Winona Ryder takes aim at my recreation of her dress.

Recreating the Archery Dress from "The Age of Innocence"

(Note: Post is much easier to see/read on a larger screen.)

The Archery Dress from the 1993 film The Age of Innocence, beloved by many, is my all-time favorite movie costume. It’s utterly beautiful. Sweet but not overly so. And the juxtaposition of deadly keen marksmanship and delicately cascading white ruffles? Divine. Several years before the pandemic I’d already planned to recreate it, and had begun collecting bits and pieces I could “cobble” into some reasonable facsimile.

Now that I’ve completed the project, I’d say there’s no outfit -- from real life or the movies -- that I’ve studied in closer detail. I scoured online images and watched the movie scene repeatedly, frame by frame, to identify every aspect of the ensemble I possibly could: from the hat pin to the hem. Here’s how I went about trying to recreate it: 

Archery Dress - Inspiration Collage
Above: The inspiration. The world's loveliest dress on Winona Ryder, age ~21. That face! That natural-form-era-perfect ribcage! My goal was to get as close as possible to recreating this look, without learning to (properly) sew, tailor, or embroider, and without having plastic surgery.

Pile of thrifted, gifted and purchased materials for making the archery dress.

 Starting/foundation thrifted 80s skirt.

Widening the back of the skirt to create slight bustle. 

 Adding ruffles to the skirt.

Adjusting the back hem and patching the ruffles.
Making the ruched hip yoke.

Steps to attaching the ruching.

Bad ruffle #7

All ruffles in place.

Satin-stitched bottom hem.

Jacket/bodice before.
Jacket neckline combo.
Collar details.
Collar and cuffs material source.

Sleeves off, hem pointed.

I bought a 1950s suit pattern to get a three-quarter sleeve with double elbow darts. I don't have the know-how to just whip up a fitted sleeve on my own. I have no idea how to draft a pattern. I'd just about run out of "smooth white lining" from the cannibalized skirts, which is why the sleeves have extra seams. I worked with what I had.

New sleeves, bad cuffs.
Jacket complete except tail and ribbon trim.
Wrong kinds of ribbon.
The front bow.


Tail attached.

Dress completed. On to the accessories.

Movie costume quiver.

quiver, arrows, belt receipts

My quiver and belt.

Antique arrow pin, movie arrow pin, my affordable arrow pin.

Movie hat collage.

Starting and steaming the hat.

Horsehair and ribbon trim and problems.

Start adding ribbons to hat.

Added buds to hat.

Finished hat on me.

Complete outfit, and everything I'd change.

What's underneath?

At the costume contest.

With some of the Atlanta Time Travelers at Sunday in the Park 2022

And finally, my friend and fellow Atlanta Time Traveler Lorrie Ann took this silly video below, showing me accepting the prize for “Most Beautiful Costume” (aw, shucks, thanks! and yes, I was absolutely thrilled!). There were many winners, in all sorts of categories – from best historical to most creative -- and several Atlanta Time Travelers took home prizes (including Best in Show!). Also, you can see that another needed fix is the pull across the upper back. Not sure what happened there, but it only showed up after adding the corset. Could mean I go without next time I wear it. Could happen. We'll see.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about how I made my recreation of The Age of Innocence Archery Dress. My thanks and apologies to costume designer extraordinaire, Gabriella Pescucci, and to costume house Tirelli Costumi, for the inspiration. I hope that they send the costume, and its beautiful friends, on a tour of the U.S., stopping somewhere near me (SCAD Fash? Biltmore Estate? The Georgia Museum of Art at UGA?). I think if I ever get to see it in real life, I’ll burst into flames, or perhaps tears.

What is your all-time favorite movie costume? Why do you love it so much? Have you ever tried to recreate it? Tell us about it in the comments!

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