When I first made the original burgundy ball gown, I also intended to make an evening bodice to change it up for variety. I had enough fabric and notions left, but I never finished it. I sewed up to the point where I would have added boning… but never ordered any.
The bodice literally sat around collecting dust for years.
After I finished my first 18th century project, I realized I had some time to finish the bodice before a local show called the Antique Elegance Show came up. This was the show I had made the ball gown for, except I never got to wear it there! I had never dressed up for the show before, and there were times I skipped going to the show completely because I was so bummed the gown wasn’t finished at the time. Over the years for various reasons, even when the ball gown had been finished, I somehow never managed to get around to attending the show in costume. By 2011, I was a little tired of the ball gown bodice and knew this would be a great opportunity to finish the evening bodice and wear it instead.
I used the same bodice pattern (see below), but chose the day neckline to start with, and the pointed hemline style. Just before sewing along all outer edges, I marked the neckline shape, trimmed the excess, and then sewed the edges closed with the neckline trim inside. Instead of using a lining, I used facing — the neckline uses white cotton, and the rest of the edges uses the same burgundy satin. This was a new step for me and was a last minute change of plans. I originally was going to do a full bag lining with white cotton (all I had available at the time) until I realized it would show along the edges and stand out. I didn’t have any of the burgundy cotton left that I’d originally used on the ballgown bodice. I cut what I needed from the top half to use around the neckline, and then pieced the bottom section together on top of the bodice.
For the sleeves, I used the 3/4 length sleeve, and the small mutton style of the top. I originally panicked about that, wanting a smoother sleeve style, but after the bodice was finished it grew on me and I liked how it added to the frillyness.
The trims are box-pleated black satin, some sort of lace I picked up years ago at Joann Fabrics, and gathered ruffles sewn down on the top and bottom sides from the same burgundy satin. I ended up fighting quite a bit with the satin trims. Trying to remember what I had even done with the original box pleating was hard, and I had forgotten how much the black satin shredded once cut. I ended up serging the edges of the wrist trims so I could work with them — there was a ton of long thread everywhere. Unfortunately, my eyesight must have been going because there is actually a mistake on one of them: the right wrist trim’s connecting seam is on the outside! Thankfully with outfits like this and tons of trims, no one noticed! The black bow was originally going to be a starburst bow, but I ended up making a regular bow out of the satin fabric to at least have handy if time ran out. Since it was already there, and I could easily change it later, I decided to see how the regular bow worked out.
The gathered trim was pretty thick to work with. I’ve already forgotten what ratio I used to make them, I only remember wanting to create full ruffles, so each one was much longer than I probably needed. Gathering is still something I’m trying to be at peace with, and sewing them down was a fight that resulted in some throwing tantrums. My sewing machine didn’t want to sew it down smoothly. Trying to hand sew proved to be impossible at first. Another attempt at machine sewing was getting sloppy and it started freezing up again. Finally, quickly tacking down of the stitches to whatever I could sew into by hand proved to be the best option. I think that’s just what I’m going to have to do with gathered ruffles in the future. My sewing machine refuses to cooperate, especially on projects that have a lot of layers to start with, or have a lot of gathers to sew over.
As I mentioned, there are some mistakes on the bodice, but what I love about tons of trims is that no one notices any one detail. They’re too busy looking it over. Overall, I’m very pleased with the results, and it’s very nice to finally have a project that has waited so long for finishing not only out of the way, but actually worn to an event.
– Burgundy and black satins (these were left over from the original ball gown project).
– The same denim(?) fabric I used as an interlining/flatlining from the original ball gown bodice.
– White cotton for the neckline facing.
Other Materials Used:
– Spring steel and spiral boning.
– Lace for trim.
– Ties for the overskirt’s bustling.
– Hook and eye closures.
– Covered buttons.
– Twill tape for a waist support belt.
Photos from the Antique Elegance Show where I wore this gown are here.