1880s Striped Bustle Dress

11 May



This is my favorite costume I’ve made so far! It wasn’t without challenges, but overall I’m really happy how it turned out. The bodice and skirt are Truly Victorian “1884 French Vest Bodice” (TV463) and “1889 Draped Skirt” (TV290). I have just enough fabric to add a ruffle to the bottom of a petticoat/underskirt (made in plain ivory) so I may do that for next time and bustle up the  existing skirt into an overskirt. I think the draped skirt needs a bit more structure in the back to “kick out” the back a bit in order for it to work as a skirt on it’s own.

The bodice itself required quite a bit of fitting adjustments to work on me. I always have an issue with TV patterns and shoulder width. It seems that the patterns are drafted to fit linebacker shoulders and I always have to chop off 3″ from each shoulder in order to get it even close to where my shoulder crease is. I do appreciate that TV has instructions for using different sizes for the back pieces vs the front, but it doesn’t solve all my issues with a small back/narrow shoulders/large bust combo. Following the instructions, I chose a back size and then the “adjusted front” size which put me using the largest size in the front, but when I tried on my mock-up, the front was nowhere near closing across my bustline. The back fit pretty well, but I ended up adding width to the side pieces. I considered doing a FBA, but decided to try an easy fix to see if it would work and it did! The other fitting issue is with the pesky “armpit crease” that happens when trying to fit a large bust without a side dart. With the mockup on, I pinched a dart as if I were going to make one into the armhole and marked it. I then “swung” it to the bottom of the bodice and redistributed it to the vest seam as well as two darts (the pattern only has one). This resulted in the best fitting bodice I have ever made (so exciting!). One other thing that helped was using the the neckline and shoulder seams on the back bodice size and not the front.

The next hurdle was the sleeves. I have a bad habit of not doing sleeve mockups. One day I will learn… I did cut out a sleeve and fit it to my arm, but I did it without sewing it into the bodice mockup. The result was a sleeve that fit but was inordinately poofy. Poofy 1890s sleeves is not a look I was going for in my 1880s dress, so I cut down the sleeve head drastically and still had to use gathers to get it to fit into the armhole. I think I may have cut down the sleeve head slightly too much, but that’s something I can fix next time as well as moving the front armhole in slightly. Overall, this was quite a success and not bad for a 3-day sewing spree complete with torrential rain and tornado warnings.


Top Row: Shows how I rotated the pinched out armhole dart into the body of the bodice.           Bottom Row: The fitting after the dart rotation. Added two darts plus removed some of the width in the vest seam. Last photo shows final bodice piece under the pattern in photo 3.

Things I would change for next time:

  • Shorten the upper back pieces to try and eliminate the horizontal wrinkles out. Boning would probably help with that as well. I ran out of time to do that for this one.
  • Rework the sleeve head
  • cut front of armhole another inch larger
  • trim the underlining fabric to stitch line to reduce bulk at hem and placket.

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