Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Navy Dress

When Sami left us for Michigan in August, I remember standing out on the street saying a tearful goodbye at 2 a.m.  "Don't worry," she said, "you have a dress and a bonnet to finish before we see each other in Gettsyburg in November.  The time will fly by!"

Boy, was she right!

I had finished two 1860s dresses before this one - a green work dress that was unlined and only slightly fitted, and a cotton ball-gown with a lined, fitted bodice.  So, having done it once, I figured I had it down.


After an evening mostly spent cutting-out my navy wool and my cotton twill lining and then crying when I couldn't figure out how to get the right "fit,"  (and missing Sami-My-Sensei immensely), I made a pair of undersleeves and embroidered them 'cause, dammit, I'm good at SOME things.

Then I gave a call to good ole' Niamh O'Conlon.  She had me fitted in no-time, though truth be told we were probably a little too enthusiastic getting a snug fit.  More on that later.

My problem, of course, being that whenever I need help sewing, the person helping me ends up doing most of it, and I just end up making the same mistakes later . . .
My wonky by-hand running stitch on the darts . . .  Had to restitch the day before the Gettysburg event b/c the wool had pulled out of the seam.  I backstiched it that time around . . .

With the piping added, it takes shape!

That done, I decided I wanted to line the sleeves with this lovely rose silk I found at Joanne's.  From there I figured it would be nice to make some silk-covered buttons and a matching belt as well.  Luckily, I didn't take any pictures of the how wonky the wrist-edges of the sleeves ended up.  And the trim (finished in the car on the way to Gettysburg) covers it up pretty well . . . ;-)
Next time I'm going to ignore the pattern and make the sleeve, modified pagoda-or-not, much roomier.
You know, one of these days, I'm gonna learn how to effing sew . . .
Once I procure more ribbon, I'll be doing this same idea around and then up the side-seam of the sleeve to the shoulder.

It took a couple more sewing sessions with Niamh before the sleeves were attached well (it took me a couple tries) and we'd figured out the waist treatment.  I decided to defy historical accuracy and go for large, dramatic box-pleats, a distinctly late-60s style.  At that point it was starting to actually look like a dress, though the closure, as you can see, was ominously snug!  I think this pattern needs some serious re-adjustment next time I make it.  I think I'll go for the B-cup pattern, the C was too baggy, and tightening the darts didn't seem to help much.

I put my hand to the details, and came up with a collar, belt, and buttons.  Pinned-in, I could feel the excitement/panic rising!

I made the collar from scratch - I'd like to find a good pattern to work with next time, because it really does fold weird around the curve.  I should have cut it out on the bias, methinks.  Live & Learn.

Embroidery to match the undersleeves - just for the fun heck of it and it to make me feel better for being incompetent with the larger concepts of seamstress-ry.

I don't think it was 'til I took this picture that I believed I could finish the thing on my own.

A hop, skip, and some frantic car-sewing later, and I had finished the belt, bow, and minimal trim on the sleeves.  I'd also managed to make some hat-pins, a matching reticule, and trim a straw bonnet Samantha bought for me last summer, which I think I will put in a different post.  It's amazing what an immovable deadline can do for a project!

Gettysburg was fantastic!  An amazing time-traveling adventure with Samantha and her lovely friends - so much inspiration for later!  My dress was definitely not in the same league as those of the costuming-geniuses I got to hang with, but I was proud of it, and proud that I'd paid attention to period construction and trim tips so that I could hold my head high and help contribute to the 1863 atmosphere with the best of them :-)  All thanks to Sami's inspiration!


  1. you can be very, very proud of this dress, my dear! next... a silk dress! XD