Tuesday, January 23, 2018

title pic My Scarlett O’Hara Ballgown Part 1 – Hollywood Pattern 1988

Posted by Edelweiss Patterns on July 20, 2014

The Gone with the Wind Picnic Dress – Hollywood Pattern 1988 Pattern Review

Hello, Readers!

Ever since I found a copy of vintage Hollywood Pattern #1988 on Ebay a couple months ago (one of the rarest patterns in the world), I knew that I would someday recreate the Scarlett O’hara picnic dress.  But I had no idea that I would sew it so soon!  While I’m not really a fan of the film Gone with the Wind, (I like happy films!), I have long admired many of the movie’s Civil War ballgowns and day dresses which I’d seen pictures of for years.  Scarlett’s ivory and green flowered gown with it’s billowy ruffles and green velvet sash made for one of the most elegant and iconic costumes to ever grace the screen. :)


Hollywood Pattern #1988 was released in 1940, from everything we can tell, just a year after Gone with the Wind was released in 1939.  The designers of the pattern did an amazing job of recreating the bodice, but when I measured the bottom of the skirt circumference, it came up at around 130″, if I remember correctly.  The issue here is that while the skirt may have made a lovely 1940s evening gown, it just wasn’t going to come anywhere near the width of a Civil War era dress, and certainly wouldn’t fit over period hoops.


So throughout the whole sewing process, I was often faced with the choice of: “Should I do it just like the pattern says, or should I make it look more like the actual film costume?”  Then again, the actual film costume itself wasn’t even entirely accurate to the era – Scarlett’s dress was a one piece combination of bodice and skirt, whereas a dress from the 1860s was nearly always made with the skirt and bodice separate.  I believe that in early Hollywood movies, they were most likely concerned more with “How will this look (or function) on screen?”, as opposed to, “Will this be period authentic?”  And sometimes the costume designers would even take the problem one step further by conveniently using styles inspired by the popular fashions at the moment.  For instance, the lovely Olivia de Havilland wore bias cut, silk charmeuse gowns (which were totally inspired by evening fashions of the 1930s) in the 1938 Robin Hood, rather than only medieval looking brocade dresses…

But back to my costume!  The only main change I made to Hollywood Pattern 1988 was widening and lengthening the skirt pieces to accommodate a hoop skirt underneath.  As for the fabric, I didn’t have time to order an exact replica of the movie material online and wait to get it shipped.  So I just went to my local fabric store and found an 1860s reproduction print by Moda Fabrics which at least had the same thing – an ivory background with green flowers and leaves, albeit much smaller flowers than on the original version.

Below are pictures of the sewing process.  I knew this would be a project I’d want to remember, so I managed to snap quite a few photos:


Above you can see the two neckline ruffled before they were hemmed or decorated.  Both circular ruffles were to be hemmed of course, but the upper ruffle was supposed to be trimmed with the beading.  And the 5 yards of beading, in turn, was to be laced with 5 yards of green velvet ribbon.


It was not an easy feat!  I think it took well over an hour just to lace the ribbon through all that beading lace. :)


Then this was what the bodice looked like prior to get the ruffle treatment.  (Above)


And finally, after all the ruffles were attached, it really started to look like the movie costume!  The gigantic, pouffy ruffles were totally worth all the intricate work it took to make them!


Next, I made bias binding from the same Moda reproduction fabric to finish the armhole edges.


Applying bias binding to circular edges is one of the finer moments in sewing. So fun!


At this point I put the bodice on my mannequin since it was just waiting on the skirt.  I was so excited with how it was coming along!  Those ruffles are really what make the design, I think.   And up above is a prime example of when I chose to copy the movie version, rather than follow the pattern precisely.  It’s just a small change, but a change nevertheless – the movie costume had three velvet ribbon bows at the neckline: one at the center front and one at each shoulder seam.  The pattern however, omitted the two bows at the shoulder.  I decided to keep all three bows.  :)


The next day I didn’t take a lot of photos of construction because it was just one day before the ball and I was sewing at top speed.  But once the skirt was on (and skirt lining as well), the next step was to insert the zipper.  And with nine yards of fabric in this dress by then, it was no easy task to maneuver all the material through the sewing machine!


So then, the very day of the ball, I finally wrapped up the final steps on the project and I was ready to go!  I have TONS of photos from this most amazing Civil War Ball I attended while wearing the gown, but I will be sharing those in a few days.  :)


Until then, here are just a couple shots so you can get an idea of what it looked like.



{Photo Credit : Sarah of http://pintucksandpinafores.blogspot.com/ – Thank you, Sarah!}

It’s not very often that there’s a real, bonafide reason to make a Civil War costume like this, so it was so nice to have an occasion to wear it to!  The ball I attended was quite possibly even more fun than the Grand Regency ball in Bath, England.  So stay tuned for more pictures later this week!

Happy sewing,


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