Thanks to Emma for this great post at A Dance In Time.
First, the Vintage Victorian website provides a colorful and informative description of what women’s Civil War era ballgowns looked like, including what was proper for certain age groups.
Have you looked at it? Yes? Then we can move on.
The question, of course, is how can we recreate this? How, in a simple, economical, timely, fashion? This is, of course, for those of you who aren’t professional seamstresses, and can create anything you would like with a pattern, in record time.
First thought… Ebay. Check out their Civil War ball gowns. There are some decent deals on there. Yes, the best and most authentic gowns tend be very expensive, but you may find something that works perfectly for you. There is a great variety of authentic, and not authentic. It really depends on particular you want to be. For this ball, we are not picky. One bit of advice, though, for Ebay shopping. Be extra sure it will fit before you bid. If the gown was laid flat, and measured, the measurements given will larger than the actual size. Be sure and double check the size with the seller before bidding. Feel free to ask any questions you may have, as we are experienced Ebayers.
Second thought… Make your gown, or, if you know someone, have someone else make it. There are a multitude of patterns online for Civil War ballgowns. The skirts are not difficult to make, and often do not need a pattern. If you are looking for someone to sew your costumes for you, leave a comment and we’ll get you a list of contacts.
Sewing is a whole other world. If you are familiar with it, go for it! Below are some pattern websites and historical sewing forums we recommend.
Slippers work best. The cheapest route? Buy some at Walmart and ornament them yourself to match your gown. More details on our Accessories page.
Jewelry and Hair
Wrist length white gloves, in cloth or kid leather, were considered a ballroom necessity, to be removed only when taking refreshments. Shoes should be fairly flat, with at most a low heel, such as ballet flats or “character ballets,” in white or a color to compliment the gown. The shoe can be ornamented with a small ribbon bow in the color of the shoe. More details on our Hair page.
Hair should be worn parted in the centerand pulled away from the face, rolled on the sides and pulled into a bun fairly low in the neck. Evening head dresses can be circlets, wreaths, or decorative combs with ribbons, flowers and feathers. Earrings should be dangles, brooches are often worn and short bead necklaces are appropriate, as well as gold bracelets; a matched pair of bracelets is especially fashionable. A small fan or small bouquet also make good accessories. Here is a page with detailed information on hair from the 1860’s.