This winter I was contacted by 'The Oaks' House Museum in Jackson, Mississippi about making an 1850s dress for display. Needless to say, I was honored and delighted as could be to take on such a wonderful project! As you probably already know, even though I do alot of costume work for Etsy, historical reproductions are my true sewing passion!
'The Oaks' is one of the few remaining houses in Jackson that wasn't burned down during the War Bewteen the States. Isn't it lovely? I'd love to visit someday!
The first sketches, trying to decide what style/years of dress to choose. In the end we decided on a fan-front style, similar to the green fan-front dress shown.
Eliza Ellis Boyd (a later portrait)
The target years decided on were 1856-7, when the lady of the house, Mrs. Boyd, would have been in her mid-thirties. We also decided to use sheer cotton fabric for the dress. Something that would represent a 'nicer' summer dress, but wouldn't be as stuffy (or expensive!) as silk or wool.
Inspiration pictures of 1850s-1860 original sheer dresses:
Fabric chosen: deep purple, yellow, and white cotton floral voile. Sheer fabrics are always so lovely!
Pre-sewing dress sketch:
Fan-front bodice, separate lace collar, double ruffle on full gathered skirt and pagoda sleeves, with white barred voile undersleeves.
I used a combination of Past Patterns Fan Front and Darted bodice patterns...
All seams and stitching visible to the outside were hand-sewn. That meant the hems of the 2 skirt ruffles too. Let me tell you, that's alot of ruffles....seemed like miles when I was in the middle of it!
The whole process was really great - I just loved every minute of it!! The material was great, and I loved doing all the little detail work.
The finished ensemble:
Fastens up back with tiny white china piecrust buttons.
The lace used on the collar and cuffs was sent to me by the museum curator - it's an absolutely gorgeous creamy lace netting - just perfect to finish off the dress!
I also used it as an overlay for the undersleeve cuffs:
I love the way the full pagoda sleeves drape! So elegant...
The dress was shipped off to the Museum just this week! I hope it does well in their display, it was such a pleasure and a priveledge to work on this piece!