Finished Project: Natural Form Gala Gown for Costume College

This year’s Costume College was the first of many in which I actually attended the Gala instead of just showing up to the party after the dinner.  What a perfect excuse for a dinner dress!


Since I had been meaning to make a sample of the 1879 Dinner Bodice pattern (one of my Wearing History e-patterns), I thought this was the perfect excuse!

The pattern was based off of an original pattern in Harper’s Bazaar, and I reproduced it from the original source material and in the original size, which luckily was close to my size.  I added my seam allowance, made my muslin mock up and tested fit over my corset, and then got to cutting this AMAZING silk lampas I bought from my friend, Vanessa, a few years ago.  It was a little nerve racking making that first cut, since the fabric is SO gorgeous.



It ended up I didn’t have to worry, though.  Just look at that matching on the sleeve!  That was TOTALLY unplanned!


Then on to the overskirt!  I used the Truly Victorian 1880 Hermione Overskirt pattern, but since I was really limited on fabric I decided to att a piece of the lampas silk to the bottom, and then drape a separate swag of taffeta on top.  I was inspired by Worth gowns for the pleated swag.


More silk sewing, making the back overskirt pleats.  This fabric was so dreamy to the touch.


And a pre-finished front kitty picture.  Just to show the design was approved of.

Next I went back to the bodice and added trims.  I have known for a long time that whenever I got around to using this fabric that I wanted to add a shirred stomacher to the front.  I just LOVE that detail on many Natural Form era gowns.

And so it began…


I grabbed a square of fabric and did lots of gathering stitches.


I pinned it to the center top of the front and started pulling the threads.  And pulling, and pulling, and pulling. (This was really fussy and time consuming).  I trimmed it a little wider than the piece I wanted, and then pinned it in place.  In retrospect, this was NOT the cleverest way to do this. I should have done a triangle the size I wanted PLUS gathering ease to I wouldn’t have to go back and try to wrangle stitches that were trying to undo themselves. Oh well, it worked.


Then I went back and stitched it all down permanently on the front of the bodice.


I added some fasteners.


And then trim and buttons!  My favorite part other than the shirring is the little metal cord faux buttonholes I made. :)

I admit I was working on this on and off most during the first few days of Costume College because I was running so behind.  But it was wearable and finished!  Ta Da!

IMG_6986 IMG_6988 IMG_6989b IMG_6991 IMG_6991b IMG_6994 IMG_6994b

So that’s it!  Originally I had planned on adding more trims, but now I’m really glad I didn’t.  I think keeping it a little “simple” helped make stand on it’s own in terms of silhouette.

For those who wonder- I do have a small bustle on underneath.  It’s actually adjustable with ties, and I tied them very loosely.  I have found the “Natural Form” era fashions I love the most have a little bit of support at the back, rather than just straight up and down.  You can actually find little bustles or ruffles to help the backside in period periodicals, too!

– Project Details Wrap Up –

Fabrics: Silk lampas brocade, silk taffeta (tan), faux silk taffeta (salmon).

Trims: Net lace (poly, but non-shiny), faux metallic braid, antique Victorian buttons, self trim of the main fabrics, faux flowers, bows of self fabric.

Underskirt: Made several years ago for a different gala dress. Made of ivory cotton with net lace ruffles and silk dupioni pleats and ruffle.

Patterns: Bodice- 1879 Dinner Bodice pattern  by me (Wearing History) from a 1879 Harper’s Bazaar.  Changes: shortened sleeves and folded back the back bodice tails.  Overskirt-  Truly Victorian 1880 Hermione Overskirt pattern.  Underskirt- 1870 Trained Skirt Ensemble (you just can’t see the front drape because it’s covered by the overskirt)  the back of which was tied to transition it to Natural Form.

Time to complete: Off and on construction for about two and a half weeks on the bodice and overskirt.  The underskirt was already made.

14 Comments on Finished Project: Natural Form Gala Gown for Costume College

  1. Gina White
    August 18, 2015 at 12:55 pm (9 years ago)

    I loved seeing you in this fabulous dress Lauren! The color combination is truly stunning. And HUZZAH!!! for the not planned matchy-matchy on the sleeves! I LOVE it when that happens! You also have some pretty mad shirring skills! Brova for you my friend!!

  2. cmadeleine0816
    August 18, 2015 at 1:42 pm (9 years ago)

    Exquisite!! I am in awe.

  3. PinhouseP
    August 18, 2015 at 2:49 pm (9 years ago)

    Good Golly, that’s a wonderful creation! Your dressmaking is an inspiration.

  4. Amanda Goebel
    August 18, 2015 at 3:06 pm (9 years ago)

    This is beautiful! You did an amazing job.

  5. charlotte raby
    August 18, 2015 at 3:24 pm (9 years ago)

    Beautiful woman and dress!

  6. motorharp
    August 18, 2015 at 8:03 pm (9 years ago)

    Both your dress and your hair are amazing! Excellent sewing luck on the unplanned pattern-matching, too, I love it when that happens.

  7. Pamela
    August 18, 2015 at 8:40 pm (9 years ago)


  8. vintagejoan
    August 18, 2015 at 11:18 pm (9 years ago)

    Wonderful, fantastic! It is an amazing gown. You look wonderful in it!. Wish I could sew that well.

  9. eimear
    August 19, 2015 at 5:24 am (9 years ago)

    amazing. its fantastic

  10. brigidboyer
    August 26, 2015 at 5:58 pm (9 years ago)

    Lauren, this gown is positively breathtaking! The detail that you put into it, and the fabric, is just stunning! And the color looks so good on you too!

  11. ette
    September 2, 2015 at 3:45 am (9 years ago)

    Wow, this is beautiful. I love to the the inspiration the 19th century drew from earlier eras like the stomacher or the little puffed part on the sleeves.
    Really a great dress!

  12. Fiona
    August 12, 2016 at 12:27 pm (8 years ago)

    All the costume blogs I watch have posting such amazing skilful costumes. I love the fit of the jacket and the silk is lovely.

    • Lauren
      August 12, 2016 at 8:16 pm (8 years ago)

      Thank you so much!

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