Velvet Gaskell's Dress

Gorgeous velvet fabric received as a gift from a dear friend from Saudi Arabia for a dress to be worn to Gaskells.

fabric detail


Black floral embossed velvet with 3" to 4" flowers inlaid with paisley in mauve, purple, and turquoise colors. Approximately 4.3 yds (155") of 45" fabric.
fabric indoors with flash fabric in shade fabric in sun

Mid-Victorian (1850ish) style evening dresses usually have bare shoulders and a bell-shaped skirt and are similar to the two dresses from Anthony's photos (gray dress, green and white dress). Undergarments for this style of dress would include (in the order you would put them on):

  • stockings (substitute thigh highs)
  • chemise (long t-shirt with arms cut off could be substituted. This is to put something between your skin and the corset so it doesn't chaff.)
  • split drawers (crotchless so you don't have to take off corset to use restroom. Could substitute by wearing a slip. Sometimes hoop lifts up.)
  • corset to give shape and posture
  • hoopskirt to create the bell shape of the skirt
  • petticoats (additional skirts sometimes with ruffles on them to put over the hoopskirt so the hoops don't show through the skirt)
Oddly enough, sometimes your measurements actually increase even after the corset has been cinched in because of all the other layers of undergarments, so it is best to take measurements for the dress while you are wearing all of the undergarments you will be wearing with the dress.

Here are some possibilities:

Dress Drawing 1

Drawing 1 (for smaller 2 yd version)

Victorian 1850s style ballgown with the velvet featured prominently down the center of the bodice (top) and skirt. Different fabric would be purchased for the rest of the dress. Could have ruffled trim around the top edge, black piping/trim down both sides of the velvet and along the top, and some sheer fabric draped over the shoulders held by a pin or flowers.

Dress Design 1

Design 1

Victorian style ballgown with smaller 90" circumference hoop. Velvet on skirt and bodice, and contrasting fabric for bertha.
Dress Design 1 Dress Design 1 Dress Drawing 2 Dress Drawing 2
Design 2

Design 2

Victorian style ballgown. Bodice and overskirt out of velvet with contrasting fabric for bertha. Underskirt with one or two tiers underneath (see colorized versions).
This design (2nd image), tiered skirts without the sleeves was chosen.
Design 2 Design 2 Design 2 Design 2
mock bodice

Mock Bodice

Jade suedelook off the shoulder bodice with buttonhole lacing up the back, jade satin lining. This was used to help fit and to figure out the shoulder configuration. Built-in strap was too restrictive for dancing arm movement.
mock bodice mock bodice

Mock Skirt

Jade suedelook gathered skirt with hidden side pockets and hook and eye closure.
bodice bodice back


Velvet bodice with boning and piping on bottom, buttonhole laces up back, lined in black cotton. Turquoise dupioni silk bertha with purple dupioni silk ruffle edging. gathered flounces on a cotton base with hidden side pockets and back hook and eye closure. Turquoise cotton on top to match silk.


Turquoise and purple dupioni silk gathered flounces on a cotton base with hidden side pockets and back hook and eye closure. Turquoise cotton on top to match silk.

Overskirt on top of Underskirt

Velvet overskirt with piping and black cotton lining, set-in waistband, fastens in back with hook and eyes.

Completed: December 2005