Friday, 22 November 2013

1860 ballgown

July 2009
This is what I consider my last (hopefully) costume disaster. All the advances I had made in the previous year was thrown to the wind and the result was an illfitting, badly made mess.

In 2009 it was the 150th anniversary of the railroad between Gävle and Falun, and I decided to make a gown to wear for the celebration. This was my chance to finally make a full "Gone with the wind"-style dress, hoop skirt and all. I had just graduated from university, but was unemployed, and against my better judgement I followed the advice of "you shouldn't spend so much money on a single dress", and the result is very visible. I had also gained quite a lot of weight in the last months, and wasn't comfortable with my body, and to finish it all off I simply procrastinated so much that I ended up rushing to finish it.

Anyway I started with buying a hoop skirt. I found it on ebay, and it was described as bridal hoopskirt that could also work for Civil War gowns. Well sometimes things are too good to be true. It arrived, and the hoops started just above the knee, and it had more of a triangular profile than a nice rounded 19th century hoopskirt. I shortened it so that the hoops at least started somewhere on the thigh, and I also cut up the channels and managed to draw out the hoops a bit so that they got a bit wider.

My choice of fabric was really bad. I simply had to make do with the cheapest I could find, and ended up with a poly duchesse satin. I had wanted to make something out of cotton, more like a daydress, but that was too expensive. I really didn't have any money at all. Also my choice of fabric was limited to what I could find in the local stores, which is basically nothing. So poly satin it was. At least the colour was nice.

I made one petticoat, simply out of bed sheets, not enough to hide the hoops. The main skirt was made from some tutorial that I found online, can't find it now. Basically I sewed four lengths of fabric together, gathered them and sewed them to a waistband. I think I actually tried to make a proper cartridge pleating, and I handsewed both the pleats, and the pleats to the waistband. It was also the first time that I learned to sew a hem facing. I basially sewed a strip of cotton to the fabric, turned it up and sewed the facing to the skirt. Overall the skirt was the best thing with this gown and I learned a lot with. For example I could trust my handsewing and I made the best looking hem I had ever made.

For the bodice I bought the Truly Victorian 442 ballgown bodice. I really like Truly Victorian's
pattern in general and the instructions are quite clear. The problem here was that I couldn't make a properly fitted bodice on myself, I wasn't thorough enough, and the satin wrinkled as only poly satin can do. I flatlined the satin to a sturdy underfabric, but that didn't help, I probably didn't do it good enough. I was so unsure with making tightfitting clothes that I thought that I had made the bodice too big and added some extra panels in the back, which of course meant that in the end it got too big.

Status: non-existing

I was never happy with the final result. It was a learning curve, and I wasn't ready to make a costume or gown that required good tailoring. I have given the bodice away to my nieces so that they can use it for dressing up, the skirt was basically square pieces of fabric so when I needed fabric for my first try with an 18th century jacket I cut it up and reused it.

A good thing was that eventhough the hoopskirt is not a good 19th century shape, it's a really good shape for Amidala's purple travel gown.from Star Wars Episode I, so I use it for that costume. It has a tendency to collapse a bit under the heavy costume, but when I just stand still it gives a good shape.

I would still like to have a proper Civil War gown one day, but if I make one in the future I will start with making my own hoop skirt. I have the bodice pattern, and now I think I can make something a lot better than my attempt in 2009.

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