Red Memorial Day Daydress

Dear Ladies and Gents,
you may have noticed an item of wear recurring in mention multiple times: a basic red cotton daydress, which, when worn without hoops, can serve well enough as a camp or work dress.

Garment Data:
– Type: Civil War style daydress
– Date made: Just before Memorial Day, 2013
– Pattern: Simplicity 4551, plus alterations. I actually ignored the gathered front, and just used the lining pattern for both the in and out, and thus made a darted bodice.
– Fabric/Materials: A red cotton calico print, just over 6 yards, 42″ wide
– Trim: None
– Time to finish: About a week

The fabric I selected was a red cotton print from JoAnn’s, with flowers on it. I had the yardage originally for a “prairie” dress, but decided to put it to use for the civil war era.

Note that the flowers are not in a regular pattern, unfortunately.
They are white with a dark (black?) center. This color combination meant that I could wear “Red, White, and Blue” for the Memorial Day church choir concert, civil war-themed, that I was going to be dressing for.
I found out later that the fabric is fairly thin, and not exactly colorfast.

Bodice front, with front darts pinned in. This is from the lining side. The lining is just a plain muslin.

And the same front piece from the outside.

The assembled bodice, from within. Note that the lining and outer layer are sewn as one.

The completed bodice, with the bodice band at the bottom. I later realized that the bodice was too long, based on where my waistline was, so I ended up putting a 1-inch tuck to the inside, about an inch above the bodice waistband.

Here with the sleeves pinned on.

And here with them sewn on! The bodice was, at this point, done aside from closures.
Unfortunately, I noted some fit issues when I put it on:

Whoops! Turns out this was a combination of problems: 1) the pattern size is not necessarily indicative of actual size. 2) measurements on the back of the pattern are more important than the size number. 3) the measurement on the package is not necessarily the same as the measurement of the final piece.
Note also that the neckline was too tight and was pushing on my neck. Also, the sleeve seams were dropped too much with respect to my shoulder line. And the sleeves were too wide on the lower arm.

A sleeve before it was attached. The blue underneath becomes my “kickplate” or hem lining/facing for the skirt. This is a piece of fabric on the inside, where you can’t see it, that makes the skirt hang more steadily and absorbs the brunt of my toes kicking the skirt. This means that the skirt itself takes less wear and will last longer.

This fabric was actually another skirt, that had been worn out and stained. I love the regular pattern and wish I could have a dress just of this fabric!

And a close-up, for droolworthiness. It is definitely a cotton, of better quality than the rest of the dress!

Here you can see the lining attached around the bottom of the skirt, to protect the hemline.
I attached it while the skirt was still a flat rectangle.

The waistline, with gathering stitches. Upon consideration and later experience, these stitches should have been smaller and closer together. What I’m aiming to do is create a “gauged” waistline, so the fabric at the top of the skirt is folded over (ideally somewhat more than I’ve done here, but I was a bit tight on yardage), and then basted with gathering threads in very regular, even stitches. The stitches are about 1 cm long (between 1/3 and 1/2 inch), and are made with two rows of double-stranded 100% cotton thread that has been waxed with beeswax.

What I’ve done here is pinned the waistband in a few places to make sure the center and sides match up, and then tightened the gathering threads some. You can see the “skirtiness” starting to take shape.

The wide view, so you can see how it’s starting to shape up.

Gauging, from the outside, after the bodice has been whipped onto the waistband.
Note that the gathering has formed perfect ripples of fabric.
You can see that the bodice comes down all the way to the gauging, and that the bodice waistband covers the separate skirt waistband. If you look really closely, you can even see the small whip-stitches holding the “pleats” of the gauging, and the small tacking stitches in the waistband, holding the skirt to the bodice!
…Aaaand from the inside. Note that those perfect ripples of fabric kind of just hang there. The bottom edge of the waistband is whip-stitched to the “valley” of every “pleat”. The things that look like horizontal puckers in the waistband are actually a slightly darker red large thread stitch, holding the bodice waistband (not visible) to the skirt waistband.This doesn’t sound solid, but I promise, it is. Also, if you use short pieces of thread, and use a lot of them to go around the skirt, then if one section breaks, you don’t have your whole skirt falling off, and it’s easier to fix.
Note: You can see daylight between the pleats, which means that each gather was too wide and the pleats are too big. If I had made the gathering stitches smaller, then the pleats would be more numerous and closer together. I ended up flattening them all to one side and whipping them down to eliminate the gappage, though if I were to redo the dress, I would repleat with smallter gathers.
This is the assembled garment! It still needs closures, though.

I still had some fit issues, as you can tell by these pictures of the back. Again, this had to do with the bodice being too long.

The neckline creeping up the back of my neck, as you can see here, was eventually solved by cutting out a crescent from the back and refinishing the edge.

The necktie. I borrowed the way of tying it from another reenactor – who got the method from Godey’s Lady’s Book.
Though I have heard that cutting the necktie on the bias means it will lie flatter, I cut this one on the straight – perpendicular to the grain. This had to do with fabric restrictions (and it is also due to the time restriction – I didn’t have the time to piece a bias tie from smaller sections).

Here’s a picture of the tie close up.

From the side you can really see how the back of the neck was pushing forward. The tie is basted on, but will eventually need a white collar to be under.

The front, pinned shut. It took me half a year to get around to adding buttons. You can see how it pulls: the fit issue of being too tight was later accidentally resolved by me changing shape.

The finished product! The best full-length picture I could do on my own.

And on Memorial Day! The dress was a hit.

It has become a staple of my wardrobe. Here you see it in Gettysburg, June of 2013.

Here I am at Sunbeau Valley, the local horse farm, for their annual reenactment. I’m also wearing my slat bonnet and blue belt.

Same event. You can already see fading along the bottom hem, where I scrubbed out Gettysburg mud. At this point I was still pinning it shut.

And at LINK: Hale farm in August. Different neckwear! And you can see that I’m still pinning it shut.

November, and in LINK: Gettysburg again. By this time, I’ve added buttons, but am here wearing it with a Sontag (Bosom Friend) for warmth, so they don’t show! Later in the day I added a wool cloak, and was actually wearing a sweater beneath, as well: it was quite cold, and very windy!

Here you can see the buttons and the collar. The collar is borrowed: collar and cuffs are on my list of “to do”s! The buttons are shell. This picture was taken at the LINK: ORMB this year.

And last, but not least, a picture from June/Gettysburg, of the red dress as seen in a tintype. Credit to Szabo for the picture! (And I’m realizing I never posted about the June 2013 150th Gettysburg trip! Well, that may be coming up, we’ll see.)

Most sincerely yours,
~ Sarah

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