Category Archives: 1770s

Project Journal: Versailles Sacque: Construction Details

It’s time for some in depth detail about the construction of the robe a la francaise I wore to Versailles in May. My original plan was to use pink silk in my fabric stash to create a robe de cour inspired by Maria Federovna, but I realized when I went to cut out the pieces that I did not have enough fabric.

The change in plan resulted in new fabric and a new plan. I stuck with the decade of the 1770s, but decided to make a robe a la francaise, or sacque, instead of a robe de cour as it seemed like a garment I might be more likely to wear again in the future. Accordingly, I found and ordered new fabric: 11 yards of a very lightweight changeable silk ‘lutestring’ from Burnley and Trowbridge. Luckily, the new fabric still worked with the metallic silver net I’d purchased for trim. It’s the same metallic silver net that is on my 1885 Night Sky Fancy Dress, just cut into strips.

The pattern is from JP Ryan: it’s the Pet en Lair pattern, lengthened to create a gown as they suggest. Underneath I’m wearing a shift, stays, pocketsMr. Panniers, a generic 18th century petticoat, and the petticoat that matches the gown. I also have American Duchess clocked stockings and embellished American Duchess Kensingtons. All my jewelry is from eBay. You can read more about how I created my hairstyle and the hair ornament in this past post.

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Regarding the pattern, I found some of the directions to be confusing. For example, making the petticoat seemed way overcomplicated.   You can read more details about how I made my petticoat here. Also, I found the directions for pleating the front robings/facing and the back pleats quite confusing. There, I was saved by this post written by AJ who also used the JP Ryan pattern, got confused, and posted about the confusing bits. Very helpful! Aside from the confusing directions, the gown pieces went together perfectly with no trouble. I did have to alter the front strap area to make the front sit flat against my body. Two friends who used this same pattern did not have to make that adjustment, so I chalk it up to differing body shapes but do not think it negatively affects the pattern.

IMG_0687 (1)The lining of the gown is made from a one yard piece of cotton/linen blend from my stash. Also from my stash and used inside the gown were a scrap of medium blue linen and a scrap of medium blue cotton twill used to interface the stomacher. These were all the bits left of those three stash fabrics–yay! I was also amused that all of the random non-silk fabrics in this gown and petticoat wound up being blue. I used my lining as my mockup, meaning that I had to take a dart in the front strap area, but was able to adjust the pattern to eliminate the dart before cutting out the silk.

The back of the lining is adjustable using a tie threaded through eyelets. The edges are boned with reed. The pattern suggests ties, but you also see lacing in extant garments and this seemed easier to adjust and that it would use less length for the tie(s). There are examples of both ties and lacing on my Pinterest board for this project. The tie is a 1/4″ cotton twill tape. It’s not accurate, but did the job.

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Underneath the decorative stomacher, the gown closes with lacing panels attached to the lining. Again, mine laces closed using twill tape.

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This is the inside of the front lacing panels. You can see the medium blue linen backing. I think I had run out of the cotton/linen blend at that point. As is usual with 18th century garments, the armhole is left unfinished.

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Here’s a close up of the back pleats. These are stitched all the way through to the lining. The directions for the pleats were slightly confusing, but made sense once I started fiddling with my fabric. It was important that I had transferred all the markings from the pattern to make the pleating easier to understand. The pattern uses another four pleats pleats, underneath these, that you can’t see to add volume to the back.

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Due to the unexpected nature of the purchase of the silk fabric for this gown, I decided to do that fabric justice by hand sewing the entire garment. So in addition to the exterior stitching like that anchoring the pleats on the back, all of the interior seams are also hand sewn. I rather enjoy hand sewing and it makes a lot more sense given the way 18th century garments were constructed.

Here is the gown mostly sewn in its essential elements, but lacking trim. The sleeve flounces were individually gathered and sewn to the arm openings. They are pinked with scalloped shears on the top and bottom edges.

The following image is the gown that I followed in terms of trim placement. It took many more hours than I thought it would to pin the trim on. Those big waves are more complicated than they look, plus I had the challenge of creating the smaller scallops as I went along as well. All of the trim had to be sewn along both sides and tacked at each scrunch after it had been pinned.

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Robe a la Francaise. 1765. LACMA.

You can see that I pressed my robings down all the way to the hem, though once the trim was applied on top it was really not very noticeable. I like the finished result, but I think it’s worth pointing out that this pattern is designed to have a wide stomacher. I was envisioning it coming out a little narrower at the waist. But I think adjusting the back opening enough to make a noticeable difference would only create awkward wrinkles under the arms.

