Google+ Followers

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Ball Gowns, Bed Sheets, and Newspaper Men

I can finally bring myself to post about my Civil War ballgown because I have made up with it. When I initially finished it in time for the Dickens Ball in December (very fun event, by the way--you should totally go if you're in Utah this December), I was generally working on it when my husband wasn't around to lace me into the bodice, so it was difficult to check the fit. I put it on my dressmaker's dummy, but that is only generally the correct size, not the exact right shape. The result was an ill-fitting bodice that was off the shoulders too much...and before you criticize me for historical inaccuracy by saying that it should be off the shoulder, I must inform you that I used a design with braces (think decorative suspenders), which makes it significantly more likely that the shoulders would have been covered, even in the 1860s.

Too make my night more frustrating, my method of constructing the flower garland that attaches to the front of the skirt wasn't very strong, so it came apart during one of our more vigorous dances. I ended up having to take parts of it off and pin a couple of small bouquets onto my dress. Also, my cage crinoline was not done before I finished the skirt, so the shapes of the two (skirt and crinoline) did not correspond correctly, causing my skirt to lift strangely in the back. I know I'm a big baby, but it definitely dampened my spirits to have the dress I had intended to be rather spectacular fail spectacularly. Yes, I like attention, and yes, it probably only failed particularly spectacularly in my own mind, but none of that changes my disappointment at the time.

The beginning of the night--the garlands hadn't broken yet, but you can definitely see the odd way the braces were falling off my shoulders
This shows the lift at the back of my skirt from the crinoline and skirt not really matching the way they should. On a more positive note, it also shows my hair and hairpiece, which I did like.
This is after the garland broke. In my opinion, the skirt falls a little flat without it.
Not long after that ball, I fixed the garland, but it took me six months to work on the bodice again. In June, Old Glory Vintage Dancers performed and taught at the Thanksgiving Point Princess Festival, and I finally fixed my bodice so that I could wear the gown without all the frustration. Here are some pictures of the modified dress with a more normal hoop skirt under it. I wore somewhat eccentric jewelry with my gown that night because the featured princess for this year was pseudo-African. It was supposed to be in honor of her. The ball was also a masquerade.

Just this weekend, Jon and I went to a steampunk themed game night at a friend's house, and of course, Jon and I don't need much excuse to wear costumes. And we each have a few different steampunk costumes already, but we also don't need much excuse to come up with new costumes. Mine was mostly parts of costumes I've worn before, but in a day, I made a new skirt out of one of our old bedsheets. The fitted sheet was worn out, but the fabric of the flat sheet was still good, and it had a sateen (satin weave, but made of cotton) stripe that I liked. I got lucky and had many yards of trim that Jon won for me once that matched the sheet quite well. I used the same pattern for this skirt as for my embroidered red one; I just omitted the train because I wanted it to be more of a walking skirt. I think it turned out nicely.

Jon wanted to pretend to be doing a photoshoot of me.

And of course we like dancing poses
Jon bought a nice bowler hat a while back, and we found some nice mid-19th century pants at Gentleman's Emporium. He already had the vest and bowtie, and I altered one of his dress shirts with French cuffs to have a more rounded collar. He made simple arm garters out of lightweight leather and carried one of my antique cameras. I think he made a rather dapper Victorian newspaper man.

Jon is incurably silly.
Jon and me with his sister and cousin, who were also at the party
And now, just for fun, I will share the pictures I have from a steampunk photo shoot I was in. I modeled a few accessories for Kelley Emporium. I really want the parasol, the fascinator/hat, and the choker from the second photo down (the one I'm wearing in the other two photos is my own).


  1. Your Civil War ball gown is gorgeous! I'm hoping to make one for the Dicken's ball this year, but it's not a time period I've sewn before so it seems intimidating. You've done a gorgeous job - I am such a fan of the garlands and lace!

  2. Thank you! And if you can do Elizabethan, you can do Civil War. You just get to keep your curves instead of becoming an inverted cone. I definitely recommend making or buying a good corset, though. It's not about actual reduction unless you want that. You'll just never get that really smooth silhouette on a real human body, so the bodices only look right over corsets.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.