Historical Inspiration Festival – 1860s Summer Dress for an American Girl Doll

Story of A Seamstress is hosting a Historical Inspiration Costume Festival.  She has kindly invited doll costumers to participate – so I’m putting up a couple of of my ‘historically inspired’ outfits!

Introducing Bella:

An American Girl doll wears a pink 1860s dress and a wide straw hat trimmed with roses

Bella is a mid-century summer costume, inspired by several mid-19th Century fashion plates showing breezy summer dresses worn with wide straw hats.

1850 Fashion Plate 1

I had a specific goal in mind for this costume – I wanted to use up remnants of materials i already owned, and repurpose vintage materials in as many was as possible. Doll sewing is perfect for this sort of project -the quantities needed are so small that a little goes a very long way!

I drafted a simple summer dress with a gathered bodice, and sewed it out from half a yard of pink and white striped cotton, trimmed at shoulders and waist with a remnant of antique velvet ribbon. The skirt of the dress is ornamented with self-pleats, placed to take advantage of the pink stripe in the fabric. 

An American Girl doll wears a pink striped 1860s dress with velvet trim at waist and shoulders

The pelerine is made from half of a vintage cotton collar, tucked slightly at the shoulders to fit, and fastened at the center front with a hook-and eye.

An American Girl doll wears a white cotton Pelerine over a pink striped 1860s gown

The shawl is sewn from a scrap of silk charmeuse left over from the skirt of my Regency ballgown.

An American Girl doll wears a fringed silk shawl embroidered with pink ribbon roses

The silk shawl is hand-hemmed and embroidered with silk ribbon roses – the ribbons also being tail-ends from my ribbon scrap bag! I did have to purchase the silk fringe – the shortest fringe in the local fabric shop was four inches wide – i stabilized it with strips of clear packing tape and chopped it short with a rotary cutter.

The wide summer hat is made from half of a vintage straw purse that i had found in an antique shop in Boston. Using a teacup as a mold, I steamed a rounded crown into the flat straw plate, and I trimmed the hat with wired silk ribbon roses from my wired ribbon box.

Beneath her dress, and over her hoops (courtesy of Pleasant Company) Bella wears a lace trimmed petticoat made from a hem salvaged from an old cotton summer dress. Underneath everything she wears a pair of pantaloons sewn from the very last scraps after my mother made a blouse of white cotton batiste.

close-up of 1860s hoop petticoat and drawers on an American Girl doll

Thank you for inviting me to join the Historical Inspiration Festival!

An american girl doll in a pink dress is lit and photographed from below. The effect is menacing.










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