Saturday, February 24, 2018

title pic Exquisite Dresses from the Victoria & Albert Museum

Posted by Edelweiss Patterns on May 19, 2011

victorian building london, england

1880s white evening gown charles worth

One of the V&A’s many sumptuous Worth evening gowns.


Of all the places I have visited in the world, the Victoria & Albert Musuem has to be one of my all-time favorites.  If I could only choose one physical location to reside at for the rest of my life, this would probably be it!  I shared some glorious silk ball gowns during my last post, but there are too many striking pieces in the V&A collection to not add some more pictures!

silk 1700s pannier gown

Panniers hold out the skirt on this exquisite court gown.

Shown here is a royal court gown from the 1700s which is in such pristine condition you would think it was a replica!   Made in the classic Elizabethan style, this dress’s main feature is the vivid floral embroidery in silk threads.  Peacock blue, reds, golds, oranges, and green seem to jump off the pale cream silk of this lavish dress and train.  One can only imagine how many hundreds of hours it would have required to sew this gown.  And my guess is that a lady of social standing with enough money to commission this design must have been distinguished enough to not want to be seen in the same dress for too many occasions.  Perhaps this is the reason why the gown is still so impeccable.

Hand-embroidered silk train

The meticulous hand embroidery on this train is breathtaking!

Lacy Victorian gown 1890s

An unorthodox use of insertion lace for a bold and fashionable Victorian gown!

Here is a  striking 1890s daydress which combines wide black bobbin lace with grey and black velvet ribbons.  The lace is draped over the perfectly corseted bodice in an unsual crossover fashion, and continues down the skirt  in horizontal stripes.  The dressmaker wrapped two widths of this same black lace around the wrist ends, the top width ending in a slight upward “v” shape.  Dozens of grey velvet ribbons encircle the arms, finished with tiny black ribbon bows in the center of each.  You can see similar trim from the velvet ribbons in the front hip area, that finally stops at about hip level.

At the top of the sleeve is a gathered frill or cap sleeve of black Chantilly lace, and the ribbon detailing beneath the high Victorian collar suggest a sweetheart neckline.  Velvet ribbons appear once more on the front of the collar itself, for an altogether unique design.  Can you believe women would have worn this as a “daydress”?  I can’t imagine even hosting a tea party in this, for fear of spilling on it or ripping out a seam by simply bending your arm!  This is more detailed than most of today’s designer wedding dresses!

early 1800s evening gown

A perfectly exquisite Regency gown, circa early 1800s.


Here is a  long-sleeved empire waist gown with gold hand-embroidered scrollwork down the center.

After years of studying Regency or Empire dresses in print and film for so many years, I was sincerely hoping to study some “real” ones up close – and I was not disappointed!  Something about the Regency era dresses ilicits the most exuberant responses from thouands of ladies all over the world…  Maybe it’s the Jane Austen film adaptions which immediately call to mind a score of delightful dancing scenes, or the charming details in the feminine bodices and puffed sleeves.  Perhaps its just that there’s a timeless simplicity to these soft, flowing dresses which evokes a feeling of dignity and feminity which is sadly missing from the majority of modern styles.

Whatever the case, these dresses are simply wonderful and one of my favorite eras of fashion!  Below are two day dresses I made from the Regency patterns at  While other eras shown in the V&A may be a bit cumbersome for every day wear, the Jane Austen styles are one type of costume that could almost be worn today!

early 1800s Regency gowns

Two short-sleeved Regency dresses made of fine cotton prints