The Tarabotti Gown



Katherine Davis


(click images to to enlarge)

Outline the story …

I have always loved the character of Alexia Tarabotti in the Soulless series. She's large, bold, very intelligent and always getting into trouble while maintaining all of the standards of an English lady. Because Alexia is "soulless" she doesn't have the taste for over the top fashions. She is also conscious of her size and her status as a spinster. Because her story begins in a version of the early 1870's I researched a range of styles. I had this beautiful subtle blue striped fabric that felt appropriate for her, so I had to find a style that would match. After some research, I decided that the polonaise style with the vertical stripes would be a very Alexia choice. The stripes help draw the eye up and down while the frills add a playful touch while also drawing attention away from the waistline. The square neckline is both flattering and easily filled with a lace tuck. The underskirt is also designed to be drawn with a cord to bring the hem even for walking outdoors. The final touch to the ensemble is the parasol, a re-covered antique bone handled piece. Alexia always has a parasol, generally filled with buckshot and other accessories as a means of protection. Every step of the design was a balance of practical usefulness and style, even down to all of the closures being located in the front so the wearer could dress without assistance!

Outline the construction…

I began this design with considerable yardage of the polyester blend blue striped fabric and cream/gold gimp trim. My goal with this project was to utilize as much of my own stock as possible to achieve a beautiful fit on myself. I had to get creative with mirrors and pinning while working with the mock-ups as I live alone. Having some patterning and draping experience, but never having worked with this period I used bits and pieces of patterns from Truly Victorian and Black Snail Patterns and combined them with my own draping. The petticoat is a single layer version of the base skirt, with pockets in the side seams. The base skirt has slits with facings to access the pockets and drawstring to adjust the train. In order to continue the theme, I covered my own buttons and hand bound each of the 11 buttonholes. Besides tailoring a garment to myself without assistance, the biggest challenge of this gown was cutting and working with all of the bias ruffles. The fabric is somewhat thin and has a tendency to stretch and warp in unexpected ways. Then, the last step was adding a touch of a similar cream stripe inside the sleeve ruffles and tie everything in with the cream and gold trim! I purchased the uncovered parasol, but it arrived with the bone handle shattered I repaired it with a faux-kintsugi method of e6000 and gold powder, then recovered it with the Truly Victorian parasol.




  1. Avatar Martina Girardi on March 11, 2021 at 9:00 pm

    I think Miss Alexia Tarabotti would appreciate this as much as I do! I’m feeling all the vibes, great job!

  2. Avatar Jean on March 12, 2021 at 2:58 am

    Great style choices for Miss Tarabotti and a lovely fit on you! Those bias ruffles really give that skirt wonderful added movement and depth!

  3. Avatar Stef McKnight on March 12, 2021 at 7:41 am

    I love the attention to detail

  4. Kitty Mortensen Kitty Mortensen on March 12, 2021 at 9:13 am

    I adore this set! Marvellously done- and I agree the blue stripes were a perfect fit!

  5. Kayren McKnight Kayren McKnight on March 12, 2021 at 7:17 pm

    Gail Carringer is one of my favorite authors and you look exactly as I imagine Alexandria!

    • Avatar Robin on March 16, 2021 at 6:45 pm

      I want this!!!!! So bad!!!! It’s all Alexia!

  6. Avatar Hilary Donaldson on March 14, 2021 at 7:33 pm

    You deserve a medal for creating the gown without assistance with fitting!! It fits beautifully 😄

  7. Avatar Frankie Murphy on March 16, 2021 at 7:06 pm

    The dress is fantastic and the only person who has the beautiful curves to fit with how I see Alexia.

  8. Avatar Heather Christie on March 16, 2021 at 8:15 pm

    Yes, yes, yes!! Is there really any hope in basic sewing to achieve this level!? I mean, I know the answer from this group but I feel a million miles away ready. Thank you for this wonderful interpretation, yet another maker to admire. Alexia would be thrilled! I will keep working away.

  9. Avatar Ilse on March 16, 2021 at 10:36 pm

    This is exactly how I imagine Alexia. I applaud your superior sewing skills and your exquisite taste in literature!

  10. Avatar Sarah Jackson on March 17, 2021 at 3:51 pm

    Love it katie!!
    As a huge fan of Ms Carriger and an experienced sewer, I have to say this is so amazing and very well done on all fronts!
    Good Luck!

  11. Avatar Amanda on March 19, 2021 at 1:20 am

    Gorgeous dress, and it looks and fits so well on you!

  12. Avatar Carly Van Groeningen on March 19, 2021 at 11:20 am

    This is gorgeous, so beautifully constructed.

  13. Avatar Jennifer on March 19, 2021 at 12:15 pm

    This out fit is beautiful and you explain all the practical details Alexia would admire. Thank you for showcasing your skills for us!

  14. Avatar Maeri Certo on March 26, 2021 at 6:46 pm

    I’m not familiar with your character but this is lovely! I enjoy the color and stripes, and the subtlety of your details, and I am all about “parasol as weapon”! Nice job!

  15. Avatar Sue (sue-mcfluzen) Assenmacher on March 29, 2021 at 5:48 am

    Fantastic job.

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