Stars and Stripes Style

I hope everyone (well everyone American) had a great time celebrating Independence Day and the long holiday weekend. I’ve always liked the 4th. My family always went to a big 4th of July parade or some years I was even in the parade. Fireworks are pretty too but I have kind of a love / hate relationship with them because they are way too loud for me. I guess I’m kind of like my dog in this. He’s not so fond of them either.

It’s taken me a bit to get excited about the fashion possibilities of Old Glory and the red, white and blue. I’ve been a big fan of the Union Jack for pretty much ever but it took me longer to appreciate the stars and stripes.

For several years I’ve attended The Asylum, the UK’s (and maybe Europe’s) largest Steampunk weekender. It’s very popular there, and to some degree Steampunk events in general, to wear fashions that reference and incorporate the Union Jack. The Union Jack is way less “sacred” than the American Flag so it is deconstructed often. As one of the few Americans who makes the trip to The Asylum, I thought it would be entertaining one year to make an “America” dress in defiance of all the Union Jack dresses. I was extra emboldened with patriotic hutzpah after I saw Alyson Brewer’s Welsh flag dress at Steampunk at the Seaside.

I pulled a lot of different stars, stripes and liberty themed images. The majority of them were patriotic art and illustrations versus fashion drawings. In the end, I was inspired by an actual Victorian dress.

Inspiration for my 1890s Americana Ball Gown

I am not exactly sure the provenance of the gown. The tumblr I pulled the image from says this:

The period between 1876 (the hundredth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence) and 1883 (the hundredth anniversary of the end of the Revolutionary War) saw a huge number of American themed fancy dress balls.

This beautiful Stars & Stripes themed dress was made for such a ball between between 1880 and 1882.

I don’t know if I agree with the dating of the dress. 1880 to 1882 would have most likely made this a bustle gown. This could be the case but without another view it’s hard to tell.

Needless to say it became obvious that there was no way I could make an Americana gown for that year’s (2013) Asylum so I tabled it. As it turned out, I didn’t finish my other flag dress — a pinstriped natural form Union Jack inspired “suit” — in time for Asylum either.

Post Asylum, I was prepping for another Steampunk event, Teslacon. Teslacon’s 2013 theme was “Congress of Steam”. It was supposed to be a “United Nations of Steampunk”. International representation and flair was highly encouraged. I’d already finished my Union Jack dress so about a month out from Teslacon, I decided to go for it and make the Americana dress as my ball gown.

I used Truly Victorian’s 1892s Ballgown Bodice and 1898 Walking Skirt straight up with no changes. I had several stash yards of poly silk in basically the same color as my inspiration dress. I omitted all the lace of inspiration bodice and went for a cleaner look and large poof ball gown sleeves.

I was worried that I was going to have make the red and white stripes myself by piecing strips of satin. I got lucky and found one (and only one) website that had a red and white striped satin. I ordered a shit ton of navy blue embroidered iron on stars in two sizes from cheeptrims. Supplies all came together nicely which was good because I didn’t have any extra time to waste and I had to wait for them to arrive!

I had no problems until I started trying to figure out the stars. I laid them all out and decided on a design before I did anything permanent. Once I had that figured, I started to iron. It turned out that I couldn’t get my iron hot enough to get the stars to stick without scorching the fabric. Good think I figured that out quickly and while I was still testing! In the end I gave up and attached all the stars with fabric glue. It took a couple of days since I let the sections dry overnight.

The dress was basically done by Teslacon except for sewing of buttons. Who does that before the last minute? I brought all my stars and glue with me in case I had any malfunctions. I decided the dress needed more stars so I laid out and glued a new design all along the dress’s hem about 3 hours before the ball. I also managed to get a little too optimistic about the waistband and made that way too small. Luckily my roommate was able to truss me in with several strategic safety pins.

Here are some great images of the dress by Kellyn Willey of Pin Up Girl Cosmetics. She did my hair and makeup too.

1890s Americana Ball Gown by Wilhelmina Frame aka Gretchen Jacobsen. Photo by Kellyn Willey of Pin Up Girl Cosmetics.

1890s Americana Ball Gown by Wilhelmina Frame aka Gretchen Jacobsen. Photo by Kellyn Willey of Pin Up Girl Cosmetics.

1890s Americana Ball Gown by Wilhelmina Frame aka Gretchen Jacobsen. Photo by Kellyn Willey of Pin Up Girl Cosmetics.

This year we went to a 4th of July anniversary party for friends who got married on July 4, 2004. As everyone was encouraged to come in their patriotic best, a lot of people thought I would show up in my gown. I wasn’t really feeling the corset and satin for this event so I made a more versatile Statue of Liberty dress from Butterick Retro B5748.

Statue of Liberty dress – Butterick Retro 5748

I got the fabric on sale at Hancock’s. It’s a super soft drapey cotton. The lining was a stash piece that I had acquired during my Americana gown research period.

Even the lining is patriotic!

I was going to do a mockup of the bodice but I just sort of winged it instead. The fit was not the best but completely fixable. Overall, I’m happy with how it turned out although I’d like future bodices to fit as the pattern was designed (narrower on the shoulder and with a slightly lower neckline). I definitely plan on making the proper drafting fixes needed for this to happen on my body and then I’ll happily make the pattern again!

I thought I would be cheeky and added a little Russian Lenin badge to my otherwise very Amurika! outfit. No one really noticed, but this commie pinko amurikan was entertained!

Commie Pinko Amurikan!


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