Sunday, January 13, 2013

My Victorian Style


So, in rather non-horsey fashion I've decided to write a post about another hobby of mine: sewing and historical reenacting.  Ok, ok, that was two hobbys--but they go together!
I like to sew.  I like to sew a lot.  As a kid I drafted, cut, and created a two piece fitted wedding gown for the one and only barbie doll I ever owned (and go figure, it was the Pioneer Barbie!).

I also love Victorian era history.  So it was only natural that I joined a Civil War Cavalry reenactment unit when I was in high school.  And when you put a love of sewing with a love of history together, what do you get?  An obession with constructing and wearing of historical garments, of course. 

Proud of my handiwork
So far I've constructed two full Civil War era dresses (a nicer "best" dress and a plain day/work dress), a cage crinoline (aka hoop skirt), corset, petticoat and chemise.  I've also sewn garments for my family such as a girl's dress for my step-daughter (I need to get pics of it, I'm rather proud of how it turned out). Pants, shirts, and suspenders are also in my skill set.

But, I'm getting that itch to make something else...  Something fun and new.  Like an 1870s Bustle Dress!!!
Oh so very Victorian
My reenacting unit does impressions from the 1850s (pre-Civil War) all the way into the late 1870s (Indian Wars).  The above fashion plate from Godey's magazine is 1874 styles.  The Bustle era fluctuated a LOT between 1869 and the 1890s.  The style I'm after is the first or early bustle era.  When ladies were first starting to get away from the full, round shirts of the Civil War and were sweeping that fabric up into elaborate designs along the backside. The sewing machine was becoming common place in households which resulted in beautiful and intricate ruching, ruffling, gathering, and trimming.  The possibilities are endless.

Being out on the western frontier, if I am going to make a full on bustle dress it's going to be a nice dress, something the lady would wear to Sunday church or evening events.  Otherwise, in her day-to-day activities she'd being wearing a simple day/frontier dress made of cotton or wool (depending on time of year) that would not have the elaborate designs and bustle padding.  This dress will be made of silk.  And to be period correct, we are talking 100% silk, that runs $16-24/yard.  At 7 yards of fabric for a dress... you do the math.  Maybe this summer I'll weasel away some pocket change so that I can make it come true.  I've never worked with silk before, but mmmmmm it sounds delicious!  I just need to decide on what colors.... maybe an indigo blue and cream. 

In the mean time... that green and white checked dress shown above? I think I'll satisfy my sewing and designing urges by remaking the bodice of that dress.  Maybe a jacket type style over a white blouse? Or just make one with fancier necklines and sleeves, with a pointed front.... either way, definitely want to add some dark green or black lace trim, AND I want to re-gather the skirt, without a doubt, when I made it before I was on a deadline and it kinda got rushed and was a bit sloppy.  I want to re-do the skirt with pleating like this one:
My inspiration - isn't it gorgeous?
Ok, I guess I'll stop rambling and go back to my idle browsing of Godey's Lady's Book fashion plates while I wait for baby to go to sleep (little stinker likes to stay up late!! Mommy no likey).... it's been a good distraction after watching the Broncos loose this afternoon in overtime (which sucked by the way--one little mistake and we gave the game away, booo).

Maybe I should make myself a sewing/reenacting blog.... call it something along the lines of "Victorian Style on the Colorado Frontier" .... I'll havta muse on that.



Wow, that is impressive! I have always been obsessed with pre-1900s history, but I have never actually done something with that love.

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