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