1830 Ball Dress

(was worn to a Ball in Vienna!)

1830 ball gown, after debut in Vienna. There's cording at the hem to help it stand out. Did not use petticoats for this photo.


The 1830 dress — a work in progress

Front 1830's Ball gown pinned together
Blue and gold shot taffeta

1830 Ball gown
Detail of front, pleated skirt and sleeve, piping down center front

1830 ball gown
Back view of bodice-gathered skirt in back, hook closure

This dress is being made for a ball in Vienna, Austria the first week of February (2003). The skirt will be puffed out with 3 starched petticoats and a bustle copied from The Workwoman's Guide. I am using my 1890's corset as I have no time to make a new corset. The sleeves didn't come out quite as puffy as I would have liked, this dress may get re-made with slightly sturdier silk taffeta at some point. This is drapery taffeta and it does not recover well from stitch holes, so I don't think it will wear well, but not bad for and evening and a morning's work. I do best under pressure.

I haven't decided on trim yet but I have some blue ribbon I might make bows out of, and lace flounces — I basically have no time to do trim. It will have to be finished there. I leave for Vienna Saturday Feb 1 (tomorrow)!

March 2003 — update, I got the dress quickly sewn together before leaving for Vienna. I now love the 1830's, so simple and with all the trimmings and dippy hair, so cute! While in Vienna, during the short breaks in the classes and on my one free evening, I finished the dress, doing the waistband, hooks and eyes and all the trim. All this after also finishing an 1860 ball gown for one of the Viennese dancers. My friend Terry (who made an ice blue 1830's gown, and looked like she stepped right out of a fashion plate) and I had such fun at the Thé Dansant on Friday evening, dancing Viennese waltz in a splendid ballroom, and doing the most adorable "bower dance." I am very glad I rushed this dress and got it done. It was great to have a Biedermeier era dress in which to enjoy the evening.

I will probably do some alterations to the dress in the future. I want puffier sleeves and down filled sleeve puffs, and I think the hem should be shorter (had no time for fittings). I also plan to add some trim, probably bows to the skirt. I have 3-4 fashion plates in my favorites pile to choose skirt trim designs from. A pleated berthé would be nice too. I am also not convinced the color is the best on me, but maybe I just need different trim at the neck.

For photos of the hairstyle I designed, and styled my 3 foot long hair in 20 minutes, to wear with this gown go to: www.vintagevictorian.com/hair

For photos from my trip to Vienna go to: www.vintagevictorian.com/vienna

See the bottom of this page for further details about the actual trip to Vienna.

The 1830 dress — it's current incarnation

Front 1830's Ball gown, front view
Blue and gold shot taffeta, I am fairly pleased with the outcome of the trim.

1830 Ball gown
Detail of front bodice, fairly modern lace, but just the right style for a test run.

1830 ball gown
Back of the bodice, the hooks and eyes made it so quick to get the dress on.


The 1830 dress — some details

Front 1830's Ball gown, detail of lace used. Will probably use different lace later. Habsburg motif brooch (found at Marshall's).

1830 Ball gown
Detail of bodice shoulder bows, picks up the mauve shadows in the taffeta.

1830 ball gown
Sash, Austrian motif. Late 19th Century buckle, didn't want to take my real 1830 buckle to Europe.


My impressions of the 2003 Dance Week in Vienna

The trip and dance week were absolutely fabulous! I was so happy the entire week, I don't think I stopped smiling all week. I loved the classes and I quickly decided to attend all of the classes rather than skip some to do sightseeing when I realized I would never see so many good dancers in one room for quite some time.

Vienna is such a lovely city, I felt right at home there; So much history at every turn. Our Pension was close to the Subway line, and what a nice subway system. It was fun being able to walk to the final ball too, young people on the street ignored us in our funny clothes but older people and Asian tourists smiled at us.

Mid week we went to the theater. The first was Countess Maritza at the Folks Opera, very bizarre show, great music, some weak singing, but they set it in the 1950's, and made the last act into a TV game show complete with giant blocks of cheese and Mozart Kugel candies walking around. We thought it was hilarious and strange but all around us people were walking out during the last act. The director and designer should have their artistic licenses revoked!

