Sunday, July 4, 2010

Independence Day, 1860's Style

It seems, now, for all festive occasions we have taken to wearing our 1860's clothing. This Independence Day was no different - it was a perfect excuse for dressing up. It was David's idea, actually.
Now, I am a lover of most historic fashion. In fact, the 1860's era I really don't like, fashion-wise. The styles really are not all that flattering and really, compared to other eras, severely plain. Still, I find myself more and more being drawn into it. I feel completely comfortable in my 1860's garb and wearing it is second nature. I actually prefer it to my modern (or semi modern) clothing that I have gone back to wearing on a daily basis. This is not the case, with, say, a regency dress. I guess the feel of other eras is just foreign to me. 1860's fashion is "home". I guess it always will be. I am becoming reconciled. I did not choose the 1860's; rather, it chose me.
Anyway, for the occasion of the 4th we donned our petticoats, tunics, gowns, waistcoats and trousers. David requested I make patriotic cockades for us. Since this was suggested the day before we needed them, my versions are made from modern (poly) grosgrain ribbon. I looked at a few examples of originals in Echoes of Glory and based ours off the least ornate. David contributed two Federal Eagle buttons for the centers. I did not have time to make the boys their cockades but no matter, they would have pulled them off anyway and perhaps done Horrid Things with the straight pins we attached them with!

To make Malachi's gown festive was a simple matter of attaching two red bows at each shoulder.

The older boys wore their blue trousers, their new white-and-black print tunics and caps and a red taffeta necktie. The neckties did not last all day and they did not look extremely well because the tunics lack collars.

I was asked a while ago to do special music at our church for the 4th; and not a common patriotic song. Something a little different. I wracked my brains to think of something but every thought led to a dead end. I looked online, found some incredible very old (mid-to-late 18th century!) patriotic songs but they were chock full of the politics of the day. I tried to write a song of my own but struggled after I got the first verse and chorus down. It just wasn't working. I ended up recruiting David and we gave a rendition of The Battle Cry of Freedom, which was written in 1862 and was Abraham Lincoln's campaign song in 1864 when we he ran for the presidency with Andrew Johnson. David sang it; I accompanied him on my violin.

A very close second in our choice of song though was an old one from my copy of The Sacred Harp. Written in 1798 by Jezaniah Sumner, this song is filled with beautiful imagery and language.

The morning sun shines from the east
and spreads his glories to the west
All nations with his beams are blest
Where'ere the radiant light appears
So science spreads her lucid ray
O'er lands which long in darkness lay
She visits fair Columbia
And sets her sons among the stars
Fair freedom her attendant waits
To bless the portals of her gates
To crown the young and rising States
With laurels of immortal day
The British yoke, the Gallic chain,
Was urged upon our necks in vain
All haughty tyrants we disdain
And shout, Long Live America!



  1. I love these outfits.. esp. your red dress! It is so fun to see you guys wearing your 1860's clothes! I wish I could have been there to see your special music... maybe you could post a video of it on your blog?

    Have a wonderful day!
    Allison Elizabeth♥

  2. Dear Sarah,

    It sounds like you had a wonderful fourth -- and boy, I wish I'd been there to hear you and David perform together. As always, it's just lovely to read about the goings-on in and around your home.

    Your garden, too, just looks wonderful! Oh, so much bountifuller than mine! It might be that you live in a milder climate (at least as summer goes) because we've just gotten so hot we're drying up. But...such is Texas in July.

    Take care dear friend!

  3. Your family certainly looks more festive than any I saw this weekend! I love David's red shirt; very striking! I really think I need to find an excuse to make myself an 1860s ensemble. The more I see of yours the more I like the style.

  4. You all look wonderful!!! What fun! We did 1940's for our 4th.

  5. I would never have guessed you didn't like 1860s! I think you look especially lovely all dressed up. :)

    We didn't celebrate this year, much past going to our friends and discussing the Founding Fathers and modern failures. I suppose that could be considered honoring the independent tradition?

