FOUNDATIONS REVEALED COMPETITION ENTRY
Jo March’s Visiting Dress
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.