The finished stomacher was covered in scalloped trim and finished off with a sparkly brooch. I went to France with an untrimmed stomacher and no clear idea about how I wanted to trim it except that I wanted it to be an all over metallic feast for the eyes. Luckily, early in the trip I was able to go see the 300 Centuries of Fashion exhibit at Les Arts Decoratifs. In addition to being amazing (I got to stand within 6 feet of Dior’s Bar Suit and see many garments I’ve only ever seen on Pinterest!), I also took a picture of a stomacher that was inspirational in terms of the overall wavy patterns and filler shapes. That picture is below.

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Trimming the stomacher took place in the evenings in the few days before the special event. Here is the stomacher in progress. I took it specifically to show the amazing green color that the fabric can appear from some angles. I was hoping to get a picture of the finished gown looking this color, but had to be content with seeing shades of green in some of the pictures as we didn’t capture any where the whole gown was this color.

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Another part of the dress that was finished in France were my engageants. The pattern includes flounces of two lengths to be made of silk and then one longer flounce for an under flounce or engageant. I sacrificed some lace I’ve been intending for another project, threw some darts in at the longest section to get the scalloped edge to be the right shape, and filled in the length with a bit of mystery ivory sheer. The resulting flounce was gathered and sewn to a cotton tape that was basted into the arm opening.

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It sure sounds like a lot of work, recounting these bits of the process. It was! And it paid off. I’m very pleased with the gown. And very pleased that this picture captures some of the stunning green in the fabric!

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Project Journal: Versailles Sacque: Hair In Detail

Part of the work of getting ready for my trip to Versailles was hair: figuring out how I wanted to style my hair, obtaining or creating all of the necessary pieces and accessories, and practicing ahead of time. After looking at lots of inspiring images with a variety of hair shapes, I settled on creating a high slightly egg shaped style c. 1770.

I did two trial hair sessions in the month or so before I left. The first was rather frustrating, as I was learning what I liked (or didn’t like), and the end result was less than satisfactory. The progress was slow because I was creating hair pieces as I went along. The second day was much quicker and ended in success! At the time of the success post there was no time to post about how I achieved my look, but now there is, so here we go.

The pictures I took were for myself so that I could remember each successful step on the day of the event while getting ready. It worked quite well! And it means I have step by step pictures to share here. Once I had the plan down, I think styling took about 45 minutes with all the steps including trim and powder.

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One of my first hair pad contraptions. This wasn’t tall enough or large enough around.

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My final hair pad contraption with the addition of my Gibson Girl hair pad for bulk.

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I started by anchoring the pad to my head in about eight different places using crossed bobby pins. Then the front section of hair was brought up over the front of the hair pad, and pinned in place.

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I may look crazed, but I used my fluffy ends to help fill out the sides of my hairstyle even more. This is the middle of the back of my hair pulled up, crossed to help hide the hair pad and pinned in place.

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The sides were smoothed up and over the crazed side curls and pinned so the ends helped cover the hair pad in back. The curly bit sticking out on top was later tucked in and hidden.

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From the back. At this point I had clipped in four of the five permanently glued buckles.

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The remaining back section was loosely looped up. The fifth buckle was placed over the pins holding the loop of hair in place.

Then, for the actual event, I used baby powder to powder my hair. It was easy to use, required no extra products to hold in place, and smelled fresh. (I forgot to powder my hair on the trial days, so your eyes aren’t deceiving you if my hair looks darker in those step by step photos. There is a picture of my hair half powdered in this post taken while I was getting ready on the day of the event.)

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The finished result! My ornament is the one I made for my 1899 evening gown with some extra white feathers.

My buckles were made using synthetic hair. I purchased a ‘full head’ clip in set, 20″ long, that came with sections of various widths already attached to wig clips (similar to this). I purchased color #4, which matches the darker brown parts of my hair nicely, aside from being super shiny. I used the narrower widths for the buckles, but I still have the wider ones leftover. (I’m thinking I might be able to use them to create some 1830s clip in hair pieces…)

I am very grateful that Kendra Van Cleave did an immense amount of research into 18th century hair and wigs and shared it. An excellent taste is available on her blog and she’s also compiled her knowledge into a very detailed, picture-filled book that was quite helpful along my path to creating 18th century hair. Amongst lots of other information, there are instructions for creating temporary and permanent curls and buckles (including the instructions I used to create my buckles), lots of background about types of wigs and hair pieces, a discussion about powder options, and step-by-step tutorials showing ways to create a variety of styles from throughout the 18th century. Very useful!

