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

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HI, my name is Val. I'm a member of Costumer's Guild West in Los Angeles, Dean Emeritus of 2018 Costume College; Past President of the San Diego Costume Guild, member of Orange County Costume Guild, and a representative of the San Diego History Center. 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.


Sunday, July 3, 2011

1890s La Belle Epoque gown

Started June 2011

For the upcoming Sunday Fantasy Tea at Costume College, at the end of July, I had a time span to choose from for my gown of 1890-1914. One of my favorite movies, The Golden Bowl, had an exquisite gown I wanted to use as my inspiration. I loved the front trim and belt on it.

I had to decide did I want to go for straight sleeves or poofy sleeves, either of which would put it in it’s own time period.

After looking at these two photos, one from 1889, & the Worth gown from 1894, I chose a poofy sleeve, and I also liked bows on them.

My changeable aqua silk taffeta came from the LA Garment District, and on another trip I found this net lace yardage at Fabrics & Fabrics in the same area. The net fabric had two different types of lace trim on it that I knew would be perfect for doing a two tiered sleeve effect. I gathered the fabric under the first row of lace to create the lower flounce. It is heavy so at some point I’m going to try & use part of the netting and make it into stiff poof with some stiffener under the upper part of the sleeve.

I was also able to separate the laces by cutting them to use in different parts of the gown for trim.

I used Truly Victorian’s 490 1892 ballgown bodice, but reversed it’s opening to the front. The sleeves were made from TV’s 495 sleeve patterns, View #5. I had planned to use TV’s 297 matching skirt but didn’t have enough fabric so I used Laughing Moon’s 1890 5-gore skirt pattern, which really looked nice with it’s train. For the Medici belt I used Timeless Stitches’ TSA-525 pattern, and lined it with buckram

I already had a muslin made from this bodice pattern so with a few alterations, I was able to get it sewn in a day, and the skirt also went together very quickly. Since the finished gown would have the bodice tucked in to the skirt waist, with a belt over the top, I wasn’t sure if I should alter the bottom shape but decided it could always be worn later w/o the belt and the bodice outside the skirt. 
I pinned the sleeves on to get an idea of the look I wanted.
For the lace around the neck, I cut one row of the lace trim off the netting. I had to cut away the netting from it and I let the points dangle from it. Since it was a straight line, it was hard to get it to curve with my neckline. It was too bulky to do any tucking and would have altered the line of it. I cut it into two lengths and had it start at my front opening, and go around to the back, on both sides. I barely had enough to come together in the back and had to let it split there. At the center front there will be some kind of decoration there, possibly a self fabric bow and the rhinestone bow I have. I put the Medici belt I made on it, and put three large rhinestone buttons down the middle and a lace appliqué on either side to accentuate it. In the back where it will close, I added a rhinestone buckle for some back interest.

I started thinking about how I wanted the trim on the skirt to connect up with the bodice, and didn’t have enough net fabric to do anything on it, so I pulled out a lace trim from my stash that had a similar point showing on the neckline. After a couple trips to a fabric store looking for lace appliqués to put around the front of the skirt, I was only able to find one I liked, and centered it in the front.

This gown is still in progress and needs it’s final center front trim, and closures put in, and the bows put on the sleeves. But my favorite view of it right now is from the back. If I could walk around backwards and keep my train gracefully trailing behind me, I would die happy.


  1. Beautiful! I love the color and the trim, and actually just everything about it.

  2. Thank you! I'm going to make sure everybody gets to see the backside of me. :D

  3. Dear Val,
    Jeepers creepers, your dress is ready for a grand occasion. What a yummy color too. Perfect for a very hot summer.
    Very best,

  4. Lovely! I love that color, and the jeweled belt as well! And all that lace... Yumm!

  5. It is a perfect tea dress! Yes, the color is beautiful, if the sky was sherbet that would be the color. I prefer your belt to the original. The lace is lovely. Can't wait to see it at CC

  6. Thank you, ladies! Only 16 more days until I get to wear it. I still have a hat to make for it tho.

  7. Just gorgeous, Val! I love the color especially! Can't wait to see photos of you in it!


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