Wednesday, October 25, 2017

1860's Green Plaid Work Dress

This has definitely been a year for 1860's dresses. This is my most recent one and maybe my last for the year. Of course, I still have silk for a ball gown and material for a fancy sheer skirt and white waist folded up on a shelf in the sewing room but I don't think I will have need of outfits like those for quite some time. I really really want to get into the 18th century after this! Especially as I begin the process of documenting my ancestor for the DAR. (squeeee!!!!)

This dress ties in with a lot of the sewing I did over the summer that I have yet to blog about. Back in the spring I made a new set of over the hoop petticoats out of some sheets. I loved, and still love my new pettis! But the old ones were still in pretty good condition and I thought I may be able to remake them and give them a second life. I've been through many pregnancies since making them so the waistbands were the wrong size and the balance of the skirts very off. Still, very fixable.

Back when I made the old petticoats I still had a really bad habit of doing gathers on the machine for undergarments. By remaking them I was able to put on a proper waistband with proper stroked gathers. The new-old petticoats ended up pretty short. To balance them properly, I sewed on new bands of fabric at the top and balanced them from the waist. I made the length to go to right above my ankle bones. I find that at a lot of events my skirt hems get wet and heavy if there is any dampness and it's easy to see why hems for laboring women were sometimes made quite a bit shorter than usual!

Anyway, I ended up with two very serviceable, properly fitted and short petticoats. Around this same time I also made a bum pad to help give more lift to the skirts and create a better silhouette for this period. With my new awesome bum pad and pettis I needed a short-skirted dress!

I found a large flat queen size sheet at Goodwill for a few dollars and figured it was enough to make a plain work dress. I intended to have it done so I could wear it to an event in late September but that event ended up being cancelled a month before it was supposed to happen. (I wasn't too happy!) so I shelved the project for a while.

It did get finished though, just in time for several Halloween activities. The dress went together well although I had a little difficulty with the high thread count fabric and the fit of the armscyes. I hate armscye problems! It seems the fabric stretched a little so there was too much width across the upper chest. I had to take out the sleeves and recut the armscyes in a little smaller. There was enough fabric in the sheet to make the skirt about 140" in width at the hem. I had to piece one of the bias lower sleeves but the piecing is at the back and matched as well as I could manage. All in all, this is a great little work dress! It's comfortable and easy to wear and I think will be my go-to dress for any impression requiring a lot of activity. I made the bodice with just piping at the edge instead of my usual waistband. It gives a slightly different look but I like it as it's different from what I normally do. The waist is also a little bit higher to help balance out the shorter length of the skirts.
Accessorized for active wear, suitable for this time of year. 
It's been drizzly and cold, so I am wearing my (new!) big pinner apron,
scarf tied at the back waist, plaid neckerchief and quilted hood.
Accessorized for "better" indoor use with a silk belt and silver buckle,sheer fichu, white collar, mourning brooch, lightweight shawl and pink bead
earrings. This look is a little iffy since I am not wearing a hoop and most proper ladies of
the era would try to wear at least a modest hoop. This dress just won't do hoops. Nope. 

Thank  you to my oldest son for the pictures he took yesterday. It was fun creating different looks with different accessories!

Have a safe and happy Halloween!


  1. I love the drape of the skirt! It looks like it has a nice stiff rustly finish. Did you starch it before taking these pictures or is it just ironed smooth?

    1. Just ironed. That's one benefit of using a high thread count sheet. No starching needed! :D


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