Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Blue Wavy Stripe 1860's Dress

Well, our first living history demonstration of the year is behind us. It was wonderful! I was a little worried about how it would go and how the kids would do but they were great. Now to sit back a little, enjoy a breath or two, and look forward to our first full weekend event at the end of April.

I ended up making a new dress for the demonstration since refitting my old gown would have been more work than starting from scratch. I still want to redo it, but will do so when I have more time to deconstruct it, refit it, and then sew it back together. With a new dress one just has to cut and sew! I fitted a new bodice several weeks ago so already had a master pattern to work from, which does save so much time. 

While I really wanted to use my yellow lawn it has been quite a few years since I made my last sheer dress and I wasn't feeling very confident cutting into it. Sheer fabrics are treated a little differently and I didn't want to be rushed while making it. So I went to Jo Anns, coupon in hand, and found a blue and white printed stripe cotton that jumped out at me. 7 yards came home and a few days later I had a dress! Benjamin calls it the "M&M dress", because he thinks the wavy lines look like hundreds of m's. :) "Look mommy! M and m and m and m and m and m. . ."

I didn't do anything fancy for this one since the fabric is pretty decorative on its own. The only problem I ran into was when I was matching up the stripes at the seams. The printed stripe is printed off grain. Not terribly so, but definitely enough to drive me crazy. I had to make a choice. Cut everything on grain and have stripes going kinda wonky across the garment? Or cut according to the stripes and have the whole garment off grain? Since the stripes are just so noticeable I decided to go with cutting the dress based on the stripes. I think it was the right choice. The dress doesn't fit or hang badly (at least yet. . .I'll know more when I've worn it more) and its relieving to have all the stripes match up. 

I made the plainest possible bishop sleeves and little bias cut cap sleeves that are edged with piping. I decided to fasten the bodice with actual buttonholes for this dress instead of using the usual hook and eyes. I'm glad I did! 

To finish it off, I made a black silk belt to go with the reproduction belt buckle I got from Jeremy Richardson. Oh my gosh I love this buckle. It is just so beautiful. I have another one in silver that I can't wait to wear as well. The belt is made of a layer of buckram, covered with a layer of muslin and a layer of black silk and lined with white silk. The buckle just slides on and the belt closes in the back with hooks. 

I can't wait to wear this dress again; it's such a fun outfit! 

But I'm glad, too, that all my immediately needed projects are done and I can slow down some. That is soooo nice. Here are some pictures inside on the dressform so you can see the details better.


  1. That is such a wowwy-zowwy spring dress! The Victorians were so clever with their stripes and this is fabulous! Absolutely gorgeous.

  2. That is an absolutely beautiful gown!

  3. I love your dress! The pattern is so interesting and fun. And the belt and buttons just complete the look so well. I love it.

  4. Your projects never fail to inspire me, but your 1860's dresses are simply the best. I saw this in my instagram feed, and immediately pulled my mid-19th century calico prints out of the attic.

    The dress fits you beautifully, and you definitely made the right choice in the grain vs. print debate.

  5. Thank you everyone! I wasn't sure about the slightly wild print, but I'm glad I used it now that it's done.

  6. I really like this one, Sarah! The print is just lovely. It makes me think of china dishes, somehow...maybe it's the blue.


Thank you for your lovely thoughts!