Project Journal: 1864 Ball Gown Part I: The Plan And The Trim

It’s time. I’ve been wearing Annabelle, my flounced not-so-new-anymore white 1860 ball gown, to all Civil War events for about a year straight, with no relief on the horizon. Not that I dislike Annabelle, I just want options, and a change. I have Belle, a dark blue 1860 ball gown, as well, but I haven’t worn her since 2011, and since most of the women in our dance troupe have blue dresses it’s not likely that I’ll get to wear her soon, and anyway, she’s too heavy for summer, and summer is coming up. So it’s time. Time for a new 1860s gown! Yay!

This gown was included back in autumn of 2012, when I made my 9 month sewing plan. It’s my goal to have it finished by mid-March, for the annual Commonwealth Vintage Dancers Returning Heroes Ball. My inspiration is this fashion plate from 1864 (pictured below).

315_1864_FashionPlateAA

From The Bartos Collection. 1864.

Specifically, I’m going to be making the dress on the left. Or one inspired by/sort of like it. As I’ve been working on it I’ve made changes to my plan, as you’ll soon see. My dress will be green silk shot with gold and with gold silk trim. I bought the silk remnants for the project months ago, so I have had to make my plan work with the yardage I have. The green isn’t an issue, but the gold had to be carefully considered to make sure I have enough for all the trimmings. After lots of math, I realized I didn’t have enough to do all the trim, so I thought about what was visually most important and decided to eliminate the vertical lines of trim, as well as the waist trim. Here is the same fashion plate, with my changes:

480_1864_FashionPlateAA - Version 3

Of course, me being me, I’ve decided to hand sew the entire gown! Yes, sometimes I like my big projects. But I’ve got time (I think). I’ve sewn the skirt and the polished cotton lining and hemmed them, though the skirt isn’t attached to a waistband yet. I’ve sewn the bodice seams, so now it needs boning, and cording, and trim, and closures in the back. And, most importantly, I’ve cut and hemmed the MANY yards of gold trim for the skirt.

IMG_4198

Skirt trim: on top is the zig zag, in the middle is the rosettes, and on the bottom is the ruffle. Not gathered yet, but all hemmed!

Did I mention I’m hand sewing all of this? All of these trim bits on the skirt will be gathered to a ratio of just over 1 1/2 to 1 (that was all that my yardage would accommodate). The zig zag is hemmed on both sides and will be sewn onto the skirt with a band of green silk running down the middle. The rosettes will be gathered in the middle and the raw edges hidden, which is why that bit is hemmed on only one side. The ruffle at the bottom will be bound at the top, which is why only one edge is hemmed.

Hem-age: 13 1/2 yds of zig zag, hemmed on both sides equals 27 yds of hem; 10 1/2 yds of rosette hem (there will be 18 finished rosettes on the skirt, if all goes according to plan); and 7 1/2 yds of ruffle hem. Total hem-age: 45 yds, and that’s just the skirt trim!

I love hand sewing, which makes me excited about that total, rather than bored. And I really enjoy the sense of satisfaction I have when I’ve completed the different pieces of this project, so I can only imagine how great it will be when the entire gown is complete!

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7 responses to “Project Journal: 1864 Ball Gown Part I: The Plan And The Trim

  1. You are so ambitious to hand sew all of that! I’m really looking forward to updates and seeing the final product.

  2. This is going to be lovely! And 1.5:1 is a very good period ratio for ruffles. The skirts are already so full, and over big hoops, so really any more fullness just makes the trim stick out funny. So you’re totally accurate! 😀

    • I was only ever aiming for a 2:1 ratio, but now that I’ve gathered my bottom ruffle I am completely happy with the 1 1/2:1. You’re right, it will keep the ruffle from having too much fullness. It’s so nice when the fabric makes the decision for you so you don’t spend hours debating about it…! 🙂

  3. The colors are lovely and will suit your coloring beautifully. I love hand work, too–stitching while listening to audiobooks or old radio programs is just about my favorite way to spend time. But 45 yards of hemming?! I believe that somewhere around 10 yards in I would quite loath gold silk. I commend your tenacity!

  4. Wow, this is going to be amazing, Quinn! That will definitely be a serious costuming project, but I totally know what you mean about enjoying sewing challenges! Those sorts of projects are much more exciting and rewarding, and I’m sure your gown will be just lovely.

    Happy sewing!

    Katrina

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