Friday, July 5, 2013

Historical Sewing - 1860's Blue Day Dress

Several years ago, a friend and I embarked on a sewing project together - we were going to sew Civil War dresses. Neither of us had sewn something like that before (Regency dresses and medieval gowns are pretty straight forward all things considered), and we wanted the challenge of a mid-1800's gown. We both studied up on the dress construction, blah blah blah... and jumped in. 

Step 1: find pattern. We landed on Simplicity 3727. It looked straight forward enough.
Step 2: procure fabric. Nothing at Joann's was going to cut it, so we ventured to the biggest fabric store in the area. There's an acre of fabric. Slightly overwhelming. But we found a reproduction fabric section which helped a lot. ;)
Step 3: Create the correct silhouette. Yes, there are petticoats, hoops and a corset keeping everything where it's supposed to be. 
Step 4: Make dress. My friend got her dress all finished in time for the reenactment all those years ago. Mine? It was done. But uh, well... my oops was that I made the bodice to my non-corseted measurements. In other words, it was too big. ;) So in the to-do-later pile the bodice went to be overlooked by more new and exciting sewing projects (don't worry, that blue bodice had lots of friends that pile).

Emily, looking gorgeous in her 1860's ensemble

And I farbed around in what I could make-do with the time and skills that I had. And yes, I wore flip flops under all those layers. ;)

Well, after finishing my brother's coat, I got this excited giddiness about finishing the unfinished. Time for procrastination to be pushed to the back seat. Let's get stuff done. I pulled the bodice out of the bag and assessed where I had left things:

- The fringe. It looked like it was being eaten alive by golden fringe. I guess using interior decorating trims has its downside. So the lion's mane was trimmed 3 inches shorter. Proportionally, it looks much better now. 

- There was that silly sizing issue. Do you know how hard it is to get your measurements of yourself by yourself when you're wearing a corset? ;) Brought in the areas that needed it, and it fits like a glove now. No more bagginess making me feel like a giant lumpy blueberry. 

- The under sleeves needed tacking on and the cuff links needed to be made. That's pretty much self-explanatory. 

- The collar. The pattern included instructions for making your own to attach to the dress. I made it, but it didn't look... right. But I left it there. One day, my sisters and I decided to stop in an antique shop that we hadn't checked out yet. Guess what I found. Yep, a gorgeous, much more elaborate collar than I could ever make. But it didn't have a price tag. It's bartering time. I got it for $4. ^_^ And it fit the dress perfectly.

Then I took a step back. It was done. All those years of just sitting in the cupboard, and it didn't need that much work done on it. I could have been wearing it all this time! Now I just need to come up with an excuse to wear it. 
And that gap in the front? It's not there when I wear it. It's fitted for a different silhouette than what my dress form is. ;)

Random end note: In looking at those pictures from all those years ago (okay, maybe it was only 2 years ago, it feels so much longer than that), it's weird to see how much Emily and I have 'grown up.'  

No comments:

Post a Comment