Recent Posts

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

2016 Costume Challenge–Becoming Laura Ingalls Wilder

It’s the moment many of you have been waiting for: when I reveal all of my plans and research for the annual Decor To Adore costume challenge.

This year I received inspiration for the time period I would recreate from my cousin, Laura Ingalls Wilder.


Laura was born on February 7, 1867 in Pepin, Wisconsin. This is one of the earliest photos of Laura as a child. She is standing on the right, Mary is seated and Carrie is on the left.


I’ve always loved Laura’s descriptive writing abilities. A favorite chapter in Little House in the Big Woods is “Dance at Grandpa’s”. Laura recalls a visit to her grandparents (my great great great grandparents) home. Lansford Whiting and Laura Colby Ingalls are shown below with some of their children.

My great great grandfather Lansford “James” Ingalls is on the far left. He stands above his sister Laura Ladocia “Docia” Ingalls.

Picture_0001 Here is another image of Aunt Docia in her golden years.

laura ladocia

Laura Ingalls Wilder discussed in great detail what Aunt Docia wore to the dance that night.

“Aunt Docia’s dress was a sprigged print, dark blue, with springs of red flowers and green leaves thick upon it. The basque was buttoned down the front with black buttons which looked so exactly like juicy big blackberries that Laura wanted to taste them.”

“Aunt Docia’s pretty white collar was fastened in front with a large round cameo pin…”

“They looked lovely, sailing over the floor so smoothly with their large, round skirts.”

Now based on the Ingalls timeline this dance, held in the winter, probably occurred in late 1870 or early 1871 as Carrie is described in the chapter as a small baby and she was born on August 3, 1870. So this provides a good indication as to what the dress fashions would be. Laura described looking at Ma’s “Godey's Lady's Book”, a monthly fashion magazine, and it provides a wealth of visual inspiration.

civil.war+dress | Civil War Era Fashion Plate - October 1863 Godey's Lady's Book:

1867 Godey lady 3 - free to use by ms.bailey, via Flickr:

Cambrix Robe ~ Godey's Lady's Book, July 1864 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!:

The exchanging of carte de visites, small photographic albumen prints, were all the rage in the 1860’s/70’s and they also serve as wonderfully detailed sources of information on ladies fashion.

Young women wearing pretty calico dresses. Shows a bit of age appropriate wear…:

Small reticule. Clearly-defined ruched or pleated trim.:

CIVIL WAR ERA CDV PHOTO OF YOUNG WOMAN IN LOVELY CALICO HOOP DRESS POTTSVILLE PA in Collectibles, Photographic Images, Vintage & Antique (Pre-1940) | eBay:

There are also a few rare examples of actual dresses made during this era.

Wow, gorgeous fabric! And the green velvet on the shoulders has tiny silver beads sewn on it.:

Green and white gingham check hand-sewn cotton dress, ca. 1860-65. Ohio State…:

Common design elements are dropped shoulders, bishop sleeves, band collars, fitted waists and full skirts.  A good pattern to recreate this style is Butterick B5831.


Based on Laura’s description of Aunt Docia’s dress fabric the perfect choice is Andover Fabrics A-7951-B “Prairie Flowers” collection  from the Little House on the Prairie fabric line.

blue floral

As of the writing of this post I have completed the petticoat that is included in the pattern. But I have not had a chance to photograph it just yet.


Perfect Prairie Accessories will be featured next week. This post will include 1860’s/70’s styled gloves, a head covering, bonnet, stockings and shoes. Almost all of these elements are in the process of currently being transformed from things I have found at thrift stores in keeping with past themes of budget costuming.

Andover 003-002

The Prairie Patchwork Petticoat will make its debut the third week of October.  

Sewing Projects 005-001

The last week in October will feature the complete reveal of “Becoming Laura”.  Of course I will need a dance partner and Mr. Decor has graciously agreed to join me in this year’s costume challenge. I’m currently working on his vest and cravat tie.

"This is how most people dressed during the Civil War era, not like Scarlet…:

I hope you’ll come on along this costume journey.


Past Costumes

Becoming Jane

Jane Austen Regency 083

The Duke and Duchess of Decor

18th Century Ensemble Decor To Adore 138-001

18th Century Ensemble Decor To Adore 195-001


Linda said...

Oh Laura, can't wait to see your wonderful creations!! As you know, I've adored Laura Ingalls Wilder all of my life or at least since 2nd grade when I first read her marvelous books. I've always loved reading about your family connection and historical accounts. Very interesting.

Love, Linda

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

Wow! What a huge undertaking! Wish I was there to lend you a hand. I sure love your Becoming Jane costume. How elegant! Enjoy your of luck with your sewing! Hugs, Diane

Bloggymom said...

Sounds like you have quite the project(s)!! Looking forward to your upcoming posts. Happy Sewing!! said...

I'm always amazed at your creativity and the things you can create. Looking forward to seeing more.

Katie Mansfield said...

You amaze me. I've loved those books for ages and ages. Your sewing skills are perfection. I cannot wait to see.

Shenita @ Embellishments by SLR said...

Laura, how exciting! I know that you are going to do an amazing job on the costumes. Looking forward to the reveal!

Kiki Nakita said...


Can't wait to see how it turns out!


Marty@A Stroll Thru Life said...

Oh my word, I can't wait to see both of your costumes. You always amaze me with your talent and your knowledge of the era. Love it all.

lynn cockrell said...

What a fabulous costume, Laura! It must be a wonderful feeling to be replicating a part of the life and times of a well known and remarkable ancestor such as this. I love the name of Aunt Docia. My husband's grandmother(his father's mother) was named Docia!

Rosemary said...

I love your inspired choice and will patiently wait for the reveal, oh boy!!!!!

Blondie's Journal said...

You are amazing, girl! I know you do a lot of research for your blog posts...we've been pals for a long time! I know you will make the perfect never fail.

Like many, I grew up with all of the books. Something we will never forget.


P. A. Garbutt said...

I have such a delightful time watching your creations come to life. Wonderful family connection makes this year even more special. Thanks for sharing your ideas and skills.

Jeanie said...

Laura, I love this post for so many reasons. Your rich treasure trove of old family photographs. Your commitment to embracing your relative and continuing her legacy. And of course your wonderful sense of research (loved the old photos of fashion) and creativity. I will be excited for each and every step of this project!

At Rivercrest Cottage said...

So much wonderful information and photos in this post! Loved how you tied it to Laura's books. I have to tell you I loved the dog collars you made from the plaid shirts. So much so that I added it to my post again today on the fall tour with a link just to it so that no one has a chance to miss seeing those precious little dogs!

Denise said...

Hi Laura,

I really enjoyed this post! I still remember reading those delightful books and watching the television series with my family years ago. You might think I'm crazy, but I can see a resemblance between you and your famous ancestors. I think it's in the shape of the face and your eyes. I know you'll do a fantastic job on your costume -- can't wait to see it!

Have a wonderful weekend!


Denise at Forest Manor