My Anne Shirley Puffed Sleeved Dress

The Chick and I in our fancy duds at the Mantorville Olde Tyme Days Extravaganza.

Once upon a time I was a little red haired gawky girl with not a lot of red haired literary role models.  (My Mother did not prefer I choose Pippi Longstocking as a role model.  As a parent, I don’t blame her.)  However, there was one literary character that I loved:  Anne Shirley of “Anne of Green Gables.”

I think every little girl who loves the Anne books wants a puffed sleeve dress like the one Matthew gives to Anne.  I finally decided I would fulfill my dream MANY years later.  And what 40 year old doesn’t want a puffed sleeve dress?  Hee!

I have been collecting various pieces of vintage lace for about 2 years now, hoping that one day I would A)have enough lace for the project and B)have a place to wear it.  I discovered earlier this year that I had enough lace for about 3 dresses.  Didn’t stop me from buying one more large piece from my friend California Jen, but it did slow the progression of purchasing…  When I heard about the Mantorville Old Tyme Days Extravaganza and Costume Contest on the MNSOC (Minnesota Society of Costumers) page, I decided that there really wasn’t any reason to wait any longer.

Close up of the bodice and my excellent Anne Shirley hair.

I started with the 1892 Ball Gown Bodice from Truly Victorian and did it in 3 layers. – cotton lining, cotton twill interlining and silk dupioni outer layer.  I layered the bodice with some decorated netting in the front, followed by 2 layers of antique lace trim and covered the rest of the bodice in the leftover lace from the skirt.  (More on that later.)  I took an antique lace collar and added a piece of lace trim to the top to give the flat collar a tall collar piece.  and sewed it onto the top of the bodice.  The puffed sleeves were also 3 layers – netting, silk and cotton lining.  I added a silk cuff to the bottom, and then sewed a yard each of gorgeous vintage bobbin lace to the bottoms of the cuffs.  I put a modesty panel in the back and closed the back with hooks and eyes.  I wasn’t able to add the hooks to the lace collar in time, so the Chick sewed me into the collar for Mantorville.

I wore the bodice over my old burgundy silk Victorian corset.  However, after a day of 90 degree heat I had sweated some red dye into the inside of the bodice.  Not sure how it is going to be removed without damaging the lace, but hopefully it can be done.

Back of the dress. You can just see some of the lace cutwork in it.

For the skirt I took my old 18th century silk petticoat that was lined in cotton and used that as the base.  On top I layered the netting, which had the large piece of lace sewn to it.  I sewed it with several pieces reaching to the waist, and the pieces in between arching down.  It took several hours to carefully cut the lace from the netting, but the end result was worth it.  I gathered it to the silk skirt with the flat lace pieces lying flat on the waistband, and the netting sections sewn in stacked box pleats in between the lace pieces.  I put a silk waistband on top.

I had found a cotton petticoat with stiff netting at the bottom at a Bridal Fair I attended while searching for accessories for my Betty Haynes blue dress, and snapped it up for only $3.00.  It worked great under the skirt.

Puffed sleeves for the WIN!

The dress was time consuming in that the lace placement and fussy cutting took awhile, but the overall effect when done was lovely.  Originally I was going to wear it with the bodice on the outside, but with my long torso it just looked silly.  So we put the overskirt over the bodice, and tied a netting sash over it and I loved the final look.

My “American Gothic” photo with our MNSOC VP, Robert.

For accessories I wore my new white Oak Tree Farms boots, which are unlikely to be worn again.  The heels were REALLY high and my arches were killing me.  Luckily I had brought an extra pair of shoes along in case this happened.

I also wore pearl drop earrings, carried a basic Asian style parasol as I don’t have a lace one, and a 1950s style beaded purse that was the same color as my dress.  At some point here I will make a coordinating bag and get a nicer parasol, but considering this was a pretty laid back fair I figured it was ok.

Turning into a pumpkin in the 90 degree heat. The Chick calls this my “Anne Shirley needs a drink” photo.

For my hair I used photos from the movie “Anne of Avonlea” for inspiration, and watched several tutorials on You Tube.  I decided I really didn’t want to rat the heck out of my hair, so I pinned a fake hair braid most of the way around my head, and then layered curled hair over it for the poufy effect the Gibson Girls have.  I took a fake hair scrunchie and pinned it to the back of my head to approximate a bun.  The Chick smoothed out any little bits I missed, and I sprayed the entire thing with heavy hold hairspray.  I wore it in 90 degree heat inside and outside for over 10 hours and my hair still looked great.

Your MNSOC Board Representatives.

The whole fair was great fun, and the Chick won “Best Victorian Costume” for her Victorian Bathing Suit.  I had a woman ask me if my dress was actually an original dress from 1895, and that was probably the best compliment I got all day.

We can’t wait to go back to Mantorville next year.  Friendly welcoming people who are very into costuming, beautiful town, restored 1913 Opera Theatre, and excellent food at the Hubbell House.

I was really very pleased with how the dress turned out.  I wasn’t sure how the front drapey bits would look on someone as busty as me, but I liked the affect.  The only things I will likely do to change the outfit are to shorten the skirt (through the waist so I don’t mess with the pretty hem) since I am no longer wearing the Oak Tree Farms boots with the dress, and to get a better sash for the dress.  Otherwise I love it, puffed sleeves and all.

Its kind of fun to fulfill a childhood dream.

You can use my sleeves as flotation devices! Tell a friend!

8 thoughts on “My Anne Shirley Puffed Sleeved Dress

  1. Terry says:

    The gown is gorgeous! That skirt is to die for. Laura, I love your eye for repurposing clothes to achieve the look you want. Can’t wait to see your next project!

  2. Kendra says:

    This is absolutely beautiful! Generally I don’t love this era, but you may have changed my mind. Beautiful dress, and it suits you so well. Yay!

    • Laura says:

      Thank you! I have ALWAYS wanted one of these dresses but wasn’t sure it would look right on me. I finally just bit the bullet and am so happy I did. You should make one too!

  3. Priscilla Claire Brown says:

    That dress is absolutely awesome!!! I am 11 yrs. old and I LOVE the Anne of Green Gables books. I want to be here for Halloween but I don’t have red hair.(It’s light brown) If you make another dress you have to show. -Priscilla Claire Brown

    • Laura says:

      They are wonderful books! And don’t let not having red hair stop you from dressing up as Anne. And you could also dress up as Diana! If I make any more costumes I will indeed post them here.

  4. Jennifer Rosbrugh says:

    The dress is so lovely! I love it! Great job at piecing the lace and filling in the bodice. I like how you used the TV pattern to make a slightly-later time period. You’ve inspired me to take a closer look at that pattern.

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