{JennylaFleur: Dress Diaries}

1780s robe l'Anglaise

Striped l'Anglaise
a gown of the 1780s in the English style

draped by me, based on a gown in Arnold

cotton stripe, cotton (lining)

My first venture into the 18th century and my first robe l'Anglaise. I originally tried draping the pattern completely from scratch but after 7 or 8 toiles used a pattern from Arnold as my base. That worked much, much better for me!

Completed May 2005.
Remade into a petticoat March 2006.

Completed January 2010.
Revamped August 2010.



The Results:


November 2005
At the Gunston Hall outing.
More photos from this event can be found here.






September 2005
At the RCHS Fall tea.






July 2005
At the Spotsylvaina County Forth of July Bash.





June 2005
At Under the Redcoat in Colonial Williamsburg.
More photos from this event can be found here.





May 2005
At the Belmont Spring Tea.






May 2005
At home.


hosted on YouTube.com 



The Dress Diary:

February 2005


Don't you just love it when projects and designs evolve as you go along? While I prefer to make my costumes in an organic way, refining plans and designs as I work and research, the process reeks havoc on my online documentation! *sigh*

This outfit has morphed several times since I originally began the prep work on it in June of 2004. To keep what little sanity I have left, I've broken this dress diary into two parts, the preliminary design, toile process and draping class notes in one section and the finial design, toiles, construction and completion of the project in this section. I could not have gotten to this point without the preliminary work and mistakes I made so I didn't want to lose that info entirely but it was getting a little confusing.

click here for the Preliminary Diary

I want this dress to be something fashionable but not "dressy". Something a middle class lady of the colonies would wear to town, perhaps shopping or for Sunday services. The gown will be made of cotton and cut in a closed-front robe à l'anglaise style. I am hoping to use some red striped cotton I bought years ago with an 18th century dress in mind. I'm not sure there will be enough. I only have 5.5 yards, which will be tight with matching stripes and everything.

My original inspiration came from KCI's Revolution in Fashion, a book I have been drooling over for years. Two gowns, in particular, caught my imagination. The pink stripe on page 57 and the blue gown on page 62. I eventually decided, after having practiced the technique at my draping class, to have an en fourreau back. I then found a gown in Arnold that was practically the same gown I'd pictured in my head. The only major difference is I that wanted vertical stripes in front not diagonal ones. I'm tempted to use that pattern, but I really want the satisfaction of draping the pattern for this frock myself. The Arnold, along with Costume Close-Up, Costume in Detail and Jean Hunnisett, is a great reference though.

Now on to the dress diary part two - when we last left our heroine... uhhmm yeah...

February 18 2005

I've decided to forget the 1770s navy wool design I started at the draping class and switch back to my 1780s red stripe. As gorgeous as the wool is, I just not motivated by it. It seems a terrible sacrilege (especially as I demonstrated much lip quivering and eyelash batting at Mom to get it) but there you are. I want to revisit the wool project someday (if and when I have a good excuse to do so) but right now I think following through on my original plan of last year is the best thing. My original plan, with a few modifications that is. *wink*


After I'd geared myself up by watching L'Anglaise et le Duc and flipping through my 18th century clothing library, I began by trying on both toiles (the original striped toile I draped by myself and the lining from the draping class) to evaluate them.

Really, my solo attempt really wasn't that bad. In fact I'm quite proud of it - the lines of the front neckline are especially pretty. The class toile definitely has the prettier back; with the sewed down pleats and more curved side seam Marsha had drawn for me. (Although looking through my library, the straighter seam I originally used seems to be equally period correct.) The shoulder and sleeves on both toiles have separate issues but I think with my class notes and a bit more research, I can sort out that area without too much difficulty. So I will combine the two toiles, taking the elements I liked best from each and going from there.

Although the class demonstrated how to put a frock together without any toiles, I'm still not that brave, not yet. I'm just more comfortable working out issues in scrap fabric, especially dratted sleeves. Besides I don't have enough of the stripe to waste on any pesky mistakes. I may have to do some creative piecing as it is.

February 18 2005

Toileing the red stripe has turned out to be more fiddly than I hoped it would be. Looking at the two original toiles I didn't think they were that different, apart from small details and the technique in which they had been draped. I discovered just how wrong I was when I tried to modify the striped front based on the class front. I couldn't figure out how to line up the pieces to compare and make changes as there was no reference between them.