The next night we saw The Magic Flute at the State Opera. What a fabulous show. The music and singing were amazing. The staging, sets and costumes were modernized, but in contrast to Countess Maritza, it was gorgeous. The Queen of the Night came out in a huge crinoline dress, in midnight blue (much like the dress I was going to wear to the ball the next night!), with golden luminescent stars strewn across the skirt. Everything on her was midnight blue, including her face and arms. The 3 other ladies had amazing bustle modernized dresses in deep jewel tones. The daughter had a very simple Regency type pale dress. The three boys started out in normal kids clothing, T-shirt, shorts and kiddie hats, but by the end they had the cutest 18th century shoes and jackets work over their T-shirts. The chorus characters were in white baggy jump suits with black lines which sort of blended with the backdrop, and they all had bar codes. It was good creative use of non-traditional costuming.

The Biedermeier Thé Dansant was a lot of fun, it was held in the Straußelsälen, the last remaining dance hall in Vienna. There were several ladies in Regency dress from England and the continent, several of us Americans were wearing 1830's dresses. Many of the men were in early 19th Century formalwear. There was even one Hungarian Hussar uniform. We did a really cute figured dance with each person holding an arched bower, the man's were plain white and the ladies' arches were wrapped with ivy vines. The Europeans seem to do more set dances at their balls, and learn more choreographed dances than we do, we didn't learn very many waltz or polka steps, but maybe that's just an effect of the earlier time period. I now love the 1830's, it is so cute, feminine and puffy, and much quicker to get into than 1860's. I want to remake my dress in a more flattering color scheme, and make down filled sleeve puffs. Now if only I had a place to wear it again...Maybe a bonnet and pelerine so I can wear it to tea at Newport.

My best friend and I finally had time to shop and sightsee on the last day, doing it all in one day. We went to Tostmann to dirndl shop, I bought a very expensive dirndl, deep red bodice, wool blend with a woven jacquard paisleyish pattern, with all of the shaping seams outlined with 1/4" black velvet ribbon. The front closure consists of curly gold metal loops on either side which lace with a gold cord. The skirt is black with small white polka dots and a band of rust colored cloth at the hem. It has a very Renaissance feel to it, and was the only one like it in the place and it was exactly my size! It was fate, even if it did cost about as much as a plane ticket (youch!) I hope to make a black/red shot silk taffeta apron to wear with it.

After that we went to 2 sewing stores, one was a really small shop, run by a very nice gentleman and had really lovely trims and the other had a wide array of fabric, I wish I had more money to spend and a bigger suitcase. Unfortunately the really good lace shop had closed about 3 weeks earlier. We didn't have time to get to the nice hat shops.

Later that same day we made it to both Schönbrunn and the Hofburg. We had not planned to see the Hofburg but the portrait of Sisi (Empress Elisabeth) we had most wanted to see was not at Schonbrunn, though they did have a black shoulder cape said to have belonged to the Empress. My friend and I did waltz a bit to imaginary music in the Grand Hall (which was modeled on the hall of mirrors at Versailles); after the tour we were informed that our favorite portrait was at the Hofburg so we rushed to the u-bahn and made it to the Hofburg in time to tour there as well (we had no idea it was so close to our pension!)

At the Hofburg they had some costume items belonging to the Empress, a black lace shawl, white mid Century dressing gown, with nice white work embroidery, and some small accessories, and tons of photographs and portraits, my especial favorites being the ones with her hair down and the portrait in the white 1864 gown with the golden sprigs and the stars in her hair, all by Winterhalter. There was also a small exhibit of regional dress.

I even got to visit the street where my mother lived during the 1930's and 40's, she loved the pictures!

The Grand Strauss Ball on the final evening was amazing! The hall was so beautiful. Waltzing to Strauss in a palace in Vienna, wearing a ball gown in the arms of my husband was a dream come true. I have wanted to do that ever since I started dancing 12 years ago! It was also one of the first Balls in over two years where I was able to dance with him and not worry about his foot. That made it even more special. And the food was fabulous, an amazing buffet of local delicacies. The ball was held in the Palais Pallavicini, across the street from the Hofburg where state receptions are still held. I and most of the US ladies wore 1860's and 1890's ball gowns, there was a mix of eras, some English and European ladies wore Regency, hoopskirt and 1830's styles. There were also many modern gowns.

For a week after returning home (and even now) I was listening to Strauss as much as possible. At the 1890's ball in Newport on February 22 the band played a Strauss waltz, and it was a touch of Vienna all over again.

© 2003, Vintage Victorian, All rights reserved

Last updated: 23 Mar 2003/csb