Friday, November 3, 2017

An 1880's Dress for a Halloween Outing

Last month, my husband and I were driving home from California and stopped for lunch at Calico Ghost Town. Turns out it was Calico Days. We were so bummed we missed out on the opportunity to dress for it.

Well, we heard they were having a Halloween event so we decided to go up for it. We wanted to go 1880's, which is when the original town was from. Never mind that it was just a Halloween thing. Any excuse to play dress up! So I was like, oh this will be easy, I already have a couple 1880's dresses. Cool. 

Not cool. 

Nothing fit. Like, at all. Like how was I ever that small?! 

But it was ok, because it gave me the perfect opportunity to create something that's been on my to-do list for a while: this 1885 printed cotton dress that's been on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum for years. I took the below pics on one of my last trips, but click here for the Museum's link to the dress's page.

The dress wasn't so much on my to-do list because it was one of my absolute favorites, but more because I came across the fabric. Quite a few years ago, I was in a Utah Walmart, buying a fishing license. I walked through the sewing section, as you do, and saw this fabric winking at me. The overall pattern, the color scheme, the hints of light blue... I was like, OMG the V&A dress! Sold!

And so, years later, it has come to life!

The event was fun, because we went with friends, and made our own fun, but I wouldn't race back to it anytime soon. I love going to Calico, but if I were to dress up again, I'd wait for a more historical event, for the atmosphere.

I also made up a quick dress for my mom so she could go 1880's with us. I'll have to share about that next. If you need a bustle dress in like 2 days...

Getting dressed on the Airstream is always an adventure! We have got it pretty down now, though. Lacing up my boots took more time than anything. The dress was very quick to get in and out of.

The Victoria and Albert dates this dress at 1885. I got inspiration for the rest of the outfit by looking at photos and fashion plates from 1884 and 1885. What I couldn't glean from these, I extended my research from the early 80's to about 1886.

My hair was soooo easy. I wanted those funny little bangs you see in a lot of hairstyles of the era. The closest, easiest way I could accomplish this, I discovered from another costumer, via Instagram: using fake, little girl, cheerleader curls for hair pieces. I fluffed one up and used it for bangs. She used them for regency curls. I'm ashamed to say, I can't remember who posted about them!! And now the post is so far back, I can't find it. If anyone knows, please share! It was genius!

As for undies, I made a new corset (more on that to come), but used my Edwardian chemise. I didn't have a lot of time to make what wouldn't show. I also had to sacrifice making a corset cover. For the bustle and petticoat, I used pieces I purchased years ago from Period Corsets. All of the above is on my ever lengthening to-do list!

I also made up a little bonnet. I'm not generally a bonnet kind of a gal, but I fell in love with the silliness of these bonnets. Had to have one! More on that to come, too.

Since this post is getting a little picture heavy, and I have lots more to share of the construction (and everything else!), I shall do multiple posts. So for now, I leave you with this. Dedicated to all those who think one must not be able to sit in a bustle... ;)


  1. Oh my goodness I love this dress so much!!

  2. This is fantastic! Perfection in every way, I love that V&A dress and 1885 is my favorite year. Only a fellow traveller on the costuming road would understand.;)

  3. Looks great! My first response on seeing it was, "That must have been inspired by the V&A dress!"

    I think Gloria of In the Long Run might be the person you're thinking of for the curly cheerleader hairpieces.

    1. Thanks! Darn I don't believe I saw it from Gloria. She rides horses like me, so she sticks out in my mind. It was someone else. But perhaps they got it from her!

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    3. It was :)

  4. So great to see these pix. A lovely outfit, and great undergarments, too!

  5. I remember seeing Lara Greene-Vaught (of Lara Corsets) doing the same thing with the piggy curls (cheerleader curls), and hope to try that someday. I've used parts of them for my 1830s and 1810 curls.

  6. I love the way your overskirt "pops out" from the back waist. What foundations do you have underneath?