Fun with Half Scales - an 1880s Victorian Bustle Gown

Today, I thought I'd share with you a half scale garment I've been working on for a historical pattern making class I'm in. This is fairly typical evening silhouette from the third bustle period (Victorian Era circa 1880s). I absolutely love working with half scales, even more so on my Featherweight

While I know there's nothing historically accurate about sewing an 1880s style dress with a 1950s machine, there's just something magical about using a piece of history to recreate history, so to speak. 

As this is just a half scale, there isn't a real bustle or petticoat underneath. I used a quick and dirty method by shaping and mounting a piece of tag board directly to my half scale and began draping. The real trick is working with the grain and it helped a lot to start from hem and line up the crosswise grain with the table first since all the pleating occurs at the top.

True to the period, the front of the skirt lays flat and is essentially just a floor length version of a skirt front sloper. To add bulk and emulate the petticoat, I added 3 tiers of 3:1 ruffles on the back.


I left the opening in the back of the skirt and gathered to a waistband (not shown). 

I flat patterned the bodice front and back, dropping the neckline while extending the bodice past the waist. Boning was added at center front to fake a corset structure. 

And of course, I added pleats to the back of the jacket. Now we can begin to see the silhouette take shape!

Next come the puff sleeves--not completely accurate to the time period, but they will do.

Next I draped the apron and the bustle, which is fastened by a series of ties underneath to complete the look!