Thursday, June 16, 2016

Civil War Series • Blue Floral Day Dress


Ah, posting again at last!!  It has been a very hectic couple of weeks, hence the unannounced absence.

Today's post is about my new Civil War dress!!  This dress was a lot of fun to make, start to finish.  The fabric was my favorite pretty much from the time I first saw it, and I still just love it.  We had a real time getting fabric for our dresses, however, since the first yardage we had picked out (coordinating pink and brown florals) ended up being sold out from under us.  Eventually though, I happened upon Whittle's Fabrics' website, and was very excited to look through what they had.  All of their fabrics are very reasonably priced, and most range from $5-7.50 per yard.  This blue fabric was $5 a yard, and is a very nice quality Windham 1860s reproduction.  When you need 8+ yards of fabric for a dress, a good deal like that is always appreciated!!  ;)



I went for a very simple but elegant day dress look, since I had neither the materials nor the knowledge to make a big, immense, trim-covered, fancy silk dress.

I used Simplicity 1818 for a basic bodice pattern, but did quite a bit of altering.  I had read someplace that raising the armscye (and altering the underarm of the sleeve accordingly) on Civil War dresses helped vastly with the fit, and being able to raise your arms more easily.  That was definitely something I wanted to try, since my other 1860s-ish dress is very restricting in that area.  It really worked with this blue dress, and I will definitely be doing it again!  I also changed the center front opening to be a center back opening, changed the neckline, bodice length, and fitted it.


Jen's tutorial for applying hook-and-eye tape (yes, I cheated there) was very helpful!  It was quite easy to sew on, and was miles easier than sewing on bunches of fiddly hooks and eyes.

The seams (curved back seams, shoulders, waist, and sleeve) are piped, and as with Sarah's dress, the bodice is sewn to the skirt in the space between the piping and the bodice.  

And although the inside seams are machine-stitched and finished with serging, all stitching visible to the outside was done by hand.



I *really* wanted to have a basket to carry with me at the reenactment, so I went hunting for them everywhere.  After missing the first Ebay auction on one basket, I found another one identical to the first and was able to purchase it.  Although it cost more than I would have liked ($26 or so), it is a very nice basket, brand new, and apparently a very good basket brand (Nantucket). 

My bonnet is from Regency Austentation on Etsy, and as always, I was so pleased with my purchase from Laura!  The bonnet is very nice quality, and such a fun shape!


I wanted to do something along the lines of this bonnet from The Met, with a pleated bavolet (aka "curtain," when one can't remember said appropriate term....), and simple ties over the top.

I ordered some silk taffeta from Sara of Ensembles of the Past.  It was exactly what I was looking for; a tiny check, period-appropriate silk taffeta, and in the perfect colors!!  My bavolet didn't come out quite as I had envisioned, but I'm still pretty happy with it.


Paired with my dress, naturally, are my favorite American Duchess Renoirs.  Those boots never cease to amaze me; they are more comfortable than bedroom slippers, whether you are walking around the house, through the grocery store (that's a whole different story in and of itself), or trudging around at a reenactment all day.  They are AMAZING, and I would highly recommend them to anyone looking for a gorgeous, comfortable CW boot.

As for the skirt underpinnings, I wore a gathered, corded, ruffle-hemmed under-petticoat, a hoop ($30 on Ebay, and not the greatest quality, but still pretty decent for the price) with an extra ruffle at the hem for added length, and a pleated over-petticoat with a 12" hem facing to help prevent the "lampshade" effect. 


This crocheted collar is one that my great-grandma made, so it was quite special to be able to pair it with my dress!  The brooch was from an antique shop in Minnesota a few years back.  I always wanted to wear it with a historical dress!  :)


The sleeves are from Butterick 5831, made exactly as the pattern, but gathered onto a wider cuff.  The puffiness is quite fun, but I also can't wait to try a more fitted sleeve on my next dress. 


The skirt is made of 4 widths of fabric (about 176" around, total), pleated down to 30".  The centers front and back are simply box pleated, while the sides are double-inverted-box-pleated, or some such.  ;)  A better description would be "whatever it took to get it down to the right measurement."  :) The hem is faced with about 10" of muslin.  Thanks to all the extra ruffles and hem facings, there wasn't a hint of "lampshade-ing," even with immense wind at the reenactment.


:)  And lastly, a fun photo of Sarah and I.  The three of us had such a time taking these photos, proof of which being the fact that we used up all 380-some pictures on the memory card.  :)  So I'm afraid you're doomed to a couple more Civil War posts; hopefully you're enjoying reading them as much as I am recalling our adventures!!

Sarah had heard or read a saying somewhere that stated the fact that if just one person puts on historical clothing and goes out in public, they make a scene.  If two people do, everyone says "Oh, look at those fruitcakes/nutjobs!"  But then, when three people wear it, it turns into an event, and people actually think it's neat.

We really put that theory to the test on the day that we took these photos, and it turned out to be quite true!!  When my mom and I go out in our historical clothing, we most definitely do get the "fruitcake" and "nutjob" looks and scowls, but with there being three of us, we got positive comments, looks of amazement, and friendly questions about our clothing.  

