1850s Plaid Taffeta Day Dress

September 09, 2020


Many moons ago, I made a dress for a Civil War dance. When I made it, I had juuuuuust enough fabric to squeeze out the ballgown bodice, but I had to do some creative piecing to finish the bodice, and the sleeves had to be a different fabric entirely. I used every inch of yardage that I had.

For years, I've been trying to find a way to make a daytime bodice to get more wear out of the skirt, because the skirt is pretty fabulous. My original plan was to make a garibaldi blouse and a black swiss waist, but I was never fully in love with the idea, so I never really got around to doing it.

Then, a fabric miracle happened! On a whim, I searched for "black plaid taffeta" on Etsy, and 5 yards of almost perfect fabric appeared! It wasn't exactly the same, but I could live with the minor differences. I bought the entire bit of yardage, since I didn't quite know what I was going to make, and I wanted enough fabric that if it didn't actually match in person, then I could still make something else with it.

When it arrived it was a great match! Since I had enough fabric to do something truly over the top, I decided to take the entire ensemble back a decade to the 1850s. The skirt was already pretty 1850s anyway, so it made sense.

I have a video up on my YouTube channel if you want to check out the making-of.


The bodice did not want to cooperate, and I ended up doing mockup after mockup trying to get the thing to fit right. Unfortunately, I didn't take any in-progress photos of the making of the bodice because I was preoccupied with filming and with the bodice being a total pain. But, I do have some great new photos of the finished dress!

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