Venusian Flora Bustle Gown


Venusian Flora Bustle Gown by Gretchen Jacobsen aka Wilhelmina Frame. Images by Max Egon.

I purchased the skirt fabric on clearance from a few years ago. I was super excited about its “Seussian” pods and originally planned to make a tea gown. I was pretty new to buying fabric online and consequently, I didn’t look at the sample photo and accompanying ruler very closely. When the fabric arrived I was surprised and bummed to find that the motifs were much larger than I had realized. So into the stash it went for a while.

Fast forward to me wondering what to make for TeslaCon 2012. TeslaCon is an immersive Steampunk convention. Every year is a new chapter in an overarching storyline. The 2012 the chapter revolved around “A Trip to the Moon”. Con attendees were passengers on a luxury voyage to the moon ala Georges Melies. I thought of my fabulous pod fabric. I also thought of the Ray Bradbury story “All Summer in a Day” (read it here. It’s short) and I had my idea. The pods would become rare flora from the rain planet Venus; exquisite flowers that only bloom for a few hours every seven years when the sun shines.

I used Truly Victorian’s 1883 Tail Bodice with Keyhole Neckline and the 1885 Four Gore Underskirt, modified to have a draped front.  The hat is a vintage find. I replaced the ribbon and netting. The hat brim still had its original decoration of purple flowers. I added purple berries to compliment the pods.

As per usual, I went to TeslaCon still needing to do finishing work on the gown. I had opted to make covered buttons out of the contrast silk I used for the collar and also to line the bottom folds of the tail bodice. I made the covered buttons and sewed them on in my hotel room. The day came to wear the gown but it was all for naught. I put on the skirt and realized that the hem was too long. OK, I will just need to be careful when I walk. And the bodice, despite a perfect fit on the mockup (maybe too perfect?) was a little too small. I just need to tie my corset just a little…bit…tighter. I started buttoning. Covered buttons from kits have a dome shape. I had set my button hole foot to the correct diameter, but the holes ended up being too small because I did not allow for the curve of the dome shaped button. Still determined I began forcing the buttons through the holes. One button popped off its shank. I had an extra. Two buttons popped from the shank. I had yet another extra. Three buttons broke from the shank. And that was it. The bodice was unwearable. The outfit was a fail. So close but yet so far.

It sat until early this year when I decided to give the gown another go. I found perfect gold and pink buttons, in two sizes! Fixed all the button holes by hand. Redid the berries on the hat. Fixed (sort of — it’s still a little too long) the hem. I don’t have to tie my corset quite as tight as I did at TeslaCon 2012. The Venusian Flora Bustle Gown successfully made its belated debut at AnachroCon 2014.



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