Project Journal: Versailles Sacque: Hair Decided

I’m quite busy sewing up a storm to get my sacque finished in the last few days I have before heading out on my trip. Therefore this is just a quick post to document my progress.

In the last few weeks I had two hair trial days. The first was a bit frustrating, because I did my hair twice and wasn’t satisfied either time. I was experimenting: figuring out what worked and what didn’t, what was becoming and what wasn’t, fashioning and refashioning the support for the style, and making permanent and detachable buckles (see below for a description of a buckle, from Cunnington’s The Dictionary of Fashion History).

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The second day was much more successful. The buckles were already made, I knew what shape I wanted to achieve, and I had a clearer idea of how to get there. Eventually I plan to share more details about creating the style, but for now, here are pictures of the style on trial day #2 with another sneak peak at my sacque in the process of having its trim added.

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I also played with powdering my hair on day #2. I was unsure about it before I tried it, but the powder helps the real greys (ahem) blend in and helps the false hair of the buckles with their sheen blend better, too. For the actual event I’ll have to do a better job making it even so I don’t look like I have a streak!

The sacque is so close to done that I’m crossing it off, too. It needs one more sleeve flounce layer and an under sleeve flounce layer added, but that’s it! And trim. Pinning the trim is taking a lot longer than I imagined it would because I am a perfectionist about the placement. I don’t expect that sewing it will be as slow, but I’m not there yet. Ahh! Off to sew!

  • Panniers
  • Petticoat
  • Robe a la francaise (with a subset of trimming)
  • Hair
  • Shoes

Project Journal: Versailles Sacque: A Pretty Petticoat

The petticoat for my Versailles Sacque has been done for a few weeks now, but was waiting in the blog post queue to have its progress made public. It’s sort of boring to look at the whole petticoat, because it’s just a petticoat with longer sides than normal, so I’ve focused the pictures on the more interesting waistband section of the petticoat. (As you can see, this picture was taken before I ironed the front of the petticoat…)

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In making the petticoat I referenced Katherine’s 18th Century Petticoat Tutorial and The Standard 18th Century Petticoat Tutorial at A Fashionable Frolick. The nice thing about Katherine’s tutorial is that it’s adjusted for a petticoat to go over pocket hoops, while the great thing about the tutorial at A Fashionable Frolick is that it has tons of detailed construction information like which stitches to use. Both tutorials are clear and very helpful.

When it came to pleating, I thought I might struggle as Mr. Panniers is larger than normal pocket hoops, but I found that once I put the petticoat on the dress form with Mr. Panniers underneath I could neatly arrange the pleats around the waist and not go into the extra complicated pleated needed for a very square and wide pannier shape (such as in Katherine’s court gown and Kendra’s court gown). Whew! I placed all my pleats off to the side (further than I would for a normal 18th century petticoat) to keep the front of the petticoat flat where the trim will be visible between the fronts of the sacque.

The front panel of my petticoat is the fashionable silk that my sacque is/will be made of. (Enjoy the sneak peak!) The back panels are the same blue mystery fabric that Mr. Panniers is made of. The ties are polyester ribbon to match the silk, because hey, I was already fudging the accuracy of materials with the mystery fabric but on the other hand the color compliments the silk very nicely!

Here’s what the inside looks like. The extra fabric at the top of the petticoat is turned to the inside, slit up the middle to accommodate the curved top edge, and left raw.

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And here is the back. The petticoat is hand sewn. The center back seam is felled mostly because I am slightly obsessive with having nice insides and the other two seams are selvedges. For some reason the raw edges across the top don’t bother me. Go figure.

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I’ve also been playing with hair styling. I’m not satisfied yet, so I don’t consider it done, but at least I’ve made a start! The sacque is coming along nicely, too!

  • Panniers
  • Petticoat
  • Robe a la francaise (with a subset of trimming)
  • Hair
  • Shoes

Project Journal: Versailles Sacque: Meet Mr. Panniers

There are five big checkboxes on my related-to-the-trip sewing to-do list before my trip involving Versailles in May:

  1. Panniers
  2. Petticoat
  3. Robe a la francaise (with a subset of trimming)
  4. Hair
  5. Shoes

This week, I checked the first item off the list!

