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Amy March Early Bustle era Ballgown
Outline the story …
When reading this year’s theme, I immediately knew who I wanted to make a dress for. A young adult Amy Curtis March from Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I decided to make a ‘historically adequate’ early bustle era ballgown that I imagine her wearing to a ball with Laurie. This would allow me to delve into an era that I didn't have much sewing experience in and try out many of the new techniques that I learned about this year. For the fabric I chose a lovely bright cool toned green silk fabric that I thought would fit Amy's personality perfectly (outgoing, charming, ambitious yet practical).
For the design of the gown, I took inspiration from several period dresses and de Gracieuse magazines from 1868 - 1871. The bodice was designed with a lowered semi sheer neckline and off the shoulder sleeves. For trim I went with some beautiful bold lace that I felt would suit Amy as a well off, fashionable young Victorian woman.
The overskirt elements were inspired by several fashion plates from de Gracieuse and consists of a bow like element on the back and a draped front apron, decorated with the same lace as the bodice. Since there was already quite a lot going on on the top, I decided to keep the base skirt fairly simple, without any extra trim to keep the focus on the overskirt and bodice.
Outline the construction…
For the underskirt I used the Truly Victorian TV203 pattern pieces but used the techniques I learned from the livecall about Victorian skirt construction by interlining the skirt with tarlatan, adding a hem facing with extra stiff tarlatan and whipstitching silk covered twill tape on as a waistband.
For the overskirt I made my own patterns. The front of the overskirt was draped and consists of silk interlined with a medium weight cotton. The hem is reinforced with tarlatan and has lace and fabric ruffles adorning the edges. The back bows are made of silk and lace. The big bow is interlined with tarlatan to give it a nice shape.
The base of the bodice pattern was drafted with the help of Reconstruction Era Fashions by Frances Grimble (first time using historical patterns to draft a bodice) and was made of silk interlined with cotton sateen with boning at the seams. The semi sheer part around the neckline was made of hand pleated cotton bobbinet held in place by tea dyed cotton lace and a silk ribbon. The same materials and techniques were used for the sleeves. Lace and fabric ruffles are added around the neckline as decoration. The inside of the bodice has cotton padding in it to give it the fashionable shape of the early 1870's. The back closes with spiral lacing and small handsewn eyelets.
I used a sewing machine to stitch together the main pattern pieces of all garments and used hand stitching for everything else.