This is going to be a simple project. I swore my next 19th century project would be something elaborate and unique…But then I bought this plaid fabric with a civil war era gown in mind. Chopping it up to make a huge gored skirt would result in none of the stripes lining up and i’m not sure if I could deal with that!
So my elaborate dress from the 1860s is going to be on hold for the new year, and i’m making a much easier dress instead, because it suits this fabric nicely.
The design I came up with was mostly inspired by this and this. But instead of adding darts to the bodice, I want to pleat it. My original design also features bishop sleeves with cuffs, but I ended up changing that later on.
I’m making the dress from eight yards of this plaid material I got from Joanns, plus a yard of matching green fabric. This fabric was part of their “Fashion for Fall” line or something like that. It feels like a really nice wool flannel, and I love the weight of it.
Unlike wool flannel, it frays a lot, which sort of sucks. But on the bright side, it was 50% off and I had a 25% off entire purchase coupon, so it ended up costing $35 for the whole bolt!
I started off by draping the pattern. This was a big struggle to get the way I wanted. Usually draping goes quite quickly but I must have fought with this for a good hour!
I marked out all the pleats, then removed it from the dress form. It looked a little sketchy, not very precise at all, but I fixed it!
I turned that into a mock up and tried it on. I wanted a little more wiggle room, so I decided to let it out a half inch at each side. I also added darts to my pattern to take care of the shoulder wings.
The biggest issue here is that the front didn’t line up! I’m not sure how I didn’t realize that this would happen. It seems really obvious looking back on it, but it didn’t occur to me at all until I tried it on.
Since this bodice will close at the front with buttons, one side overlaps the over by an inch and a bit. Which means the pieces won’t meet in the middle – duh!
When that was resolved I cut the pieces out from my plaid material and marked out all the pleats and darts.
Then the front and back panels got pleated.
When that was done I stitched up the side seams – unfortunately these seams don’t line up! Neither does the one at the back. But everything else is pretty damn perfect when it comes to matching the stripes.
I marked the hem on the collar.
Then stitched it in place.
Before I could stitch that onto the bodice, I had to add lace! I was given two yards of this lace a few months ago, it’s really delicate and lovely. But it also happened to be white, and I wanted it to be darker.
I darkened it by tea staining it. I put it in a plastic bag with three packets of black tea for ten minutes to darken it to a beige. I let it dry overnight and sewed it on in the morning.
The collar portion was sewn onto the body of the garment and ta-dah, I had a bodice!
I tried it on and was quite pleased with it! The fit was very nice, the only issue were the shoulder wings. But I had been expecting those to pop up, so I wasn’t surprised by them.
If you are wondering why I don’t do them by machine, I have a few reasons! The first is because I don’t have a machine that does satin stitching, or button holes. I could borrow one but even then i’m not very fond of how machine stitched button holes look.
Even though you can adjust it, most machines don’t stitch very densely around the button hole. Which is okay with lightweight fabrics that aren’t prone to fraying, but really sucks if you are working with thicker fabrics, or fabrics that fray a lot. It’s the same thing for eyelets. You can do them on a sewing machine, but if done properly the hand stitched versions should be more durable, and hopefully, more visually pleasing.
But I totally suck at button holes, so that isn’t usually the case.
To prep for it I drew out some guidelines and stitched around them with my machine.
Then I slashed each one and stitched around them with a quadruple layer of cotton thread.
This sewing session went better than I had expected, but I still ended up with a lot of size variation from hole to hole, which isn’t good. The only way to get better is with practice, maybe next time will go better!
The buttons I chose were ones I picked up in NYC. Most of the buttons I came across were too shiny, plastic, or ugly. I don’t love these but they were the right size and had an okay finish so i’m happy I found them!
I actually think they look really nice on the garment!
The only photos I have of it worn also include my sleeve muslin. So that’s all for now. Next time i’ll talk about making the lining and sleeves.
Thanks for reading!