Dress Diary: Mina Harker

2007 • by Heidi  • Victorian Ball Gown (Simplicity 4244)  • my Pattern Review

Originally I intended for this to be a Hallowe'en costume, but it sort of grew in the making. (Someone suggested I be a vampire for Hallowe'en so I thought it would be fun to go as Mina Harker from Dracula.) It was my first experience with a train and it went fairly well. Some details about the construction:

~ 20+ yards of fabric (wow!)
~ this was made in a size 12 (remember that pattern sizes are vastly different from "real clothing" sizes - this would compare to a size 2 or 4 in the mall)
~ There are 15 small buttonholes down the front! No zipper or modern closures - this pattern was historically accurate (although I took some liberties with it).
~ It cost me around $100 in materials (and I was thrifty).
~ It took around 75 hours of labor (although next time it will go much faster - this time was a learning curve).

Here are some photos of the completed dress:

Copyright Dale Henry Photography 2008

Copyright Heidi C. Lange 2007

Copyright Heidi C. Lange 2007

And here is the story of how I made it. I started with a Simplicity pattern (# 4244):

Simplicity 4244 Victorian pattern

As you can probably already tell I made some significant changes to the pattern as i was going along. In addition to removing a lot of the bows that were called for ("friends don't let friends wear big bows on their butts"), i also simplified and left off the ruching near the front hem, and used the beautiful black lace that i bought in much greater quantity than was called for.

This dress is interesting because it's actually one long pattern piece for the front there. The bodice is lined, with the lining becoming the skirt (and train) and the top layer becoming the bustle. Here's what it looked like when I got done putting the two front bodice pieces together:

Purple Satin

And here is what it looked like when i had added the back pieces:

Copyright Heidi C. Lange 2007

(Isn't that black lace lovely? it's 5" wide and I bought about 20 yards of it for only $15 on eBay.)

The darts in the bodice were certainly interesting. In order to cut down on my costs (and in case I totally ruined this dress the first time around) I used cheap costume silk which was priced at around $3/yard. The silk was extremely slippery and difficult to work with. Because I had two layers of fabric to work with and they slid around on each other so much, I ended up pinning and basting each of the darts. Also, the darts are exceptionally long (because of the low "waist" on the dress) so that was kind of interesting to work with. The darts took me about 15 hours. Next time (now that I know what I'm doing) I think it would be about 3 hours' worth of work.

Now here we are several steps later:

Copyright Heidi C. Lange 2007

As you can see I have finished the collar and the "sleeve triangles" as well as begun the arduous task of the hem triangles. Also the "frount pouf" (yes that's really what it's called) is done, and the mini-bustle is tacked up in back there.

Here is a closeup of the collar and the sleeve triangles (I tacked the triangles down later):

Copyright Heidi C. Lange 2007

This fabric doesn't iron very well. Next time I'll use something easier.

A better view of the "front pouf" on the center front of the skirt:

Copyright Heidi C. Lange 2007

You can also see, here, the hem triangles. Now, about the hem triangles. I was never very keen on them to begin with. Since this was not really meant to be historically accurate so much as a fun costume, I decided (after hours and hours of time invested into them) to scrap the hem triangles and make a normal hem. WHAT a relief. And honestly I think it looks really nice with the black lace around the hem, anyway.

Copyright Heidi C. Lange 2007