A White Civil War Day Dress

Hello there! Today I have some spare time to talk you about one of my recent creations!
Last September I sewn a new civil war costume (ok, I'm two months late, as usual) 'cause my first outfit needs a complete restyling. Since I had a little bit of budget I decided to sew a quite historically accurate costume in cotton and you know, sometimes natural fibres are not so cheap. I took my inspiration from a very famous extant gown, displayed at MET museum:

I immediately felt in love with it, the contrast between black and white is so classy! Alas, I knew I wouldn't be able to sew all that trim (I was out of time) and to achieve the double pointed bodice. So I started to think about my costume. My boyfriend found Simplicity #1818 on eBay and ok, I accepted the compromise: I was a little bit disappointed 'cause I no longer use commercial patterns but the envelope showed a nice day dress with trimmed lapels...I couldn't resist. There's a old Simplicity pattern which shows the white dress of MET but it's discontinued and really hard to find.

mmm red and black, my favourite! 
My dress would have been very simple, I wanted it to be authentic and elegant. The pattern includes some underpinnings as chemisette, undersleeves and neck wear. I worked on my costumes for 10 days but I had to sew the petticoat as well. The fabric is 100% cotton, nothing luxury but a good price for an accurate look (about 7€/mt for 2.80 mt height).
I started with the petticoat. The pattern includes the front skirt only, the rest of the garment has to be done by yourself cutting three rectangles of fabric and pleating them following the pattern directions. I marked the pleats with a disappearing marker. The skirt has been faced inwards and I added some interfacing to the waistband. Facing the skirt is a good way to keep the skirt in place and it helps to hide your hoops.

The chemisette and the neck wear have been really easy. The chemisette took a few hours to be done, I spent more time in looking for buttons but unfortunately I found plastic buttons only (don't tell anyone!). I put interfacing again in the collar and  the neck band, trimming it with black bias tape. The beautiful cammeo you can see is by Red Rose Creation. 

The chemisette has to be worn over your corset cover and ties at sides. It's a good way to wear something modest without the bulk of a true chemise and guess?, it's accurate! Collars are a must as well, remember these gowns weren't created to be washed every day so wearing collars is a smart choice to keep your gown safe and cleaner. And yes, collars are fashionable!

Then I started to work on the bodice. I started with the lining, adding all the necessary boning at centre back, sides and front. I did my boning channels using white bias tape. I had to reshape the centre back panel 'cause it was too wide for my back, so next time I'll use a size 6 instead of a 8. The front of the bodice fitted very well so I added the sleeves trimmed with white lace. I trimmed then the lapels with black trim and started to sew the buttonholes by hand. My boyfriend helped me making those lovely satin ribbons and the fabric buttons.
I didn't make any piping in my bodice. Wrong choice. Dresses of this era were piped. Piping is an accurate technique and is quite simple to do: all you need is a cord, bias tape and a sewing machine. You sew the cord into the bias tape, apply it on the right side of your garment and, if your garment is lined, you sandwich it between the main fabric and the garment. You sew everything in place, turn the garment inside out, and voilà, your piping is done! Piping is usually used on seams and hems of bodices but not in skirts. You can find a very good explanation at Historical Sewing

Then the skirt. I did the same process of the petticoat, facing the hem inwards, cutting the rectangles and knife pleating them; I trimmed the hem with black bias tape and I hide the facing seam with a long black lace strip. The last step have been the under sleeves, made of the same cotton of the gown with interfaced wrist. Unfortunately the back of the bodice kept on being too large with wrinkles. 

I did a bonnet as well from an old hat, trimmed with bias tape and lined in cotton. 

And now some photos of the finished ensemble: 

Back-view of the dress. Look at the wrinkles.

What do you think? I'm always happy to hear your impressions! 

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