Dress Diaries: Civil War Gown (McCall's 5132)

This is one of those projects that kept getting set on the back burner in favor of something else, so it took forever. I started in 2007, with my husband's Union Army Uniform. I finished the last detail in May 2010. Not exactly a shining example of speedy seamstressing, but at least it's done.

Civil War Union Army Uniform Southern Belle Costume Civil War Wedding Gown Costume Corset

Chemise - Corset - Drawers (Bloomers) - Crinoline (Hoop Skirt)- Gown Skirt - Gown Bodice - Gown Sleeves

Chemise (Simplicity 9769).

June 21, 2008. The chemise would have been worn under the corset in order to keep the corset clean and nice-looking. (I guess it was a pain to wash a corset, even back then.)

The lady at Farthingale's says this is a "complex garment." She said it took about 10 hours of sewing time, which was pretty accurate for me (although I made one bonehead mistake and had to do some ripping which wasted twenty minutes or so). There are neck gussets and underarm gussets which were not as much of a pain as I expected. I left off most of the trim due to my aversion to excessive lace, and I used button holes for the front closure instead of making the little loops. I'm still really excited about my buttonholing ability as discovered via Simplicity 4244.

I learned how to flat fell a seam! Very easy, actually. Again, something I anticipated would be more difficult than it actually was.

Simplicity 9769 (Chemise)
ABOVE: Me in the chemise in my back yard. (Scandalous, really, like going outside in your bra.)

Simplicity 9769 (Chemise)
ABOVE: The chemise laid out on my bedroom floor.

Corset (Simplicity 9769).

Making the corset for this costume took me five attempts. I have a separate dress diary for the corset.

Crinoline (eBay)

October 10, 2008. I had originally purchased Simplicity 9764 in order to make the petticoat and crinoline (hoop skirt) for this costume, but when I started researching the cost of the materials for the crinoline I realized it would cost me nearly $85 in materials alone (hoop steel is really expensive). So instead, I bought a less historically accurate one on eBay for $26 (including shipping).

Civil War Costume Corset Chemise Crinoline

Gown: Skirt (McCall's 5132)

September 16 - 19, 2009. I used off-white unbleached muslin in order to get a semi-historical look without spending a fortune (the muslin is only about $1.99/yard and if you time it right you can use coupons to get it 1/2 off at Joann's). The skirt was very easy to construct. Don't underestimate how long it will take to hem it, though - there are THREE different layers to hem on this garment. (Skirt, lining, and ruffle.)

I did have an issue with the Step where the instructions tell you to sew the lining to the skirt (16 and 17). They incorrectly state to sew the pieces right side together - clearly, if you sew them right side together the top layer of the skirt will be inside out! Between the issues I had with the Yankee uniform, and the bonehead typos in this pattern, I think I will probably avoid using McCall's in future. If only they would hire more proofreaders...

Civil War Wedding Gown Costume Skirt

I can't decide if this skirt looks like it requires a petticoat underneath it - the crinoline I purchased has so many layers of tulle that I think the extra petticoat may be unnecessary. Plus, I used a very stiff off-white muslin, and it seems to be standing out enough that you can't see the bones in the hoop skirt. (I know it needs to be ironed; that's not the crinoline's fault... that's just me being lazy...)

Gown: Bodice (McCall's 5132)

September 25, 2009. Now that all the shelves are out of the sewing room I have enough space to make an even bigger mess than before. You can't tell from this photo but my new sewing table is REALLY cool. Scott found it in some random shop and dragged it home for me because it was clearly priced less than it was worth; it's solid oak and in really good condition for its age. It is on the list of "things to refinish eventually" but for now I'm very very very happy with it.

As you can see, the dress form in the corner is wearing all the other bits of the Civil War costume. In order from the inside out, they are: chemise, corset, crinoline, skirt (I have skipped the petticoat for now and I haven't made the drawers yet).

My messy sewing room

October 4, 2009. For the first time in my life I burned a piece of fabric with an iron!!!! Aggghhhh. Of course it was the lining, which I had just enough of to begin with, and so now I will have to make a replacement piece out of the dress fabric. No one else will know the difference, but I will... next time I make this gown I'm going to skip the lining and just use a heavy fabric so it doesn't need to be lined. Seriously, why does a gown with four layers of underpinnings need a lining anyway?!

How NOT to iron a... well, anything, really:
How NOT to iron a piece of fabric

October 7, 2009. Today I got up to Step 19, which means I reached the stage of "oh my gosh it looks like a piece of clothing." This is always a nice place to be.

Nice pretty bodice darts:
Civil War Gown Costume McCall's 5132

Easing the princess seams on the back:
Civil War Gown Costume McCall's 5132

I am skipping most of the trim (mainly piping) so I had to create my own facing for the bodice. This is pretty easy; use the bodice pieces as a template, then install it as you normally would (fusible interfacing, hem the edge, top stitch, etc).
Civil War Gown Costume McCall's 5132

This is the top half of the bodice (I haven't added the peplum or, obviously, the sleeves):Civil War Gown Costume McCall's 5132

Finished on October 7, 2009 (473 days after I started!):

Civil War Costume

Gown: Undersleeves (McCall's 5132)

Bloomers / Drawers (Simplicity 9769)

Total Cost of this Project

I took about a year and a half to complete this project, and I shopped very carefully, clipping coupons for Joann's whenever I could, and waiting for pattern sales to arrive. I saved some money by doing it this way. However, there are some places that I did not skimp, including the thread. Good thread makes my machine work much better. Bad thread gets tangled in the machine on the inside where I can't reach and sometimes results in costly repairs. :)




Pattern: Simplicity 9764 (which I didn't end up using)



Pattern: Simplicity 9769 (corset, chemise, drawers)



Fabric: white muslin, 6 yds @ 1.99/yd



Fabric: brocade (for corset), 1 yd on clearance @ $0.44



Notions: thread



Notions: 2 buttons



Notions: grommets (pack of ?), and grommet setter tool



Notions: boning



Notions: twill tape



Pattern: McCall's 5132 (gown skirt & bodice)



Fabric: white muslin, 13 yds @1.99/yd



Fabric: white lining, 1 yd @ 2.99/yd



Notions: thread



Notions: 16 hook & eyes



Notions: 15 buttons



Notions: interfacing



Pattern: McCall's 4745 (Yankee uniform)



Fabric: blue linen, 9 yds @ 2.99/yd



Fabric: blue lining, 5 yds @ 2.99/yd



Notions: 16 - 1" Buttons, 12 - 5/8" Buttons



Notions: twill tape, 3 yd @ .99/yd



Notions: thread



Accessories: hat (for Yankee uniform)



Accessories: crinoline (for gown)