This dress didn’t begin life as Amy March. It just kind of…happened.
Picture it: my junior year of college, 2000 and something. My English literature class was doing group projects, and mine decided to do an Oprah-type interview of Jane Austen. Who was selected to play Jane Austen? Me! But I needed a costume.
I ran to Joann’s and grabbed Butterick 6630, their regency-era pattern, and whipped it up in white muslin. I mostly followed the pattern to the letter, although the laced back was a little tricky- I ended up using little white eyes for the loops instead of messing with punching eyelets. I also added a little bit of eyelet to the sleeve cuffs and added a full lining to the skirt, also trimmed with eyelet (I’m always a slut for eyelet). I pulled my hair back in a loose knot, added a pair of black ballet slippers, and it made for a pretty decent Jane Austen costume!
Flash forward to Akaicon 2016. I was planning on attending the masquerade, but I didn’t have a ballgown cosplay completed. And I was running out of time fast (and money- the yardage for ballgowns ain’t cheap). I played around with a couple of options but ended up pulling my white Jane Austen dress out of storage and set to work with a different literary character in mind.
In the book Little Women there’s a scene in the second half where Amy, the youngest sister, is preparing to go to a ball. She ends up taking a hand-me-down white ballgown, adds tulle and some flowers, and goes to the ball without anyone suspecting that she’s wearing someone else’s old dress. In fact, it’s that scene where she runs into Laurie again and…well, I would say spoiler alert but the book was published in the 1880s. But it’s a great scene. Amy’s a great character (not in the beginning, I know, but she grows up to be awesome) and I thought the scene would the perfect setup for an (admittedly obscure) amazing cosplay for the masquerade.
It must be recorded of Amy that she deliberately prinked that night. Time and absence had done its work on both the young people. She had seen her old friend in a new light, not as ‘our boy’, but as a handsome and agreeable man, and she was conscious of a very natural desire to find favor in his sight. Amy knew her good points, and made the most of them with the taste and skill which is a fortune to a poor and pretty woman.
Tarlatan and tulle were cheap at Nice, so she enveloped herself in them on such occasions, and following the sensible English fashion of simple dress for young girls, got up charming little toilettes with fresh flowers, a few trinkets, and all manner of dainty devices, which were both inexpensive and effective. It must be confessed that the artist sometimes got possession of the woman, and indulged in antique coiffures, statuesque attitudes, and classic draperies. But, dear heart, we all have our little weaknesses, and find it easy to pardon such in the young, who satisfy our eyes with their comeliness, and keep our hearts merry with their artless vanities.
“I do want him to think I look well, and tell them so at home,” said Amy to herself, as she put on Flo’s old white silk ball dress, and covered it with a cloud of fresh illusion, out of which her white shoulders and golden head emerged with a most artistic effect. Her hair she had the sense to let alone, after gathering up the thick waves and curls into a Hebe-like knot at the back of her head.
“It’s not the fashion, but it’s becoming, and I can’t afford to make a fright of myself,” she used to say, when advised to frizzle, puff, or braid, as the latest style commanded.
Having no ornaments fine enough for this important occasion, Amy looped her fleecy skirts with rosy clusters of azalea, and framed the white shoulders in delicate green vines. Remembering the painted boots, she surveyed her white satin slippers with girlish satisfaction, and chasseed down the room, admiring her aristocratic feet all by herself.
“My new fan just matches my flowers, my gloves fit to a charm, and the real lace on Aunt’s mouchoir gives an air to my whole dress. If I only had a classical nose and mouth I should be perfectly happy,” she said, surveying herself with a critical eye and a candle in each hand.
In Amy-ish fashion, I dug around to see what I had in my costume supplies, and lo and behold, I found a set of white Ikea Lill curtains, still in their packaging. Basically I had a panel of soft, already hemmed tulle. I cut up the curtains to make a multilayered tulle skirt and added a waistband and a hook and eye and voila! The addition of the long tulle skirt made my simple muslin dress look dreamy.
It wasn’t quite complete though, so I added a blue satin ribbon sash, a blonde wig (the same one I wore for Eleven), and a flower crown from Claire’s. My boots are a beautiful pair of ivory high heeled Seychelles Romance boots that look gorgeous but HURT. I was relieved I was only wearing them for the masquerade because wow, so much pain.
I have a couple of (awkward) photos in the costume, and while no one knew who I was, I was really happy with how it turned out. The fit could have been better and it could have been a little fancier, but for a costume I only wore for two hours it worked really well!