Butter-colored ballgown

Hello, friends!

A few weeks ago, I got the notion in my head that I might want to sew a ballgown soon – in fact, I didn’t want to fix the cotton dance dress I have, so I was thinking of trying to complete the dress by Remembrance Day weekend (November 22nd-24th).

However, I was not sure if I’d have the chance to get silk, so I even was considering using something less ideal from one of the big box stores, which would also mean that I would not panic if I had some trouble with fittings.

As it turned out, though, I was able to move things along much more quickly! The pictures will show you how it went!

Garment Data:
– Type: Civil War ballgown
– Date made: November 21st, 2013
– Pattern: Self-drafted, with assistance
– Fabric: Silk, with pre-embroidered flowers
– Trim: Self-fabric piping
– Time to finish: one week! (or approximately 40-50 hours of work)
– Notes:

On November 11th, I was able to purchase some silk (and some lawn!). You can see both colors of silk I bought (a bit of a splurge, but I’ll use it all! Not a waste!).

Left-to-Right: A butter-yellow silk with embroidery of red cherry blossoms, a green silk “plaid” with gold and a bit of teal, and sheer white cotton lawn.

A close-up of the butter silk

I decided to use the butter-yellow silk first – it really spoke to me, and I started to picture it as a gown right away! There was also enough of a separate piece of yellow silk that was plain (no embroidery), to use for a bodice.

I had a chance to get help making the bodice pattern! Karen Mynes offered to help me out, so we spent the evening of Friday the 15th of November pinning and cutting until we had a muslin mock-up that I could cut apart and turn into a pattern!

So I consider the 15th to be the day I started the dress ­čÖé

This is the muslin ballgown bodice, cut open (not quite all the way yet).
My prep table (which actually also happens to be a sewing machine table, that opens up to the side and the machine flips up from within. Once I replace the drive band, it will be usable!). By the end, this table was a lot more full and cluttered!

The ballgown bodice muslin pattern, completely cut apart.

We actually had a chance to pin a muslin mock-up for a day dress bodice, too!

And the day bodice, cut apart and ready to trace. I’ll post more pictures of it, once I actually use it. The plan is actually to make a second bodice for the ballgown! This will turn it into a day dress, depending on which bodice I wear, which makes the dress as a whole far more versatile. I have enough of the plain yellow silk to make this matching bodice, high neckline, long sleeves, and all!

A close-up of the muslin ballgown bodice front. Karen was drawing directly on the muslin (which feels really weird when you are pinned into it!). I would never have been able to do a bodice pattern as quickly, nor as well fitted, without her help!

All the pattern pieces, traced on to my pattern paper (actually, priority mail envelopes! A tip from Karen). Left-to-Right: Day Bodice front, Day Bodice back, Ballgown Bodice front, Ballgown side back, Ballgown back.

Laying out the pattern on the plain silk.

The pieces now cut out in silk and in muslin (for the lining) and pinned together for flat-lining.

A few steps later: all pieces sewn or pinned together, the darts pinned. This is the magic moment when it goes from being flat pieces to being an actual garment!

Bodice, from the back. Still a lot to do!

Bodice from the front.
Pleating the skirt (inside-out). I ended up doing 2 inch knife pleats all the way around (though if I ever end up re-doing it, I would go for directional knife pleats left and right, with box pleats front and back center). I had originally contemplated putting the embroidery running vertically, with large box pleats to showcase the embroidery, but yielded to good judgement and went with the horizontal look (which is also evident in historical pieces and photographs).
Waistband pinned, waiting for basting and for the hem facing around the bottom (for weight and protection).

Close-up of the waistband (right-side out).

The skirt, over the hoop.
All the bits pinned together, but no closures sewn in yet, no sleeves yet, no hem facing yet…. my “last two days” sewing list was quite long!!! Long hours were spent sewing, every night!
Everything pinned, first fitting, front.

Everything pinned, first fitting, back.
I finished the very last things on the night of Thursday the 21st.
At the ball!

The dress worked well, though I noticed a few very small adjustments I’ll be making…

I may change the neckline still, too… I feel like it could be farther out on my shoulders. At least, maybe the next time I use the pattern.

And, last but not least, the dress in its native habitat!!!

So it took a lot of effort, but I think, for my first ballgown, it turned out fabulously! It took me 6 days of really intense effort, 6 or 8 hours a day, but I’m really happy with it! I’ll still do the day bodice for the dress as well. I can’t wait till the next dress I sew!

Most sincerely yours,
~ Sarah

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *