Monday, September 3, 2012

Flirting with the Civil War Fashions

Yes, well, I decided to try my hand at creating a Civil War era ensemble.  It is not my regular timeframe of choice, but I wanted to attend the Huntington Beach Civil War Event, and you guessed it - I needed a period correct gown  I settled on the Simplicity 3727 Pattern as I like the silhouette, the dolmen sleeves, the drop shoulder, the six yard skirt, and the ability to customize the ensemble.  I went shopping in my ever growing stash pile, and found ten yards of a vintage Waverly Cotton fabric, Seaside Rose,  that I thought would be perfect.  It had the "woven" look with the check, plus the "printed" look of roses and vines.  In my research, I found a multitude of plaids, checks, and homespun fabrics for dresses and gowns of that era, BUT, I also found some gowns showing the newer technique of that time of "Printed Fabrics" - so I felt pretty safe with my selection.

 From cutting to fitting took about three days.  I did omit a few steps, while the entire pattern called for "flat lining" I opted to line only the body part of the bodice for stability.  I left the sleeves and skirt in a single layer.  I also omitted the boning in the bodice, as I would be wearing a corset.  The ensemble did call for a "bum roll" which I had previously only worn with my Renaissance gowns, so I did have three on hand of different sizes.  After trying each on, I found the perfect one, which of course was the very last one I tried on - LOL.  I loved how it had the drop-down yoke in the back of the skirt to accommodate the bumroll.  I also left out the six yards of cartridge pleating and simply did a really tight gather stitch.   
 Day three and the fit has been completed.  I also incorporated a fun little suede leather belt I purchased at the monthly Tustin Antique Flea Market for $5.00 at the waist.  The belt had a pretty gold mesh, which was understated, and the colors were perfect.
 Now, I am all about economy of time!  If there is a product or tool that can save me time and effort, and get me that much closer to "done", it works for me.  Some of you will be aghast at the lining - Pinked!  Not Finished!  Well, that's where "Fray Check" comes in.  After pinking, when I am ready to set the bodice down for the night, I run a fast, narrow layer of Fray Check around both pinked edges to stop fraying.  I like the look of pinked edges, so this works for me and saves me time.
 Another fun time saver is my electric Pinking Tool, by Dural Pinker.  It's old, but still does the trick.  I can pink out a yard in under thirty second.  So, onto day four which was all about detailing out the bodice,   hemming the voluminous skirt.  I dilly-dallied all day on it, but finally got both done to my satisfaction.
 Day Five was all about accessories.  The Fanchon Cap, the Straw Bonnet, the reticule, and the Bows.  Now, an arcace terminology is the "Sumptuary Law" or "Blue Laws", which dates back to Renaissance times, but has been running throught American History even into current times!  (The Marajuna Inititives are considered "Sumptuary" as of 2012)  Sumptuary Law prohibited the use of luxurious items by creating a "Sumptuary Tax", thereby only the "rich" could afford the "luxury".  One of those luxuries of the Civil War era would have been Lace.   So, to stay within my "persona", I did use some vintage Torchere Lace on the edging of my Straw Bonnet, some Irish Lace on my matching Fanchon Cap,  as well as a silk blend lace on the bodice (sleeves, cuffs, and neck), the balance of my detailing was "self fabric" using my handy "pinking tool".  The Straw Bonnet is Vintage, and it certainly had that setback on the head shape.  I made the Fanchon Cap to match the Dress with matching fabric, but I wanted to bonnet to me more neutral in case I wanted to wear it with another ensemble.  I worked it so that I could wear both pieces together, or to wear seperately to create two finished looks. 
Fanchon Cap for an  "Indoors" look

Cap and Bonnet for an "Outdoor" look

All in All, it was a great sewing project, and I can certainly recommend the pattern for ease of use if you are advanced beginner/intermediate or better seamstress, or even an ambitious beginner!  The day was wonderful, the weather was beautiful, and it was simply an all-around great event!  This is the Link to my full set of photos for the day:

Please check back again soon.  I am going to try to make a more consistent effort!  Thank you for visiting!


  1. Very pretty! CW is not my era of choice either, but you made yours unique with the lace and belt. Love it! I am going to break down and make a Summer sheer one day.

  2. Your pictures of this came out lovely. Altogether, a beautiful look.

  3. I am so used to wearing a Bustle, that walking around in a Hoop took some getting used to! Your "personal space" is MUCH bigger! Plus, we learned to walk very slowly and sedately, thereby allowing the hoop to sway & settle. Wearing a hoop, by it's very nature, requires a slower pace of life. Plus, it really did not fit in my car - where is my horse and carrige when I need it!

    1. That's why we bring our hoops with us and in the parking lot pull it on. :D
      Sitting on a chair in a hoop is a whole nuther story.