Today I went to the fabric store for one thing and one thing only: muslin, primarily for the purpose of mocking up James' 18th c. men's suit (more on this later).
What I came away with: 10 yards of muslin, yes, but also... 7.5 yards of "homespun" cream-green-brown plaid, 7 yards of brown velvet ribbon, two packets of self-cover buttons, two packets of brown piping, and a spool of brown thread.
I had reconciled myself to not making a new dress for The Great Dickens Christmas Fair, this year, and to wearing the same old one I've been donning for 5-or-so seasons. Sometimes, however, fabric yells at your from the bolt, screaming, "Lauren, BUY ME, I want to be a dress! I don't care if you have only two weeks and a whole mess of other sewing to do by then, you WILL buy me, and you WILL make me into a new dress!" When this voice beckons, there is no arguing.
So...what I've started with is this out-of-print pattern from Simplicity (4551), which looks lovely on the outside but is a Hot Damn Mess once you cut into it. I knew I didn't want to use it as-is, so I used the existing pieces as a base and began slicing and dicing from there. After two muslins and a serious extension to my actual waist, I've got a nicely working pattern that is more like these dresses:
I like the gathered front bodices of the 1840s and early 50s. I'm not entirely sure how they close, but I imagine either edge-to-edge in the front, or with a hidden placket of some kind. I toyed with the idea of buttons, but none of my reference dresses show buttons as a center front closure.
So the final dress will be something like the incredibly rough doodle at the top.
I plan to use the brown piping as contrast on the bodice edge, as well as the little winglets at the shoulders. The velvet trim may go on the winglets as well, if I have any left after trimming the skirt.
I had wanted to do a tiered skirt, but there was not nearly enough fabric on the bolt, nor dollars in my budget. Instead, it will have to be a single-layered skirt, probably 5 yards worth, knife-pleated into a waistband. And speaking of budget, having to come in under $75, so far my tally is at $41.71
And finally, do I have time to whip together an evening bodice? I'm not sure it's appropriate fabric for evening, but I'd like to transition from the day at Dickens to the evening at Gaskells easily, without having to take an entire other gown. We shall see...perhaps I have enough to do with pulling a brown tafetta bonnet out of thin air and somehow conjuring a shawl...