A romance & roses 1916 evening dress: the under-bodice

Harpers Bazaar 1916 evening dress fabric

I am in the midst of madly sewing for Costume College, and madly getting another pattern ready for launch, and juggling the Indie Pattern Month sale for the Monthly Stitch, and cleaning up the mess left by the low-key cyclone (that’s a hurricane to those of you in NA) that hit last week, so it’s all go, all the time in my life.

For the CoCo Gala I’m making a dress that has been on my long- time wishlist, and which is one of those garments that definitely seems like it comes with an expiration date in terms of how old I can be while still pulling it off, so it’s now or never!

Harpers Bazaar 1916

This uber-romantic confection, as shown in Harpers Bazaar in April 1916, is a delicious example of brief fad for 1850s/60s inspired historicism of 1916, with bell-shaped skirts, sometimes supported by hoops, and other elements lifted from mid-19th century styles.  The fashions was hugely inspired by 1915’s The Birth of a Nation, which was a smash hit in the US.

For obvious reason, I don’t care for The Birth of a Nation (it’s horrifically racist), but I do find the crinoline revival of 1916 quite charming from an aesthetic perspective, and this particular dress is so ridiculously adorable.

I can’t find my notes on where on the internet I found the fashion plate, but will update as soon as I can.  The dress description is cropped, but the bits I can read say it is a silver tissue bodice with green skirt.

I have the perfect green silk in my stash, and some really pretty good quality 1950s lace – it’s not the silk lace that the designer probably imagined, but it is lovely, and, most importantly, I already own it.Harpers Bazaar 1916 evening dress fabric

The dress, like most 1910s evening dresses, would most likely have been built over a lightly boned under-bodice, so that’s where I started. My under-bodice pattern is based on the Laurel-dress under-bodice pattern in Janet Arnold, and measurements and instructions in a 1917 dressmaking book I own.

Harpers Bazaar 1916 evening dress

Harpers Bazaar 1916 evening dress

Harpers Bazaar 1916 evening dress

Harpers Bazaar 1916 evening dress

Harpers Bazaar 1916 evening dress

Next up: making the under-skirt with lace trim, and the support petticoat to create the bell shape.


  1. Mmm, what delectable inspiration! I’m sure it will be lovely and you be lovely in it. Can’t wait to see more progress! Good luck with all the life things you’re juggling as well!


  2. Tracy Ragland says

    I loved this dress from the moment I saw the colors you chose!

  3. What lovely colors! I look forward to seeing this, and you again, at CoCo!

  4. It’s going to be lovely, and I look forward to seeing it finished.

  5. Jill says

    Hello, I’ve only commented once before…but I very much enjoy reading your blog. Keep up the good work!

    I wanted to add that “The Happiest Millionaire” is THE PERFECT movie for further inspiration on this type of dress. Whether or not 1960s Disney musicals are your “thing”, at the very least you can enjoy the costumes!

  6. Tracy says

    May I ask about your 1916 book? I would love to read more about it!

  7. Tracy says

    …oops. So sorry, I did not mean to double post!

  8. Katy says

    Ooh it’s lovely. Can’t wait to see the finished result!

  9. Those are beautiful colors! I can’t wait to see the finished dress either (but don’t rush on our account; you have as much stress as you need right now)!

  10. angela says

    You will look wonderful! Looking forward to the finished result!

  11. Oh, like the others I can’t wait to see what you come up with. Especially since I’m in the midst of planning for a dress in that same era.

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