Monday, August 20, 2007

Civil War Gown retrospective

I made this dress a few years back for my sister and favorite dress up doll. It is a gown of cream satin taffeta and forest green velvet made to Simplicity's gown pattern #5724 and undergarment pattern #5726. All told the gown took ten days start to finish, unfortunately I had bitten off way more than I could chew.
Part One: the Undergarments
I made the chemise easily, really not a big deal there. The corset was a bit more difficult (and weighty, the stays are metal coil) but nothing beyond my capabilities. The crinoline we bought, I just couldn't quite bring myself to make one, unfortunately, since the dress calls for an oval crinoline and the one we got was round, the skirt didn't quite sit right. All this work took about two days. And I was quite happy with the results.
Part Two: the Gown
The gown was begun with the bodice, it was all green velvet with cream puff sleeves. It was
supposed to have a sort of yolk, but that got scrapped early on, you can see it in the picture to the left. The velvet used to make the dress is a plastic rather than cotton or silk velvet so the back is quite slippery, this made sewing the pieces together a rather arduous process and one that I didn't really enjoy. The top of the dress is trimmed in a narrow band of heavy cream lace which you can sort of see standing up from the bodice to the left. The "petals" of the gown are the same velvet as the dress, but are trimmed with a thick band of lighter weight cream lace. Aside from the tricky bit with the velvet, the bodice went together fairly well, even the sleeves were easy enough once I got it figured out. The bodice was finished with some casing made from the velvet to go along the bottom edge and a hook and eye closure up the back. In my opinion, a laced back, or even a zipper, would have been better here as it can take more stress and looks better. Between bursts of activity on the bodice I worked on the skirt, this is where the real problems started. Have you ever done tiers of ruffles? I haven't. And no matter what I did, I could not get them to look good. It was very frustrating. To the right is the dress on my impromptu dress form, a dining room char covered in enough pillows, the corset, and the crinoline to give it a enough body to hold the dress up. Back to the ruffles, first I tried pleating them, but gave up because I just don't have that kind of patience, next I tried to gather them, but then they looked awful, finally I just left the layer I'd gotten on on and called the rest a wash. it looked alright in the end but it would have looked better if I'd have done it right. The waist band of the skirt presented another problem, because of the weight of the velvet, it didn't pleat into the waistband like it was supposed to, instead you basically ended up with a bum roll on top. Instead of doing what I ought to have done and making darts, I decided to be done with it and just stick a draw string in it. Big mistake all that fabric I couldn't get under the waistband didn't want to fit under the bodice either, doh. Eventually, I got the thing hemmed and done enough and I put it away. If I ever pick it up again there's a lot I will do differently, different fabric for one, or perhaps the darts that I should have done. Oh well, it turned out looking alright (modeled below by a friend of mine) but not as well as I should have liked.

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