Saturday, March 28, 2015

2015 Civil War Ensemble for Riverside Dickens Festival

Feb 2015 Riverside Dickens Festival
The Riverside Dickens Festival was coming up, and a new 1850 ensemble was on the horizon.  In my stash was this beautiful floral, cotton sateen, with a royal blue background.  My inspiration for the
fabric selection for this ensemble came from the vintage gown picture below.    I love the bold color of my fabric; the movement of the floral print, the overall drape of the fabric, and  that cotton is just such a pleasure to wear on a warm day.  Lastly, I thought the color and print of this fabric would lend itself well to a late-Winter gown, in that the blue makes one think of the coming Spring Skies, and the floral print makes one dream of the promise of flowers to come! 
1850 at Philadelphia Museum of Art

I have had this Civil War pattern in my stash for forever; it is from Dakota Prairie Treasures.  It states that it is reproduced from an original 1859 Antebellum Civil War pattern.  As is the norm of the era, the pattern is for a very petite, very small lady of the time, more like a fourteen year old of today in height and size. 

As most of us know, these patterns are pretty much worthless, and I really only ended up using the picture of the gown as inspiration.  The pattern included an 8x10 page of the bodice pattern pieces which need to be enlarged to fit, a photo of the ensemble with a brief description, and some notes on “How to Dress” of the era.  Everything else I kind of made up as I went long.  The pattern was missing a critical piece, mainly an interior sleeve lining that all the sleeve puffs should anchor to, so I just drew one up for use with this bodice.  Also, there is no skirt pattern; you are just supposed to make one up, so I used my Truly Victorian TV244 1859 Double Skirt pattern.  Lastly, the pattern description states that the bodice and the white underblouse are separate, but for my own sanity, I joined them together as one piece with the look of two separate pieces.

After tracing and enlarging a couple of times, working thru on a couple of mockups, I decided to use the Simplicity 3727 pattern as a sort of sloper for sizing purposes, and it worked out well.  Enlarging is one of my weak spots.   

The bodice went together quickly, as I have used the Simp pattern before.  The challenges started with the puffy sleeves and the white insert.  Each of the puffy pieces had to be sewn with a gather stitch, gathered to size, and then stitched into place onto the inner sleeve lining.  There are four puffy parts for each sleeve, in increasing sizes, ending with a bell sleeve.  The sleeves alone took over seven hours, it was slow and time consuming to make sure each puff was evenly gathered and distributed and not all bunched up on one side.  The next challenge was the underblouse insert.  I had to drape the half finished bodice on the mannequin to get proper placement for my cutouts and inserts.  I used some sheer white muslin from the stash.  There is a front and back to the white portion, almost like a fixed dickey.  I added the standup collar, and finished it off with fives rows of 1/2” decorative lace that I gathered (also from the stash).  Lastly, as you can see from the pattern picture and my finished bodice that I flipped it around for a front opening and used buttons.  That was actually the easiest change.  To help with the illusion of two separate pieces on the bodice, I used two different types of buttons.  For the white insert I used ¼’ vintage glass pearl buttons, and on the dark blue fabric I used ½’’ brass buttons with a vintage look.  I then pulled some 3” black fringe from the stash to trim the bottom of the bodice, and finished off using a beautiful 3” black cotton Cluney lace to trim out the bodice top edges, sleeves, and bodice bottom edges in place of velvet, which I could not find.  The lace looks beautiful and is period correct.  The bodice probably used approximately three yards of fabric, and there are waist ties on the inside.

The skirt is also very easy, and uses six and a half yards of fashion fabric, and then two yards of a lining.  One note of caveat, I am full sized, and I think the next time I make it, I will add an extra panel for the top skirt, as well as some extra yardage in the underskirt.  It uses the same amount of fabric for a size six, which will have a much fuller overall look, as it does for a sixteen, but some of the fullness seems to get lost.  My hope skirt is larger, but still under 150 inches,
by default to my size and pulls the fabric more than a smaller hoop will.  Just something to consider if you try this skirt, and want a fuller look.

I finished the look off with a bonnet that I cobbled together.  The body of the bonnet is a “ready-made” burgundy felt that I purchased for $5 on Ebay.  I then covered the crown with leftover fabric to match my gown, made some ruching trim for the top edge of the bonnet with the same gown fabric, gathered some eyelet lace from the stash that was about 9” wide for the interior lining of the underside of the brim, used some 3” royal blue ribbon from the stash, some silk roses, and concluded by pulling some feathers off of another hat to add to this bonnet.  My gloves, shawl, handbag, embroidered white cotton undersleeves, and jewelry all came from what I already had.  It was a warm day, and I did not get many pictures.  Let me know if you have any questions.  Enjoy.


  1. Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Thank you Ms Mimi...LOL, I had to delete my first reply as I had an error and I could not fix it except to delete it!

  2. Interesting idea of using a "modern" pattern that fits you as a sloper to grade the antique pattern up to. I'm also grading challenged so I don't even attempt those old patterns. I might have to try that.
    You were a piece of sunshine that day.

    1. Val! Thank you, but you know I am going to have to change up the silk roses on the front of the bonnet to get over that "Princess Leia" look! LOL. See you soon!

  3. I love your inspiration and your explanation of how the print and colors make you feel. I'm ready for spring!

    1. Ms Lahbluebonnet! Thank you for your post, and I am glad you enjoyed the blog post! Hope Spring comes your way soon!