1881 Embroidered Dress



Natalie-Caecilie Plate


Outline the story …

Entry inspired by the Phantom of the Opera, by Gaston Leroux. Christine Daaé, an opera singer in Paris, had planed to sew herself a new dress for her free days. And of course she needed something to do, when she was again with her Angel of Music. Often he worked on his opera and she was bored. After she had become one of the leading singers, she decided to choose something very special, something precious. For months, she looked through many issues of 'La Mode Illustrée' and hadn't found something suitable. Until one day in early autumn she saw it, on the main page: an elegant dress made of a 'simple' cloth fabric, a fabric she definitely could afford, and with the pleats and all the embroidery it would be an amazing dress for walks or for attending church services. She always dreamt of a dress full of embroidery and really there it was: her embroidered cloth dress. But instead of steel blue and gold, she would choose something more modest, she would use midnight blue and wine red. She saw herself sitting at the fireplace while Erik is composing, she would do her embroidery.

The time period in Gaston Leroux's novel is possibly 1880s or 1890s, due to some events it would be mid 1890s but I prefer to have "The Phantom of the Opera" set in the early 1880s.

Outline the construction…

The first challenge for me was the use of an original pattern of that time. It was printed in a book, so I first had the challenge of pattern enlargement, and then getting it fit to my body shape. With patience, and comparison to my previous patterns, I could get the bodice in the correct size.

I chose a midnight blue cotton poplin, as it was the closest fabric I could get to 'cloth fabric', but I lined it with cotton batiste so the fabric was more firm for draping. This is the first time I have knife pleated my trim for the underskirt, which was challenging to get in equal width. The overskirt was a bit tricky for draping, and I had to try a lot until I reached the desired slim line. But the greatest challenge for me was the embroidery. The last time I embroidered was more than 10 years ago. I enlarged the original embroidery pattern with the help of my printer and then started with satin stitches to fill the lines, it took me at least 300 hours to do the embroidery, as the thread I used was cotton thread. I sewed and embroidered it completely by hand, including the undergarments, a bustled petticoat and a corset. The bodice has a hidden closure of hooks and eyes. It is hooked up in the front and the embroidered vest is hooked above the main closure.




  1. Avatar Beth on March 12, 2021 at 5:15 am

    Wow! Your attention to detail is awesome. Love it!

    • Avatar Natalie on March 13, 2021 at 9:00 am

      Thank you very much, Beth 🙏🏻😊

  2. Avatar Sophie Roberts on March 12, 2021 at 5:20 am

    Beautiful embroidery, colour choice and silhouette. I was blown away when I read it was hand embroidered. Amazing job!

    • Avatar Natalie on March 13, 2021 at 9:02 am

      Thank you Sophie 😊 it was the first time I did such a large embroidery project and learned so much for my later project

  3. Avatar Madeline W. on March 12, 2021 at 8:59 pm

    The embroidery looks absolutely amazing!

    • Avatar Natalie on March 13, 2021 at 10:23 am

      Thank you, Madeline. 🙂

  4. Avatar Valarie Olafson on March 12, 2021 at 11:44 pm

    This is so amazing! The embroidery just has me floored!

  5. Avatar Becky C on March 19, 2021 at 1:35 pm

    Absolutely beautiful! My jaw is on the floor. Your draping and the embroidery. I’m in awe.

  6. Avatar Laura Ingalls Gunn on March 21, 2021 at 11:49 pm

    This is absolutely amazing. Your attention to detail, ie the embroidery, is exquisite!

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