Black and Purple? Really?

Why do some things stick in our minds?  Especially if they don’t make sense.  I’m not a purple person.  I’m not even sure I actually own any purple clothes.  So, why do I want a black and purple Civil War day dress?

Well, I have the black silk.  Next I had to decide on a style.  I was aimlessly flipping through some fashion prints online.  And THERE IT WAS!!!


TAAA!  DAAAAAAAAAAA!  My dress in black and purple!


Look at that dress.  I love the purple bands set into the skirt.  The belt with the curved ends looks like it should be fun to try to copy.  A closer look at the purple shows it to be a brocade with the pattern cut to fit in the bands.


Now begins  the challenge of finding such a purple brocade….the hunt is on!




And So the Journey Begins…

The reason I decided to start this blog was to record the journey from the birth of an idea of a dress to completion (hopefully)   As we make the journey together, I hope to share my love of historical sewing and all things collectible.

This journey actually started probably 10 or more years ago.  That is when I found 8 yards of wonderful, drapey, smooth black silk on the $1.99 table at tthe PA Fabric Outlet in Lemoyne.  When the lady went to cut it, she argued with me that the fabric should never have been on that table.  But the cardboard tube had $1.99 stickers inside, so I stood my ground.  Less than $20 for 8 yards of 60″ wide silk.  Woo hoo!

Well, I bought all they had.  And then promptly got cold feet about cutting it.  And then I went off the tracks with my sewing, etc.  So the silk went into a box, and into storagge.

There it stayed until I got back to sewing Civil War gowns again last year.  Out came the silk again and back came the cold feet.

First I sewed a cotton work dress entirely by hand.  Next how about some undies and petticoats.  Then I took a class from the Genteel Arts on drafting a fitted bodice.  BTW, I highly recommend taking a class from Carolann or someone on how to draft your own personal fitted bodice pattern.  I’ve gotten rid of my Big 4 patterns and only use the one I drafted in class.  The fit is SO much better!

But any how– needless to say– I’ve put off sewing my black silk dress.  I did decide that I didn’t want to do a mourning dress.  I wanted a good black dress spiced up with a good vibrant color.  I ran through a lot of combinations :  black & red, black & blue, black & lime green, but my first thought; and the one I kept coming back to was black & purple.  Which is odd because I really don’t wear purple at all.

Now a little period piece of the Little Black Dress…

from The Philosophy of Housekeeping

Joseph Bardwell Lyman, 1869

“If a lady can have but one silk dress in a series of years, she will find a black silk will be of more use to her than any other color. Black is becoming to every complexion, and a black silk may be worn at a wedding, a party, a funeral, or to church. It is nowhere out of taste except in the kitchen. It may be made gay with bright trimmings, or severe with those of the same color. It can be worn with hat and wrappings of every hue and is never out of fashion.

If the silk is figured, let the figure be small, the same on both sides, with no up or down to it; so that when worn at the bottom it can be turned upside-down, and when soiled outside, it can be turned inside out. Be careful, too, that the figure is well woven in, and no long threads left on the surface. These will catch in everything, and be soon worn off or frayed out so that no care or skill can restore a new appearance to the dress. If the silk be plain, let it be of excellent quality, not stiff and inflexible, but soft and pliable,  and, when pulled in bias folds, easily returned to its former shape.”

Next time…the journey stops in fashion plates and Godey prints