A Lovely Basic Gown
I purchased a green and white Victorian bodice and skirt from a friend in the Victorian Society of Colorado. I planned to wear them, myself, for a Victorian Ball. They were originally made by Rita Wilhelm, a master costumer and seamstress.
You can see, from the photo of the original outfit, that it was very pretty. However, it was too small, in the bodice and waistband, and the skirt was too short. I envisioned that, with a little work, I could resize the pieces to fit me and lengthen the skirt.
Restructuring to Fit
The bodice had lacing in back, so I made a bigger modesty panel, which is the piece that fits under the lacing. I removed the waistband from the skirt, added to the length of it, to expand it from a 28″ waist to a 32″ waist. I also moved the gathers on the skirt, to fit the new waistband length, and then stitched them together. In my stash, I found enough green and gold paisley brocade to make a 4″ panel to lengthen the hem.
After doing that, I had the challenge of making the hem look like it wasn’t just slapped on there! So, I took some of the same paisley fabric and made a center-front panel on the bodice. Of course, that panel had to be trimmed with lace.
The other problem was the stain on the front of the skirt. I had run the white skirt through the laundry, which helped, but did not eliminate the stain. In my stash, I happened to have a pair of white brocade curtain swags, which I had been saving to put on some Victorian ballgown.
This seemed like the perfect opportunity to cover the stain and embellish the skirt. This created yet another design challenge, as the whites of the skirt and swags were not perfect matches. So, I found some green and gold fringe that I added to the bottom of the swags, to visually separate the two whites.
The row of green lace above the hem, I had removed from the original dress and wanted to add it back in. With a well-balanced design, it’s best to create visual harmony within a piece, so that it looks well-coordinated. Because of that, I needed to add more gold, in other places on the dress, to tie in with green and gold fringe that I had added to the swags. Therefore, I decided to add a narrow gold metallic braid, in three places on the dress; at the top of the paisley hem band, at the top of the row of green lace, and along the sides of the brocade bodice panel. The final touch was a row of narrow gold metallic braid, added to the top of the paisley green hem band and to the row of green lace, above that.
I could not have fit into this dress, without the resizing. I wore it over a hoop skirt, along with long gloves and jewelry, to the Winter Ball.
Since I like to be noticed for having one of the best gowns at the ball, this one fit the bill!
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