Posted by Edelweiss Patterns on September 7, 2014
This time last year I was in England, traveling through Jane Austen country, London, and the Lake District with a gigantic number of costumes in tow. This year I am thankful to say that my costumes are all neatly stashed in my closet (rather than in suitcases), but I *have* been putting a number of my costumes to use lately at quite a few English Country Dances I’ve been attending in my area. And when a really formal occasion comes up that I don’t have a costume for, I always love a good excuse to sew a new one! This ball gown was just such a project. As I was planning toward a Civil War reenactment that included an evening dance, I thought it would be really fun to make an 1860s gold ball gown with shirred cap sleeves… The finished result was slightly different than my initial sketch, but I was so happy with how it turned out and I’m sure I’ll wear it for years to come!
I drafted the pattern almost entirely from scratch, making at least three versions of the bodice muslin before finally arriving at a pattern that passed my inspection. I drew a sweetheart neckline, added three sets of vertical tucks, and lowered the “v” waist at the bodice edge beyond the first version. The shirred cap sleeves were so much fun to make (there’s just nothing like making strips of puffing out of silk shantung!), and I had the perfect English netting lace in my stash for the sleeve trim. At each sleeve I added two brown velvet ribbon bows, to tie in the dark chocolate brown color from the skirt.
The skirt was made from one of my favorite fabrics I’ve ever worked with. These pictures don’t really do the material justice, but it is a stiff silk taffeta in chocolate brown, and sprinkled with hundreds of sparkly gold glitter flowers which are painted on in a slightly raised pattern. It is 100% silk, usually $40 a yard, but I found it on sale for $5 a yard… Rather a bargain! So as it was, I think the gold silk shantung bodice and skirt panel ended up costing more than the yards and yards of chocolate brown silk taffeta did!
At the neckline I added a double ruffle of double-faced sating ribbon, and I used a wider version of the same ribbon for the bow at the “v” waist ending.
As I knew I would be doing a lot of dancing in this gown, I marked it for a hem quite shorter than I usually would – you really must wear flat shoes for English Country Dance styles, and since the first dance I wore it to was outside I definitely didn’t want to be stepping on it. My mother was exceedingly kind to actually hem the whole thing by hand (I was sewing like crazy on last week’s costume at the time), so I am very much indebted to her for saving the day on the project.
Unfortunately I was unable to get any pictures of the dress taken at the actual dance that I attended. (Sorry! I did take my camera along, but I was too busy dancing to remember to ask someone to take pictures.) So you’ll just have to take my word for it when I say it worked very well for dancing in! However, as it was a late night event outside, it’s probably just as well that I didn’t get any photographs, because it forced me to do a full blown photo shoot today in better lighting.
And while I may occasionally miss the beautiful locations I saw in England last year (which were such wonderful places to get costume pictures taken!), I am still so very thankful to live in a place where there are grand houses such as this one where I had photos taken today.
I had so much fun sewing this gown, and I hope you all enjoy the pictures, too!