Friday, March 23, 2012

Welcoming Home the Civil War Heroes

The second period dance event we attended was an 1860's era ball held at the Town Hall in Holliston, Massachusetts.  Like the Salem Town Hall, the building features a large open space suitable for a ball or other social function and the period architecture added so much to the ambiance for the evening.  

Like the Regency Ball we attended last month, it was sponsored by the Commonwealth Vintage Dancers, which offers dance workshops for the dances of each period.

The style of the gown worn at an 1860's era ball is much more involved and elaborate.  A full hoop skirt is worn and the circumference of the hem of my dress was just over 200 inches.  In looking at fabrics, I again hit a stumbling block. The pattern I was working from called for nearly 8 yards of fabric, plus lining, lace, and ribbon. I found the perfect fabric hanging in my favorite curtain shop, Curtains 'n More, in Amesbury, Massachusetts.

Three ribbon embroidered shower curtain panels gave me the width for the skirt, decorative floral stripes, and plenty of fabric to complete the bodice.  The extra valances were used to embellish with fabric sashes over each shoulder.

To be able to get the fullness in the skirt without bunching fifteen feet of fabric, the skirt was extensively pleated at the waist.

The bodice and skirt are made separately and are not attached.  I plan to attach them in the future as the skirt tends to slide down, making dancing in the cumbersome hoop skirt quite a challenge.

In addition to getting the pleats even, I had to calculate placement of the floral motifs.
I calculated and marked the pleats and then tacked them by hand. Then I sewed around the top to hold them in place so I could attach the waistband.  The purple marks are disappearing seamstress marking pen. And yes, they did disappear, although it took closer to two days than the 24 hours promised on the package.
I used two valance sections to make the sashes that crossed over the bodice.  Using shower curtains instead of regular curtain panels gave me three extra decorative panels with finished edges. It made crafting the gown a breeze.
The finished waist. The waistband was cut from a decorative valance.

A scene from the 1860's era "Returning Heroes Ball".


  1. You guys are adorable, and that dress is scrumptious! My mother can sew like that -- well, she sews seldom now; she's 89 years old. But she could look at something, draw out the pattern and make it from scratch. And she could use anything. I think you're very creative. Love you blog, too, by the way.

  2. Dear Lori, welcome as our very first member and thanks for your wonderful comments. I felt like an aging fairy princess in that gown -- so much fun!! Glad you enjoy the blog. I'll be posting my adventures in creating vintage undergarments soon!


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