Gala Gown - Costume College 2015

Hey! It's summer here in Academia Land and I finally feel like I have the time to finish up my Costume College wrap up!

I wanted something big and bold for the Gala. I have a really fancy robe a la francaise in an unfinished state, but it wasn't really speaking to me at the time. So many people do 18th century so well and I didn't think my dress would be particularly stand out (and oh boy I was right, there were so many STUNNING 18th century gowns there). Also there are other events I can occasionally attend that are 18th century themed, and I wanted to take this opportunity to make something I normally don't have a chance to wear.

In recent years, I've gotten rather obsessed with the 1890s. The huge, shaped skirts and enormous sleeves just really speak to my flamboyant side, I guess. So I started looking at 1890s ball gowns.

We have a winner! From The Met
Everything about the style of this dress is just glorious to me. Huge skirt? Check. Weird fluffy sleeves? Check. Asymmetry? Check. I wasn't particularly crazy about the color scheme though. This shade of pink isn't my thing. I'm not really sure where the idea came front, but I pretty much immediately set my heart on using acid/absinthe green and black. I had some trouble finding a color that was just right, when Jen Thompson of A Festive Attyre came to my rescue and picked up the perfect green silk taffeta  on my behalf. My hero! The sheer black is black silk chiffon (from Dharma trading?) and the lace came from Lace Heaven (I think? It's been awhile…).
Photo by Kendra Van Cleave
Photo by Kendra Van Cleave
Detail shot from my first fitting at home.
Dinner selfie!
This dress was such a blast to wear at CoCo! Someone asked me if I was meant to be Jennie Jerome and while that wasn't what I intended, I decided that I definitely was after that! What a fascinating woman.

I draped the bodice, drafted the sleeves, and the skirt is Truly Victorian's 1895 Ripple Skirt. I can't recommend this pattern highly enough. It was so much easier than trying to draft something that large. I flat lined it with synthetic organza, and I'm wearing two petticoats, a bum pad, and a corset drafted from Period Costumes for Stage and Screen. My accessories are last minute Amazon purchases (thank you, Amazon prime!). Aside from the curly bangs, the hair is mostly a wig I styled before I left. 

Ugly underwear. It functioned, more or less. 
I have to confess, though, I'm a little disappointed in how the dress photographed (for reasons that have NOTHING to do with my generous photographer). Part of it is that most of the pictures came later in the evening and I was a little rumpled and shiny in the face. I also am just not super comfortable posing for the camera and I seemed to be making some odd faces. I guess next time I should practice! The skirt looks a little limp (more on that below) and the hotel lobby lighting is…not awesome. I think it was better in person! 

I also would do a few things differently with the actual dress. My bottom layer petticoat was just made from regular cotton and it wasn't nearly stiff enough. Cotton organdy next time! The second petticoat helped, but it probably could have been fuller and stiffer as well. The skirt also had some issues after I assembled it - the organza flat lining shrunk a little when I pressed it and that left my seams a little wrinkly. Oops. That's kind of a rookie mistake I should have seen coming. I also never got the waist of the dress fitted as tightly I would have liked. There are definitely some perils to solo sewing. Some day I would love to make a few tweaks and find a place to do a new photo shoot of this dress. 

But over all, I loved prancing around in this gown and my love for the 1890s continues. I definitely want to do this era again.


  1. I love it! I also have fallen in love with the absurdities of the 1890s, although I haven't made anything from that era yet. The colors you chose are great!

  2. You're way too critical! This is gorgeous and you look beautiful in it!


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