Civil War Civilian Living History

Interpreting the American Civil War Home Front

2018 Conference Dress

I was invited to speak at the last Civilian Symposium held in Gettysburg. The speakers at the Symposium are given a length of fabric to make an item of clothing; generally the women make dresses and men make vests. I made a dress this year. Here is the fabric and my inspiration. The inspiration dress is from the collection at the Met, dated to 1860 and English.


This dress was a bit of a challenge. The fabric was printed off kilter and did not run even and this was a different bodice than I have made before. The bodice is a boat neck and gathered at the waist and at the neckline. The bodice lining is darted with a hooked front. The bodice fabric just lays on the lining and had no fastening.

The bodice is gathered into a lined waistband.

The armsyces, top of the waist band and the neck line are all piped. The neck line is gathered on to the piping.






The sleeves are open and unlined. The self trim is lined with cotton netting and piped top and bottom.








I made the pelerine using the fichu pattern developed in a previous Genteel Arts workshop. The pelerine is also unlined and self trimmed. The trimming is worked like the sleeve trimming with net lining and piping.

The skirt is a simple gather into the waist band and self hemmed. I ended up having to cut the bodice twice so had to use a skirt panel for the additional fabric to recut the bodice. The skirt, therefore is not as wide as I would like and fits a bit too snug over my hoop.

The dress can be worn with or without undersleeves depending on the weather and/or situation.

It’s not the best dress I’ve made, but I still think it turned out fairly well.

Categories: Civil War