When I first saw the green silk dress in the collection at Les Arts Decoratifs dated 1866-1868, I decided I wanted one. The color and the trim both spoke to me. I didn’t have a good excuse to wear it, but I wanted it so I made it.
The dress is made of green silk taffeta, lined with tan cotton broadcloth. The trim is china silk ribbon and black acetate taffeta.
The bodice was made from my 1860’s block with the armscyes and waist raised slightly to better represent late 1860’s styles. The coat sleeves and skirt are based on the 1866-68 dress on pages 24-25 of Patterns of Fashion: The Cut and Construction of Englishwomen’s Clothes 1860-1940 by Janet Arnold.
The bodice has a front with two darts and a false three-piece back. The side seams are boned, and the armscyes, waist, and neck are piped with self-piping. The bodice closes with hooks and eyes with decorative buttons over the closure. The sleeves are two-piece coat sleeves faced at the wrists with a strip of silk. Bodice and sleeves are flat-lined with tan cotton broadcloth. The skirt is gored, pleated, and whipped to a grosgrain ribbon waistband. The hem is faced with a 6” tan cotton broadcloth facing. The bodice and skirt are basted together at the waist to facilitate changing out the day bodice for an evening bodice.
The neck trim and buttons are made with black taffeta. I would have liked to use silk, but I couldn’t justify it when I only needed an eighth of a yard and didn’t have any other plans that called for black silk taffeta. The buttons are wooden forms covered with taffeta. The neck trim uses the triangle trim tutorial at The Fashionable Past. The remainder of the trim on the dress is black china silk ribbon that I starched to make it easier to work with. I worked out the proportions of the original dress as well as I could to lay out the trim.
While the dress at the museum is shown without a white collar or cuffs, it’s my understanding that it would have been worn with them originally so I made some out of white lawn. They are simply straight strips with one edge hemmed in a ¼” hem and the remaining edges with small rolled hems.
The majority of the construction of the dress was done by machine, but all finishing and trimming was done by hand. Construction is as historically accurate as I know how to make it.
I wear this over a mid-19th century chemise, drawers, corset, under-petticoat, bustle pad, elliptical hoop, petticoat, stockings, and garters.
Thoughts after wearing:
I’ve only had once chance to wear this so far, on Hallowe’en 2014. I loved it. The slight train is slight enough not to cause any trouble at all, especially since it’s held out behind by the hoop so it doesn’t get underfoot if backing up a step or two, and the shape is wonderful. This is my favorite costume that I’ve made thus far.