Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Planning and Daydreaming about the Perfect Valentine's Natural Form Era Gown

 Happy Valentines Day! 

A couple weeks ago, on a cold Sunday afternoon, I was browsing Pinterest instead of doing the multitude of other things I told myself I would get done that afternoon. I happened upon this fashion plate, and fell in love!

That pink and burgundy dress on the right! It was so pretty! I made a spur of the moment decision that I was going to make that gown. I had the perfect fabrics in my stash, so I wouldn't have to buy a thing - what excuse did I have to not make it??

I traipsed down to my basement sewing room - forgetting about any and all other projects I'd intended to work on that day. Out came the roll of dusty rose colored moire my best friend's mom picked up for me at an estate sale years ago. It was perfect! And to trim the gown with? A burgundy cotton velveteen, left over from another project, with a deliciously luxurious pile!


The fabric was the easy part. Next I pulled out all my books that covered the era of the fashion plate.

Down in the right hand corner of the fashion plate it reads "April 1882", and that was incredibly helpful as I began to research how this gown went together, what pattern shapes might be and what the inner structures might look like. As I looked through allllllll my books I began to get an idea of how 1882, the end of the natural form era, was different from 1878, the beginning of the natural form era. One of the most helpful books was American Dress Pattern Catalogs - Four Complete Re-prints, a Dover book edited by Nancy Villa Bryk. I picked it up used for only a couple bucks a few years back, because it looked interesting, and for only $3 why not, but I wasn't sure how useful it would be.

Super useful for this project as it would turn out, as it contains the entire Butterick Summer 1882 catalog, so I was able to see what sort of patterns a home seamstress in 1882 would have been able to buy to make a gown similar to that in my fashion plate. Also, as you may have noticed, the fashion plate only shows the front of the gown, thus part of my research was figuring out what the back might look like - and this catalog features several polonaise style bodices, similar to the fashion plate, with detailed illustrations of both the front and the back of the bodice - jack pot!

With vague ideas of what the pattern should be in my mind, I went to my pattern stash and pulled out Past Patterns 904, Butterick B6572, and McCall's M8191 and M8189.  None of these were perfect for the gown I wanted to make, but all were close enough to make a good starting point. 

I was ready to cut out a mock-up and get going on this project - but then I hit a snag. I've not actually done a natural form era gown for myself before, so I didn't actually have the proper under things for this era in my closet. I would have to start with those before beginning on the pretty bodice. . .

Kitty guarding the pretty fabric while I make the underthings. . .

 By the end of that cold, cold, (but delightful thanks to my new costume plans) Sunday, I had a plan for the gown, a bustle cut out, a skirt mock-up cut out, and a petticoat cut out. My goal was to get right on it and have the complete ensemble done by Valentine's Day, as it is the perfect color.

Well, sadly it's not done yet, but it is in progress - and I'm still very excited about it! Next I'll tell you all about the fantastic new underthings I made to go with it!

That said, this is the first time since the Pink Edwardian Gown that I've begun blogging about a project before it's actually done - and we all know how long it took me to finish that one. . . .
So which do you prefer? Me sharing about a project as I'm working on it, with no guarantee of how fast I'm going to get to the end and you'll get to see the finished garment. Or, me waiting to share anything about the project until it's all finished and photographed and I can tell you all about it within a tighter time frame, even if it's months after I actually finished the project? Comment and let me know if you have a preference!


  1. I enjoy hearing about your projects as you work on them -- but I always look forward to your posts no matter when they come

    1. Thank you! I'm glad to hear you appreciate both approaches!

  2. I like to read and see anything you are working on or have worked on or might work on, at any time, for any reason! Write, post, and I will happily read.

  3. I enjoy all your posts too, although I admit I like knowing that there will be a finished project. I don't like cliffhangers! I was also wondering if your historical clothing tab has all your projects? I sometimes look for dresses I'm sure I've seen, but I can't always find them.
    If you ever would consider writing a post on your historical dress books, I'd like to see all the sources you use or suggest. Some of them are expensive to track down, so it would be good to know how useful you found them.
    Thanks for all the inspiring posts!

    1. Thanks for your input! No, my Historical Clothing tab is sadly out of date, I need to fix that badly!
      I'll consider writing a post about my different books, that's not something that's ever crossed my mind until now.

  4. I like to read about your projects as you work on them. It very interesting how you choose patterns to help get to the final costume.

    1. Thank you! I feel like (when I get around to it) that it is more natural to share about the projects as they're happening, rather than trying to remember everything to share about later.

  5. PAX
    I enjoy seeing your progress, even if it takes awhile! I always have a great time reading every one of your posts. :)