Making an 1890s Ball Gown Copied from a Real Victorian Antique


by Nicole Rudolph



Last year I fell in love with an antique Victorian bodice which just begged to be recreated with all of it missing parts restored. I gathered supplies and spent the last three months researching and sewing, pulling a pattern and construction notes from the original and gradually uncovering its story. As it turns out, the bodice was full of discoveries and secrets! It’s a wonderful example of the Victorian fashions of the very end of the 19th century as they prepared to rapidly change in the coming years.

The bodice itself is lined with a cotton brocade, has a mid layer of mint green silk taffeta, and is covered in a finely pleated or gathered silk gauze. All of the edges were carefully turned back and faced with silk ribbon; some of the same ribbon was used for the boning channels. In order to hide the closure system the bodice fastens at center front invisibly and has an extra front that overlaps and hooks along the shoulders, down around the armscye, and on the side seam. Though wear is visible on the interior of the bodice with sweat stains, the exterior has only minor damage to the silk gauze. A few tiny pulls and splits along the folds are all that show. Clearly this bodice was worn (and altered) but was done so with care. It likely was worn around 1898-1899 in its various forms.

All of this was made for an event in New York. After planning a small trip with Abby to see the Met exhibit and friends, the group grew to include others from all over (originally planning to meet with an international friend who could not make it). A dinner was suggested and handed over to Dandy Wellington, who took the challenge and created an absolutely divine event in partnership with Hendricks Gin at Gage & Tollner. Thankfully we were able to shape a safe and conscious dinner and the result was an amazing meeting of people. I am so glad I was able to spend the week (or just the evening) with such wonderful friends!

A few days later (and a few mended spots on the gowns) Abby and I were also able to do a photoshoot with Rose Callahan at “Westminster Shabbey”. I cannot wait to show everyone the result of her absolute magic with the camera (and a smoke machine).

Taffeta and Satin Ribbons:
Gauze and Ribbon:
Satin Ribbons:
Antique Bodice:

Event Attendees:
@AbbyCox @bernadettebanner @Costuming_Drama @NotYourMommasHistory @DandyWellington @Sewstine @AngelaClaytonCostumery @NamiSparrow @MorganDonner

Research images from 1898/1899 Delineators


šŸŽ¶Music via Epidemic Sound (

00:00 Introduction
01:48 Research
10:47 Pattern & Prep
12:24 Bodice Shell
21:17 Gauze
23:31 Sleeves
28:58 Skirt
30:09 Final Reveal


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