Every March, a local Civil War era ball is held. Last year, I took an old pioneer costume I had made years ago and attached a new bodice to it. There were some problems with that though. The skirt was, like I said, old. The cloth for the bodice was new. The skirt was very faded, the print was terribly un-accurate. And I felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb in a faded, rather shabby, calico cotton dress.
So this year I knew I had to make a dress. I started looking into different patterns and knew immediately what I wanted. I started asking some questions from the historical sewing page on Facebook that I am a part of.
The first thing they said was "Don't make a ball dress! You are way too young; go with a nice party dress." But I didn't want a party dress. I wanted a ball dress.
They were correct; if I lived in the 1860's, I would be too young. I wouldn't even be allowed to go to a ball; balls were for meeting other young people and flirting and finding husbands.
So the first rule I broke was that I did make a ball dress, even if it wasn't technically the right thing to do.
Mom pointed out that, "Well, it isn't the 1860's, and you are going to a ball. Therefore, you need a ball dress." I realized she was definitely right; I was going to a ball, so I would need a ball dress.
The second rule I broke that I did intentionally (Eekk!) was I did not make it out of pure silk. The only 100% silk that they sell at Joanns is silk dupioni. It is very pretty, but it is like $25 a yard, and lightweight dupioni is $10. I did look into some silk taffeta online, where you can get it at $10 bucks a yard, but it comes from Thailand and shipping would probably be outrageous.
For what I wanted, this was way out of my price range. So to Joanns I went, and picked out a pretty polyester satin. And no, there was no polyester in the 1860's. I know, I know, all you reenactors are probably gasping. I wish I could afford a real silk dress, but alas, I cannot.
The thing is, you really have to decide what to do accurately and what to cheat on. For this ball in particular, it is pretty casual on following the Civil War rule. So I went with cheating. Besides, I don't plan on wearing this dress outside of this ball, which is held once a year. If I were going to a more strict Civil War ball, then I might try harder to make it more accurate, and if I had a chance to wear it more often, I might be able to justify the cost.