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“Take that, Mr. Panniers! You are totally and completely done!”

I think part of the reason I feel so triumphant is that I really had to wrangle these to make them bend to my will. I started back in 2013 or 2014 when I decided to join the 18th Century Court Gown Sew Along. At that point, I made the decision to use the Simplicity pattern (#3635) and $1/yard lightweight and tightly woven mystery fabric from my stash.

At first, everything seemed to behave: I cut out the pieces and started sewing. Then I realized I didn’t have time for the project and so I let the panniers languish until earlier this year when I pulled them out again to finish them so I could use them as a base for my Versailles Sacque. Perhaps it was the languishing that caused Mr. Panniers to take on a personality and want to thwart me when I got back to him this year…

It started with perfectly amiable sewing. The waist casing and drawstring were without event. And then, boning! There was twisting, and warping, and curving inwards, and all sorts of bad. The lower three bone channels eventually cooperated, but those angled top bones? Nope! No cooperation from them! (Yes, check my picture, there are no angled top bones. No, I’m not trying to trick you.)

The bones curved in on my bum and front side so badly that it made the panniers look like a jelly bean! Not what I was aiming for. My solution was to unpick the channels across the front and back (not the sides) and make one continuous horizontal bone channel like those below it. (That’s why you can’t see angled bone channels in the picture.) But the fabric is a very tight weave and does not easily forgive pin or needle holes, so you can still see the angle I originally stitched as directed by the pattern if you look closely.

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Mr. Panniers was much more cooperative with the new horizontal channel across the top. Whew! And ok, I have to take some responsibility for the problems because I’m confident that some of the struggle was due to my choice of boning–1/2″ wide zip ties about 18″ long that I masking taped together to get the lengths I needed. I have to pack this guy, and having bones that don’t weigh a lot (like metal) and won’t break (like cane or reed) was high on the list. The bones are simply overlapped in the channels, each of which has an opening, so the plan is to remove them (and label them) for packing, then reinsert them once I’m unpacking the whole ensemble in France. Anyway, the zip ties were coiled in the packaging and didn’t want to change their shape, which is why the angled bones were curving in towards my body and why the whole thing is so bent on warping if not carefully and delicately handled.

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Here’s a look at Mr. Panniers interior. The white ribbons are suggested in the pattern to help keep the shape. They’ve all been adjusted to my body shape (tedious, but worth it–sewing these on and fixing that angled bone channel problem were the things that kept this from being finished a month ago!).

As you can see, in terms of materials and construction, Mr. Panniers aims for the right shape as the goal. To that end, I appreciate that with my overlapping bones I can easily adjust the size at any point by overlapping the bones more. I find that this pattern is a bit too trapezoidal for my taste, so I’ve overlapped the bottom bone a little extra to make the skirt hang more vertically from about the knee down.

Needless to say, the bones are staying in and Mr. Pannier will be resting flat and collapsed until I need to pack him, so that for any fittings, etc. no more wrangling will be necessary.

(Side question: Does anyone know when it would be appropriate to use singular ‘pannier’? Would that be appropriate for referring to one of a set of two pocket hoops, for example?)

Side note: this is officially the last post that will be tagged 1770 court gown, since that project has now morphed into the saga of the Versailles Sacque and accessories.

HSF #1: The Make Do Shift

The first challenge of the Historical Sew Fortnightly (HSF) 2014 is Make Do And Mend. At the start of January, none of my in-progress projects qualified, unfortunately, and while I wanted to get started on the right foot for the HSF 2014 and not miss the challenge, I also didn’t want to make something just to make something. I don’t need more stuff with no purpose and it’s hard to stay motivated on a project if you’re doing it “just because.” So I racked my brain trying to think of what would work for the challenge and be useful, without taking too much time. I settled on the idea of turning a gifted partially finished linen man’s shirt into an 18th century shift suitable for the mid-to-late 18th century. That just happens to be the period my 18th century court gown will be from at some point this year. Useful! I made an 18th century shift a few years ago, but it’s actually late 18th century/Regency, with short sleeves, which really isn’t appropriate for the rest of the century. This new shift will sort of work for the entire century, though the sleeves aren’t really full enough to be entirely accurate for the first half.

