How to Make
Create the Mood

1859 ball gown
under construction

bodice pattern

The bodice pattern was taken from a Victorian bodice that was in very poor condition but which was about the right size and shape.



I removed fabric pieces that had been added when it was used in a theatre and took the old bodice apart, labelling each part.

Each piece was ironed and copied in spare fabric with an extra 1" added at the centre of each piece to fit.

bodice taken apart
bodice fittings
All fittings were done over the corset that will be worn with the dress.

I put the toile bodice on and off a few times making small adjustments each time to get the wrinkles out of the fabric.

To make repeated fittings on myself easier I pinned in a temporary hook and eye band as the front fastening.

fitting 1 - front, before

front, after


fitting 1

side, before

side, after

fitting 2

With shot fabric the fabric must be the same way up on all pieces so that each catches the light in the same way.

As a final check before sewing I pinned the bodice pieces together and tried it on with the corset and crinoline.

I did not like the look of the two back seams in this silky fabric, so recut and reshaped the back using spare fabric.


recut toile

side with new back piece
front, final fitting
to be continued        


The sleeve backs just touch/skim the crinoline skirt; the inside seam comes just above the elbow and can be gathered a little, or left open.

pattern from a 1859 Godeys Ladies Book ball gown chart. (Dress at top of page)

is this the left or the right sleeve ?

The sleeve pattern was isolated from the rest of the pattern pieces and enlarged to the size given on the pattern using the computer.

sleeve fittings:

first fitting the width was increased to fit the bodice armhole

second fitting:
length reduced by folding pattern horizontally; sides adjusted.

The sleeve was cut out in waste fabric and pinned onto the draft bodice.

The sleeve was cut out using this pattern (modified after a fitting) and lined with a slightly lighter blue silk.


A few adjustments are still to be made with the fitting.
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last updated 10 October, 2012