Sesquicentennial Ensemble: Making the Dress

This dress is old news now but in case you’re interested in how it went together I finally got my construction post for it done and up!

For most of this dress, both skirt and bodice, I used the draft from Patterns of Fashion for the 1870-71 dress – the one with 3 bodice options, I used the day bodice. Although this pattern is from a few years after my date, in looking at lots of fashion plates and extant garments I realized that pattern piece shapes from the early 1870s were largely the same as those of the mid-late 1860s – it was fashion evolution not revolution going on at this time!

1871-73 I think this is the dress from the Patterns of Fashion 1860-1940 by Janet Arnold

Manchester Art Gallery

And again, my primary inspiration gown:


The Skirt:

To get and maintain the puffed-up portion of the skirt back I sewed a drawstring casing to the interior around about the level of the bottom of the red pulled back triangular pieces to gather the skirt in. I also added twill tape pieces running from the waist to the drawstring casing to hold that part slight up.

And then came bows….

And more bows…

Here’s what they looked like from front and back.

I don’t have a lot of construction photos from the bodice, I’m afraid, just this one, really.

I used the day bodice pattern from the draft pretty much as-is (apart from altering for size). It’s made from the cotton organdy underlined with lightweight cotton twill/sateen – except for the sleeves, which I left unlined because summer.

For the belt/basque around the waist I started with the Patterns of Fashion draft – which I believe has an error in the indicated direction of a set of pleats, fyi (this caused me total confusion for a while). But then I came across this one and decided I liked something along these lines better.

A green watered silk formal gown, circa 1865, the Sign In to see what this sold for A green watered silk formal gown, circa 1865, the lightly padded bodice trimmed with cream and black lace and bows, the horizontally banded skirt with matching waist-sash, (3) Condition report Skirt is very badly stained to front left side of hem, brown damp speckles over the shoulders of the bodice,2 buttons missing from bodice Lot: 1225: A green watered silk formal gown, circa 1865, the, Lot Number: 1225, Starting Bid: £100, Auctioneer: Kerry Taylor Auctions, Auction: Fashion & Textiles , Date: June 24th, 2008 EDT

I had also initially had it in my head that the basque would be unlined, sheer organdy but then realized it would probably look a little messy with the skirt and its trimmings showing underneath so I underlined it with the same white cotton as with the bodice.

I fully finished the basque and belt pieces separately…..

then tacked them together by hand.

Then added more bows!

The final piece was the little hat/cap. I based mine off of examples such as these:

Bonnet, circa 1867, United States (Boston), MFA Boston

Mourning bonnet, 1865-1870

Journal des Demoiselles December 1866 Casey Fashion Plates Detail | Los Angeles Public Library

Well, actually, first I styled my wig, then went onto the hat. I began that just with a paper mock-up/template.

Which I then cut out of buckram……

and added wire around the perimeter.

I think I covered the top with two layers of the cotton twill/sateen I had been using for lining – 2 layers to help it lay smoothly. I think I covered the underside with one layer.

I added red binding around the edge by hand – you could *probably* do this by machine but I thought that would be just way too irritating considering the cap is a curved shape.

And, of course, more bows!

And that’s about all she wrote about this – quite substantial – project! If you have any questions about any of this process please do let me know in the comments and I’ll be happy to answer as best I can! Thanks for stopping by and bearing with me through this!

2 thoughts on “Sesquicentennial Ensemble: Making the Dress

  1. I’m fascinated by these posts. I look at the inspiration dress and try to think about all the different pieces that went into it. There’s always something that never occured to me.
    Thank you for sharing!


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