My lingerie dress.
Millinery,  My projects,  Sewing

A Victorian lingerie dress

Lingerie dresses are those pretty frilly dresses that make the iconic Edwardian look with their lace inserts and pale colours. However, they first appeared in the 1890s. For a long time, I have wanted to make my own but sourcing that much lace was a problem. This kind of dress can use hundreds of euros worth of cotton lace which is way out of my budget. Then I had a stroke of luck and I found huge rolls of lace at the local Recycling centre. These rolls had hundreds of metres, some several kilometres worth of lace and they only cost about 15 to 20 euros each. Admittedly the lace was not cotton but I was ready to compromise to get the dress I wanted.

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Materials and the pattern

Yes, I bought all of this!

Ikea has been selling these white cotton Matilda curtains with a nice stripe pattern for some years now. I had bought a pair of these curtains for dressmaking purposes some time ago and I also found some more of these from flea markets. I thus had plenty of fabric available.

For the pattern, I used the Black Snail Patterns Fan Skirt that I have used before when I made this cotton skirt. I lengthened the hem at the back to create a train and split the front piece in half to create a pretty v-shape with the stripes on my fabric.

For the bodice, I used the Laughing Moon Mercantile Ladies’ 1890s waists pattern. This pattern is very handy as a base for many different kinds of 1890s bodices and I love it.

Designing on the go

Playing with the lace

I cut all the skirt pieces first and then started designing the placement of the lace. The stripes were a very good help for this.

Positioning the lace.
The placement for the lace.
I pinned the pieces onto the dressform to see what the strips of lace looked like.

As this dress already has nylon lace I wasn’t too picky on what sewing methods I used. I just zigzagged the lace on as this really doesn’t show unless you look at the dress super close. Then I cut away the fabric from behind the lace.

The fabric is removed from under the lace.

Of course, a dress like this needs a big ruffle at the hem. I noticed that the wavy edges on two of the laces I had had matching curves on them. So, I sewed these two laces together to make a ten-metre-long strip. I then joined this to a long piece of white cotton (another curtain from a flea market) and added some pintucks for fun and games:

Making the ruffle.
Making the ruffle.

The lining

I have seen many examples of period dresses with a colour lining showing through the white batiste and the lace. I wanted to have this effect as well. This ended up being the most expensive part of this dress as the cotton for the lining cost something like 14 euros per metre. Still, I like the effect very much. This cotton fabric also made the base for my bodice. I made a form-fitting lining that fastens at the centre front and then started pinning and designing the look of the bodice:

The skirt lining also got a ruffle with some lace that helps to hold out the hem.

The bodice details

The bodice got a yoke with insertion lace. I then pleated the lower portion to the edge of the yoke to create some volume. The back of the bodice also sports a yoke but otherwise, the white part is more form-fitting. It only has one box pleat at the centre back.

I started the sleeve design with these leg-o-mutton sleeves with a more fitted lining.

These kinds of sleeves were popular in the 1890s but I like more the short-lived 1898 style where the volume is gathered high up at the shoulder. This is easy to accomplish by arranging the puff and fastening it to the lining at a couple of points:

Creating an 1898 sleeve shape.

I played with different kinds of ruffles at the base of the yoke but finally went with this lovely cotton tulle lace. A silk ribbon adds a nice spot of colour at the centre front. I have seen ribbons used in this crisscrossed manner in antique bodices and wanted to make a similar effect.

I was debating with myself what kind of collar I wanted to have. Then I remembered the fake bodice/guimpe I made last year. It fitted underneath this bodice perfectly and saved me from making a collar. I just finished the collar with some bias tape.

I also ended up shortening the sleeves and making lower sleeves out of cotton tulle. To finish the dress, I added a green silk belt that ties in a big bow at the centre back.

Making a matching hat

This dress needed a hat. I wanted to have a big straw hat as a base. It wasn’t easy to find a straw hat made out of real straw but finally, I found this one stetson-like sun hat at H&M:

The material was fine and the rim held its shape but the crown shape was completely wrong. Thus, I unravelled the whole crown, wetted the straw and used the same straw braid to sew a new, lower and more period-fitting shape for the crown. The black ribbon was a problem. It had been glued to the straw tightly and it showed through the white decorations I had designed to go onto the hat.

I then remembered one of my favourite YouTubers Rachel Maksy and her method of fixing things like this with acrylic paint. So, I took out some paint and painted over the black ribbon to make it disappear:

The next day, when the paint was dry, I arranged a silk cover for the crown and added cotton tulle lace, ribbon and artificial flowers to top the hat up.

The finished hat.

To be honest, this is not a typical 1898 hat. Yes, I could find images of some bigger hats but generally the hats during 1898 were still smaller and taller. This suits better the early Edwardian period. But then, lingerie dresses kept getting more and more popular so I believe that this kind of dress could have been worn still during the early Edwardian period as well. In any case, I think that a big hat balances the dress much better.

The finished dress and the photoshoot

I invited some costumer friends for coffee and a photoshoot in the meadow behind our house. So I thank Heini-Maria and Johanna for these photos!

My lingerie dress.
The finished dress!
My lingerie dress from the back.
From the back.

It’s almost impossible to move around with this train but I love it nonetheless.

Among the lilies-of-the-valley.
Investigating some old ruins.

Behind the scenes

My friends are time travelling in the Regency or Empire period. My son happened to pass by and snapped this photo of us wearing this mismatch of different periods!

Managing the camera, a parasol and my train wasn’t easy!

And no matter how I’m dressed, I always have time to say hi to a cute little puppy!

If you happened to be in Helsinki and visited the Ommel 2022 festival, you may have seen this dress already in the little exhibition I organized. Johanna and Heini-Maria also loaned some of their dresses to the exhibition and I and Sanna of @rococoatelier were giving out tours and telling people about our hobby and Société Helsinki – our little group that organises events for costumers interested in 18th and 19th and early 20th centuries.

Thank you so much for reading and see you soon! Happy Sewing!


I am a mother of two. I sew, knit and create and blog about it.


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