wood near Odell was deemed the best. The bluebells were amazing….

Just the usual stuff – the dresses are worn over period correct chemises, corsets and skirt supports with petticoats layering, (though  you will see Kelly flashing her leggings at some point – she forgot to bring stockings!) and we are both sporting American Duchess renoir shoes:-)

First we shot a few pictures of Kelly, wearing the first frock she has ever made, a transitional style between a crinoline and first bustle – worn on an crinolette ( basically a crinoline cage but with a bustle portion!

kelly bluebell 15

I was busy too…

Bluebell Victorian 1880s (1)

and then we went mad clicking photos…… results below…

Bluebell Victorian 1880s (88)

I met a stranger conveniently equipped with picnic stuff and indecent things happened….

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Then me and Kelly collapsed – and got up, not very gracefully….

then I collapsed again…. amidst  all the bluebells…. practicing Victorian sit ups….

And then we decided to have a walk and take a few shots with the yellow toxin ( i mean rapeseed…)

Bluebell Victorian 1880s (98)

Bluebell Victorian 1880s (101)

And that was it – time to undress. At least for Kelly – the width of the skirt meant she would not fit through the gates!


Back home we  indulged in a couple of more shots in our garden….

I was very pleased with the outfit – the jacket needs a few tweaks to improve the fit, I see, but not bad for a 2 day job! Kelly’s dress  was fun – again, it was the first garment she has ever made ( the bodice is based on one of the Truly Victorian patterns), so it was a very ambitious project, but it worked well!


Hope you enjoyed it!

photography, as always by Timelight Photographic, and boots by American Duchess


14 thoughts on “1880 walking suit in bluebells

  1. That looks good. I must admit that I’m not really a fan of Victorian dresses (but am a fan of Victorian men’s garb-chauvinist here). But, that looks good.

  2. Love, love, love the playfulness of your photos combined with the extravagant elegance of your outfits. I never leave here without a smile on my face.

  3. Just lovely! I would be interested in more hat information. I seem to not be able to find hats to adapt to correct shapes. Those accessories can make or break the “look”.

  4. Gorgeous dress with such beautiful detail. The photographs are so much fun, I really get the feeling I am there, in the 1880s. Nice work.

  5. Great sequence of photos, and what a beautiful dress! Maybe this is a secret until the book comes out, but what sort of undergarments did you wear with it? I’ve read two blog posts, one by Festive Attyre and one by The Modern Mantua Maker, recommending and giving details of Natural Form skirt supports/foundations, including hoops. However, both of these blog posts focus on the late 1870s, with those swooping peacock trains, rather than on the straighter skirts of the early 1880s. Did your undergarments feature any hoops for this ensemble?

  6. Wonderful dress and photos. Can I ask where you got your authentic boots? Please advise me when your book is published.

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