This dress took sooo much longer to make than I anticipated, mostly because it’s really difficult to fit a dress when you’re not in the same state (excuse #1, I know). Interestingly, when we got to the point of having a good muslin, it only took a week or two to sew the dress.
Nearly a year ago, my SIL Margie asked if I would sew a replica of a historic dress for her. For their volunteer work at a 1900’s historic home in their community, my BIL John and SIL Margie needed a dress from that era. Delighted by the request however unfamiliar with sewing historical garments, I searched for patterns online and thankfully found PastPatterns.com. Specifically, their 1890’s Day Dress pattern was the pattern of choice.
Here’s a chronicle of the events leading up to the dress completion:
Summer, 2011 – request to sew the dress
Aug/Sept 2011 – Once again, Jomar’s in Philadelphia rose to the occasion. We planned for our long distance fabric selection and one evening I spent an hour or two digging through the fabric options at Jomar. After photographing candidate fabrics, I emailed the photo to Margie and John from my iPhone. “Yes, I like that one; I don’t care for that color; no that’s too blue; that green is nice” They settled on a lovely light green cotton brocade.
November 2011 – In my possession was a pattern and some fabric but we hadn’t been together so I could take measurements. Margie and I (with others) traveled to Spain together, so like a diligent sewist, I had my tape measure in my backpack. This preliminary set of measurements allowed me to alter the pattern and make a muslin.
Christmas 2011 – Margie and I saw each other for only an hour but had enough time to fit muslin #1.
January 2012 – Muslin #2 completed and mailed to her as then we lived a thousand miles from each other (now ~60 miles). John kindly took photos of the muslin and pinned some of the areas requiring alteration and returned the muslin to Philadelphia. His eye for detail was crucial for me to make the needed changes.
February – March - Now things really slowed down as the project was packed away in a moving box while I secretly hoped Margie wouldn’t need the dress.
April – Finally we had an in-person fitting of muslin #3. I was ready to cut the fashion fabric and start sewing the dress.
May – Margie stopped by our house for a fitting. I made a few sizing tweaks and pinned the hem. A week later my niece picked up the dress and delivered it. Whew!
All of my sewing friends know that the above outlined events were underscored by showing photos of Margie in the muslin followed by requests for fitting assistance. Thank you to my sewing colleagues who helped me along the journey.
I was so excited to be finished with the dress that I failed to take inside or construction photos however I can share a few details with you:
Fabric – cotton brocade was pre-washed twice to assure that it wouldn’t shrink in the future.
Lining - lightweight cotton-linen blend for the top only. The lining and fashion fabric were sewn as one. This was also pre-washed.
Seam finish – Hong Kong finish with silk organza to reduce bulk.
Buttons – vintage shank buttons purchased on Ebay. They even smelled vintage, or musty. The smell passed quickly. The 22 buttons forced me to learn an easy 2-minute buttonhole technique.
Pattern alterations – added a horizontal dart for bodice fitting. More about that on another post.
Details – a watch pocket on one of the side front seams. Margie has since purchased a pocket watch and chain.
This was a great project as it really stretched my skills at fitting. Margie said she got lots of compliments on her first wearing and I am very pleased with the outcome.