Period Clothing from the Civil is so very unique and special. Post Civil War Clothing is unique as the Civil War is to this Nation. Sometimes I have even dreamt of wearing this style of clothing, because times were simpler, and yet in today’s society it was much harder than I realize.
Meet the Woman Behind the Cover Dress by Tamera Alexander
Have you ever wanted to meet the woman who sewed the dress on a novel cover? Then please allow me to introduce you to Beth Schoenherr, the ever-so-talented seamstress who sewed Eleanor Braddock’s dress for the cover of A Beauty So Rare.
I’m thrilled that Beth was willing to share about her experience in making the dress, and I love the behind-the-scenes glimpses she shares. I hope you will, too!
Tamera: Where did inspiration for the dress for A Beauty So Rare come from (both the style and color)?
Beth: The style, of course, was determined by the post–Civil War timing of the story.
I believe the cover designer and editors talked about a garden setting and felt pink would look lovely against the backdrop of the green foliage and other flowers, which it does! I then had the fun of finding the right shade of pink to keep it a believable color for the time. Hot pink or neon pink, of course, would never do!
Tamera: Um, no. LOL! Not even Adelicia Acklen could have coerced Eleanor into neon pink! ; )
Tamera: Have you made dresses for photo shoots before?
Beth: I started doing period costumes for men, women, and children in amateur theater in 1999 and then had opportunities in the following years to progress to working in the costume shop of a professional theater. This is my first costume for a photo shoot, however.
Tamera: How cool, Beth. I’m so grateful for your work on this dress. Well done!
Tamera: Do you have an appreciation for period clothing? And if yes, what’s your favorite style of women’s dresses from history?
Beth: I do enjoy period clothing. I don’t think I can pick one favorite style though. I just enjoy the various and changing silhouettes and fabrics throughout the history of fashion.
Tamera: Understandable. I have many “favorites,” too!
Tamera: What’s the most challenging dress you’ve created for a cover (and what was most challenging about it)? Also, what has been your most challenging sewing project in general?
Beth: As I mentioned, this is the first dress I have made for a cover. It has been really fun and exciting to create this dress from scratch and then see it on the cover of this book. A new experience I had when making this dress was the cartridge pleats at the back of the skirt. The pattern called for the front and side pieces of the skirt to be pleated to fit into the waistband and left only a five-inch opening in the back of the waistband. Then I had to fit the 50-inch-wide piece of fabric for the back part of the skirt into that five-inch opening. I thought, “There is no way I’m going to get that much fabric into that little space.” But the cartridge pleats worked fabulously at neatly pleating 50”down to 5”.
The most challenging costume I worked on was a waistcoat designed and then cut out by someone else and given to me to sew. Not a single piece matched up in size to its coordinating piece. There was no extra fabric to work with so I had to just rework the pieces I had while making sure the finished garment would still fit the actor it was designed for. Definitely a “make it work”project!
Finally, probably the most thrilling dress I got to make was the first complete dress for a play at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. Many of my costumes prior to that had to be remakes of existing dresses or costumes due to tight budgets. But I was graciously given the opportunity to sew, from start to finish, the schoolteacher dress in Little House on the Prairie: The Musical, which premiered at the Guthrie and then went on to tour nationally. It was so exciting to see the professionally-designed dress come together step-by-step and then to see it on stage.
Tamera: Wow, Beth, I bet that was a rewarding experience with Little House on the Prairie: the Musical. Congratulations! I’ve always admired people who know how to sew, and sew well!
Thank you for sharing your talent and time with us––and with the cover of my latest novel.
For more “behind the scenes” glimpses from the photo shoot for A Beauty So Rare, visit Tamera’s blog.