Log in

Log in

1880s Butterfly Gown by Melissa Levy   1880s Butterfly Gown by Melissa Levy   

1880s Butterfly Gown by Melissa Levy   1880s Butterfly Gown by Melissa Levy



1880s Butterfly Gown

Melissa Levy, California, USA

Photography: Jennifer Giampetro


The Design

I have always been inspired by butterflies. They are such beautiful, elegant, graceful creatures, and the way they transform from lowly caterpillars into flying things of beauty is amazing. I am a recovered alcoholic, and the butterfly is a personal symbol of my recovery, transforming into the beautiful butterfly that I am now as a sober person.

I have long wanted to make a bustle evening gown so decided this would be perfect for my contest entry. The overskirt of the gown is inspired by the Blue Morpho butterfly, while the pale green bodice and underskirt are the shades of the chrysalis form of the butterfly.


The Construction

I made every item that I am wearing, from the undergarments to the corset to the gown. I made two chemises and neither worked with my gown, so I used a tank top for my photo shoot. The corset is taken from Jill Salen's book, and was the first time I did a corded corset. I had to do very little alteration to the pattern.

The fashion layer is a lovely silk with butterflies, bees, and dragonflies. I flossed all the boning channels. The bodice and underskirt are made of pale green Duchess satin, and the bodice is lined with a butterfly print cotton. The underskirt has a ruched trim. Fitting the bodice was challenging as I didn't have anyone to help me. I hand embroidered around all my eyelets to mimic hand sewn eyelets. I created fabric origami butterflies to decorate the shoulder and my headband.

The overskirt is two layers of moiré, blue on the outside with black ruffled trim with pearls, to match the colors of the butterfly. The inside layer is a brown moiré with hand painted eye and ribbon trim to match the underside of the butterfly's wings. The overskirt had very confusing directions and it took me a lot of playing with paper and fabric mockups to figure out the burnous pleat in the back. Working with the large volume of fabric (with cats around!) was also a challenge. All patterns are from Ageless Patterns, which have very minimal sewing directions.


More details on my blog


What was it like to compete this year? What would you say to someone who is on the fence about entering next year?

This is my first time entering. I almost didn't enter because I've seen photos of other people's work and feel that I don't stand a chance, but I enjoyed the challenge of creating this gown and decided to go for it. I worked too hard on the gown not to enter it.

Claire Green
Oh Melissa, this is superb!
Wonderful, the bodice trimming is superb.
Wow so much attention to detail! I have a thing about bustles and you have executed this entire outfit beautifully. Gorgeous work Melissa
Oh those eyelets with the blue ribbon, exquisite colour combinations going on in this ensemble
Beautiful! Amazing attention to detail and the whole outfit looks so stunning together.
I really like the tiny flowers and the pleated trim you created at the neckline
I'm impressed, both by your recovering from alcoholism (so strong!) and by creating all of those layers without anyone to help with fitting and among cats! So good that one of your furry friends joined for the photoshoot. lol
Nice pleating!
Wonderful attention to detail and beautiful shapes and colour palette!
And I also was very moved by your background story behind the dress. It's such a beautiful way to celebrate your recovery!

Lovely. So much to accomplish and all well done. Very pretty. I love the trim work.
Aw, thank you for all the lovely comments! I really appreciate it. This was a labor of love for sure.

Coming up on 5 years sober!

So happy to see a gown entered. Well done!
What dedication to create the whole outfit from the skin out! And as others have said, yes, your journey is inspiring, and what a way to celebrate your new self. Congratulations Melissa, you and your gown are indeed beautiful butterflies!
I love your use of colour and the pleating, gorgeous gown and the additional cat too.
Hide comment form

1000 Characters left

Go to top