Finished Project: The Plaid 1869 Dress

Last year, several of us were shopping in the LA garment district and we happened across a fantastic silk taffeta at a fantastic price.  Katherine (The Fashionable Past) had already purchased the fabric a prior year, but when the other three of us (Ginger of Scene in the Past, Stephanie of Girl with the Star-Spangled Heart, and I) found it and fell in love with it, a group project with the four of us was born!  We would all choose a different era, keep the making of the dress itself a secret (though we did talk of the “plaid project”), and then show up at Costume College on Sunday in our dresses made of the fabric!

Katherine did 1820s, Ginger did Civil War, Stephanie did 1950s, and I did very late 1860s. It’s kind of fun to see this one fabric is so appropriate for all these time periods.

Here is a group shot so you can see the finished effect, and I have more photos of my friend’s completed dresses in an upcoming post.

This post is mostly about my dress for this group project, but I’m excited to share the other girls’ projects in an upcoming post because they all did such an incredible job!

I tend to be really drawn to transitional periods of dress, so for this project I wanted to try my hand at a late 1860’s dress.  I love 1868-1869, and for this project I prepared by making a new corset and using a small elliptical hoop with a bustle pad as my undergarments.

I love how the late 1860s and early 1870s were really inspired by 18th century fashion.  Since I was doing two 18th century dresses for Costume College this year, I loved playing with the 19th century idea of 18th century fashion.

I originally wanted to use a 1868 bodice pattern from Harper’s Bazar called the Marie Therese Waist (republished in Reconstruction Era Fashions by Frances Grimble) and mocked it up, but in the end used the bodice pattern from Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion as it was closer to my size and I had already enlarged it several years before.  Both had almost the exact same lines, but Janet Arnold dated the dress from the Gallery of English Costume as 1870-1871.  For the underskirt I used the 1869 Grand Parlor Skirt from Truly Victorian.  I have made this skirt many times and it’s one of my favorite patterns for early bustle, as it’s a fantastic foundation for trimmings.  I made up the overskirt by just using two large rectangles of fabric (a larger one for the back piece) and using the seams as a casing for drawstrings to gather up the sides of the skirt to swag.

For my contrast trimmings I used a fabric that was a checkerboard of the exact colors of the dress that was a lucky find to use as bias strips to bind my ruffles. I also purchased a contrast peach silk taffeta to use for my belt, neck ruffle, and bows.

I made a little attached modesty pannel from a strip of vintage cotton net to which I added lace beading and edging.  I finished the bottom with bias binding and whipped it into the bodice.  It snugs to the décolleté with a black silk ribbon.  Keeping with the 18th century inspiration, I used scalloped scissors that I purchased on Ebay to cut the edges of my neckline trim.

The hat I used was a vintage 1930s hat that I pinned leftover trims to.  I used a vintage brooch as an accent for the rosette. I used the same hat last year with my green plaid bustle dress.  For the sash, I used an antique buckle pin.

I used vintage (or antique) plaid buttons on the bodice that I had found at an estate sale.

I loved making this dress!  Like a lot of my projects, I loved sewing it and then didn’t like it… until I put the trim on.  Then I loved it! :)

The fabric was an absolute dream to work with.  I really hope I find a good deal on silk taffeta of this quality again, as I’d LOVE to work with it.  I think I have a thing for plaid dresses of this era.

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5 thoughts on “Finished Project: The Plaid 1869 Dress”

  1. Wow, that looks really amazing! I never would have guessed that fabric would look that amazing if I saw it in a shop! I will have to keep an eye out for that sort of thing in the future!

    I love all the trim and everything! Swooning!

  2. You all look stunning and your dress is so beautifully made – the attention to detail is killing me! But I can’t help looking at the picture of all four of you and imagining the rustling that must have come from all that silk taffeta!

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