Monday, September 8, 2014

Short Sleeved Civil War Ensemble - Patterns for Period Impressions #410

Patterns for Period Impressions #410  

The Huntington Beach Civil War event was coming up in three weeks time, and I wanted a new Civil War ensemble. I had attended this event in the past, and knew it could get warm, so I wanted something light and airy. The fabric selection was easy, cotton, in both a floral and a plain white. I decided to go with the Patterns for Period Impressions #410 “ Short Sleeve Body with Velvet Braces”. This pattern is based on an actual fashion plate from Peterson’s January 1864.

Peterson's 1864 Fashion Plate
 While a lot of folks might argue short sleeves are not “period” correct, I did find several references to them, they are out there, you just have to look. When you know it is going to be a warm day, short sleeves just make sense. I decided on a plain striped white cotton for the “Body”, or blouse. I then matched that up with a cotton that had a white background with small florals throughout for the skirt. I further decided instead of velvet, I was going to go with matching skirt fabric for the braces. I had my inspiration ideas, fabrics, and patterns. I was ready to go.

Double Knife Pleated Skirt Front
The body/blouse pattern is extremely easy, only five pattern pieces, perfect for a beginning sewer. I did lengthen the sleeves, as I have long arms, and I wanted them to be elbow length. The sizing is blousy, not fitted, and from that I would say that the overall pattern sizing was exactly correct, no adjustments needed. This blouse has a small standup collar with drop shoulder seams. I would suggest one thing. The pattern called for “same fabric” interfacing, and I swapped mine out for a medium bodied iron-on interfacing to help give it a little more structure. Lastly, there are only eight buttons. I opted to go with some buttons that were a little fancier, in that they looked like white pearl buttons set round with nail-heads or even marcasite chips, which I thought was a nice vintage look. From first cut to final fitting was only five hours.

The skirt was just four panels of 45”W x 49”L with a placket added for the back opening and a waistband. It really was not enough fabric, but that was all I had, so I needed to make it work. On this skirt I did experiment a little, I went with a double Knife Pleat on the front of the skirt to help create a bit of a flat panel on the front for the braces to lay against. The sides and back used a tight gather stitch all the way around to fit into the waistband. I did not line it, as it was almost a sheer weight fabric. First cut to final fitting was probably close to four hours, give or take a little.

Now, the “Braces” or “Suspenders” were a lot more challenging. Hard to believe, but those little buggers took me almost seven hours to finish! Only two pattern pieces, but what made it challenging was the length of the lace. One side is 3” the other side is 2”, but because of how narrow the fabric was in some places, it was constantly catching the opposite side lace in the sewing. Also, I used a flat lace that I had to convert into a gathered lace, and that just takes time, as I did not have a foot attachment for this sewing machine. So, all the gathering was created by using a baste stitch then hand gathered. From there the lace was all pined down, here, there, and everywhere, to get the proper look. I used what I had in my stash, but I would certainly suggest purchasing pre-gathered lace for this project. The pattern calls for 3.5 yrds of 2” lace and 5.5 yrds of 3” lace, and I ended up using 20+ yrds of flat. Once I got all the pieces together, it was easy to fit them and sew them all together to create the final piece. I did sew the front of the braces to the front waistband of the skirt to help anchor them properly, and I used safety pins for the shoulders and back waistband. In summary, I very much liked this pattern. It is easy to make and can be dressed up or made simple.

My friend, Gina L, used the same blouse/body pattern for her ensemble and dressed it up quite beautifully.  One thing I will be adding in the future will be a small Corselette or Swiss Waist to be worn over the skirt, but under the braces.  I think I will like the lines better with that small addition.   Enjoy!

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  1. Thank you Val! It's funny, I look at these dresses now, and the white makes them look so cool and airy, but it was 87degrees with high humidity, it was HOT! It was even too hot to wear our fingerless gloves. But, we had a lovely time at the tea, and then later with the dancing!