Though most of Ellen’s dresses are the frou-frou items her adoptive parents buy her in Boston, Ellen comes from a very, very poor background in Ireland, right in the midst of the Irish potato famine. I wanted her to have a few items of clothing from that period of her life, which is how she wound up with her simple shift nightgown with the ratty shawl, as well as this simple dress.
The dress was made using American Girl patterns: Kirsten’s apron dress bodice with her school dress skirt and sleeves. The vest I just made up off the top of my head –I think I used pieces from a Carpatina pattern as a guide for sizing. The vest didn’t turn out as well as I’d liked, and I think an unlined version might actually work better, so perhaps someday I’ll be inclined to retry it. For now, though, it suffices.
The amber brooch on her vest is the only piece of her mother’s jewelry that Ellen gets –it’s given to her to sell in America in case her new life doesn’t go as planned. She guards the item carefully, since it’s her one piece of grown-up jewelry and also reminds her of her mother. While still in Ireland, though, she learns a tough lesson when she borrows it and loses it out in the garden while farming.
The outfit as a whole was inspired by this photo from one of my favorite books on the Irish Potato Famine…