I hadn't even planned on making a new ball gown for Gettysburg Remembrance Day in 2015. I have several 1850s and 1860s ball gowns that I love. However, while looking for wool plaid, I came across wool gauze at Farmhouse Fabrics, and my plans immediately changed. Wool gauze is one of those fabrics that has mostly disappeared to time, and there was no way I could pass it up!
I've worn this dress three times--to the Gettysburg ball, the Victorian Grand Ball in Pasadena, and to Costume College 2016.
Unfortunately, the only construction picture I have is the finished bodice point. I loathe making points, so it was an accomplishment! I had hit that time before an event where everything just needs to get done. It follows basic mid-century techniques though. It's flatlined with polished cotton from Needle and Thread and the edges are finished with narrow piping. The skirt is set with cartridge pleats on a straight waistband and basted to the bodice. It's trimmed with 4 inch silk rayon vintage ribbon from eBay, narrow silk ribbon from Farmhouse Fabrics, and self pleated trim. The bertha is a separate piece, and made of one wide piece of wool gauze pleated to fit. It closes over the left shoulder. The bodice laces up the back with spiral lacing, based on this bodice that belonged to the Empress Eugenie. The flower on the bodice is from A Pink Swan on Etsy. My necklace, bracelets, earrings, and paper flowers in my hair are from Dames a la Mode.
I do have some rather period correct damage to the dress. You'll notice that in this picture, the ribbon streamers are the same length, while the one on my right is a little longer in the first picture. I was flung during the ball in Gettysburg (where this picture was taken) and one ribbon ripped. It was thankfully right up top, so the repair was easy to hide!
I always find proportions to be one of the most important things in costuming. 1860s ball gown necklines typically sit on the point of the shoulder and angle slightly down to the center front. Because I'm so small, I find that to get the overall period looking line, I need to make the neckline a little lower. If I don't, the bodice sits too high on my chest, and doesn't give the correct look.
The pleating on the sleeves is made of unhemmed straight strips of fabric. I wanted to keep the lightness. The wool is very sheer, and you can see the shadow of the tight sleeve, which is trimmed the same way, under the loose sleeve.
The Masonic Temple in Pasadena is a lovely backdrop for period gowns!
My not period correct garters are a quote by Elizabeth Cady Stanton--The history of the past is but one long struggle upward to equality--something that sounds so much less true than when I made them.
I wore a different hairpiece at Costume College. During the day I wore my Regency version of Princess Leia's Bespin dress, and that hairpiece worked remarkably well for the 1860s!
The fabric on the dress is incredibly light and airy. It's so much fun to dance in :)