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).
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:
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.
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!