Civil War Designs


Lady Faire

I have a wonderful treadle sewing machine, and can now offer proper, period construction for those who want/need it for their CivWar ensembles.

The construction time will be longer (muscle power as opposed to electric), but you can even choose your stitch count/pitch!

These are some examples of Civil War Era Gowns. You will find everything from visiting gowns to ball gowns.  I try to work from period correct patterns and appearance, even if my construction methods aren't period correct.  I am looking to purchase a treadle machine, for those who want the construction methods to match the time period, but you have to remember that the finished garment will not be as strong, nor will I be able to construct it as quickly as using the more modern equipment.  I do keep my time and labor in mind as I charge for my outfits, that is a consideration for my customers.   Yes, they DO still make treadle machines.  Yes, they do still work like the old ones.  No, I won't have to buy, maintain and use an antique.  Yes, the new ones are QUITE a bit less expensive than buying an antique.  If you are looking for one, email me and I'll point you in the right direction.

This first example is actually my latest creation, and it is closely based on a Simplicity pattern, and that is what the lady had picked out.  This dress will also be available for sale soon, as the young lady who commissioned it only wanted to use it for one evening.  When she told me she would send it straight back, and would I find someone else who wanted it, I accepted.  She has also promised me more photos, so look back soon!!

The gown bodice, bertha body, and overskirt are made of a beautiful, medium weight, ivory brocade.  The undersleeves and the ruffles are made of peach organza.  The lace trim is coral.  The underskirt body is ivory, crepe-back satin.  The bodice is lightly boned, and laces up the back with a modesty panel, and can be worn with or without the bertha.  I also made her a large (100" X 50" organdy shawl with a synthetic silk fringe along the bottom 2 sides.  I looked long and hard to find a fringe that was NOT shiny, chainette fringe.  I think I 'did good' with this one.  It really looks and feels like silk.  Since the shawl is simple and unadorned, it works beautifully with the ornate gown.

The dress form shown is quite a bit larger than the young lady (Tara), the gown is made for, so that is why the bodice seems short, and there is a large amount of the modesty panel showing.  When we get the photos of Tara in the gown, you will see better how it fits, and the matching reticule made for the gown.

There is a photo of Tara in this gown on the Rogue's Gallery page, but I never received the gown back to sell - sorry!  I had about a dozen inquiries on it, too!!  Ah well, I can make others.  Not like this one - I never duplicate!  But we can make one just as lovely for you.

This gown is a day or visiting dress.  It is made of a wonderful plaid taffeta in jewel tones of royal blue, pink, purple, aqua and black.  The gimp trim and the linings of the bodice, sleeves and what I call sleeve caps, but the book referred to as sleeve epaulettes, is in black.  I deviated from the book in 3 ways:  I did not dart the front of the bodice, I did not bone the bodice at all (I figure your corset is boned  enough), and I again added elastic to the waist band.  With no darts in the front, it looks like the gathered front bodice and has a bit more leeway fit-wise.  The elastic in the waist band was done for the same reason I stated with the picnic gown.  I didn't finish my sash in time (again!), so my purchased belt is getting a workout.  The bodice closes in the front with hooks and eyes (I used hook and eye tape - much faster!!), the neckline is finished with black piping and the same piping is used between the sleeve and bodice.  Black gimp (or Chinese Braid) adorns the sleeves and sleeve 'epaulettes'.  For the lining, I used black lawn.  It is lightweight, breathes and wouldn't add bulk or weight to the dress.  The under sleeves were not a part of this outfit, I cheated and 'stole' them from another.  But then, under sleeves weren't specific to a particular dress!  They were a separate item entirely, and used with many different outfits.

The skirt is 4 1/2 yards around, pleated into the set-in waist band, closing in the back with a hook and bar treatment.  I have the model wearing a 160" hoopskirt, and there is enough room with no trouble, but I wouldn't advise trying this with the rare 200" hoops.  I do believe it would look a bit like a sausage!!  The bodice, as I said above, closes with hook and eye tape, which is ever so much easier than sewing each hook individually!  Not to mention, that they all line up perfectly!!  How nice.

My 'model' has a 41" bust, and that's about the max you'd want to go for this bodice.  The waist is forgivable, both in the bodice and the skirt, and will go up to about 38".  The skirt is 45" long and left at a serged edge, for you to hem to the proper length.   The under sleeves, hoop skirt and purchased belt are, of course, not part of this offering.

This is another example of a Civil War Era dress.   This particular outfit is a Zoave jacket and gored skirt.  The jacket was meant to be worn over a blouse and could be worn with a belt or not, as you please.  The sleeves on this jacket are of the Pagoda style, and the sleeves and jacket are lined with a white shantung style fabric which simulates silk with the 'slubs' and slight sheen to the finish of the fabric.  The outer fabric is a gorgeous shade of blue reminiscent of a summer sky, with a very fine, small woven check design in white.  On the jacket body and sleeves is a faux silk fancy gimp trim in white.  It would not have been out of line to continue the trim around the body of the skirt, but I did not have, nor could I find enough of the trim for that purpose.   The jacket closes at the throat with a small hidden hook and eye, and hangs open otherwise.  The wide, stiffened waist-band on the skirt closes with a hook and bar closure at the back waist.  The skirt, being a gore design, is extremely full, without a lot of bulk at the waist.  Click on the image for a larger view:

There is also a matching reticule (purse) for the outfit, with a re-enforced bottom, and more of the faux silk trim in a gentle wave about the general middle of the reticule.  Fully lined in the shantung, and with twin white satin drawstrings, it truly completes the ensemble.  The final photo is of the wonderful lady who purchased the outfit, modeling it for you.  The blouse and bonnet are hers, and are a perfect complement for the jacket and skirt.  Thank you so much Trish!  Please send more pictures! 


