Kateri Schneider, Design Development

New Life for the Ensemble

In 2018, Kateri Schneider assumed Hanna’s role and continued with the character.  Kateri  “Kat” will use the costume for teaching and historical interpretation.

Two versions were developed for the character.  The first was a “high fashion” style appropriate to 1895 forward.  It featured the “inverted bell flower” shape with a 4 gore skirt.  This was a longer, leaner, and smoother line than the prior 5-6 years which absolutely demanded the use of the long version of the “S” corset which tipped the bosom forward and the hips back.

With this version, a stiff taffeta would be used, along with a striped silk for the bodice.  The back might actually incorporated a rump pad or extra ruffles on the petticoat to bring the derriere out, although it was a transitional time away from bustles to using no understructures in the skirt.

This might also use a full blouse instead of revers, although that would be very ahead of fashion for this character.

In the 2nd version, we go back to the end of the 1884-85 style that was just ending the use of the large bustle.  At this time, it was almost more similar to the 1883 “no bustle” time.  The notable difference is the absence of draping and bows in the back.  In this 1884-85 version, the appearance is symmetrical, and the 6-gored paneled skirt is used.

We liked this version because it gave a lovely sweeping movement that helped the character’s attitude, used less fabric to keep costs down, and the extra gores reduced or eliminated the need to have a full petticoat, as long as a thick enough fabric was used.

Ideally, the 1885 long corset, but not yet the full “S” curved corset of the Edwardians who came next would be used, but the jacket design could have enough boning and support to eliminate the need of that too for theatrical purposes.

The final Penny Dreadful character ensemble incorporated elements from both designs and included:

    • 4-gored skirt (modern rayon fabric to keep costs down; historical construction)
    • all-in-one jacket/bodice (fully lined, boned at seams; balloon sleeves)
    • revers integrated in bodice (plastic pearl & synthetic lace overlays)
    • straw hat (colored straw with synthetic flowers, ribbon made of bodice fabric, & ribbons)


Modern synthetic fabrics and trims, although historically accurate for color, texture, design, & pattern, were used for this theatrical project


The fabric was selected based on historical samples, but was of polyester, cotton, & rayon to keep costs down

Boning was plastic & metal, with metal wires, period consistent hook-eye closures, & button on skirt

No historical undergarments were worn

Note the skirt has a slight train. Although a short train would be consistent with this character, it was in this case an accident because Hanna chose not to wear a bustle pad or petticoat which would have lifted the skirt a bit


The bodice, historically accurate, included pieced sleeves which were kept puffy using voile net, wired collar, boned bodice and peplum, and integrated revers with a lace overlay to hide the hook and eye closures


Front closure details


Neckline lace overlay details


Leftover fabrics used for inside stuffing and ribbons made out of the skirt and bodice fabrics were used on a borrowed hat form. We took apart a thrift store fabric rose bouquet to keep the costs minimal for the customer. Tracking down real or reproduction vintage components to use in an ensemble are a special joy we get out of the challenge of high end authentic AND low end theatrical projects

Click here to go to Kateri’s Main Page for the finished project (next)

Click here to go to Kateri’s Historical Context page

Click here to go to Kateri’s Fashion History page

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