I have been inspired by Queen Victoria since I was a child and decided this past year that I would make her wedding gown. I love how simple, yet elegant it is and I like how Victoria was said to have worn it on other occasions after her wedding. I also like how she wore this gown, or gowns very similar to this one, in the majority of her portraits from her early reign. To me, the look is pure, angelic, and dignified.
This dress was an undertaking for me. I tried to be as faithful to the original dress as I could. It is almost entirely hand sewn and using as many period techniques and materials as possible. There was a lot I could never get right, seeing as I could not examine Queen Victoria's actual wedding gown up close and I did not have access to completely period materials. As a college student, I also lacked the funds for the project in general, so I had to get creative with some of it.
The dress is stitched in linen thread, made of ivory silk satin, lined in natural cotton, hem binding of twill tape, lightly boned with reed, piped with hand-made piping, and fastening with hooks and eyes up the back. The laces were a particular challenge, since Victoria's wedding lace was made specially for her in support of the Honiton lace industry. Victoria had the skirt flounce lace removed from the original dress at at some point - you cannot see it on the dress in person anymore - so I had to use portraits to know what it would have looked like when mounted. The bodice lace is a 1920's cotton lace and the skirt lace is modern lace that I tea-dyed. The dress is worn over an 1860's corset, bum pad, quilted petticoat, and a plain petticoat, all made by me. It should have been worn over an 1830s-1840s corset, but I didn’t have time to make one and the shape was close enough.
I chose to make the sleeves on my version of the gown a little fuller than those of the surviving dress, because of evidence that Victoria had the sleeves altered in the 1850s. The paintings of her on her actual wedding day usually feature the dress with slightly fuller sleeves, so I felt that this supported the theory of alteration.
- I was 20 years old when I made and wore this gown, which is the same age Queen Victoria was when she was married in the original version in 1840!
- This dress ending up doubling up as my final project in my textiles class, for which I received an A!
- In November, it was on display at Britex Fabrics in Union Square, San Francisco. It is currently in another art show at California College of the Arts.
I could not have completed or documented this project without my dear friend and mentor, Laurie Tavan. She is an amazing seamstress and photographer and portrays Queen Victoria at the Great Dickens Christmas Fair. Almost all of my photos for my submission are her images, as are the Royal jewels!