1780s Silver round gown

I posted about the bodice of this gown before, but it’s now officially done!

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This was my big project for this year. A completely hand-sewn 18th century dress, out of silver silk.

It was my first foray into 18th century dressmaking, and I used the American Duchess book as a guide. The pattern is strongly based on the Italian gown in the book. I made some slight alterations to the back neckline, and to make it fit me. To turn it into a round gown, I simply added an extra skirt panel center front.

The bodice construction was done as described in the book (blog post here), and also the main reason I wished to do this by hand, as it’s not quite possible to follow the same techniques when sewing by machine. For instance with the shoulder piece, which is attached to the outside.

 

The skirt was fairly straight-forward, just 3 panels of 150cm wide, with slits on either side of the front panel and pleated at the top.

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Pleating the back skirt, here basted together with red thread. I basted both a couple of cm above and below where the bodice would be attached, so the pleats would stay properly in place when attaching it to the bodice.

 

The skirt was attached to the bodice by top-stitching through all layers from the outside. I then removed the visible basting at the bottom

 

The front panel is attached to a waistband which is tied around the waist before putting on the bodice, while the back panels are stitched to the dress.

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The top of the front panel of the skirt, attached to a waistband

 

Spot the hem! The hem seen from outside (left) and inside (right)

 

The dress is currently untrimmed, and so relatively simple on it’s own. To complete the outfit, I planned to have a sash, fichu and a hat.

The sash was simply a vintage blue ribbon, and the fichu a triangle of very thin white cotton, which I hemmed by hand.

The hat was more work, and the biggest hat I’ve ever made. I based the proportions on a portrait, drawing lines through the face and hat to see how wide the hat was relatively to the head.

One of my main inspirations, and the one I used for scale, is this portrait. Her hair is deceptively wide, just look how it extends almost as far on either side as her head is wide. The hair definitely makes the hat look ‘not quite as huge’.

Portrait of Susanna Gyll by John Hoppner.

 

I’ve long admired the hats made by the Modern Mantua maker, and she really inspired me to look at fashion plates for hat options. In the end, I settled on stripes at the bottom of the brim, and ribbons and bows around the crown.

This fashion plate was one of my main inspirations:

Hats from 1787.

 

I didn’t have striped fabric, and not too much of my base fabric (the dark grey). So I got some paler ribbon, and cut strips of the fabric, and stitched those together to form the covering for the bottom of the crown. I finished the hat by adding two ribbons around the crown with little bows. My method was a bit of a mix-up between the one from the Modern Mantua maker, and from the 1790s hat in the American Duchess guide to 18th century sewing.

 

To finish the full ensemble, I styled a wig. I have very long, quite thin hair, and the idea of untangling it after doing a hedgehog style was slightly terrifying. So wig it was. When I wore it, I curled the front of my hair and blended that into the wig, which worked quite well. The hat really needs the huge hairstyle to give some proportion to it, and I’m quite happy how it worked out!

 

This dress will have a second outing in November, for a ball this time. I have some beautiful antique cotton lace, which I plan to use to trim the neckline and sleeves. Stay tuned for version nr. 2 in a bit over a month!

For now, pictures of the whole thing worn!

The dress from the back and sides.

 

With the sash:

 

And some portraits of with the hat!

 

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.