Raspberry Aesthetic Dress

An Aesthetic style dress made from silk velvet and silk satin.

Inspiration & Resources

Useful Books & Links Cunningham, Patricia. Reforming Women's Fashion, 1850-1920. The Kent State Univeristy Press, London: 2003.

Construction Details


When I started working on this dress I didnt really have a construction plan, just a general idea of what I wanted for the dress. I hoarded the silk velvet for about 8 years, so I wanted to use it to its full effect. I only had 4 yards and I didn’t want to ruin the drape by cutting it up. Plus silk velvet is so fiddly that the fewer seams, the better. 

I started by ripping a piece for the back and a piece for the front (which I split in half to make each side front piece). I played around with the fabric for a while and finally decided on a pair of stacked box pleats for the back, like a francaise. I basted the pleats onto a linen interlining and then smoothed the fabric under the pleats and tacked it down so the pleats would stand out, again, like a francaise.


For the front, I settled on three pleats starting at the shoulder and stopping just under the bust.  I tacked under the pleats to hold the in place and stitched them right under the bust. Then I sewed the shoulder seams at an angle and sewed the side seams.

The center panel is a lovely blue-green silk satin. I smocked the top of the neckline and under the bust. Finally, I made a belt from the velvet that goes around my waist and is secured under the back pleats to give the dress some visual definition.

For the sleeves, I gathered a tube of the satin a little over elbow length at the top, middle, and bottom. Then I added a band of velvet to the middle of the sleeve and basted it to the bodice. There was just too much bulk in the shoulder to do a typical set in sleeve so I just finished the edge of the velvet. It looks like a little cap sleeve with a poufed sleeve under.

The dress is half lined in silk and most of the construction was done by hand because of the slippery silk velvet and satin.

For the velvet hem I used vintage seam binding, basting one edge to the velvet and then turning it up, encasing the raw edge. I'm sure many of you are familiar with this, but I just have to mention it because it makes such a nice clean hem! No extra velvet bulk and the seam binding curves nicely. Because the velvet is so much heavier than the silk satin, I used washers to add weight to the satin part of the hem and help it hang better.

For accessories I'm wearing a Victorian engraved silver bracelet and coordinating pin, a strand of jade beads, a vintage strand of pink and rose glass beads with dyed carved wooden beads, and a pair of grey beaded slippers.