Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Gibson Girl Gown — Complete!

And now, the moment you've all been waiting for... the finished dress!



Bodice Closeup


The shoulders — my favorite part of the dress

It's a shame the colors are so washed out in all these pictures, but I figured you would rather see the dress on me in a beautiful ballroom than on a dressform in my messy living room. 

Since you last saw the skirt, I added oodles of trimming. For the bottom flounce, I used a doubled piece of pink chiffon. I decided to make the flounce double width, then fold it in half, gathering the two edges and stitching them down as one. This approach had two advantages: I didn't have to hem yards and yards of silk chiffon, and the flounce was then more opaque. Easier and prettier at the same time!

I added a row of the beaded trim to cover the raw edges of the chiffon. I still had a bunch of the trim left over, so I decided to arrange the rest in a sort of branching cascade down the left front of the skirt. I then accented the whole thing with more roses made with the pink silk. 

Lastly I added a belt of black velvet to the bodice, in order to provide a bit more definition to the waist. 

The dress was very well received at the ball, and was a joy to dance in. The short length made it easy to move in, it didn't take up as much space on the dance floor as the mid-19th century dresses I usually wear, and the sleeveless design gave me much more range of motion than I am used to having in Victorian fashions. 

The group of ladies who inspired this project, my lovely Gibson Girls, all did a wonderful job with their dresses as well. We all had a great time! Here are a few pictures of the group:

Quite a variety of colors and styles

Showing off our shoes and petticoats

Three ladies who chose a slightly earlier silhouette: Jenny, Elizabeth, and Christine look fabulous with their floofy sleeves!

Vivien's trained dress was a show-stopper.

I love the silhouette from behind! (Read more about it on her blog.)

This was my favorite moment of the night: Jenny and Gregory recreated a charming drawing by Charles Dana Gibson.

Tells quite a story, doesn't it?

Another great victory of the night was my hairdo. After several rounds of trial-and-error, I figured out how to wrangle my fine, wispy hair into some semblance of a Gibson pouf. It took a lot of teasing, quite a pile of pins, and more than a few rats, but the results were better than I expected. 

The completed hairdo before the ball...

...and the tangled, messy aftermath! 

Here's a bonus: the decision to cover the dress in all those pink roses meant that this could become my entry for the next challenge in the Historical Sew Fortnightly! Here are the details:

The Challenge: #9 — Flora and Fauna (This is certainly the most floral dress I've ever made — 37 blooms from top to bottom!)

Fabric: Blue-green silk taffeta for the dress; pink chiffon, rosy pink silk taffeta, and black rayon velvet for trim; and pink acetate taffeta for the lining

Pattern: 1898 bodice from Period Costume for Stage and Screen as the base for my bodice, everything else was draped on the dressform

Year: ca. 1900

Notions: tarlatan for the hem, seam binding to finish the bodice inside, steel boning, petersham for waist stay, hooks and eyes, snaps, purchased beaded trim

How historically accurate is it? Fairly. It was inspired by period dresses in museum collections as well as period fashion illustrations. My techniques were based on period examples and period dressmaking manuals. My materials were pretty good (I used acetate taffeta for the lining where it should have been silk, and my velvet was a rayon blend). I used a purchased beaded trim instead of lavishly embroidering the dress as Worth would have done, because I am not crazy. Even with a few shortcuts, the majority of the sewing was done by hand, as it would have been done in the period. I would say 8 of 10. 

Hours to complete: I didn't keep track but my best guess would be upwards of 40.

First worn: to the Gaskell Ball on April 27, 2013

Total cost: I didn't keep track of this either, but my guess would be about $250. I overbought on most of my fabrics, meaning I have lots of leftovers that will be used for future projects. 

I'm very happy with how this dress turned out, but I'm even happier to be finished with it. Now I can move on to my next project, which will be something completely different... Details to follow!


  1. This is drop dead gorgeous! You and all of the other ladies look spectacular.

  2. Wow, this is beautiful!

  3. What a gorgeous dress!! You did a truly marvelous job and it does look like an original piece!

  4. très beaux bravos !

  5. It is absolutely stunning! I think this might be the prettiest Gibson Girl dress that I've ever seen!

  6. SO fantastic. I love how it came out, as well as the setting! The shoulders are my favorite part, too. I love the Gibson picture re-creation as well, down to the crushed left sleeve of her gown! Hilarious!

  7. That really is an amazing dress. I am deeply jealous.

  8. What a gorgeous dress!! Fantastic!


  9. You have done a seriously fantastic job on this scrumptious dress! I love every aspect of it!

  10. Love it! It really looks the period with the silhouette you achieved. Bravissima!

  11. Beautiful dress!! I love the flowers on the skirt part. <3

  12. Wondrous. Absolutely stunning. Worth would've had a caderie of embroiderers. The couple in the Gibson print look as if they've had a tiff. This is one of the most beautiful dresses you've made. Splendid.

  13. So pretty!! I love the colour combination and the flower details! You look exactly like a Gibson girl! :)

  14. My mouth literally fell open. This is gorgeous. Amazing work!!!