Mid-1870s Day-to-Night Bustle Dress

For the first weekend of February this year I got to have a little costuming adventure in Ft Worth, Texas. This was especially exciting as I’d never been to Texas before! And I have to say that what I saw of Ft Worth left a very good impression! It was so clean, the people were so friendly, the prices and portions for food were fantastic (even if the portion sizes were a little overwhelming) and the hospitality was overall so gracious!

The reason for the excursion was an event organized by the Dallas/Ft Worth Costumer’s Guild, entitled the “Victorian Soiree.” They found out that the Ft Worth Symphony was going to perform a selection of pieces from the later Victorian era and decided to make an event of it!

So, we went to the Symphony in costume and it was just delightful!

I had initially planned to re-wear my CoCo 2017 Gala gown but have decided I don’t think the bodice is really all that flattering on me and I’m feeling self-conscious these days about my flabby upper arms. Add to this that an idea for a new 1870s bustle dress had been planted in my head by a silk purchase a few months ago and I couldn’t resist making something new – with sleeves, lol!


The wisdom of making something new while I happen to already have a very full plate may be questionable but I don’t regret this make a bit, I love it to pieces!!

The skirt was directly inspired by this extant at the Vienna Museum (which also justified inspired the striped silk purchase):


the bodice was inspired by this extant:

Dinner or evening dress ca. 1870-79. Pistachio green ribbed silk trrimmed with lace, small peacock feathers, and pleated ruffles at hem. Boned bodice lined with natural-colored silk taffeta. Textile Museum & Documentation Center, Spain (IMATEX)

Here’s the whole lot of us at dinner before the concert – a good size group, eh?

A selfie at the Symphony, with Dames a la Mode

And, of course, no costumed gathering would be complete without some silliness!

After the concert we spent a little time taking nice photos.

Swanning about the Opera House, as one does, you know.

Taylor got some nice detail shots of my dress:

I’ve been referring to it as the most Victorian Victorian dress I’ve ever made because it’s covered with just all the things! It’s so busy and fussy and just so much, lol. But I still love it!

A group photo to end off the evening:

Image may contain: 7 people, people smiling, people standing, wedding and indoor

Well, maybe not quite yet the end of the evening ;oP

But that’s not all! In terms of either the dress or the weekend’s events.

On Sunday a portion of the group from the night before went for brunch together…

and then visited a local historic house, Thistle Hill.

So, I also needed a day dress. Again, I did actually have options for this in my costume closet but couldn’t resist trying something out: making my new dress convertible to day wear with a few minor adjustments:

All this involves is switching out the lace sleeve ruffles of the evening version for longer, pleated ruffle-like extensions, a neckline insert and topping it all off with a hat!

What I especially love about this idea is that it made packing SO MUCH EASIER!

Although I think I need to fluff up the bow on the back of the hat some. Along with adding one to the neckline, I think. I borrowed the brooch at the last minute from a friend and it did fine but I think I’d like a more properly coordinating fabric bow better.

We started off with taking some pictures in the grounds while waiting for our tour to begin and then took more inside – and what a glorious inside it was!

Loren (@bauhausfrau on IG) got some really amazing shots of us all inside the house. I think this one is my favourite, It’s just so atmospheric:

The giant mirror in the parlour/drawing room was also great for photos!

I didn’t realize until someone else pointed it out but they’re all in chronological order:

and it wasn’t even intentional!

And a group photo on the grand staircase:

Image may contain: 9 people, people smiling, people standing and indoor

I just can’t believe how lucky I am that I’m getting to participate in so many wonderful costumed events around the country. I love to travel and I love to dress-up so each one of these excursions is like a little dream come true!

Do you ever (get to) travel for costume/sewing events? If so, what’s your favourite been?

24 thoughts on “Mid-1870s Day-to-Night Bustle Dress

  1. Such an enchanting look. I truly love all the details. It really resembles the inspiring extant gown. I consider myself so very lucky to have seen the gown in person. I do have some nice images of you seated on the bench. I would be happy to send them to you. Just let me know your email address. There is a contact form at the top of my blog. Part I of my Thistle Hill post is up. Part II will run tomorrow.


  2. Your dress was truly stunning to behold! We loved being part of the weekend with the DFW group, and enjoyed being able to admire the beautiful work of everyone there. Hope to see you again soon! Oh, and my favorite traveling spot is Chateau Dumas in Auty, France for the hat making classes.


  3. It’s lovely! The colours are so dreamy!
    What incredible luck that you found such a closely matching fabric to the original. And WOW, pleating all that trim must have taken an eternity.


    • Thank you! Pleating the trim is rather tedious and time consuming but it certainly goes faster when you decide to do it just by eye (which is actually the period correct method) rather than measuring and marking.


  4. I love this!!! The fabric is fantastic. I love how you used the different colors of the fabric in all the layers and elements! And that is such a cool idea to add the sleeves and neckline. I love it!



    • Oh wow! You’ve been to so many wonderful events in fabulous locations – and looking fabulous too! You’re very prolific, wonderful work!


  5. Your dress is inspirational!! Such beautiful fabric! I’m just getting to Victorian after spending about 20+ years in the 16th century. I’ve got fabric (although after reading a few reviews and blogs I think I’d better get more… those yards and yards of ruffles :o!), patterns, a few accessories. I could never afford to buy real silk taffeta or anything else silk! So I improvise… :). BUT I do not know of any Victorian re-enactment events so if you could let me know of some throughout the year I’d surely appreciate it!! I’m retired so can travel.


  6. Oh my goodness, this is SO beautiful!!! I have long wished to have the courage to wear such extravagant and timelessly elegant gowns every day… alas, shyness and introversion has been an enemy to this passion! 🙈

    I am in LOVE with everything about your look! The colours, the details, the frou frou… SO inspiring!!!

    And I MUST know where you found that GORGEOUS hairpiece!!! I have been hunting for years now for a great hairpiece to pad out the necessary balance to the bustle eras, and have never found anything anywhere near as beautiful as this!! Please may I know where you got it from? 🤗💝🙏😇


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