This is a photo diary of my costuming "travels"; where I've learned and struggled to make historical costumes for myself. They're not always pretty, but always fun. most of the time. And I want to share with others what I learn along the way. **You can find me on Facebook, or have my posts delivered to your email by signing up at the lower part of the right column.**

About Me

My photo
HI, my name is Val. I'm a member of Costumer's Guild West in Los Angeles, member & Past President of the San Diego Costume Guild, member of Orange County Costume Guild, a representative of the San Diego History Center, & an honorary member of SITU (Someplace in Time, Unlimited) in Seattle. This year I am the Dean of Costume College 2018. I make my own historical costumes but don't sell any unless I get tired of one.The eras I've made so far are 1770 up to 1918. My favorite is the 1880s bustle.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Edwardian Black and White Reception Gown

Started March 15 & completed July 28, 2010
I fell in love with a gorgeous Edwardian gown worn by Emma Thompson at her wedding reception in the Merchant-Ivory Production of Howard’s End about ten years ago. It wasn’t until last year that I felt confident enough that I could try and make it. I gave myself a year to plan it, find a pattern I could use, and the fabrics and laces.

I planned on using a black and an ivory silk taffeta, with multiple lace overlays. The pattern turned out to be the hardest. There is no pattern for this dress. I knew I would have to cobble one together, and fortunately I had just finished making a skirt from Butterick 4092 (skirt is high waisted). For the bodice, the closet thing I could find was Laughing Moon’s Titanic era dress.

I sent this question to Your Wardrobe Unlock’d, an online magazine:
"I'm attempting to "copy" an Edwardian black and white gown worn by Emma Thompson in Howard's End, which I've attached photos of. The skirt was no problem since there was already a Butterick pattern out that was similar. It's the bodice that's confusing me. Since I don't know how to grade or scale up patterns from a book, I'm at the mercy of pattern companies. And any coverage of this period of dress is sadly lacking.
The bodice appears to be in three layers, and the closest pattern I've found to mimic this is Laughing Moon's 1909-1913 Day & Evening Dress. I need help dissecting this bodice, and how to achieve this layered look. I wondered if I could possibly make it with a single layered bodice with the lacy under-blouse separate. The under-blouse might be easy but the over-blouse is confusing." *As of 8-24-10, I never received an answer*

I decided to make the bodice all one piece, and just attach sleeve bits to each other. To have the appearance of a higher-waisted skirted, I’m making a pleated cumberbund from the black silk taffeta to close in the back, possibly with more of the same buttons going down the skirt as decorations.
Video clips of the movie can be seen here:
Since I'd made the skirt pattern before, it went together quickly. I sewed some antique black glass buttons down the front panel of the skirt.

I made the bodice using the base pattern from Laughing Moon, then layered lace yardage over the front just to the center panel seams, & and sleeves. A black cuff of silk taffeta was added to the underside of the sleeves.

Then I started adding other lace trims to the bodice and sleeves. Each were hand sewn to the bodice. I attached strips of blk silk taffeta along the seams but brought it to a point in the front and back. Then layed the outside lace over it. Finding lace for the bodice trim has been the hardest part. The "white" taffeta is more ivory & all I could find was white or cream lace, no ivory, but I finally found a couple that matched the ivory pretty well. I ran one row of 3” wide lace down the front and the back. Another type of lace was sewn along the front insert of the bodice, and over the black sleeve cuffs. A third sleeve cuff, made from a silk chenille dotted fabric was sewn to the underside of the black cuff.

I made a cumberbund to go around the upper part of the waist with more black silk taffeta. I cut a 12” wide strip long enough to go around me, and did 1” pleats on one half of it, then folded it in half (inside out). I sewed it closed with an opening to turn it right side out & the pleats show to the front. This will go around my waist on the white bodice, and close in the back. I plan on using more of the black glass buttons on the back & front of it for decoration.

A millinery friend, Lynne Taylor, described the hat as black velveteen with ivory silk tafetta over the crown and swirled up into the poufs, narrow black feather on one side.

I used a black felt hat and covered the crown with a large circle of white silk taffeta. I sewed 3” wide tubes of the same fabric, opened them up and folded them into large poofs on my hat. The fabric had enough body that they stay up, and if they get crushed, they can be poofed right up again. I totally forgot I didn’t have a black feather on it when I saw photos of myself wearing it, and looked at the original again.

I wore this outfit at the Gala at Costume College on August 7, 2010. *Photos are courtesy of some of my friends*


  1. this blog is wonderful,i'll follow you :)

  2. Very nicely done on the black and white here! Thank you for sharing this wondeful blog with us.

  3. I am very impressed by your talent as a seamstress!

  4. This costume is fantastic. I sell Elsey Massey hats - you are probably familiar with her. Also fans and parasols and the Victorian Society visit often! Very fun!

  5. Seriously in love with this outfit!!! You did a fantastic job in creating it!!! Yeah!


I would love to hear if this was any help to you. Pretty please!