Sunday, March 18, 2012

Back to the 1860s! Finally, a new dress...

I have finally gotten back to sewing for myself, and have a new silk 1860s gown to show for my efforts!  Last weekend the Mariner's Museum here in Virginia had their 150th anniversary event of the Battle of Hampton Roads (the fight between the Moniter and the Merrimac).  Obviously, I had very little to do with the naval history side of things, but myself and a few other ladies had a display of various sewing and needlework and fashions which we talked about and gave demonstrations of.  It was a long weekend and very exhausting, but quite fun.  It's always so refreshing to be able to do Civil War events every now and then...

There was a gentleman at the event who was taking tintypes, so the three of us had our image taken together.  I was a little amused that between us we represented three different generations, and had somewhat unintentionally dressed ourselves accordingly.  And I'm always happy to take on the burden of portraying the young, fashionable side of society.  ;)

It's also interesting to me to see how tintypes and period photography really give no real hints toward color at all.  One would never imagine, for instance, that the dress I'm wearing in the tintype is really such a rich, intense blue.

The dress is made of silk taffeta, which languished in my stash for a long time on the grounds that I already had too many blue costumes... but considering I don't wear them all at once, that reason fell apart under the weight of a non-existant budget.  The bodice lining and hem facing are brown polished cotton, and the trim is velvet ribbon.  Hopefully next time this dress appears in public there will be a great deal MORE ribbon on it.  The undersleeves are quite basic, made of white cotton organdy, and are basted into the armscye of the dress.

I also finally got pictures of the sontag I crocheted over a year ago.  This weekend was very chilly, and I was able to put it to good use.  The sontag was really easy to make, and I adapted an 1866 Peterson's pattern which was re-printed in 'Basic Accessories in Knit & Crochet' by Lynne Bury.  The original sontag would have been much too large for what I wanted, and since many patterns from that time say helpful things like 'do a lace pattern of your choice for 3-5 inches' I figured that it was entirely normal to use knitting/crochet patterns as general guidelines rather than the rule.

When I make clothes from the Civil War (or any time period for that matter) I typically fill my computer desktop with a collage of images that I'm drawing the design from, and which I will refer to when making trim decisions or finalizing the pattern.  Naturally I also refer to books, and for this time period I absolutely love 'The Way They Were: Dressed in 1860-1865' and its sequel by Donna Abraham. 

These images are what I had up when making this particular dress, mostly for trim placement and scale of sleeves and bodice points.

I also really love this image of a woman wearing a sontag.  Unlike most sontags you see many reenactors wearing, it's not very large at all and in fact doesn't even wrap around to her back.  The edge at least is clearly crocheted, and the contrasting color is something I considered and used when making my own.


  1. I concur! Just gorgeous! Love the tintype!

  2. I love the pattern on for your gown~Do you know where I could find one similar? I desperately need a new reenacting dress after my fourth baby none of my others fit! Thank, I love your site, so helpful

    1. Thank you! I drafted the pattern myself, but one of the discontinued Simplicity patterns is the closest one out there I think, and I'm sure you can find it on ebay or etsy... its 3791.