Sewing · Victorian

1870s Tartan Bustle Project

At the end of last year I came across a cotton tartan shirting from The Fabric Store that I felt really drawn to. I bought several metres of it, with the plan to transform it into an 1870s bustle dress.

Unfortunately… I got into a debate with myself and lost to the argument that an 1890s ensemble would be a better use for it. But, after making that, I still really wanted an early bustle dress so I went back online and bought up the rest of the fabric they had in stock, which has turned out to be just the right amount to create my 3 Itetation Bustle Dress.

The 1890s Tartan Ensemble

I had already made a black cotton underskirt earlier in the year so decided to use this for my project as it meant there would be less chance of overwhelming the eye by being fully, head to foot Tartan…

I used the Truly Victorian Bustled Apron Overskirt (TV305) but altered it to create a double apron front. I chose to emphasise the red in the tartan when creating my pleats and cut the fabric strips accordingly. I also chose to go with my ‘signature’ pulled box pleats in the black cotton to connect it to the underskirt.

This trim combination also informed my choices for the three bodices.

The first bodice was made using the Truly Victorian Vest Basque Bodice (TV405) without too many alterations except for shortening the area between bust and shoulders as that seems to be my biggest fitting problem with Truly Victorian patterns.

I chose to go with the same trim idea as my Pretty Princess Dress bodice, using pulled box pleats, and chose to go with tartan for the sleeves as well as the vest. I used tartan to line the ‘tails’ just in case they ever flap about.

The second bodice was a bit of a Frankenpattern, using Truly Victorian’s 1871 Day Bodice (TV400) for the front, and the 1873 Polonaise (TV410), and, if I remember correctly I may have used other pattern pieces at the side to get the shape that I wanted. Possibly the Vest Basque Bodice pattern pieces helped but now I’m not 100% sure.

Again, I shortened the space between bust and shoulder and may have had a wee bit of a whoopsie with the armscyes, which I’m hoping aren’t too obvious. I may have had to size up my sleeves to compensate…

I decided to create a V-neck for this bodice because I don’t see a lot of bodices made with them these days and there are examples of this neckline used in the 1870s. This gave me the perfect opportunity to add pleats and pulled box pleats to this bodice, echoing those on the overskirt.

To strike a balance between the black and tartan, I chose to go with black sleeves, with pleated tartan cuffs and some more of the pulled box pleats as well.

The third iteration of this dress is the Ball Bodice. I made this using the Truly Victorian 1875 Ball Gown Basque (TV416) without having to make too many adjustments – just shortening the shoulders so they didn’t fall down.

At first I didn’t know what trim I wanted for the neckline but while I was playing around with some leftover pleats I realised that they looked kind of cute at the neckline. And, of course, I had to add some more pulled box pleated trim as well.

Like the two other bodices, I’ve added triple bows at the back 😊

Hopefully it won’t be too long before I have a chance to wear them…

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