Yes, that is how it all started. My mom suggested I make a Civil War Dress, and, as I loved both history and sewing, I did. But it was a little more complicated than that, because the story actually starts long before the blustery March in which I began the Civil War dress. Six months before, on a sandbar on the Missouri river, I was talking with my friend Ashley about the upcoming movie The Return of the King, and how it would be so much fun to “dress up” for that. It didn’t take too long for me to turn to her and say “If you go with me, I’ll make you a costume too.” I was fourteen, and so sure about my awesome costuming skills then that I now have to laugh. So, a few weeks later, she and I and another friend went to the fabric store and got material for our dresses. I was to be Eowyn, Ashley was to be an elf, and our other friend was to be Arwen.
I made the Arwen dress first. It was lavender, and had a dark, almost ‘burnt’ purple cloak to go with it. The dress itself had a nearly square neckline and large sleeves. It had to be done first so she could use it in a play, so I spent many evenings trying to finish the gold embroidery on the sleeves, neckline, and cloak.
Next, I made my own dress, since it was similar to the Arwen dress. It was dark green, and had a red wool cloak with fringe on the edge of the hood and bottom. I had ordered gold clasps for our cloaks and gold trim for my dress that very closely mimicked the trim on Eowyn’s dress in The Two Towers. It had a verywide v-neckline and large sleeves as well, quite a bit too long and flaring too late, because they hang weird. (I could fix that quite easily now, but feel it is almost sacrilegious to do so!) I was inspired when cutting out the fabric for my dress to use the pieces left over at the sides as gores to make the skirt wider. This chiefly worked because the way I cut out the dresses was rather strange, but a good way to avoid a zipper and other fastenings. From the shoulders to the waist the dress was straight (to be gathered in with a belt while worn), and then the dress flared out to the width of the fabric– not very wide. In adding the gores, the skirt of my dress was made more flowing and a little more flattering.
Finally, I made Ashley’s dress. Hers was the prettiest and the best done, and took me twice as long as either of the other two dresses. The main part was cut the same as the others, but in two layers, with quite different sleeves. The inner layer of fabric was a pale blue satin, with tight sleeves, while the outer layer was white chiffon with sleeves that hung straight from the shoulders to the hem. Her cloak was dark blue with silver embroidery.
Did I mention that I made another dress at this time? Another friend decided to jump on the bandwagon a few weeks before the movie, so I scrambled to get her dress done while laid up with the flu. I will not hesitate to say that it was not quite as good as it could have been, but I was still learning. She was going to be Galadriel, so her dress was white, with a white cloak. Another friend of mine had her mom make dresses for her and her sister, while another used a dress she had worn in a play. And, a guy I had never even met until the night of the movie party showed up in a costume he had made himself! (Yes, Cody, now the love of my life. Funny how these things work!)
But what about the Civil War dress? I’ll tell you about that next time.