Have you ever seen a movie set in a specific time period but you’ve still been able to date the production because the current styles bled through? Hair styles, color themes and popular silhouettes give hints to the true time period in these movies. This also happens with period clothing sewing patterns.

After making multiple 1860 and 1910 period clothing for Carillon Park I wanted something for myself.

Being so short, a large 1860s style would not look very good on me. I needed more of a form fitting bodice. I love it that this 1974 Butterwick sewing pattern has a zipper in the back and more modern style options than the traditional 1875 dress it was meant to be.

I wanted them all but chose style A with no collar because I had just enough fabric.

The pattern was one size off. This worked out perfectly because I could still wear clothing under it and be warm.

The Fabric Shack in Waynesville has a great selection of period prints. I chose a print that was a little Victorian and very feminine.

The pattern said I needed eight yards. I was happy to find a bolt of large print Andover cotton that I could play with. I bought 7 yards of fabric because I am short and risky.



I pre-washed all the fabric as soon as I got home so there was no question later if it had been washed. Vintage lace, trims and bindings should be hand-washed to be certain there is not dry rot. This is very important. Nothing is sadder than sewing something and at the end having it turn to ashes.

I decided to tackle the bonnet first because this was going be a huge two or three day sewing project.

When I started sewing the dress I constructed the back of the garment first. This makes it easier to install the zipper. The stripe was a really nice treat to practice my matching skills on.

After the back was finished I built the front. I stitched the shoulder seams together and added the sleeves while everything was open at the sides, flat and easy to get into.

I knew I wanted the lines of this dress to really pop or all of my detailed work would be lost. I ordered 8 yards of velvet trim on Etsy. I did not prewash the trim because it was polyester. I felt this really gave the dress that wow factor.

It is very important to fit the dress before adding all of the finishing seams. It is a pain to do this in the middle of a stitching frenzy and you may feel haggard already. I certainly do here. I checked sleeve length, bust, waist fit and I held the ruffle up it  to be sure it was going to hit the ground properly.

This is where the warm fuzzies happen – when it starts to look like a real dress.

I got lucky with this one as far as yardage goes. To the left on top of the cart is my only waste. I was within inches of having enough trim for completion, too.

The dress still needed one more important thing. It didn’t look big enough at the bottom. It needed a crinoline skirt under it or a petticoat. I went to Clash Dayton Boutique because they have lots of costume stuff. I bought a vintage tulle skirt to wear under the dress. It made a huge difference and was less money than buying the supplies to make one.

Editing can be so much fun but it can be hard not to get carried away. My first three photos are unedited on a cold and cloudy December day. I also really find it fun to write about the making of the garments although all of these things take a lot of time.

I hope you enjoyed my process as much as I have.

Thank you for reading,

Tracy McElfresh

DreamIt! Sew It!