Gazette Vol IX
Shoes should be flat, such as ballet shoes or “character ballets,” or have at most a very slight (1/2" max.) heel. They should be white, black or a color to compliment the gown. Hair should be worn parted in the center and pulled away from the face, rolled on the sides and pulled into a bun fairly low in the neck, perhaps with ringlets as well. Evening head dresses can be circlets, wreaths, or decorative combs with ribbons, flowers and/or feathers. Dangle earrings are appropriate, as are short bead necklaces and gold bracelets; a matched pair of bracelets is especially fashionable. Wrist-length white gloves should be worn in the ballroom, except while taking refreshments. A small fan is a fine and useful ballroom accessory.
An old prom dress or bridesmaid dress, if the skirt is full (100+ inches at the hem) and long, can be altered to approximate the style of an 1860's ball dress with the addition of suitable sleeves and trims. If you wish to make a more accurate gown, Past Patterns has several patterns which are quite good including: ball bodice #704, skirts #700 and #801, chemises #707 and drawers #706. A corset is indispensable for achieving a smooth fit for your bodice; Past Patterns (see resources list) has several options including #703, #708 and #213
For more information on 1860's evening dress visit our mid-19th Century Dress Page.
Ladies’ evening dress of this era consists of a fitted bodice with scooped or square-cut neckline, extravagantly large puffed sleeves, and a full length gored or A-line skirt. Gowns were made up in a wide range of fabrics from heavy brocade and velvet to lightweight silk chiffon. A skirt with a train, although elegant, is not very practical for dancing. The gown can be ornamented with elaborate lace, contrasting trim, colored ribbon bows or fancy beadwork.
Shoes should have a modest heel of 1-2 inches (such as Capezio character shoes), in a color to compliment the gown. Hair should be worn up in a bun fairly high on the head and may be dressed with small ornaments and/or feathers. Dangle earrings and short bead necklaces or high chokers are appropriate. Gloves should be white and of full length (reaching to or above the elbow). A large fan is a fine and useful ballroom accessory.
An old prom dress or bridesmaid dress can be altered to approximate the style of an 1890’s ball gown. Look for a dress with large puffed sleeves and a long skirt that is full at the bottom but fairly slim at the waist. If you wish to make a more accurate gown, consider Past Patterns ball gown #206, with the addition of full puffed sleeves. Past Patterns skirt patterns numbers #208 and #1097 are appropriate for 1890’s evening gowns. Patterns of Fashion 2, by Janet Arnold, has reduced size pattern diagrams that can be enlarged and graded to produce an accurate ball gown pattern. Fitted day gown bodices, such as Past Patterns #207 and #903, can be altered for evening use by lowering the neckline and shortening the puffed sleeves.
For more information on 1890's evening dress visit our 1890's Evening Dress Page.
Ladies’ evening dress for 1914-15 consists of a high waisted gown featuring novel, sometimes asymetrical, draping and layering. Gowns are usually made of soft fabric, such as chiffon or lightweight satin and are often ornamented with elaborate lace or beadwork. The skirt should be approximately ankle length and while it may appear slim, it should have enough fullness for dancing. Shoes should have a modest heel of 1 1/2-2 inches (such as Capezio character shoes), in a color to compliment the gown. Hair should be worn up and may be dressed with decorative headbands, ornaments, or feathers. Gloves should be white and of full length (reaching to or above the elbow).
An old evening dress from your closet or local thrift store may well capture the spirit of the dresses of this period - if not as they stand, then perhaps with a small amount of modification such as adding a draped outer skirt.
For those with sewing experience Past Patterns has several reproduction patterns (for the experienced seamstress) in their Vintage Revivals pattern line; some are day dress patterns but with shortened sleeves or more open necklines they can be converted to evening styles. Some of the most useful include: skirt patterns #7035, #5328, #7947, #8390 (with the addition of a long underskirt) and #5462, tea gown #8109, dresses #8211, #9115 and #6053, and overskirts #9122. Combination #4574 or princess slip #9206 are great to wear under your corset. For a wrap there is pattern #7244. Laughing Moon Mercantile has a ca. 1910 evening dress pattern, #104. Sense and Sensibility has 1910s Tea Gown pattern. Folkwear has an Afternoon Tea Dress Pattern (although the skirt is not draped to allow ease of movement and should be made more full for dancing).
For more information on 1910's evening dress visit our 1910's Evening Dress Page.
Newport Dance Week afternoon events have no specified period, ladies should feel free to wear clothing from whatever decade they like best. A Lady’s daytime outfit in the summer would be a dress or skirt and blouse (and perhaps a jacket) in plain or patterned lightweight fabric in white or a pastel colors, occasionally with floral patterns or stripes. A brightly colored sash or belt adds a dash of color. Specific styles of sleeves and skirts vary by decade or even by year.
A lady of any of these periods would not consider herself dressed for outdoor activities without a hat. Straw hats, plain or decorated with flowers, ribbons and/or feathers will not only protect you from the sun, but will finish your outfit beautifully. Parasols and fans are also attractive and useful accessories in summer. Cotton, kid, or crocheted gloves add formality.
