Monday, January 22, 2018

title pic A Victorian Christmas Bustle Gown

Posted by Edelweiss Patterns on December 15, 2012

An 1880s Evening Gown – Butterick 3012 Pattern Review

I have been soooo looking forward to sharing pictures of this gown!!  Believe it or not, this was the first Victorian dress I ever sewed when I first began costuming.  So while it’s not pristinely perfect, it holds a very special place in my heart.


Exactly six years ago I made the tragic mistake of buying a gorgeous Butterick “Making History” Pattern which looked like it would be an absolutely scrumptious gown to assemble.  Unfortunately, I enjoyed sewing it so much that I was hooked on making costumes, and my life hasn’t been the same since. :)  While I had been sewing by hand since I was five, (and had taken oodles of classes at the Palmer/Pletsch School of Sewing as a teen), this costume still had a lot of “firsts” for me – the first time I worked with boning, the first time I made rows of puffing, and the first time I worked with crinoline.


I will never forget the incredible fun I had waltzing through the fabric store and picking out all the delicious trims and fabric…  It was my 18th birthday, and I had just received a hefty gift card to the most amazing fabric shop.  The bridal department had a fabulous array of fabric flowers and Victorian laces, and I’m afraid I used the entire gift card all at once!  Had I known then what I know now, I would not have chosen a satin charmeuse to make an 1880s evening gown. Nowadays I certainly would have decided on a taffeta or a bengaline moire’, but since this was my first Victorian costume I have to forgive myself.  I did make a couple of slight changes to the pattern, but overall I followed the instructions closely.


Butterick 3012 Pattern Review 

So what did I think of Butterick Pattern #3012?  It was simply wonderful!  Once I finished this project I thought to myself, “Victorian gowns aren’t any harder to sew than regular dresses, they just have a lot more steps to them.”  For instance, if you can hem a skirt that is 30″ around, you can certainly hem one that has a circumference of 100″, it will just take a bit longer!  Similarly, if you can do a simple row of gathering stitches on a normal garment, you can definitely make all the gathered puffing to trim a Victorian gown (with a little extra determination!).


As for the pattern itself, I would say it is probably an “advanced intermediate” skill level.  The long bodice is princess seamed, lined, and boned.  The underskirt is fairly straight and is trimmed with rows of pre-gathered lace.  Over the top of this is sewn the “apron”, which is an overskirt drape that is finished with another flounce of the gathered lace.  In back the overskirt is caught up at the waist where it is trimmed with silk fabric flowers, and underneath it the voluminous bustle cascades down the floor into a short train.  All around the top of the bodice and around the bottom of the skirt and bustle runs a wide row of ruched puffing. 


 At the neckline the puffing is attached to a flat yoke which is curved in back but points into a lower square neck in the front.  The general silhouette is very “hour-glassy”, and while the overskirt apron adds way too much extra bulk at the waist, this was not at all uncommon for the 1880s.  I added additional gathered lace at the skirt hem, and went lighter on the lace at the front of the dress than the pattern suggested.  If I had it to do over again I would trim the entire skirt with an explosion of ivory lace as they did on the pattern cover, but oh well!  It was my first Victorian costume, after all.


At the time I did not like the massive “pouff” at the hips that the pattern’s bustle gave, so I toned it down by sewing the bustle side seams into the actual skirt itself.  This means that instead of having a one-piece straight gown with a detachable bustle, it’s just one great big gown with a bustle and train built in!


Word to the Wise – Buy Costume Patterns While You Can!

I was quite distraught when Butterick discontinued this pattern a few years ago, but you can still find it for sale on Ebay and Etsy from time to time.  The price is usually a bit outrageous, which brings me to the conclusion that if you think you will EVER even think about using a costume pattern, you’d better buy it while it’s still in print!  On sale, any pattern by the “Big Four” pattern companies can be had for as little as $0.99, but once it’s discontinued you are looking at paying between $30 – $60 for a costume pattern!  I think this is because online sellers realize that costume patterns are much more rare than a regular dress pattern.  And since the major companies don’t make that many Victorian designs, sewers often have no choice but to use “out-of-print” patterns for their costuming projects.


~ A Victorian Christmas ~

All in all, this dark green Victorian Christmas gown was so dreamy to wear.  When I was having the pictures taken I really felt as if I had stepped back into a Thomas Kinkade Victorian house, all decked out for the holidays!  How I wish I had lived in Victorian times and grown up in a small town where houses and neighbors looked as warm and welcoming as they did in old-fashioned paintings, with sledding parties in the front yard and big, happy families gathering in their Queen Anne mansions for Christmas dinner.  Times seemed so much simpler back then, and there was such a sense of beauty and elegance in the fashions, architecture, dances, literature, and art.  Some people say they were “born in the wrong era”, and while I might be tempted to say the same thing, I know that I was not born in the 1980s by mistake!  No matter what the world or culture around us dictates, we can still strive to uphold the elegance, values, and morals of the more pure, family-centered environment that the Victorians knew.   As Laura Ingalls Wilder once wrote at the end of her life, “The real things haven’t changed.  It is still best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasures; and have courage when things go wrong.”


I hope you all enjoy these festive pictures, and be assured that I am working feverishly on finishing my “grand finale” Christmas gown which is coming on Christmas Eve.  Of all the dresses I’ve made, I’ve never sewn one quite like this upcoming project!  The only hint I’ll give you is that it’s the color red, and believe me when I tell you that it is incredibly detailed!  In the end it will probably take several dozen hours of work to complete, but it should be worth it.


Until next time, happy sewing!