When I first started this blog, I was an unemployed costumer attempting to create period gowns and costumes with very limited means. Although now employed, I still try to be as thrifty as possible. I am still "The Broke Costumer"!

In addition to posts about the outfits I make on a budget, this blog includes short research articles on fashion, history, accessories, styles, or whatever interests me at the moment.

I hope you enjoy my journey into the land of inexpensive costuming and short articles.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

An 1880 Natural Form Seafoam Green Victorian Skirt and Bodice - Part 1

I love to make Victorian gowns.  I really wanted to make a luxurious silk dupioni gown with special beaded trims. Did I have a couple hundred dollars? No. I could only spend about $50 to do the whole thing, and this amount had to be spread over two or three months. This is how I did it.
I chose Truly Victorian patterns from the Natural Form period (1877-1882). The skirt is TV225 (1878 Fantail Skirt) and the bodice is TV422 (1881 Dinner Bodice).

On a shopping trip to downtown Los Angeles’ fabric district, I found some beautiful silk dupioni for about $12-$14 a yard. Not gonna happen. I needed about 8 yards, which more than doubled my entire budget for the whole project. Then I found some pretty sea foam green polyester dupioni at LA Alex, and it was only $4 a yard! It has a similar, slubby look like real silk.

Down the street is Target Trim, a gigantic warehouse literally stacked to the ceiling with every trim imaginable. I found a beautiful aqua beaded trim on black sheer ribbon for only $1.50 a yard. I just needed it for around the neckline and wrists, so I got 2 yards.

For around the bottom of the trained skirt I wanted two rows of black lace. In Trim Expo I found a pretty vintage floral style, 3 inch wide lace for only $1 a yard. I bought 8 yards. It was quite plain next to the beaded trim I bought for around the neckline, so I bought a pack of beads at Michaels with a 50% off coupon. My friend and I were watching a movie, and we each started on one end, sewing a bead in the center of each flower. By the end of the movie we met in the middle, and the beading was complete!
Cutting out the skirt proved to be very trying. I have never had a problem with Truly Victorian patterns, until now. The skirt itself was simple to make, but most of the pattern pieces were mis-marked! First, they were all titled "Underskirt" which it isn’t. There were two different-shaped pieces marked "B - Side - Cut 2". After cutting out both pieces, I discovered that one was actually supposed to be marked "Front, Cut one on Fold". I was very glad I had enough fabric to squeeze out a new front piece! 

Once I figured out the correct names for the pattern pieces, it went together like a dream. To make the fantail, there is a cord that runs through double fold bias tape sewn inside the skirt, near the back of the knees. I used a bit of left over bias tape (in lime green, but who sees it) and inserted a piece of cording. Pull tight and down to about 10 inches across and tie the cord. Makes the train fan out beautifully!

I used some polyester horsehair braiding in the hem which sure made a difference. Makes the hem stand on its own better, so it doesn’t collapse inward.

Next, I went around the bottom twice with the black 3 inch trim. This also made the hem stand out by giving it visual weight. Here is the trim  that is going on the hem.

Since the skirt fabric was very lightweight, I made a petticoat from the same pattern. I didn't have another $15 to make one, so I went down the street to the thrift store. I bought a full size white sheet for $3. I folded it like fabric yardage and laid the pattern pieces out. There was plenty of fabric, and its perfect for an underskirt! I ironed that ole wrinkly sheet and cut the pieces out.

Helpful tip: Canned veggies that sit in the back of your cupboard for a year (especially lima beans) make the best pattern weights, along with a curious cat.

I made the petticoat an inch shorter than the skirt so it won’t show. The good thing about this petticoat is I can use it for other trained skirts. If the skirt is fuller, I just let out the cord! Speaking of the cord, I didn't have any white bias tape, but I had a white ribbon. I used this and it worked just fine.

Well, here is the finished petticoat and skirt, which was started Friday afternoon and completed Saturday evening. In part 2, I will be making the bodice.


  1. I love the black lace trim around your hem. It really sets it off.

  2. I am so sorry that the pattern was marked wrong!! I'm rushing off to check it right now, and make sure it is all sorted out properly.

    You do such beautiful work!! Thank you for showing us your process.

  3. I have both of those patterns designated for my "some day" natural form dress too. Are you making the dust ruffle for under the hem? Lovely colors!

  4. Heather, no problem! Minor adjustment. I just thought a beginner sewer might become confused.

    Whowerethey, the petticoat may get some extra ruffles eventually. After all, I do have some sheet scraps left over! LOL.

  5. Wonderful! Thanks a lot for this post!
    I've bought this pattern yesterday (the fantail skirt)! I'm just wondering how many yards I need to trim the bottom of the skirt. I'd be really happy if you were able to tell me wich is the size of this skirt, with the train, at the hem? My pattern is coming from US and as I'm french, I have to wait 2 weeks for it. And since I'm n a hurry, I'd like to anticipate and buy my fabric as soon as possible, and start to make the trims (I need 4 rows... I'm going to die :D) Thanks in advance ♥

  6. Hello! I really love this skirt pattern. I make a lot of my dresses with trains. I measured it around the bottom and its approximately 3 yards and 22 inches. I cut it out with the longest train length on the pattern. I just finished another one from this pattern that is all white and covered with ruffles. I will post next week.