For my Christmas ballgown this year I decided I wanted a version of Queen Kapiolani's Peacock dress that was created for her attendance at Queen Victoria's jubalee celebration in 1887. My goal was to make the construction as close as I could to historic methods, taking clues from the description of her dress in the New York times as well as the photographs in the gown. The fact that she was a larger woman appealed to me, as did the chance to make this dress more than a "costume copy" and more of a historical endeavor. My first challenge was finding fabric in the colors I desired. I had my heart set on the azure blue velvet and sky blue moire as described in the 1887 newspaper article. Knowing that I would be spending a hefty sum on feathers, keeping the price reasonable was also a concern. I finally settled on Kaufman's Lush cotton velvet, which has a nice sheen in person and was very lightweight. (another concern is the weight of the removable train). I found matching cotton/silk satin, and a light blue bengaline moire in rayon/cotton blend and I was ready to start!. I decided to build a foundation skirt typical of the late 1880's and the feathers would be sewn to the top layer of fashion fabric only. You can see some of the progress in the slideshow below. The advantage of building a ballgown like this in a period manner is that it really helps to support itself. The photo on the mannequin above only has a small bustle pad underneath the skirt of the dress and no petticoat (although I did drape the skirt over the petticoat I would be wearing, this was after the first wearing and my petti was still rumpled in the bathroom floor.)
While my train is not quite as long as a true court train (only about two and a half yards long) I think it had a graceful effect. Being removable makes it a more functional dress for myself to wear to more events.
Me after an evening of dancing. I didn't quite get the removable train completed for the event.
(I had an excuse- I had to make a Father Christmas and a St. Nicholas outfit for the museum,
AND two other ballgowns for my girls for this event!)
What the item is: Peacock Ballgown
The Challenge: Special Occasion
Fabric/Materials: 10 yds of blue moire, 10 yds of cotton velvet, 4 yds cotton skirt lining, 6 yds silk/cotton satin, 1 yd netting for hem interfacing, 1 yd cotton twill to line bodice, 1 yd cotton twill for skirt hem.
Notions: Feathers- yards and yards of feathers- 12 yards of herl, 100 peacock feathers, 10yds of short peacock feathers, boning
How historically accurate is it? Not too bad maybe 80 percent?
Hours to complete: I kind of lost track.
First worn: Dec. 16th
Total cost: Sorry I am not admitting to total cost on this one. :) we must have some mystery from our husbands....
Painfully obsessed clothing historian,