Round gown – bodice progress

My past couple of post have been about undergarments for my 18th century project. At the same time I’ve been slowly progressing on the gown itself. I’m making a round gown, so with a full skirt, and aiming for 1780s.

My fabric is a light grey / silver silk. The pattern is somewhat old-fashioned for the 1780’s, which sees similar two-toned patterns, but which are generally more flower-like, and less baroque.

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Nevertheless, the pattern does have some more naturalistic elements. And given the penchant people had for re-using ‘older’ fabrics, I’m calling it plausible enough.

I started my patterning with the pattern for the Italian gown in the American Duchess Guide to 18th century dress making. My first mock-up was just exactly the pattern in the book, and that was already pretty close. In the end, the things I changed most were the angle of the shoulder strap, the height of the back, and the width of the strap. Below is the last mock-up.

 

After that, it was time for the scary part, cutting the fabric! Taking great care to match the pattern on all the pieces.

 

I’m sewing this dress by hand, which is why progress is relatively slow. It’s quite a suitable project for a first ‘all by hand dress’ though, as I’m not planning on adding much trim.

First up were the boning channels center back, and then constructing the back. On the back pieces all allowances were folded inward, and then all 4 layers were stitched together in one go.

 

Next up was attaching the front silk to the lining with small prick stitches. After that, I could fit again. My silk was a little less stretchy than my mock-up, so I had to let it out a bit on the side seams. (So definitely good that I did this fitting). I also took out the center-front line on each side, and re-did those as they weren’t really straight on the body after all.

 

Then it was time to sew the side seams. These were first sewn with the back silk piece and both lining pieces, allowance to the right side. The front silk piece was then folded over and in, and prick-stitched. I actually did the second seam the wrong way first time, including the front silk instead of the back…  So I ripped it out and re-did it. A bit more painful than when the seam is sewn by machine, but if I’m going to do this by hand, I’m going to do it right…

All seams are sewn with grey silk thread (if only because it’s easier to source than linen). Some close-ups of the insides. From left to right: the back seam, side seam, and center-front.

 

Final thing to do was to sew the front strap lining to the bodice. This is what it looks like now. The shoulder strap in silk will be one of the last things, sewn in place after the sleeve is in. I’m currently working on the skirts first though.

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Round gown inspiration

One of my most concrete plans for 2018 is to make an 18th century round gown. As this is my first round gown, and simultaneously my first 18th century dress, I’ve been doing some visual research (aka: spend too much time on pinterest).

One of my favorite round gowns, and one of the inspirations to use damask for my own project. (Mine will be silver, as that’s what I have. This green is stunning though!)

Round gown, American, ca. 1775. Metropolitan Museum of Art Popular around the 1770s through late 18th century, the round gown was similar to the robe a l'anglaise. It is not an open robe but rather the skirt and petticoat are as one. The gown has a front-closing bodice with no stomacher.

 

First, a brief definition. (I’m not a terminology expert, nor an 18th century expert, but this is what I believe ’round gown’ is mostly used for.) Quite simply put: a round gown is a dress with a full (’round’) skirt, of which the front is not attached to the bodice. You might say: don’t all dresses have a full skirt? But in the 18th century, most dresses were actually open in front, and had a (sometimes matching, sometimes not) petticoat underneath which shows in the front. The round gown is an exception to this ‘rule’. A round gown is different from most ‘later’ styles of dresses, in that he bodice is attached only to the back of the skirt, while the front of the skirt has ties and is attached underneath the front bodice with ties. The sides of the skirts have slits to allow for getting into the skirt. I’m using the term as applied to 1770’s and 1780’s gowns mostly, as the changing fashions in the 1790’s also seem to broaden the definition of the term.

Because pictures are clearer than words sometimes. This is a round gown:

Brown Cotton Round Gown from the Blog, Slightly Obsessed. http://slightly-obsessed.blogspot.com/

A bit difficult to see, but there’s no separate petticoat. This image shows how the front of the skirt is not attached to the bodice, while the back is.

Around and about ROCOCO 1780 Closed dress, cotton. Private collection.

 

I’ve seen examples of round gowns both with a pleated back (pleats stitched down), or with the (later) seamed back style. For my own dress, I’ll probably go with the seamed back, as that’s quite a bit easier to do.

Time for some more inspiration! Most round-gowns are relatively simple trim-wise, and there’s quite a number of chintz examples.

Gown, blue floral pattern on cream ground. Copperplate printed linen. Worn by Deborah Sampson, possibly as her wedding dress. Date: 1760-1790

Textiles (Clothing) - Dress, 1785-1795

 

One of my all-time favorite dresses is this red-ground chintz one.

Japon. Het japonlijf heeft een vierkante hals. Twee platte plooien lopen over de schouder langs de voorpanden en verdwijnen in de rok. Het lijfje heeft vestpanden die gesloten worden met haken en ogen met overdwars een split even in de taille. Vanaf de hals middenachter een brede aangehechte platte plooi die puntig toeloopt en in één stuk is geknipt met de rok. De mouwen zijn glad en uit één stuk tot op de elleboog en hebben een geplooid elleboogstukje...1780 - 1785

 

There’s also patterned silks. This is another fancy silk example.

eMuseum - View Media

 

And a ‘plain’ silk one. I love the styling with the belt on this one, and I’m thinking of adding one to my dress as well!

Levite or round gown, The Netherlands, 1780-1800. Sky blue silk taffeta with a light blue silk sash.