Being a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution for the last ten years, as well as a seamstress means that I love to create historic items. A few years ago, just after Scarlett was born, I entered all the “undergarments” I had sewn for a 1776 Garden Walking Gown into a Fabric Arts Competition and won the state round! This time, I had a co-collaborator that actually sponsored the project. Carol is a re-enactor that portrays Dolley Madison at various events, and she wanted to commission the famous red velvet dress that Dolley wears in her classic portrait.
Dolley Madison Fabric Choices
Of course, we had to take some liberties. The cost of fully natural velvet was extremely high and our of our budget, so instead of using a polyester blend (the competition dictated that we used all-natural fabrics), we turned our attention to 100% silk. The available Scarlett dupioni was accepted by Carol and approved by me, so we went for it! After sourcing 100% dupioni silk and gold trim from India, we started to flat pattern and get to work.
Dolley Madison Dress Construction
I cut a muslin from a historic replica pattern and fit it to Carol before beginning. With a few fittings along the way, the dress came together over the early summer. It would have gone miles faster, but the kiddos were out of school and my attention was incredibly split.
The last step was to apply the Sari trim and give the dress a final hem. Below is a photo I sent Carol during construction to keep her updated!
The Finished Dress
Carol styled her black wig and we set an extra piece of trim and a white ostrich feather in it as a hair ornament. She already had opera length white gloves and white Louis heels from American Duchess (I HIGHLY recommend these shoes). Paired with some pearl drop earrings and cuff, the look was complete.
The DAR chapter we are members of meets at a Country Club in Atlanta, so we hopped into the well-styled lobby for a photoshoot on a rainy winter day.
The Fabric Arts competition required that we submit over 6 photos of the dress as well as construction photos to prove we hadn’t bought it. It’s one of the few categories that submitting the actual item isn’t required. It took us a mere 15 minutes to shoot a set of frames and we were off home burying down in the cold.
I still have yet to hear back about the competition status, but Carol was very happy with her dress, and it resulted in many compliments and even a few order inquiries of custom dress orders! Wish us luck on our placing at State!