Thursday, March 7, 2013

A Dress of Purple Plaid

The next Sew Fortnightly challenge is "Peasants and Pioneers". My project isn't done yet, but I'm working on it. I got a lot done today so should have the dress totally done by this weekend. I tried it on today for the final fitting. The sleeves are tight, but I knew they would be, so I think all is well to finish it up and call it good.

I found the fabric a few weeks ago at an antique mall. It's a semi coarse wool. There were only 3 yards of it but it was only $12 for the whole piece.

I contemplated making David a frock coat out of it (wouldn't a purple plaid frock coat be amazingly awesome?!) but he didn't spring for the idea with as much passion as I had hoped. Sarah from A Most Peculiar Mademoiselle suggested a very plain, working-class dress. The more I thought about the more I was drawn to the idea, so that is what I did. It worked well for the category of the challenge. This is about as peasanty and pioneery as I can get!
In-construction. At a point where I was considering skirt trim.

There were only three yards, so first I cut and set aside two full width panels for the skirt. The less-than-a-yard that remained was sufficient to cut out my basic bodice. There was a long skinny piece of fabric left. I had to piece the sleeves (each sleeve is made of 3 pieces) and the sleeves are a bit short, and quite tight, but I made it! Whew. I was worried I wasn't going to be able to. I cut the itty bitty scraps that were left over into bias strips and eeked out enough for piping for the neckline, armscyes and waistline. The sleeves are lined with pale blue cotton and are wide enough at the hem so I can roll or push them up to my elbows.

The bodice is darted-to-fit, as that was a common treatment for wools during the mid-19th century. (silks too; though cottons generally were gathered-to-fit over a darted lining). The bodice is flat lined with pale blue cotton that I cannibalized from some thrifted curtains.
Excuse the hat. . .yes, it is a mans hat. But I didn't feel like doing my hair in a period style just to check the fit of the dress, so it hides the farbism.

Other than that there is not much to say about it. It's so plain. The only cool thing about it is the color. I like the vivid purple plaid.
The back is cut in 3 pieces to help add to the illusion of a little waist.

I plan to wear it with a neckerchief instead of a collar, an apron and bonnet. No hoops. For these pics I tried it on over my corded petticoat and my brown checked "work" petticoat. Another plain petticoat or two will help the skirts pouf out nicely.

It will be just the thing to wear to our first event in May, where David will be portraying a Confederate. This dress seems very Confederate-y. I have long been pro-Union (not in personal sentiment, but because I feel that is being most true to my would-have-been self, since I am a native Rhode Islander) but it feels right to be Confederate this year. The boys and the baby and I will visit him at his hospital portraying a local farmwife offering eggs and first garden produce for sale for the sick and injured.



  1. I think it is very pretty! I really need to think about getting another dress made. One dress isn't nearly enough. =)
    Does the first event happen to be the Delavan reenactment?

  2. You make it look so easy! Everything you make is utterly lovely, and your fitting is spot-on. How I admire your work!

  3. Very pretty frabic and a beatifull and simple dress as I like it.

  4. Durable, sensible and pretty!

  5. It turned out very well, the skirt is not as skimpy as you'd led me to believe ;) Delightfully simple, and yet fitted to perfection, as always!

  6. It looks great! What a lovely colour!

  7. I've been thinking maybe I *could* wear a "work dress" or "pioneer dress" around my home.....yours is soooo beautiful, but I'm afraid the skirt would be too full. I feel I did need do some more research and see what compromises I can make. No, I would not be sewing for any reenactments (none here in Southern IL that I know of) so it would have to be a "daily" dress. But OH I do love he color of yours, and I LOVE how you made up the plaid!!!!

    Kathleen in IL

  8. Thanks Kathleen!

    I think it is totally possible to make a work dress or pioneer dress around the house. Thanks so much for your kind words!

    If I were to make one like this for modern wear, this is probably what I'd do to change it up:

    1. Make it to fit over modern undergarments (much as I love the firm figure a corset can give, I just don't think I could wear one all the time - I tend to slouch and lounge and thats kinda hard to do in a corset. ;)

    2. Make the skirts a tad less full, like you said. This skirt isn't really that full (it's 2 panels of 60" wide fabric) but you could probably take that down to around 80" and still have a comfortably full skirt. I'd also shorten it a tad for around the house wear, maybe to lower calf or even mid calf.

    3.Make the fit less tight, in general. Maybe even leave the bodice not darted, and put elastic in the waistline of the dress for ease of wearing/moving.

    So, those are some things I might change to make a daily-wear sort of dress.

    I reallly like the color too. It's one thing that made me know the fabric was a "must have" when I saw it. ;)


Thank you for your lovely thoughts!