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1750-1790 shift

All of the seams are flat felled. The neck is narrow hemmed. It’s pretty accurate, though I did have to add center front and center back seams, which is not usual for these garments. Those seams are due to the fact that the shift was super wide after I cut it out because I had to deal with the neck opening of the partially sewn shirt, and that was gathered into the neck, so was super full. There was just way more fabric than was needed, so I seamed it and kept the extra with the other scraps I had. I’m sure they’ll get used someday! It’s very nice, light linen.

The facts:

Fabric: Linen reused from a partially completed man’s 18th century shirt.

Pattern: I used Mara Riley’s 18th century shift draft to cut my pieces, though I had to make some adjustments given that I didn’t start with fabric yardage.

Year: Loosely 1750-1790.

Notions: Thread.

How historically accurate?: It’s 100% hand sewn using 18th century stitches and cut in the manner of an 18th century shift, so lots of points for that. I probably should loose a few points for using polyester thread. The only other odd thing is that I have seams up center front and center back, but they did piece a lot in the 18th century, so it’s not totally out of the realm of possibility, given that this challenge is Make Do and Mend. I give it 90%.

Hours to complete: 10-15 maybe? I didn’t really keep track.

First worn: By the hanger. I probably won’t wear this until I have more things to wear with it!

Total cost: Free!

Surrender!

…to the costuming peer pressure…

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The short explanation of the crazy is that Kendra, of Demode Couture, has started an 18th Century Court Ensemble Sew-Along. The longer explanation of the crazy is written by Kendra herself, here on her blog.

I’m talking about it on my blog because I’ve submitted to the indirect costuming peer pressure and joined in! (You should too…) I’ve got my fears about my participation (I spent about two days debating my decision to join in!): I’m unlikely to have a relevant event to wear a court gown to (unless I make one!), I’m not super confident in my ability to get 18th century “right” yet, and I don’t want to spend mounds of money on this project (which you could so easily do!).But… I want to participate! So, I’ve found some cures for my fears and committed, in a thoughtful and careful way, to the crazy.

This is the gown I’ve decided on. It was a hard choice! But it’s a good choice for me, because I’ve already got pink silk in the stash that I bought back in January with the intent of making “an 18th century something” perhaps, so that takes care of the bulk of the materials (and the cost). So I’ve just got to procure the trim materials and accessories. I’ve already found the things I want, but I’m going to wait a bit to purchase them and get started on the sewing, so stay tuned for more posts about that in a few months!

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Grand Duchess Maria Feodorovna by Roslin, wearing the Star and Badge of the Order in 1770. (I’ve also seen this dated as 1777.)

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Slightly different version of same painting. Included in an article about Women’s Imperial Court Costume In Imperial Russia.

I also considered these other gowns, but decided against them in the end.

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Robe de cour from Les Arts Decoratifs

I love this robe de cour! It looks more like fancy dress than a court gown to me. I can imagine it as “Snowflake” or “Winter” or “Snow Queen.” I seriously considered this one… but I don’t have any of the appropriate materials in my stash right now, and the cost of the materials I wanted to use was more than I wanted to spend on this project. So I’ve added this to my list of “things I eventually want to sew.” I can even envision it as fancy dress in the 19th century with a different skirt shape… a bustle gown, perhaps? I just love that the triangles look like icicles, and the diagonal trim looks like snowflakes… It’s pretty ridiculous!

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1795 – Caroline, Princess of Wales

Then there’s this absurd looking court gown from the very end of the 18th century. I love the periwinkle color, the tassels, and what looks like chain (wouldn’t that be fun to figure out!) edging the poofs. It’s pretty silly. But again, I don’t have any appropriate fabrics in my stash…

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Robe de cour from Les Arts Decoratifs

I like this last one, too, although not as much as the first two. I feel like this would be a great use of an iridescent shot silk, at least for the green part. I like the fur trim, and the gold, but I’m just not overwhelmed by awesome-ness.

The choice was made more difficult by the fact that other people have already “claimed” certain court gowns they want to make, and the idea is that no two dresses are the same. (So I might have had more options, but they’d already been claimed!) You can see what other people have picked and keep track of all the court ensembles being made on Kendra’s blog: Demode Couture. There are at least 30 people participating so far and lots of pretties have been chosen! These are my favorite gowns from among the ones that are already claimed.

18th century court gown. It’s so cute!

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18th century robe de cour. How to achieve those fantastic waves? But I do love this one!

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18th century robe de cour. This one has great waves as well! Lovely.

Kendra already did a post on 18th Century Court Gown Basics that’s a great introduction to this oddly specifc class of garments, and I’m sure more information will be coming over the next year from all of the participants.