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Winter Wonderland Bustle

I know I’ve been incredibly remiss about posting dress diaries. Hopefully, those of you who keep up with my work also read my LiveJournal or my craft blog, which is where I do most of my updating.

I started this project with a new corset. Actually, let me amend that statement a little: I started a new corset for Dickens’ Fair in order to replace my wedding corset, which was falling apart. I used a pattern from a friend of mine (a custom drafted one) and tried to salvage as much of the hardware from the previous corset as I could. Thus, it cost me hardly anything to make it.

I absolutely love how it turned out but, like my previous corset, the front ended up being crooked. I couldn’t imagin that I would have such a glaring error in construction two times in a row. It really bothered me. So, when I went to do a bodice fitting with a friend of mine, I showed her what happened…again. First, she laughed. (She’d already given me a bad time about the first one being crooked.) Then she suggested that one of my hips might actually be higher than the other. It isn’t a great discovery to make, but at least it explains why my Victorian corsets are always a little skewed.

In an effort to make this corset last a little longer than the last, I decided to add flossing to the boning channels. The major problem I had with my previous corset was that the bones had started to work their way out through the fabric. I’m hoping that stitching over the end of each channel will reinfoce the fabric and help prevent the bones from coming through.

The Bustle

I’ve been dreaming of making myself a bustle for years, so it was very exciting to finally get it done. Surprisingly, it didn’t take very long to put together at all.

I knew I wanted a lightweight fabric that was still very sturdy. I took a class on constructing pocket hoops several years ago in which the instructor provided us with pillow ticking. The fabric is lightweight cotton but very tightly woven. I seem to remember picking up more of it for myself before Joann’s quit carrying it, but I couldn’t find it when I finally got around to working on my bustle.

I did, however, have an adorable decorator cotton that had sort of the same feel. It has a printed pattern on it, but I figured that for this project, with heavy, dark fabrics, it won’t really mattern, and when I decide to make a lighter outfit I can simply make a petticoat, which I should probably have anyway. (Plus, it will be so cute to wear it to Sunday Undies at Costume College!)

I used the Truly Victorian Grand Bustle pattern. It is basically the same as their regular bustle with the addition of two hoops at the bottom to make the hem stand out for the earlier bustle styles. In order to wear it for later bustle dresses, you can simply remove the hoops. Since I’m making this to wear with a later style, I haven’t bothered to put the bottom hoops in yet, though I did sew the channels.

For boning, I made use of the quarter inch boning I bought several years ago that turned out to be too heavy a gauge to use in bodices or in most corsets. Turns out it is perfect for bustles. (I still have an entire roll of the stuff, so I’ll either need to make some bustles for some friends, or come up with some other uses for it. I do still want a fishtail bustle, so that will use up some of it, but I’ll have yards and yards leftover even then.)


The underskirt is fairly simple. It is another decorator cotton with a fairly geometric design. I used Truly Victorian Four-Gore Underskirt pattern. It was so quick to put together, although I do already have some modifications to make–all of which are my own fault.

First, I cut out the wrong size waistband. I was in a hurry and not paying attention. Thankfully, I don’t have to recut the entire thing. Because the waistband is off

center, closing at the seam between the back and side panel, all I need to remove is the stitching that attaches the back panel. I can then cut off the excess waistband, repleat the back panel into the smaller space, and reattach the waistband.

Second, the skirt is too long for my current purposes. I’m making this to wear at an ice skating event, so the skirt really needs to be walking length. As much as I love the way it is looking right now, it just is not going to be practical.

Finally, if I have time before the event, I’m going to add a ruffle around the bottom. Part of me likes the clean lines of the skirt without the ruffle, but once I put the overskirt on, the underskirt sort of loses some of its impact. It needs the ruffle to balance out the look of the two skirts together.

The overskirt was actually the first piece I started working on, simply because I was anxious to start working with the velvet. (It feels SO yummy!) I used yet another Truly Victorian pattern for this–the Bordered Asymmetrical Overskirt. My fabric does not have a border, but I like the look of the skirt and thought it would work well with the outfit I envision, so I just finished the “border” edges with trim.

The pattern is a feat in fabric pleating…truly amazing. It starts out as two gigantic rectangles and, after a little origami, turns into a beautifully draped skirt. It still boggles my mind.

The one draw back is that with this fabric, I ended up with a VERY thick waistband. Rather than add to the bulk by making the waistband out of the velvet, I opted to use the same cotton that I used for the underskirt. I rationalized that the waistband will never be seen, since it will always be underneath the bodice, which also freed me up to put multiple rows of top stitching on the waistband to make sure that it lays flat (well, as flat as possible anyway).

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