Victorian Wedding Dress in Pale Blue Silk for Eleanor

bespoke pale blue victorian wedding dress with divided skirt in front of church porch

Eleanor commissioned a beautiful Victorian wedding dress in palest blue embroidered silk dupion. I designed Eleanor’s dress using a mixture of historical sources as inspiration. Tudor, 18th century and Victorian corsetry came together to create a dress that flattered her petite but curvy figure.

I made Eleanor’s dress with a fitted and boned bodice and a wide off the shoulder neckline. I sewed the skirt to the bodice in hundreds of cartridge pleats (see below for detail pics). Eleanor wore the dress over a hoop to make the skirt a full bell shape. We designed it with a divided front which reveals the plain silk of the underskirt, edged with a wide box-pleated frill.

victorian wedding dress for plus size bride in church path

The wide off the shoulder neckline showed Eleanor’s beautiful shoulders to best advantage. And dipped towards her bust enough to be flattering but not too revealing. I made sure the full skirt further emphasised her tiny waist. A proper period corset (stays) nipped in Eleanor’s waist which gave her the shape she wanted for the Victorian wedding dress style.

bustle back victorian wedding dress on church path
I also made the groom’s coat, waistcoat and cravat.
victorian wedding dress design by Felicity Westmacott
Original design sketch
bum roll period inspired wedding dress
Eleanor wore an antique lace stole with her dress, purchased from a online specialist.
period wedding dress with bum roll back view with train
The back of the skirt swept out into a full length train.
polonaise bustle skirt silk wedding dress hitched up for dancing
The train could be bustled up for dancing in a method that is visually reminiscent of a dress style called ‘Polonaise’ from the late 18th century.

Dressmaker’s holiday

off the shoulder pale blue victorian wedding dress
stitching magic hands of the wedding dress alchemist

When I asked Eleanor how she would like the back of her dress to close, the usual options being zip, lace up or buttons, she really didn’t want any of them. I knew I’d be there on the wedding day, so we decided to sew Eleanor into the bodice for a perfect, seamless finish. This is not an easy job to do, but it meant there was nothing to spoil the line of the bodice at the back. At the end of the day we gave the poor groom a quick-unpick and instructions on how to get his new wife out of her dress on the wedding night!

pleated frill victorian wedding dress on church path
Eleanor’s dress was supported by a hoopskirt (crinoline) which is peeking out here as she carefully traverses the church path.
bespoke wedding dress with divided skirt and her bridesmaids
Eleanor with her bevy of beautiful bridesmaids, each wearing a custom bridesmaids dress in shades of pink and gold.

Skirts with an open front, like this, were very fashionable in the 18th century. Rococo design also inspired the wide, box pleated frill on her petticoat. Victorian wedding dresses were often influenced by fashion from earlier eras just as we are today.

bespoke bride and bridesmaids period inspired
Eleanor also had her baby bridesmaid and pageboy’s dress and waistcoat made to order by me
church wedding with period inspired design for bride and groom
Eleanor and her groom met through the rowing club at university her their rowing team made an honours arch from the oars!
pale blue victorian wedding dress bride and groom
The Groom’s beautiful long hair was tied back with a black ribbon, as was fashionable for gentlemen in the 18th century

Official Wedding pictures by Sebastian Lomas

Underpinnings for a Victorian Wedding Dress

To create its distinctive shape I supported Eleanor’s dress with lots of period underpinnings. These comprised a properly boned corset (stays) and a hoop skirt (crinoline). The ‘bum roll’ is the large pad you can see on the right above. The net bustle supported the skirt shape and he train. There were also many layers of netting integral to the main dress.

corset stays fitting for bespoke wedding dress
Fitting pictures with the victorian corset (stays)

Making Eleanor’s Victorian Wedding Dress

These fitting pictures show the skirt partly made with only half pleated on to the bodice. We used a technique called ‘cartridge pleating’ which was popular in Tudor fashion.

Dying the embroidered silk

embroidered silk dupion for custom wedding dress with roses and chrysanthemum
Before being dyed the embroidered silk dupion was a plain ivory colour (above).

I hand dyed Eleanor’s fabric to order as we just couldn’t find what she wanted in the right colour.

custom dye pale blue wedding dress silk in the dye bath
The silk in the the dye bath being changed to pale blue.

Historical Inspiration and Designs

Eleanor’s dress was not an historically accurate representation of any particular period in history. But we intended it to look ‘historical’ in the sense that it did not conform to the common bridal trends of 2010. It had many design elements that obviously referenced other periods.

Details from history

I pleated the skirt into the bodice in ‘cartridge pleats’ from the sides round to the back. This is an Elizabethan technique, although cartridge pleating can be found used in other fashion periods too. Fashions of the past have been inspiring people’s design choices all throughout history, not just in modern times. Real Victorian women often wore dresses inspired by Elizabethan and 18th century design. From the sides round to the front I pleated the skirt in softer, large pleats. Just like the skirt on the left in the picture below.

polonaise and bustle skirt shape inspiration

The skirt hooked up for dancing in a ‘polonaise stye’ because this was a fashionable style in the 18th century (above centre and below right).

These real period garments show elements that were inspiration for Eleanor’s Victorian wedding dress.

Wedding Dress by Felicity Westmacott: Historical victorian inspired in pale blue silk with corset, pleats and embroidery: design inspiration

We took inspiration from Elizabethan, 18th century and Victorian fashions. I loved creating a period combination for a unique dress that flattered Eleanor’s figure and style perfectly. The basic corset and wide neckline are early Victorian shapes (1830’s). We decided to cut the bodice with panels that taper from shoulder to pointed front waist. The longer bodice line (the seam is just below Eleanor’s waistline, not on it) comes from a later Victorian period. The Victorian design image (right above) was our inspiration.

Bespoke Design Development for an Historical Wedding Dress

victorian wedding dress design by Felicity Westmacott
Final Design: after the consultation I provide a neat, clear design sketch for approval with all the elements the bride liked best.

If you’d like to start the journey of making your own period inspired wedding dress book a consultation today!

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Felicity Westmacott

I write about all aspects of weddings, dressmaking, fashion history, and the human relation to clothing. I welcome comments and debate.

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Dorking, RH4 1RT241 High Street• Visit the Studio •
Dorking, RH4 1RT241 High Street• Visit the Studio • 07762 543230TOUCHGet in