Past Patterns has many patterns suitable for 19th and early 20th Century day wear, especially skirts #208 and #1097, blouses #212, #404, #405, and #406, bodices #701 and #702, dress #302, polonaise #904, and jacket #113. Folkwear skirt pattern #209, dresses #220 and #227 and outfit #216, blouses #205, #210, or bathing costume #253 (excellent for a trip to the beach) are all very useful patterns. Simplicity and Butterick have Victorian inspired patterns which can be made more accurate by using buttons or hooks and eyes in place of zippers.
Gentlemen’s evening wear of this era consists of a black wool tail coat, black wool trousers, a white or black vest (cummerbunds are not appropriate) and a white shirt. The vest or waistcoat should ideally have lapels and not have points at the waist. The trousers should not have a ribbon at the side seams and should be pressed to have no crease down the front and back of the legs. The shirt should have a tall collar. The outfit is completed with a cravat (early style necktie) or stock (in effect, a pre-tied cravat) in white or black. White gloves are essential in the ballroom, except while taking refreshments. Flexible soled shoes such as Capezio black jazz oxfords are comfortable for dancing.
A modern tail coat is a good approximation of the period dress coat. Folkwear vest pattern #222, view B, produces an excellent vest for this period. A shirt with a tall collar can be approximated by a modern shirt with fold-down collar worn with the collar folded up. See the resources list for information on the CVD stock pattern.
Gentlemen’s evening dress of this era is fairly similar to modern formal wear: black tail coat (the “recently” invented tuxedo jacket is an acceptable, though less formal, alternative), matching trousers (still no ribbon at the side seams, but creasing the leg is now in style), vest (black or white, ideally low cut with lapels - cummerbunds are still not period), bow tie (white or black), and white formal shirt with modest stand up or wing-tip collar. White gloves are essential in the ballroom, except while taking refreshments. Flexible soled shoes such as Capezio black jazz oxfords are comfortable for dancing.
Folkwear pattern number #222, view B, is a fine vest pattern and also contains a bow tie pattern.
Gentlemen’s evening dress of this era is very similar to modern formal wear: black tail coat or the less formal tuxedo jacket, trousers (with crease and with or without ribbon at the side seams), vest (black or white, ideally low cut with lapels - cummerbunds are still not popular, though an early form may exist), bow tie (white preferred, though black is a possibility), and white formal shirt with modest stand up or wing-tip collar. White gloves are essential in the ballroom, except while taking refreshments. Flexible soled shoes such as Capezio black jazz oxfords are comfortable for dancing.
Simplicity pattern #7030, made in white or black, or Vogue Patterns vest #7488 are well suited to this era.
Gentlemen’s daywear of this era would consist either of a light colored suit in linen or cotton or light colored trousers with a lightweight jacket and vest. Bow ties or wide long ties (in colors and patterns) are both appropriate. Knickers are a pleasant alternative to long trousers, while a vest worn without a jacket is comfortable for lawn games. Hats were not considered optional in this period: a straw hat or boater looks particularly good and will deflect the sun while playing croquet or other games. A more formal alternative would be a morning suit (cutaway or swallow-tailed coat) in black or grey; black or white vest; black, grey or grey striped trousers, with top hat, spats, and cane.
Any of the views in Folkwear vest pattern #222 (which also contains a bow tie pattern) or Simplicity vest pattern #7030 would be appropriate, especially in light colored linen or cotton.
For further information on costuming please e-mail
The Commonwealth Vintage Dancers
CVD has an 1860’s man’s stock (necktie) pattern
available for $2.00, contact Katy Bishop at
P. O. Box 9
Nahant, MA 01908
140 River Street
PO Box 60299
Dayton, OH 45406-0299
2000 Riverside Drive #3
Asheville, NC 28804
Patterns of Fashion, vols. 1 and 2
by Janet Arnold
Drama Book, ISBN 0 333 13607 1 (volume 2)
Has historically accurate 1/4 scale patterns for gowns, taken from actual garments, has evening gown patterns for many periods, volumes I and II cover styles ranging from 1660 through the 1940's.
State Historical Society of Wisconsin
Patterns of History
30 North Carroll Street
Madison, WI 53703
Laughing Moon Mercantile
2131 51st Stree Sacramento, CA 95817-1506
Dover Publications Inc.
31 East 2nd Street
Mineola, New York 11501-3582
Publisher of period catalogues, books, and costume reference books, has catalog, no phone orders, also available in most bookstores.
R. L. Shep Publications
Attn: Fred Struthers,
P O Box 2706, Fort Bragg, CA 95437
Greenberg and Hammer Inc.
24 W. 57th Street
New York, NY 10019
P.O. Box 98
Rosemeadl, CA 91770 Phone: (626) 569-9919
Davenport, IA 52801-1518
252 State Street
Los Altos, CA 94022
(800) 722-7455 -- (800) 221-7455 in California
Oriental Silk Co.
8377 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90048
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