In early 2011, I was asked to make a reproduction of First Lady Dolley Madison’s favorite gown for Dr. Lynn Uzell, the official reenactress portraying Dolley Madison at Dolley’s former home in Montpelier, Vermont. This would one one of my first entirely-hand-sewn gowns, and the first to be on television. It was featured in the fifth and sixth episodes of the third season of the Emmy-award-winning series A Taste of History.
This gown has a somewhat interesting history to it. It was one of Dolley’s favorites, but why? Later in her life, when she was very poor (one of her former slaves lent her money, such was the degree of her impoverishment), and most of her belongings were sold, this one of of the very few things she kept.
When the original White House was to be burned in 1814 in an act of arson, Dolley ordered the drapes in the Oval Drawing Room to be saved, as well a the portrait of George Washington that so many of us know so well. Historians now believe that her beloved gown was made from those drapes.
More photo of my version are in my Facebook album dedicated to this gown.
I used garment-weight silk velvet (the information about the drapery-weight wasn’t widely available when I made this gown, which went on vacation with me to Missouri so I could continue to work.
Based on photos I had at the time, I replicated the same color scheme lining, as well as thread.