Never fear, Mom and I are still going to wear our historical clothing, but it was just amazing to witness the difference in peoples' attitudes.  ;)

There was one rather hilarious (or alarming) encounter I had, however, when the three of us stopped at the grocery store whilst wearing these dresses.  An average-height lady pulled me aside and was asking about my dress, in a very nice way, and then proceeded to ask, in all seriousness, if "I was really that tall, or did I have stilts on?"  I proceeded to show her a stilt-free limb as proof of my height, but it was still quite hilarious.  :D  

~

I'll be back next week with another installment, so stay tuned!  :)  Thanks for stopping by!!

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22 comments:

  1. How talented you are! The dress is a beauty! I made a Victorian dress for an event once, there was so much fabric that the sheer weight all but ripped the handles from the carrier bag!

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    1. Melanie, thank you so much!! You are so sweet!! Oh my, your Victorian dress sounds amazing!! They definitely are heavy, that's for sure! :)

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  2. Esther,

    Your dress is gorgeous!! I love your collar and blue bird broach. I have a similar crocheted collar that my grandma made. : ) I can imagine that you, your mom and friend has fun wearing these beautiful dresses! However your experience at the grocery store made me chuckle!

    -Sarah

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    1. Thank you so much, Sarah!! How special that you have a collar from your grandma as well! Isn't it neat to have things like that?!
      :) We sure did have fun, and I chuckled myself at the grocery store incident. ;) People are funny, that's for sure!!

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  3. You look adorable ♥ And that fabric! Really a well done dress und photoshoot :-)

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    1. Aww, thank you, Draped in Cloudlets!! You're so kind and sweet!! :)

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  4. *sigh* Beautiful! Well done, Well done!

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    1. Thank you, OldFashionGirl!!! :) I always love your Civil War dresses and such!

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  5. Absolutely beautiful ensemble. The details and accessories here are all so marvelous and really, really work in harmony with your elegant dress. Fantastic work across the board, dear Esther.

    Many hugs & happy Father's Day wishes to your family,
    ♥ Jessica

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  6. You look lovely! How neat that you were able to use that collar made by your Great Grandma! So special. That is hilarious about the stilts. hahaha!

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    1. Aww, thank you, Miss Michelle!! :)

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  7. Such a pretty dress & great color on you too. For a fun fact, hook and eye tape is actually period (surprising right?) for the Civil War period. Reading about your time at the store was so fun and reminded me of this time I walked into this gas station and some how I convinced the attendants I was a time traveler and the Delorian was parked outback. . .oh memories.
    Jennie from theuglydame.blogspot.com

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    1. Jennie, thank you so much!! I had actually forgotten about hook-and-eye tape being period correct; that's great!! Thanks for reminding me about that.
      Oh my, your story sounds hilarious!!! That is too funny. Ah yes, gas stations and period clothing.....always interesting. ;)
      Thanks again for commenting! I just discovered your blog, and am about to be your newest follower. :)

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  8. What a beautiful dress Esther, I'm admiring that print on your fabric so much ~ it's sooo pretty and looks amazing in the pattern you made it into. It's just a stunning look all around and I think it suits you so well! ❤

    xox,
    bonita of Lavender & Twill

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    1. Thank you so much, Bonita!! You're so sweet and kind, as always. :)

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  9. Such a pretty dress! The elements of the dress have all come together incredibly beautifully! And you made me laugh so much with the story about a lady asking if you had stilts on. How funny!!!

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  10. Seeing all these lovely pictures and reading the story brought back all the fun we had!!! This dress IS perfection on you, dear friend. The colors, the details, it all adds up to 100% authenticity. And I still love that wooden arbor you chose for the location...the perfect rustic, old-fashioned contrast to your beautiful ensemble. You are so pretty in these pictures! And, of course, you ended the post with one of my favorite photos of the day. :) Can't wait until we do something like this again!!!!

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    1. Aww, thank you, dear Sarah A.!! I really love that arbor too! I found a newspaper article about it recently; it was put up not very long ago, and made of cedar logs, I think? Fun!
      I love that last photo too! It has been my screensaver on my tablet ever since the day we took it, and I have a feeling won't be replaced until sometime in August........ ;)

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  11. Hi Esther. Do you take orders as a seamstress? I'm just beginning into living history and I'll eventually need my first dress ready - I just want a simple day dress that I can dress or down as needed. I love your blue dress...love the color and pattern. I also love deep greens and plaids. If you do take orders, I'd love to speak with you more on commissioning a dress. Please provide the best way to contact you. Thanks so much. Blessings - Ronda

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    1. Hi Ronda!
      I do take a very few custom orders, but at this point I think a custom Civil War dress is beyond my ability and experience. There is so much fitting involved in one of them, and I have not had any experience with doing that "long-distance," so to speak. I am so very flattered that you would ask me though!!!! Thank you for that!!

      There are a couple of custom historical seamstresses that I know and would recommend : if you just enter the shop names on Google or Etsy, they will appear. ModeDeLis, run by Lily, who is an incredible seamstress, and EnsemblesofthePast, run by Sara, who specializes particularly in historical garments.
      Thank you again so much for asking! I will let you know if and when I start taking orders for historical garments, as I would love to make one for you at that point. :)

      Esther

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