Peach Ball Gown, c. 1864-6

1860s ball gown made of taffeta (synthetic, unfortunately, but probably vintage, and with a nicer feel, appearance, and drape than that of most of the synthetic taffeta I see these days). As the taffeta was very thin, all the pieces of both skirt and bodice were first flat-lined with cotton before being assembled. Truly Victorian #247 was used for the skirt. The panels were seamed, and then the waist edge was pleated and encased in a waistband. The skirt closes at the back with a hook and eye. The bodice is Past Patterns #715 but with different sleeves. It is lined in cotton, and trimmed with white silk chiffon and vintage velvet ribbons, and it closes at the back with eyelets done in silk buttonhole twist.
Dress Diary
First things first, I dug out the taffeta from my stash that I plan to use. It's quite thin, so I think I'll have to flat-line it. Below is a picture of the fabric ("modelled" by my kitty, Halloween):
Halloween sitting on apricot taffeta
And, since this is a new pattern and has to fit/fall just right over an elliptical-shaped hoop, I decided to do a test-run of the pattern in some blue cotton:
At present, I only have four of the nine panels of the ball gown skirt cut out and basted together, ready to go, and the other five still need the taffeta cut and basted to the lining. Have I mentioned that flat-lining takes me forever? Mostly because I'm such a perfectionist about having it be perfectly smooth. . . I also have one bodice muslin mock-up done, and the other two cut out (since I'm deciding between three patterns: Past Patterns #704, Past Patterns #715, or Simplicity #5724). So, I have plenty of work ahead of me!
I made a muslin mock-up of each pattern so that I could compare style, fit, and quality. Below are the pictures and details about each one. . .

Past Patterns #704
While this one is not too bad as far as fit goes, I have some other reservations about it. Right off the bat, I'm not happy that the seams are not the same length (or even nearly so, in some cases). I also thought the center front point is too long, but that should not be a hard fix. I am a little bit short-waisted, but this pattern seemed really quite long-waisted. From looking at bodices of the era, I'm thinking the edge of the bodice should hit the waist, but this one clearly doesn't. So, some revisions are definitely needed to make this pattern useful.

Past Patterns #715
This is the pattern I'm presently leaning towards using. The fitting work is already pretty much done, thanks to a workshop I attended for this bodice a few years ago. The only problem is that I don't have the complete pattern directions since I'm still awaiting it's official release. However, I think I could manage it, using the instruction sheet from Past Pattern's #704 to help guide me through it, and using common sense for anything not addressed in that pattern delta.

Simplicity #5724
All I have to say about this pattern is. . . Holy bust room, Batman!!! Just look at the side view of this thing compared to the other two. I am definitely not going to be able to fill this thing out, so there's revision #1 to be made, should I choose this pattern. I also really don't like the way the seam of the back two pieces forms a 90 degree angle. I know this is a period-correct style, but it can be challenging to make the fabric do this in a nice smooth fashion, especially when you are working with two layers of fabric as one (as I will be).

And in other news: It's official, the flat-lining of the skirt is completely done! Hooray!
We have a skirt! Seams all sewn by hand, no less (because I was worried about slipping/puckering with all these layers I've got going on!) It lacks only closures/hem. . .
After weeks of procrastinating, followed by one insane heck of a sewing spree, I have a wearable bodice (which, by the way, I went with Past Patterns #715 for, but with different sleeves). I wouldn't go so far as to call it "done," since I am not satisfied with the trimmings (the chiffon is just tacked on, and I had more plans for the velvet ribbon!) and I didn't finish the eyets. . . But it got me to the ball, which is where this picture was taken:
Over the past week and a half or so, I took the old chiffon "bertha" off of my ball gown, ironed it, and started over. I'm much happier with the trimmings now! I still would like to add some more ribbons/flowers. (And, I definitely really need to add flounces to my petticoat, to better hide my hoop ridges!)
This page © 2010 by Jennifer E. Lithgow