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…..




Cattle, corn, wheat, beans, mud, snow, ice, and drought. Plenty of fresh air and quiet. Our life is sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes joyous, but never boring.

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29 Responses

  1. Madison G. says:

    You two look lovely! Beautiful costumes.

  2. Laura says:

    I admire the two of yours “spunk”…..you both look beautiful!

  3. Lainie says:

    You guys are just too darn cute!

  4. Glenda says:

    Looks like your hard work paid off on the dress! I’m so glad you enjoyed yourselves and there was a decent crowd. Now what is the ball coming up in April about and where? At least you will have the basic outfits already in hand. How did Harland like wearing gloves?

    • Suzanne says:

      The Ball in April will be at the same place in Cottonwood Falls, although they may need a bigger venue as more and more people are coming with each ball. There is a Flint Hills Victorian Dance Society that puts on the balls and they have several each year.

  5. Glenda says:

    I can’t resist asking how going to the bathroom worked out. Maybe in a private email? LOL!

    • Suzanne says:

      Well, I didn’t do much drinking, and was sweating some, so thankfully, I didn’t have to go. But the bloomers have an open crotch made for the purpose of going to the loo in that outfit. It was kinda drafty down there. 🙂

  6. Alica says:

    You guys look great! And I really enjoyed the video…what fun memories, and the next time, you’ll be pro’s! 🙂

  7. Jay says:

    I feel for you learning the dances. Reminded me the first time I square danced and feeling so lost, not knowing where to go or what to do. But you’ll do much better the next time you do the dances.

  8. Donna says:

    Very cool- thanks for sharing!

  9. Kathy S. says:

    At the end of your video I wanted to applaud. It looks like so much fun. Your dress turned out beautiful!

  10. Tina says:

    It’s perfect! I have such a big smile on my face! You both look great. Wonderful job on the dress Suzanne and Harland looks great. Thank you so much for taking us along too. You both have been so generous letting us intrude on you.

  11. Amy C. says:

    Wonderful! Wonderful!
    You were dressed perfectly for the event. The dancing looked like so much fun. I loved the music! I watched the video twice and just sat and smiled. I also thought how blessed you and Harland are to have found each other. You should have been crowned King and Queen of the ball!!!

  12. You two look great. You are quite the seamstress. The neckline makes that dress. It looks good on you. Worth all the time. I like the sleeve bows too. Can’t wait to see how else you adorn it for the next dance. Your hubby also does his outfit well. And, it sounds like you had fun!!!

  13. Rosann M says:

    Harland looks so handsome and you look beautiful. Good job. Glad you had a great time.

  14. Cameo says:

    That looked like a lot of fun. Really good job on the dress & Harland looked really sharp.

    Thank you for letting us look into your window on the Praire.

  15. Mickey K. says:

    What Fun!!! I would love to do that! Love all the dresses! Your dress looks beautiful! I did enjoy your post with you in your underwear, btw 😉

  16. Marie W says:

    Thank you for sharing this adventure!!! You two never fail to do it with such class. You guys look great!!!

  17. Lynda M O says:

    Oh what a beautiful morning, Oh what a beautiful day…

    An amazing evening of fun and frolicking in some snazzy outfits. I look forward to seeing what you do for embellishments before the April dance. You look so romantic together, the two of you. I feel as tho I have been peeking thru the window into a piece of your lives; many thanks for that opportunity.

  18. Dianna says:

    That was so much fun – I found myself smiling throughout the video. You had your work cut out for you (no pun intended) to make that outfit in a month’s time! (love your comment about the bloomers…. who knew??)

  19. Doe in Mi says:

    Love your video. So much fun with some giggles too. The giggles come from remembering about learning to square dance. Great out fits, you did a wonderful job on a very hard pattern, pretty.

  20. Laura says:

    Wonderful job! Thanks for sharing.

  21. Rosemary says:

    What fun! You both look mah-ve-lous darlings! Thanks for sharing!

  22. Frances says:

    May be a silly question, but can one sit down with those hoop skirts without mashing them to a permanently distorted figure? You both looked adorable.

    • Suzanne says:

      Oh sure you can sit down in a hoop skirt. You reach behind you to the hoop that is hanging below your behind and lift it up above the chair as you sit down. With practice you can do it and no one notices…

  23. Cindy from CA says:

    WOW! Your dress looks great! Harlan looks so stylish! (For the 1860s!). The dance looks like SO much fun. I would need a new husband to do this!(my “old” one wouldn’t cooperate!).

  24. Phyllis says:

    Suzanne – Thank you for sharing ALL the parts of this Ball – from the appropriate “underoos” to the beautiful dress. And wow – look at Harland! It even looked like you both did well with the dancing. I can’t imagine Harland ever even trying something like that before he met you!

    So when will the Ball be held at the State Captiol!!!!!

  25. Nancy Weatherford says:

    Love, love, love the video! You two are quiet the couple!
    Thanks for taking us along…what fun!

  26. Kelly says:

    Oh what a wonderful opportunity! It looked like a fun day. Your dress is beautiful. You did a great job. No need for lace either.
    You two do so many fun things together!

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