I FINALLY finished this dress, just in time for the Civil War Remembrance weekend at
Greenfield Village - it's only been several years in progress!
Period sewing techniques require a fair bit of hand sewing, with machine work being largely confined to long seams, such as in the skirt. But I've also examined original garments that have been completely hand sewn, as well as references to hand sewing dresses in as little as a day - not a feat within my capabilities!
I choose the Peachtree Mercantile Dress pattern from Fig Leaf Patterns:
This pattern was drafted from an original dress in the collection of the Atlanta History Center.
This day dress from the Archibald Smith family in Roswell, Georgia is believed to have been made and worn by the lady of the house, Anne Margaret Magill Smith (1807-1887).
Anne Margaret Magill Smith was, by all accounts, an educated lady and a devoted mother. In war-time letters to her sons William, serving with the Confederate Signal Corps, and Archibald, serving with the Georgia Battalion of Cadets, she asks after their health and needs, offers advice, and sends clothing, shoes, honey, and even chickens, along with news from home. With the approach of Sherman's army in July 1864 the family fled Roswell to the south Georgia town of Valdosta.
My fabric is a sheer wool/cotton blend, with woven stripes.
The skirt is gauged, a great way to compress a large amount of fabric into a relatively small area, in my case, 180" skirt circumference gauged down to a 29" waist.
The dress also features a lovely spade shaped cuff, with just a bit of trim.
The same trim is also applied around the neckline:
I would highly recommend this pattern, the instructions are meticulous, suggestions for alternate sleeve options are included, and I'm very pleased with the final results.
One downside to a black dress: everyone assumed I was in mourning. But it proved to be a good opportunity to interact with spectators and hopefully provide a bit of education.
So, why did this take several years?
I didn't really need another dress as for a few years, we were not able to attend events - it just seemed silly to spend time on a dress I wouldn't be wearing.
But it's finally finished - every stitch by hand - and I couldn't be happier!