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Civil War Era Clothing:

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The design is based on an extant gown shown below held in the

Historische Museum der Stadt Wien, Vienna, Austria.


The gown’s design is based on an extant gown in Vienna, Austria, dated to ca 1865.  Extensive study of period fashion publications show that the design details of the gown (bretelles combined with pointed bodice, tabs on skirt) appear to be popular also from about 1862-1864.

The original gown is made from ecru-colored wool woven with silk to give a diagonal satin pattern, trimmed in white silks of varying texture, soutache, and bead fringe.

The bodice pattern and sleeve base are taken from a full sized paper pattern published in 1862 in “Ber Bazar” (Berlin, Germany) and “La Mode Illustree” (Paris, France).  The square corners on the pattern were a variation on the original pattern called “square neck”.


The fabric was changed to silk taffeta with contrast silk trim because of availability and to show the design better.  The modern bead fringe is probably somewhat heavier.  The original gown probably had a fully gored skirt, Simplicity decided to only make the front panel gored.

The sleeves were made fuller to correspond more fully with Civil War era fashions.


Sewing hints:

Take time, there is a lot of trim, but it is all layered on, so no single step is difficult, there are just many layers.


The bretelles are not attached where they go over the shoulders – the idea is to give a broad square neck look.  This should be fitted carefully to avoid the bodice neck edge and/or bretelles sliding off the shoulders.  For larger sizes I would cut the bretelles wider at the shoulders, so everything looks in proportion.


This gown is a high fashion dress and deserves nice fabric and attention to detail.

     Details of the shoulder and sleeve treatment on the original gown.

The center front bodice treatment includes an additional circular trim, which is not included in the Simplicity pattern.

The petals are repeated on the skirt tabs.

Click to find additional images of the finished reproduction gown for Simplicity

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