I’ve been utterly enamored with beetlewing embroidery for a long time now. When I visited the Fashion Museum in Bath, England, I requested they pull out all their beetlewing embroidered items for me to examine (as well as a bunch of 1830s dresses). They had three beetlewing items, and the most impressive was this skirt.


It was an amazing experience to pull on those white gloves and handle these historical items!





And one from the back side:


Beetle wing embroidery uses the actual wing casings from real beetles. These beetles are extremely short-lived, and after they swarm to mate, they die, and the wings can be swept up and used.¬†They are extremely beautiful; the glint and shine of them is hard to capture in photographs! It’s not surprising the Victorians were captivated by using them on dresses.

I’m finally sewing one of my own, using sheer cotton voile as the fabric, in a light beige. The crinoline period of history has never really been my thing, but I really do want at least one proper hoopskirt gown, so after browsing Pinterest for literally weeks, I chose a basic dress design. It’s going to be roughly modeled after Queen Victoria’s 1850 dress, shown below. I also had a chance to see this one in person, so I have a particular fondness for it.


I will be changing it slightly, however. As a beginning, I’ve been embroidering the middle panel of the skirt, which will be the most heavily embroidered. Although it’s not quite finished, here’s what I have, so far:



It is going to be wearable by December 17th, for a presentation I’m doing on the stranger aspects of Victorian clothing. Hopefully, it will be completely done, but as I’m intending to put embroidery all around the bottom hem of the skirt, I’m not sure I have time to completely finish. I can always add that after the event – they people attending will be mostly looking at the front, anyway!

Update: 1/6/2020

I have now worn the dress for the first time! As I suspected, I did not finish the embroidery around the hem of the skirt.


Besides that, I need to adjust the fit of the shoulders…the straps had a tendency to want to slide off. But that’s easy enough to fix. I also want to stitch over the metal grommets with thread so they appear handsewn. I know I should probably done spiral lacing on the bodice, but I frankly dislike the appear of spiral lacing, so I never use it.





I wore it to a presentation I did at my local library: Arsenic, Corsets, and Flaming Hoopskirts, the Myths and Realities of Victorian Fashion.