    Have a blessed day!

  6. Wenot really celebrate either. We went to see fireworks on the evening of the 3rd. On the 4th we had church and then stayed home the rest of the day. Jenny, discussing the Founding Fathers and modern failures sounds just like our cup of tea. :) David and I do that often.

    It was interesting to try to be "patriotic" when I am really not so. . .it does help donning 1860's (or other era) clothing to get me in a frame of mind for THAT era. I still felt like a hypocrite at church. David longed to sing "I Am A Good Rebel" which is a CW-era song that starts:

    "Oh I'm a good ol' rebel
    yes that is what I am
    For this fair land of freedom
    I do not care a d--n"

    But I convinced him that such a song was not appropriate for a church celebration. :)

    It is nice to celebrate our Independence Day. But it is sad that the tradition of true Independence has long been exchanged for governmental DEpendence. We have been giving up freedoms bit by bit ever since 1776. :(

  7. I just love that beautiful red gown–simply stunning!

  8. Hello... I am new to your page and I am going to take some sewing classes... I am interested in making Plain Dresses such as Amish, Mennonite, Quaker dresses... I am on a journey to dress Plain, Modest, Christian type and I want to make my own dresses... do you have any suggestions that might help me out a little... also... the cotton dresses you make do they have a lining and if they do is it cotton... I appreciate you taking the time out to read my comment... Peace of Christ be with you sister

  9. Jennifer, it is so good to meet you! Welcome to my wee blogging home; it is so wonderful to meet other like minded ladies.

    When I first started to wear dresses/skirts everyday I was introduced to the Friends and Prairie patterns. You can find these at Sadly it seems the Friends patterns are not being carried anymore but there are a few patterns left, last I checked there was one pattern left for the Traditional Mennonite Dress. The other dress patterns available from here are very pretty and modest too.

    If you are interested more in a historical style dress, then do check out Sense and Sensibility patterns! I wore plain attire til I got a regency gown pattern from this company and then I was hooked on historic styles! Some historic fashion is really NOT modest at all. . .and of course everyone ideas of modesty varies, but in general, I think all of S&S patterns are very modest, especially the Romantic Era gown and the 1914 Afternoon Dress. These styles are very feminine and attractive yet do not have low necklines/tight skirts or bodices, etc. Plus these patterns are nicely illustrated and most are easy enough for a beginner to use (I am not sure if you are just beginning sewing or not, but whatever level you are at, whether new or intermediate or advanced these are great styles to sew and can easily be altered to make a variety of styles!)

    I usually use only all natural fibers for my everyday dresses. . .and that is usually cotton. Cotton is nice because it is easily washable, it breathes, it is comfortable and usually it is pretty inexpensive. I hardly ever use any synthetic fibers, they are just icky to me. . .hard to sew with and they feel odd on my body. The exception is sometimes using a synthetic fabric for a "fancier" type dress for special occasions or church, but the last one I made was a regency-era ball gown style dress for Easter in 2009 out of synthetic lilac fabric, so I don't use them too often. And I've only worn that dress once since then.

    All my 1860's dresses are lined in the bodice and my lining is always cotton, either white or light colored.

    If I line other dresses, I always use cotton too. . .I just love cotton. :) (can you tell?!)

    Linen is also very nice but more expensive, and I love to use wool for winter weight stuff. Corderoy is nice for skirts for cooler weather, all in cotton of course.

    Again welcome! If you have any other questions please feel free to ask. . .and if you haven't checked it out already, you may be interested in joining the message board over at Sense and Sensibily patterns. ..lots of like minded ladies there!

  10. Hi Sarah,

    I was researching Federal cockades online and your photos came up in an image search. The cockades you made are beautiful. I'd love to have one!

    I'm glad that through my research I stumbled on your blog, as I am thoroughly enjoying it. Looking forward to new posts!

    All my best,
    Kristina in Michigan


Thank you for your lovely thoughts!