This 2 piece ensemble is what I made to wear to the Battle of Stanardsville this year, and is modeled on the Visiting Gown above.  It is made of a light cotton fabric, with a white background and navy plaid.  This is a true plaid, not a print.  I darted the bodice in the front to fit, although I did not bone the bodice at all (I figure my corset is boned  enough), and I again added elastic to the waist band.  I was in a bit of a hurry, and didn't fit the bodice properly, so it was a bit loose on me.  You will note in some of the photos, one of my quality control inspectors!  He watches and 'helps' a lot when I am sewing.  The elastic in the waist band was done for the same reason I stated with the picnic gown.  I whipped up a soft, loose sash of a dark navy to tie about the waist, and hope to have a proper Medici made for the next time I wear the outfit.  I will also have the bodice fitted a bit better by then.  The bodice closes in the front with hooks and eyes (I used hook and eye tape - much faster!!), the neckline is finished with white piping and the same piping is used between the sleeve and bodice.  I found some lovely lace with rucked satin trimming, and this adorns the sleeves and sleeve 'epaulettes' and a single line about the skirt.  For the lining, I used white lawn.  It is lightweight, breathes and wouldn't add bulk or weight to the dress.  The under sleeves are new to this outfit, as I needed a new set, and quickly made up these.  I will have this new set to go with many another outfit as needed.

My 'model' has a 41" bust, and as you can tell, the bodice is loose on her.   The waist is forgivable in the skirt, and will go up to about 40".  The skirt is 42" long and deeply hemmed.   The bonnet is my first successful attempt.  I made it totally white and added blue silk flowers in both navy and sky blue tied with navy satin ribbon.  The flower arrangement is pinned on and can be changed to match different outfits.  I am hoping my next bonnet is a touch more comfortable.

The reticule is made of white shantung and the same navy fabric as I used for the sash and is completely reversible.  The bottom of the reticule is round and re-enforced between the different fabric layers with plastic needlepoint canvas to support heavier objects and still withstand the washing machine.

I made an evening tea gown for a wonderful lady in Texas, who wanted a special gown for a candle lit tea.  We sent emails back and forth with photos of different brocades and designs, and she sent me a picture of a gown she had fallen in love with, that was from the wrong era (1780's), and we talked about adapting many of the details from the gown and incorporating them with the Civil War styles and here is what we came up with.  My darling husband thinks it is the most beautiful gown I have made to date [preen!].

The gown is made from a beautiful, ivory brocade with a bit of gold threading in the floral design.  Since the overall color seems to be a touch on the darker side of ivory, I decided to use a cocoa lace, and a cafe-au-lait lace for the shoulder and sleeve trim.   Then, I saw a lovely tear drop pearl beading off a soft ivory silk, and got that for the sleeve epaulettes and the front of the square neckline, and decided that it added a 'sparkle' to the lace on the sleeves, too.

 This lovely gown could be used for a reception gown, a dinner gown, a ball gown - just about any occasion that demands a formal gown, this outfit could handle it!

I just love this dress!  I can't wait to make something else from this fabric!  I bought the entire roll, so I have enough to make at least one more dress - maybe an elven maid's gown?  That would be HOT!  With LONG sleeves that trail down to the floor - oh wait - wrong page!!  Sorry!!  These sleeves have a bell that is an off-center circle, making a graceful frame for the dainty wrist and hand, shorter at the wrist, and longer behind. 

Well, I used the last of this fabric, on the Elven gown that won Best in Show at RavenCon'08 - so no more lovely fabric (sigh!).  But there are photos of that gown, and the matching Tolkienesque male elf on my Rogue's Gallery page!



My newest Civil War outfit is a lovely thing, if not quite as full in the skirt as I would wish.  I simply did not have enough of this lovely, vintage linen fabric, and of course getting any more is not an option. Please pardon the poor fit on my dress form - this outfit was a size 14 on a size 12 form.  Just doesn't display as well as if it were the correct size 'model'.

Since the background is white, I had to use an inner lining to keep the contrast fabric from showing through on the face of the sleeve caps (epaulettes) and the body of the sleeves.  The linen is a white with country blue toile design.  I matched the blue for the trim and lining.  I used the same blue fabric that I used for the lining of the sleeves to make my piping and bias trim, and used a white, micro pleated taffeta for the 'ruffle' around the bottom of the sleeves and hem.  Other than a lack of fullness in the skirt, I think it turned out beautifully.  In fact, if I can find similar fabric (a delicately printed linen) I think I'll make the same general design for myself!

As you can see, the bodice is waist length with pagoda sleeves and you can wear it with or without a sash at the waist, and it covers nicely the waistband of the skirt.  I liked it both ways.  I unfortunately, did not get a photo of the back WITH the sash - I tied a lovely, big bow, with trailing ends down to almost the hem, that really set off the waist.  Bodice closed down the front with many, many, tiny hooks and eyes.

I got a GREAT deal on the micro pleated taffeta trim, so I have lots more to use for several outfits, if I wish.



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