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!

 

1820’s Ballgown

A couple of months ago I was at a fabric market and stumbled on a lovely light-blue fabric with silver ribbon embroidery on the sides. I totally wasn’t planning on anything where it would work, but it was too pretty to leave! Also, it was pretty cheap, being a poly-satin, but the color was so nice that it didn’t actually look too cheap. As a good price is always a good incentive to buy stuff you don’t have plans for, I got it.

The color, drape and border really spoke regency to me, especially the latter regency where emphasis on the hem was getting more pronounced. Say early 1820’s. This was also a nice new challenge, as my previous regency projects were a bit earlier, with the waistline directly below the bust. In the 1820’s, the waistline started dropping and I suspected that would actually be more flattering on me. I don’t really have a lot of bust, so regency dresses make me very tube-like. Of course, that was the idea at the time, but a little more waist emphasis can be more flattering to a modern eye.

I still had a couple of other things to finish up first, but I did start thinking and playing with designs.

 

This is the design I came up with:

I wanted to use the ribbon part for the hem and the sleeves, but also let it return in the bodice a bit. To not make it too overpowering, I decided to just use it in the center-front. The little stripes on the bodice were inspired by this dress (natmus.dk), and are stuffed fabric tubes. I also decided to make a ‘waistband’ as in this example to lower start of the skirt a bit more, and to make the back bodice gathered as in this example.

Brunrød silkekjole, 1816

I did nearly all of the work on the dress in one weekend. I started with lengthening my bodice pattern for the regency dresses a bit, and after that was cutting the fabric!

The lay out for the center bodice part. I cut off the sides of the pattern and cut those from the plain fabric. The pieces will be sewn together and the seams hidden by the fabric tubes.

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All the bodice pieces cut out. I flatlined the bodice in white cotton, because the blue fabric was very slippery.

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The back panel was made wider in the center-back to allow for the gathering. I made the lining slightly shorter than the outer fabric so it wouldn’t show. The pink stripe on the lining is the original width of the bodice.

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A picture which shows the bodice pieces sewn together. To make the fabric tubes I used fiber fill and rolled it into strings, wrapping it in fabric strips and hand-sewing them closed, then hand-sewing them onto the bodice. I believe the original versions of these were made with carded wool stuffing, but I happend to have fiber-fill laying around. It worked okay, but I had to be careful to make the tubes even. I also didn’t cut the strips on the bias, which probably would’ve made them a bit less wobbely as well.

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What it looked like with half of the fabric tubes sewn on! The waistband is still just pinned at the center-front so I could stuff the tubes in the seam.

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I didn’t take much pictures after this, but construction was fairly straight forward. The sleeves were the typical regency-sleeve pattern, only extended at the bottom to be a couple of cm. longer than the original pattern. The back bodice was gathered onto the waistband, the top raw edge of the bodice folded over and hand-stitched to the lining. I attached 2 cotton cords to the shoulder seams to run through the folded-over outer fabric towards the back. These will be the draw-strings to close the back. The skirt was basically 2 rectangles, the back a 2m wide one gathered to the side & back panels, with a slit in the middle.

Finished photos!

 

And because I couldn’t resist, one with an old version of Pride & Prejudice

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