Our First Ball

Well here we are at the 3rd Annual Kansas Statehood Ball in Cottonwood Falls Kansas:


For those of you just joining us, here’s the story: About a month ago, while on a visit to the Tallgrass Praire, we were invited to attend the annual Statehood Ball in Cottonwood Falls. Period attire (1860-1870) was not mandatory, but encouraged. We pondered for a bit, and then said yes.

When we got home we started work on assembling our 1861 (the year Kansas became a state) outfits. Harland’s was easy. We found the shirt and pants at thrift stores, and his vest was ordered online from a company specializing in 19th century clothing.  Done.  And doesn’t he look dapper?

My outfit though required lots of undergarments including a chemise, bloomers, 2 petticoats, a hoopskirt, and corset, all of which I ordered online from different companies that carry reproduction clothing. As for the dress, I could either have one sewn for me ($600 -$1000) or sew it myself. So I bought the pattern and material and got to work.

Many hours of measuring, cutting, fitting, and sewing later, I had finally finished a skirt and bodice.


The skirt was made of 8 pattern pieces and was fully lined but it was not hard to sew.

However, the bodice was a most difficult thing I’ve ever sewn. It’s hard to tell from the pics, but it’s made of 10 pattern pieces, and is fully lined. Seven of the seams contain bodice boning, 1/4 inch wide strips of spring steel to give the bodice form and structure. The green piping around the neckline and waist required hours of hand stitching as did the hook and eye closure up the back.

On the morning of the ball I sewed the last of the 20 hooks and eyes. I wish I’d had more time to sew some lace, ribbon, or bows onto to the dress, but time ran out.

All the work was worth it when we arrived at the ball. We had never done any of the 19th century dances before. It was group dancing, similar to square dancing, only more complicated. There was instruction before each dance on the different steps, but Harland and I had trouble with the difficult stuff, like “turn to the left”……which is our left????  So we were doomed to make fools of ourselves, which we did, but we had a good time doing it:



And gluttons for punishment that we are, we’re already looking forward to attending our next ball in April!

Now I have time to add some lace and ribbon to my dress before we go dancing again…..