Disappointing though it will be, this post is not about my house. I’m so, so sorry about that. I TRULY am – you have no IDEA how badly I want to be restoring a bathroom right now.

But alas, this post is about a dress. I HAVE to show you, so I hope you’ll pretend to be interested with me.

Halloween, as you know, is a BIG DEAL on our street. 1,000+ kids, the street is closed down, and every house has something done to it.

We went with skeletons.

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Since we’ve owned the house, people have asked, “What costume will you wear?” Which is a TOTALLY valid question. And we’ve never dressed up. Because I didn’t want to be cheesy, or cheap. I wanted to MATCH the house. And I wanted a costume that didn’t feel like a costume – something that would be sturdy enough to last for years, and be able to be worn in hot, or cold (both of which happen in Indiana Octobers).

About two years ago, my friend Sky and I started talking about this. Sky makes wedding dresses (and other dresses). They are stunning…..amazing – I mean….

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You can find Sky on her Facebook Page. I can’t sing her praises enough….. And I am forever grateful that the world of college bands caused our paths to collide decades ago.

Summary : She’s incredible. So we got serious about this idea of creating a “Forever Costume.” I didn’t want to be a witch. I didn’t want to be cheesy. I just wanted to match our house.

We sent lots and LOTS of pictures back and forth with inspiration, and decided to make a Victorian Mourning Gown. Let’s learn about them!

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Queen Victoria had a huge influence on the fashions of the mid to late 1800’s. After the death of her husband, Prince Albert in 1861, Queen Victoria wore black clothing until her own death in 1901.

During Victorian times, the type of mourning dress and the length of time one wore it was circumscribed by etiquette instead of sumtuary laws. A widow wore mourning dress for 2 1/2 years.

Full mourning lasted a full year and consisted of clothing made of dull black fabrics without embellishment or jewelry. A women in full mourning wore a veil to cover her face when she left the house. She avoided balls and frivolous events during that time.

After a year had passed, the widow added small trimmings and simple jewelry. Later, that second year, the widow, now in 1/2 mourning, added some color. Gray, mauve, and duller shades of purple and violet were suitable at that time.

The increased manufacturing technology of the Victorian age created a vast market for mourning dress. Dresses made of crepe came in many styles for the different mourning periods. Advertisements hawked mourning bodices, skirts, capes, veils, black bonnets, black indoor caps, gloves, fans, and black edged handkerchiefs.

Women’s magazines offered advise on mourning etiquette for all types of bereavement. In 1881, Sylvia’s Home Journal suggested that mothers wear black crepe for 6 weeks following the death of the mother-in-law or father-in-law of her married children.

Special trimmings and time periods were suggested for cousins, aunts, uncles, and other relatives.

The practice of mourning dress bled down to the lower middle class who could afford second hand or simple, inexpensive black clothing. People without a lot of money often had regular clothing dyed black in order to save money. (Taken from Bellatory.com)

This seemed perfect. Time period appropriate, as still with a bit of Halloween vibe thrown in. And there is NO shortage of examples of gowns on the internet – including this gem from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I never knew I needed a full-length lace shawl. Until now.

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Sky and I settled on this as the inspiration dress and silhouette – but of course, in mourning colors. The dress inspiration is from a pattern from right around 1900, and since the house dates to 1902, it’s PERFECT.

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Also, remember this picture I posted forever ago? This is the first (and only) picture we were given of the Roy and Lola Bryant, who owned the house from the nineteen-teens into the 1950s. The silhouette is similar.

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Along the way, Sky sent and posted pictures that kept getting me MORE AND MORE EXCITED.

The fabric arriving….

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The list of pattern pieces….

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And pictures of the process, which I found fascinating, since all I can do is sew drapes and pillows.

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This lace, though.

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One sleeve done!

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Sky mailed me a muslin sample dress from my measurements from Wisconsin, which I put on and took pictures so she could make adjustments. It was like a mail-order Project Runway moment!

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The lining is purple! My favorite color, and a tie-in to one of the the accent colors of the house.

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Eventually, it was done. She sent me pictures, and I gasped.

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It’s breathtaking. I’ve never had a dress made for me before, and it’s incredible. I couldn’t be happier! She made it with two sets of hooks, so I can gain a little weight (or layer underneath) and I should still be fine. When Sky sent the above picture, I assumed that the “see-through” part at the top was just lace, and would show skin underneath (which would have been fine!). But it’s actually lined with a flesh-colored fabric, which means I can wear whatever I want under, and the effect is still the same.

It came in the mail, and I was SO EXCITED to try it on.

I now absolutely understand why people needed Ladies Maids. I CANNOT get into this dress on my own. But it is really comfortable, and I love it so much. There is some boning, but it’s not a full corset, so it really moves well!

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The sleeves are incredible.

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The costume isn’t done yet – because we could only afford so much at once. I would love to get a good pair of boots (I’m just wearing a pair of my everyday oxfords), and I would love to do a full hat, veil, and jewelry – as well as a cape when it gets cold. Baby steps – we have lots of years.

AND SO MANY OPTIONS!

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I did want to do a hat this year, and I found a suitable hat for $14 online – it works for now!

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Doug will also be in Victorian garb, but his isn’t here yet – we ordered it online from a period costume house, and it will be here before Monday. So you’ll see his then! We’ll take lots of pictures.

Okay…. here it is!

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I need to study some of the Victorian photographs more, because I really don’t know what to do with my hands in any of these pictures.

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Purple tights and patent oxfords!

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Okay, Halloween. Let’s DO THIS!

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Sky, THANK YOU!!!!! More pictures to come next week!

15 comments

  1. This post makes me extremely happy lol
    A) I’m a history nerd and LOVE historic fashion
    B) I LOVE LOVE LOVE that you guys get so into holidays. I’m sure having an established “Halloween Street” helps, but I hope to one day have a similar situation at my own home
    C) I also adore the fact that you are thinking long-term and wanted a costume that would match your house (I currently just walk around with my nieces for Halloween. I’m thinking about creating a good Dorothy costume next year and take my dog with us because he is a cairn terrier… in fact, his original puppy name was Toto! ha ha!)

      1. It’s so funny you should ask that because I’ve legitimately had that debate inside my head. If I end up doing this I think I’ll go red shoes for two reasons. First, it’s what everyone else is familiar with so there won’t be any confusion and second, there is something so classic about sparkly red shoes paired with the baby blue gingham dress (and baby blue socks.. Who else could pull off wearing baby blue socks with sparkly red high heels?!)

  2. (Eek! Am I really the first to comment?). That dress is gorgeous and perfect! Your friend Skye is brilliant! Happy Halloween!

  3. I love it!!!!! It’s perfect! I, for one, am perfectly good with this not being a house post. You have combined two of my three favorite things, vintage homes and vintage clothing. You also frequently include my other favorite, dogs!! May I ask where you purchased your skeletons from?

  4. It is not only brick and mortar that holds a house together, but also the souls of all who have lived within its walls. Your costume is perfect because it respects the history of the house and the inhabitants. Outstanding job, both the idea and the construction.

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