Raspberry Mint Sorbet Bustle Dress – The Skirts

If you saw my post about this year’s historical sewing plans then you may remember my mentioning this UFO that I started on a whim last summer. I got as far as having the skirt mostly finished before it was time to start fall sewing, at which point I was all about fall colours (which I love SO MUCH) and this make instead of summery ice cream-like colours.

Fortunately, it did not have to languish in the UFO pile for terribly long. In the winter I received an invitation to a Victorian picnic in May. I ended up not being able to go as I was attending a conference in England over the same weekend. However, as luck would have it I received an invitation from another friend for a Victorian picnic in June so I didn’t lose my incentive for finishing this ensemble! Hooray for UFO-busting!

I’ve decided to do a post for each component of this ensemble (skirts, bodice, hat, everything together and “in action”) to keep it manageable.

Here’s where I had got to last summer:

The underskirt is a simple 4-gore skirt adapted from the 1870-71 dress with multiple bodices from Patterns of Fashion. I adapted it by omitting the side back piece and narrowing the gores to get the more streamlined mid-1880s shape. It’s worn over my bustle petticoat made from Truly Victorian 101

The overskirt is TV 362 – the Wash Overskirt:

TV362 - 1884 Wash Overskirt

Here’s a quick progression of the skirt and its trimmings:

The underskirt is flatlined with white cotton muslin, the overskirt I left unlined. In retrospect I probably could have left the underskirt unlined and just did a wide hem facing to provide a strong support for the trimming. Or, I could have underlined with cotton organdy – which has quickly become one of my most favourite things ever and which I want to use for everything now! Lol It’s just a tad on the heavy/warm side as it is.

I first thought to use some grosgrain ribbon in the stash for the bows at the sides of the overskirt…..

but ultimately decided on bigger ones made from strips of the raspberry cotton sateen I was using as my accent colour/fabric

the bottom layer of hem trimming is a tightly pleated band of the raspberry sateen – all pleated by hand (my life seem constantly full of pleating! Why!?)

I bound the upper edge of the pleated band with some similarly-coloured Snug-Hug rayon seam binding (I also used it in ivory to bind the seam allowances of the skirt, bodice and upper edge of the other pleated trim) then hand-tacked it to the skirt. I hand-stitched all of the trims onto the skirt I think to keep them flexible/pliable (I don’t entirely remember now! lol).  Silk seam binding/ribbon was commonly used for binding and finishing raw fabric edges in the period and rayon seam binding is the closest substitute for it that I’ve found thus far – if anyone has any better sources/suggestions please let me know!

Above the bottom pleated band is one of stacked box pleats in the dress fabric. I got this idea from the Frances Grimble pattern book Bustle Fashions 1885-1887, which has a whole section on the back with examples of different types of trimmings for different garment parts.

The uppermost trimming on the underskirt was inspired by this extant dress:

Wedding dress About 1884, 19th century:

I can’t remember why now, but I decided to make my pieces smaller and more numerous

Interestingly, by the time I finished add the pieces I realized something remarkable about the original gown: the pleated and pointed parts around the skirt are not separate pieces! The hem of the overskirt was dagged, one vertical edge was piped, the other pleated up and tucked under the piped edge next to it. I briefly debated re-doing my skirt when I went back to it this spring because I think the original construction and idea is just so clever and I still have at least a few metres of this fabric left; but ultimately decided I didn’t want to do that much extra work – it would have involved nearly starting all over and that would be a waste of time and materials. So, I think I’ll just have to try it out on another dress, hopefully in the not-too-terribly-distant future.

Next up: the bodice aka new stuff!

16 thoughts on “Raspberry Mint Sorbet Bustle Dress – The Skirts

    • Haha, thank you! I did find one skirt trimming example in the 1885-1887 bustle fashions book that was kind of similar to what I did so it’s not out of the realm of possibility. I just think it would also be really cool to try out reproducing the way it was done on my original inspiration image. Oh gee, another bustle era dress to make, what a hardship, lol.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I’m supposed to be finishing two other 1890s dresses I need for next month but suddenly after seeing this, I want to pull out my other fabric and make a bustle dress. Your trims on this are really making me want to try something like that.


    • Oh no! Stay the course, stay the course! Haha. I’m currently in the middle of my late 1860s Sesquicentennial dress for Canada Day this year but am starting to get itchy to begin my c.1880 evening gown for the CoCo gala. I’m really having to restrain myself from getting distracted since the deadline for my current project is fast approaching!


      • At least I have my Gala dress done, although I do want to do some applique work on it but I keep forgetting about that and doing other things. I like to keep my brain and hands busy so I guess I’m good at doing that at least. Can’t wait to see your dress.


  2. I a man so impressed on how even you pleats are in the raspberry fabric. I have never seen the over trim in the mint before. I will need to print out the photo. If I buy the book that you found it in I think my husband will kill in my sleep for buying another book. Lol. Love your photos. Keep it up.


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