An Autumnal 1887 Bustle Dress

This brown and black plaid silk taffeta was originally earmarked for something 1850's, but once the weather began changing in September, I decided it would make a perfectly autumnal 1880's bustle gown. I honed in on 1886/7 for the gown because I love the cleaner, tailored, and asymmetrical lines seen in the later bustle period. 

Like most of my personal projects, I threw this together in a few weeks and didn't make many notes on the process. But here are some construction details. I visited my family in Rhode Island last week, which was the perfect setting for some fall photos. I am so happy with the way this gown turned out; it's probably my favorite thing I have made for myself this year. 

The gown is worn over an 1880's corset, lobster tail bustle, and ruffled petticoat. 
A black taffeta base skirt acts as the foundation for the skirts and drapery. The base skirt pattern is straight out of Patterns of Fashion, scaled up a little bit to fit me. The visible plaid underskirt is simply a 36" length of fabric, pleated down to the base skirt, with a pieced in velvet detail. The drapery is based somewhat on a Freja print from 1887. I draped the front and back swags directly in the fabric, carefully marked them, removed from the form, then faced off the pieces with the rust brown silk taffeta. Everything mounts to the same waistband, so the skirt is actually one piece with one waistband and closure on the left side back. Easy for dressing!

I draped the bodice pattern on a form, based on pattern diagrams and style lines from the 1880's. The sleeve came out of my backstock of patterns, but I cut the top on the bias for more visual interest with the plaid. I also added a little more fullness in the cap, as we just start to see this around 1887. The black velvet is actually leftover scrap from the Worth gown. 

The bodice is boned on the seams, with a waist tape and small bust pads to round out the side bust area. I trimmed the seam allowances in scallops and zigged over, to mimic originals. The bodice closes at CF with hooks and eyes, hidden behind the rust taffeta drapery.

The fabric posed an interesting challenge, because it is a large scale "uneven" plaid. Determining "center" took a bit of time, but finally I settled on the bright copper narrow stripes. 

Hat & Accessories
Accessories really do make an outfit. I made the hat, and already had the black leather gloves and brooch. The earrings in photos are by Dames a la Mode. My boots are the gorgeous "Colettes" by American Duchess. I can't recommend these boots enough; they are comfortable, accurate, and above all stunning. I had to move the buttons about 1/2" to fit my ankles, but I love that we have that option with American Duchess button boots.
The hat was my first attempt at blocking wool felt, and I love this technique! Frontier Millinery walked me through the process and loaned a block in the perfect shape for an 1880's top hat. The base hat is a $3 thrift store find, and the trims all came from the stash. All together the project took about 3 hrs of my time, which is amazing!

Final Photos


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