Friday, July 10, 2015

Civil War Ball Gown - Finally Finished!

Remember the Civil War Ball Gown I started over the winter? Well It's finally done!

What took me so long, you may ask. Well, I was making good progress on it, until I got tired of working with satin. I stuck the entire project in my sewing bag and kinda forgot about as I got busy with other projects (and going to Guatemala). Well, I finally got around to pulling the ball gown out again, and discovered how little I had left to do on it!
Before I put it away, I had completely finished hemming and pleating the skirt. The pleats were all basted in place.

Since the bodice was already done, all that was left to do was attach the skirt to the waistband.
So the first thing I did was make the waistband. In between the two layers of satin I added a piece of light weight cotton canvas to stabilize the waistband.

 I then graded the seams, turned it right side out, and got to attaching the skirt. Using heavy duty thread I hand sewed the skirt to the waistband. 

Once the skirt itself was attached, I sewed on all the skirt tabs, then stitched down the top layer of the waistband, all by hand. The hand sewing took a few hours but it was definitely worth it when I saw the finished product!

Now, I have been calling this dress a ball gown, and it certainly looks like one to our modern eyes, but actually it's not. Ball gowns in the mid 19th century were typically made of pastel colors, or even white. Why? Because, before the light bulb, ballrooms would be rather dark. So a young lady would be more noticeable in a lighter color. Darker colored dresses like mine were evening dresses, not ball gowns. Despite this, I still love the color scheme of my dress! Purple is one of my favorite colors, and purple with black trim is absolutely striking! It was also a rather common color combination for silk dresses of the time. I have come across several gorgeous purple and black original dresses. 

This is one of my favorites. Notice the extra bodice? It's a day bodice to be worn with the same skirt. I have some left over satin that I intend to make a similar bodice from. But for now, back to the dress I already have finished.

(It makes an excellent background to show off the shotgun I got for my birthday! Although my Dad's old muzzle-loader would be much closer to the right time period.)  

I am incredibly pleased with it, and so happy to have it finished! I may at some point add some more trim to the skirt tabs, but I haven't decided exactly what yet. (as you can see I decided to skip the flower petals.) Also, July's Historical Sew Monthly challenge is accessories, so I fully intend to complete a couple items to go along with my gown. I have bought the supplies, now just to figure out exactly what I want things to look like. So stay tuned, this project isn't over yet! 


  1. The dress is just fabulous. Do you do reenactments? I have tried my hand at a few costumes to wear to reenactments. Good for you. You have a stunning dress.

    1. Thanks! I would love to get involved in reinacting, but currently I'm not.

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