My first late bustle era ballgown

The burgundy, late bustle era ball gown. This was my first big sewing project.

I’m looking forward to someday retiring this gown.  I’ll probably keep it around in case I need it, and I am hopeful I will eventually finish an evening/dinner bodice to go with it, but since it was my first major sewing project there are tons of mistakes.

First, the long underskirt is way too heavy.  I made the mistake of using tube-style construction on the trims (except the large double-sided gathered trim) so all edges would be concealed.  Now that I’m better with hemming, I’ll do those differently, as well as how I attach them (probably by hand in the future).  I also was distracted while cutting the underskirt and forgot to add length to the back section of the pattern when I cut the fabric, so the black box pleat ruffle is not protected by the full length of the skirt.  Any time I wear this, I usually have to look for and repair spots where I stepped on the pleats and ripped it.

I wanted this gown to be floor-length, but I know better than to do that next time (especially without extending the base part of the skirt if I use any ruffles at the hem).

The bodice also looks a little off to me, although I did a decent job at that since I customized it.  The original pattern has a front-opening design, and I wanted a back-lacing bodice.

The biggest thing I dislike about this first gown is the fabric.  I had a lot of burgundy satin sitting around and decided to use it in case I ended up messing up.  It’s too shiny for my tastes, and the lace I used is a bit plastic-feeling as well.

One thing I do highly recommend about Truly Victorian patterns is that there is a message board to chat with others for tips, and the owner is very helpful about any questions — whether it’s which pattern to use, or how to do something.  I also love the sturdy paper the patterns are printed on — I’m no longer a fan of tissue patterns since I want to transfer the patterns to my own pattern paper for customizing or protecting the original pattern.  The paper Truly Victorian patterns is printed on makes it easier to see, and it feels like it will hold up over time.

Patterns Used:

–  Truly Victorian TV460 1885 Cuirass Bodice.
–  Truly Victorian TV365 1883 August Overskirt.
–  Truly Victorian TV261-R 1885 Four-Gore Underskirt.

Fabrics Used:
– Burgundy and black satins (I had these sitting around and decided to use them just in case I messed up).
– Various fabrics for flatlining and lining (denim and cotton).

Other Materials Used:
– Spring steel and spiral boning.
– Lace for trim.
– Ties for the overskirt’s bustling.
– Hook and eye closures.
– Covered buttons for the overskirt.
– Black ribbon for the back-lacing.


The burgundy ball gown. This was my first major sewing project, including all the foundation garments. The skirt is floor length, but looks longer due to the way I’m posing.

The fan hides some of the details, but this is a closer look at the bodice. I used the Truly Victorian pattern, but changed the front closure to a back-lacing closure.

A photo taken at a Christmas event in 2006. You can see why I’m not happy with the fabric -- the flash made the fabric shine too much.

I don’t have many photos that show the back of the gown, but here is a closeup of some of the handsewn eyelets on the bodice’s back closure.

See also:

Matching reticule/purse.

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