2nd Place

Amy March Early Bustle era Ballgown





(click images to to enlarge)

Outline the story …

When reading this year’s theme, I immediately knew who I wanted to make a dress for. A young adult Amy Curtis March from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I decided to make a ‘historically adequate’ early bustle era ballgown that I imagine her wearing to a ball with Laurie. This would allow me to delve into an era that I didn't have much sewing experience in and try out many of the new techniques that I learned about this year. For the fabric I chose a lovely bright cool toned green silk fabric that I thought would fit Amy's personality perfectly (outgoing, charming, ambitious yet practical).

For the design of the gown, I took inspiration from several period dresses and de Gracieuse magazines from 1868 - 1871. The bodice was designed with a lowered semi sheer neckline and off the shoulder sleeves. For trim I went with some beautiful bold lace that I felt would suit Amy as a well off, fashionable young Victorian woman.

The overskirt elements were inspired by several fashion plates from de Gracieuse and consists of a bow like element on the back and a draped front apron, decorated with the same lace as the bodice. Since there was already quite a lot going on on the top, I decided to keep the base skirt fairly simple, without any extra trim to keep the focus on the overskirt and bodice.

Outline the construction…

For the underskirt I used the Truly Victorian TV203 pattern pieces but used the techniques I learned from the livecall about Victorian skirt construction by interlining the skirt with tarlatan, adding a hem facing with extra stiff tarlatan and whipstitching silk covered twill tape on as a waistband.

For the overskirt I made my own patterns. The front of the overskirt was draped and consists of silk interlined with a medium weight cotton. The hem is reinforced with tarlatan and has lace and fabric ruffles adorning the edges. The back bows are made of silk and lace. The big bow is interlined with tarlatan to give it a nice shape.

The base of the bodice pattern was drafted with the help of Reconstruction Era Fashions by Frances Grimble (first time using historical patterns to draft a bodice) and was made of silk interlined with cotton sateen with boning at the seams. The semi sheer part around the neckline was made of hand pleated cotton bobbinet held in place by tea dyed cotton lace and a silk ribbon. The same materials and techniques were used for the sleeves. Lace and fabric ruffles are added around the neckline as decoration. The inside of the bodice has cotton padding in it to give it the fashionable shape of the early 1870's. The back closes with spiral lacing and small handsewn eyelets.

I used a sewing machine to stitch together the main pattern pieces of all garments and used hand stitching for everything else.




  1. Avatar val on March 11, 2021 at 10:40 pm

    superbe, love the color

    • Avatar Charlie de Jong on March 12, 2021 at 1:00 pm

      Thank you Val!

  2. Avatar Phanuel Jagna Levinsen on March 11, 2021 at 11:33 pm

    Everything about this is perfect.. oh my

    • Avatar Charlie de Jong on March 12, 2021 at 1:02 pm

      Thanks for the lovely comment Phanuel !

      • Avatar Phanuel Jagna Levinsen on March 20, 2021 at 11:03 pm

        You’re welcome! your seams are so neat and smooth and the draping is so beautiful! I could go on for days because you’ve mirrored your lace perfectly on the back as well! It’s just… Wauw…

  3. Avatar Annette Snyder on March 13, 2021 at 2:14 am

    This is really beautiful. Well done!

  4. Avatar Morgan Traynor on March 13, 2021 at 3:55 am

    OMG so beautiful!!!! Love this dress. It’s so well fitted I would have thought it was professional. This dress could walk into a TV set and outshine a lot of dressed I’ve seen. Beautiful work

  5. Avatar Susanna Antonsson on March 13, 2021 at 12:31 pm

    So incredibly beautiful. It is perfect!

  6. Avatar Carol Hughey on March 14, 2021 at 5:13 pm

    This is really lovely. Well done.

  7. Avatar Victoria Rosemary on March 17, 2021 at 1:44 pm

    Absolutely perfect and beautiful

  8. Avatar Amanda on March 19, 2021 at 1:31 am

    Very pretty, I love the lace details!

  9. Avatar Laura Wemyss on March 21, 2021 at 5:06 pm

    Your work is gorgeous, and the fit looks superb. I love all of the detail work around the neckline, especially the sturdy delicacy (if that can be a thing!) of the bobbinet.

  10. Avatar Lucia on March 22, 2021 at 4:47 pm

    I love it!!

  11. Avatar Serindyanë on March 23, 2021 at 5:53 pm

    I love the balance of details between the front and back, and your choice of keeping the base skirt sleek. And that colour, totally Amy March, I do agree.

    Great work, bravo!

  12. Avatar Jennifer on March 24, 2021 at 10:56 pm

    That colour is positively scrumptious. No detail out of place. Such an amazing job!

  13. Avatar Giorgio Ronchi on March 25, 2021 at 11:50 pm

    This green silk is beautiful, as the dress.

  14. Avatar Benigna on March 26, 2021 at 1:18 pm

    This dress is wonderful! I really like the colour and the lace.

  15. Avatar Stephanie Murison on March 27, 2021 at 1:51 pm

    This is so beautiful! The colour is lovely and it is wonderfully well crafted, you’ve created a great shape, and a dress that I can definitely picture Amy wearing! Well done!

  16. Avatar Maeri Certo on March 27, 2021 at 6:33 pm

    Beautiful job! Your construction and details are fantastic!

  17. Avatar Gabrielle Post on March 28, 2021 at 8:25 pm

    This is absolutely gorgeous, amazing work. That colour is fabulous😍

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