Dressing Mary Todd Lincoln

I recently had the pleasure to creating a gown for “Mrs. Mary Todd Lincoln.”� “Mrs. Lincoln’s” husband portrays President Abraham Lincoln and together, the two have been bringing history to life across the nation for over 10 years now!

This gown was a joint effort between Mrs. Lincoln and myself. The gown is based upon my 1860s era day dress� and loosely inspired by this gown worn by Mrs. Lincoln in this 1860s.

Mary Todd Lincoln
Image courtesy NPS 

The fabric along with a variety of trims were selected by Mrs. Lincoln. I draped and constructed the gown.

The color palette for this gown was inspired by Mary Todd Lincoln’s velvet inauguration dress (as seen below). However, anyone who has ever participated in living history events knows that silk or velvet is not the most appropriate choice for a garment that is meant to be worn multiple times in a variety of (sometimes unpredictable) weather conditions. Thus, Mrs. Lincoln chose to use a high quality yarn dyed/roller print cotton instead.

Mary Todd Lincoln's velvet gown��Mary Todd Lincoln's gown
This gown was made by Elizabeth Keckley- an African American seamstress who used her sewing talents to buy her freedom (and her son’s) prior the American Civil War. Images courtesy The Smithsonian

Here are the results:

Civil War era day dress��Detail of pagoda sleeve
Civil War day dress with collar
The colors for this gown are indigo, violet, pale lavender, and white.
The sleeve trim is pale lavender and the sleeve lining is violet.

And no ensemble would be complete without a fashionable bonnet!

Civil War era straw bonnet��1860s era summer straw bonnet��1860s summer bonnet
Lightweight summer straw bonnet

While most women during this period had one “good” bonnet they wore regardless whether it matched their gown or not, Mary Todd Lincoln was definitely one who had a variety of millinery. It would not have been unusual for her to have had a different piece of millinery for each outfit!

For more information about “President and Mrs. Lincoln,” please be sure to visit their�website!


Image Courtesy Client.


About Susan

Hi! My name is Susan and I am a historian, seamstress, teacher, mother, and wife. My passion for history has manifested itself in the art of recreating clothing from different periods of time. Growing up in the American South, I am heavily schooled in the art of recreating clothing from the 19th century. After nearly a decade of immersing myself primarily in the Victorian period, I found the need to branch out and explore other periods of time. However, it is my connection with the American South and the clothing of rural America that continues to be the driving force behind my designs.

One thought on “Dressing Mary Todd Lincoln

  1. Thank you for giving my dress such a wonderful review. Please see us at VisitWithAbe.com. Mary L.

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