Jo March’s Visiting Dress



Tiffany Gayle


(click images to to enlarge)

Other Credits

Photographer: Chad Gayle, my talented husband

Outline the story …

I have loved the book "Little Women" since I was 10 years old, so when I found this year’s competition and theme, I had to enter an ensemble for Jo March! I began re-reading LIttle Women and was struck by two different dresses. The first was her maroon cotton poplin with the "stiff gentlemanly collar” that she wore to Sally’s party in chapter three, and the other was the dress with the train that she wore when going out calling with Amy in chapter 29. I could not find cotton poplin in a suitable color, but I did find the perfect silk, so I decided to make the dress that Jo wore when she went visiting with Amy.

According to the book, Jo was a tomboy, preferred gentlemanly fashion, wanted to fight in the Civil War, and often wore shades of red., When I began perusing photos of extant dresses to determine a style for Jo’s dress, I learned that military style was adopted into American women’s fashion details during and after the American Civil War. Because of her characterization, I assume Jo would have been one of the women who wore such fashion. The bodice of the dress I created for Jo is fashioned similarly to the “French Guard Jacket” from Peterson’s 1864 magazine, while the skirt is based off the skirts from several extant examples from the late 1860s. The military trim details are all taken from examples seen on extant dresses of the late 1860s.

Outline the construction…

Although I have been sewing for 30 years, I only made my first historical clothing and drafted my first pattern last year. Therefore, this dress represents the cumulation of my new skills and research from the past year, and even represents a few firsts: the cartridge pleats on the center back skirt, my first covered buttons, my first self-drafted sleeves.

The dress is made of a ruby striped silk from Renaissance Fabrics, trimmed with vintage gold tassels and gold silk sourced from Farmhouse Fabrics, and lined with cotton sateen from a Facebook destash group.

The entire pattern was self-drafted. I began with my bodice block that I had drafted last year from the free instructions on Foundations Revealed and adapted it to mimic the French Guard Jacket and extant bodices. Although I referred to Peterson’s pattern diagram as a visual guide, I did not scale it up, nor follow it exactly. I incorporated the key elements of the 1860s bodice: dropped shoulders, double front darts, back princess seams, and historical shoulder and side seam placement. The skirt is constructed of seven A-line panels, and the sleeve is modeled after the “coat sleeve” styles of the 1860s.

Elizabeth Stewart Clark’s and Jennifer Rosborough’s websites were both invaluable in helping me figure out cartridge pleating. I incorporated many of the other historical sewing techniques I have learned in the past year: hem facing, interlining bodice and sleeves, boning seams, waist tape, and skirt placket and used a mixture of machine and hand-sewing.




  1. Kitty Mortensen Kitty Mortensen on March 11, 2021 at 8:41 pm

    Oh my, this is absolutely breathtaking!

    • Avatar Leora Wambach on March 11, 2021 at 9:17 pm


      • Avatar Tiffany on March 12, 2021 at 1:48 am

        You are too kind, Leora! Thank you!

      • Avatar Tamara on March 13, 2021 at 2:46 pm

        This caught my attention immediately.
        I had to stop and see the close ups.
        The colour and construction are both flawless.

        • Avatar Tiffany on March 15, 2021 at 2:38 pm

          Tamara – Thank you so much for your high praise!

    • Avatar Tiffany on March 12, 2021 at 1:48 am

      Thank you so much, Kitty!

  2. Avatar Elena Migliorin on March 13, 2021 at 11:25 am

    I love the vibrant colors you’ve chosen. It looks pretty difficult in terms of sewing techniques and I think you’ve made a perfect job in all of them! Everything look so precisely crafted and it really looks like it came out of Jo’s wardrobe! Very nicely done! Good luck with the competition!

    • Avatar Tiffany on March 15, 2021 at 2:39 pm

      Elena – Thank you for your kind words and well wishes! When I saw that ruby silk, it just screamed Jo’s name at me, and I’m so glad I’m not the only one who sees that!

  3. Avatar Leah Christlanda on March 13, 2021 at 2:41 pm

    Stunning. this color is divine and looks wonderful on you.

    • Avatar Tiffany on March 15, 2021 at 2:40 pm

      Leah – Thank you for your kind words!

  4. Avatar Hilary Donaldson on March 13, 2021 at 5:28 pm

    Stunning fabric beautiful red colour, clever of you to incorporate the military theme🤩

    • Avatar Tiffany on March 15, 2021 at 2:41 pm

      Hilary – Thank you! Jo did wish to run off and join the military, so when I found it was actually a fashion trend….the rest was history!

  5. Avatar Mandy Pursley on March 14, 2021 at 2:54 am

    This is just beautiful! But I especially love all the details you put in with Jo’s personality and the military style, all while creating a showstopper piece!

    • Avatar Tiffany on March 15, 2021 at 2:42 pm

      Mandy – Thank you! I am a high school English teacher by day, so with this piece I got to combine my two great loves – literature and sewing!

  6. Avatar Catherine Sutton on March 14, 2021 at 6:14 am

    Absolutely stunning! I love the colours and all the details!

    • Avatar Tiffany on March 15, 2021 at 2:43 pm

      Catherine – Thank you so much for your kind words!

  7. Avatar Nancy Stange on March 16, 2021 at 6:45 pm

    This is so beautifully done, and hand drafted no less. My first thought was “Oh my God, she looks like a fire ruby!” The military coat, the gold embellishments, and the proportions of the bustle with the full skirt are just divine. I absolutely love it!

    • Avatar Tiffany on March 22, 2021 at 2:23 am

      Thank you, Nancy! I love the comparison to the fire ruby!

  8. Avatar Carly Van Groeningen on March 19, 2021 at 10:56 am

    This is stunning in every way, well done!

    • Avatar Tiffany on March 22, 2021 at 2:24 am

      Thank you for your kind words, Carly!

  9. Avatar Maeri Certo on March 19, 2021 at 10:43 pm

    Fantastic job! That silk is incredible and so irresistible to look at. I love your details and you did a great job with the internal finishes, too!

    • Avatar Tiffany on March 22, 2021 at 2:25 am

      Thank you, Maeri! I have really enjoyed learning about historical sewing techniques and enjoyed implementing them on this ensemble!

  10. Avatar Phanuel Jagna Levinsen on March 20, 2021 at 10:23 pm

    Oh this looks wonderful! Such beautiful fabric and the choice and placement of the golden details really bring it all to the dancing hall!

  11. Avatar Laura Ingalls Gunn on March 21, 2021 at 11:42 pm

    What a truly stunning entry! An amazing concept and inspiring heroine brought to life beautifully. Bravo!

    • Avatar Tiffany on March 22, 2021 at 2:27 am

      Ah, thank you, kind friend!!! I love your entry, too!

  12. Avatar Sue (sue-mcfluzen) Assenmacher on March 29, 2021 at 5:50 am

    Excellent work, I absolutely love this.

  13. Avatar Jennifer Bowman on March 29, 2021 at 6:26 am

    wow! So stunning! Your work is outstanding on this dress. I love the colors and contrast and all the trim. Really exceptional skill and work are clearly shown. Love it!

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