Monday, October 27, 2008

1820's Gown and Other Random Items

What happens when passion, inspiration and practical application all meet - crash - head on?

A new dress, of course! :) (to the right: original gown from Vintage Textile that first inspired my gown)

I have been plotting an 1820's gown these past two weeks now. David bought some some cotton print a few months ago that he originally intended for a Civil War style gown and my original intention was to make a modified 1850's fan front dress with it to wear to pre-war events. (one gets tired of making regular gathered bodices, you know?) However, now that I have two very servicable and fairly new cotton gowns and a silk and a wool gown I really don't *need* another reenacting gown and so David consented to my making an 1820's gown out of said fabric. He is becoming very interested in developing his pre-war impression and is even enthusiastic about this new dress-in-the-works.

My love affair with the 1820's springs from my deep love for New Salem, IL. I recently reread my dear book, Lincoln's New Salem, and the more I read the more I realized how much more opportunity American's had for making something for themselves while they sojourned on this earth. Back then, it was possible for almost anyone to do anything. I think of Lincoln, who learned the practice of surveying over the period of a few months, and was so good at what he did that he was often requested to resolve disputes about boundaries between neighbors!

I have such a huge amount to say about this dress - all the reasonings and speculations and decisions on styles. I want this dress to be accurate to the mid-late 1820's period and something a pioneer lady might have worn when she first came to the very unsettled and wild country of what is now the Sangamon and Menard counties.

One initial problem was the fabric I am using. Although the print seems pretty passable I wondered about the use of a printed cotton that early in the pioneer period. I honestly think wool or linsey-woolsey would be a better, more practical choice but the only linsey-woolsey fabric I could find was $28/yard.

I told David. At first he asked me what linsey-woolsey was. He then looked at me queerly. "You'd rather spend $28 a yard on linsey-woolsey than get some really nice silk for a dress?"

Oh dear. Yes.

Maybe someday. Of course it is foolish to spend so much on fabric for a dress that doesn't even really have a purpose beyond clothing my body for normal, every-day wear. We don't do 1820's events and sadly we don't live close enough to New Salem to even volunteer there regularly. We really, really want to - but so far that is still in our future. And New Salem is mainly 1830's, anyway.

Anyway, to cut short what could be a very long post, I am using my cotton fabric for the gown and used the lining pieces from the pelisse-robe in Janet Arnolds Patterns of Fashion 1 for my bodice. I have the muslin fitted and the material is ready to be cut out. (I have planned on cutting it out every day the past three days but have been busy with other things! Alas!) The pictures in this post are random photos of extant dresses I found while browsing the internet that inspire, one way or another, my finished dress design.

Goal: To have this dress done before Nov. 2nd, when I hope to wear it to a potluck supper we are going to for our Civil War reenacting group.

I think the next few posts will be very 1820's indeed. Besides making the gown, I also need to make a bodiced petticoat to go over my short stays and shift. I want to sew it all by hand but think in order to meet my deadline I will have to machine sew the inner seams and just use hand finishing on the exposed seams. It is a painful decision but a practical one.

And for the guess-which-one-is-false post I posted a few posts below, I have updated that with what is really true and which one isn't.
Glorious autumn day to all! We are supposed to get snow today!



  1. Oooh, I can't wait to see what it looks like. It's funny how us history buffs go through periods that we are interested in. I'm just fascinated by the 1790's. I know it's pushing a bit too early for Regency, but I don't care :-) I'm hoping to expand my wardrobe that way! God Bless!

    Love Lauren

  2. Gracious! Those are some beautiful dresses! I can't wait to see how your dress turns out. I'll be watching. :)

  3. I can't wait to see the dress you come up with! Sounds like a lot of fun:-)

    Lots of love,

  4. Very lovely! I am taken with what the women wore during WWI in Europe. I once found a 1916 nurse's cape but was too broke at the time. I still think of it often though.


Thank you for your lovely thoughts!