1870s Green Evening Gown

Wednesday’s Project
1870s Green Evening Gown

I was inspired by this fashion plate from Full Color Victorian Fashions: 1870-1893 by JoAnne Olian.

Fashion Plate

Full Color Victorian Fashions: 1870-1893, plate 9 ~ Courtesy of Dover Publications

I already had the skirt—a blue-green shot cotton that I’d made for a calico day dress. I wanted an evening option for this skirt, but because the floral calico didn’t look very formal, I knew that I would have to make a fresh overskirt as well as a bodice.

I loved the look of the inspiration gown, but I had to alter it somewhat to match both the skirt and the fabrics I already had in my stash. I found a pale green cotton, plus another shot cotton (teal with gold) and decided to combine them. Because my fabrics were cottons rather than silks, I decided it would be more of a middle-class dinner dress, rather than an upper-class evening gown. I also decided that it would be more of an “inspired by” look than an exact replica.

Gown Before Trimming

Gown Before Embellishment

The only money I spent on the costume was for the trims. I bought many yards of ribbon and beaded fringe to decorate the dress, and this brought it up a notch or two in appearance.

Beaded Fringe

Closeup of Beaded Fringe

I hit a few snags along the way, but overcame them one step at a time. The gown is now all but finished—it just needs lace put around the neckline and sleeves. However. . . .

What’s Wrong
The main thing stopping me from finishing this dress is the mistake I made when doing the closure. I planned for it to hook close with non-functioning buttons down the front. However, I messed up and made a standard hook and eye closure, where the edges meet at the exact center. This means any buttons would be decidedly off-center. It’s a hip-length cuirass bodice, and there are a dozen hooks already sewn on. It would be a tremendous pain to have to redo all of them if I let the front edge out to allow for the buttons. I’d also have to redo the trim at the neckline, which is already finished.

I’m also displeased with the quality of this gown. It doesn’t look authentic, mainly because of the materials used. It’s a budget gown, plain and simple.

Also, the bodice will probably need to be taken in considerably if I’m ever to wear it. Because of the work involved in altering it, and the fact that I’m just not happy with the gown, I’ve set this project on the back burner.


Have you ever made a serious mistake and let it prevent you from finishing the costume? What would your solution to my problem be?

About Lisha Vidler

I am a sewing instructor living near Memphis, Tennessee.
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