When I put the class toile on Narcissa then the striped toile on top of that, it became apparent just how different the two patterns really are. I took some pics of the toiles on top of each other but inadvertently deleted them. *grinds teeth*

My next cunning plan was to simply use the back from the class toile with the front of the striped toile, modifying the side seam and armhole so they would match. I would then fix the other little things later. That plan was a complete bust as well. The resulting toile did not fit at all and I couldn't fix it. I have no idea what the issue is but it would not cooperate no matter how I pulled, smoothed or played with the fabric.


So I gave up and began to drape a new bodice front from scratch. I figured I'd already done that a few times now so I knew how that would work. I now have a rough draft of the bodice that looks pretty good. I think I'm going to fiddle with the back curve a bit more before I try cleaning it up anymore though. I had also altered the class back a bit, adding slightly more curve to the side seam and such. I think the curve should be even more dramatic and Bridget (who is home at the moment) agrees.

I'll work a bit on that tonight but I don't want to stay up too late. As much as I want to keep working my recovering from the flu body just isn't up to it yet. I already feel like I've walked 5 miles today when I've only had a slow day of toiles. I keep forgetting I'm still sickly! :P

February 20 2005

So much for spending the whole weekend sewing. I blame Bridget; I get so little done when she is home. We did have fun running errands and hanging out together though. I do miss having her around all the time!


I was able to use her DVD capture software while she was home though. I did a bunch of captures from L'Anglaise et le Duc for my own reference. There are a few more frocks I want to capture but I got my most favorites this time.

B's software doesn't create terribly large/detailed files but I may put them online anyway.There are virtually no pics from this yummy costume film online, I know because I've looked!


I did get as far as finishing my first version 2.0 toile. I tried it on tonight and wasn't too happy with the fit. It seemed to come out a bit snug everywhere. The sleeve straps do not make me happy either. I tried fiddling with them a bit but I just don't like the angle or where they hit the arm for some reason.


I'm starting to get a bit frustrated with the whole thing which may be clouding my judgment a bit. Maybe I should just start over, from scratch and try a design without the straps. I don't know!!

February 22 2005

You would be very proud of me, I went over 24 hours without thinking about my 18th century toile issues. I even had the cup of tea you suggested and started a new book. Of course it's about Louis Saint-Just of French Revolution fame. I do try not to obsesses about things but well it just comes so naturally! *hee hee*

Today I began thinking again however (always dangerous). I went through all my LALD (L'Anglaise et le Duc) captures, my library of 18th century books and websites of costumers who have made a lovely 18th century things (Katherine, Demode, Bjarne). I was specifically focusing in on the shoulder area and how the pieces were shaped and constructed. With those visuals and helps in my head, I decided to drape the bodice front once again, totally reworking the placement and shaping of the shoulder area. I now have several ideas of how to achieve the effect I want, I just need to work them out in fabric. Luckily I have lots of that pink and black stripe still to play with.

I started a new bodice tonight but didn't get terribly far with it. I had to stop and go to quilting fellowship this evening.

February 23 2005


I spent a bit of time this afternoon on the striped toile. I got it to the point of finishing the initial fitting on Narcissa and cutting out the second side. I was all ready to stitch up the toile and try it on when I got hit with a massive headache.

Yep one of those lovely sinus things where your whole face aches, your brain turns to mush and your appetite leaves. I had one last night too. *blah* It's been in the 40s-50s all week and it's supposed to snow tonight (!!) so I'm not surprised. The medication managed to take away most of the headache's effects but it really killed my momentum. So I have spent the whole evening surfing through Amazon.com in search of interesting new books to add to the ‘ole wish list. I also figured out how to add people to my friends list, wrote a few book reviews and made a Listmania list. Yes I was very bored this evening.

Jenny's Resources for Constructing 18th Century Frocks

February 25 2005

The draping class I went to earlier in the month was hosted by the Rappahannock Colonial Heritage Society, Inc. It's a group I'd heard of but I had never really looked into it. The folks at the draping class were so friendly and encouraging though that I decided to give it a go.

The society has a dance group so I went to my first dance class tonight. I had a blast! Oh yes and I found out last night that this group is having a ball in October, the week after my birthday in fact. *squeal* Evil and naughty costuming ideas are floating through my head at the moment. Bad, bad Jenny! One outfit at a time, right? :>

Actually if I go to the ball and if my red stripe comes out well I will probably just wear that. I could easily dress it up with different accessories, cotton though it is. It's one of the reasons I'm going with the style I am - I can easily change the look, date and function of this frock with a few well chosen accessories and accents. *sigh* Versatility is such a wonderful thing!

March 24 2005

Well I didn't get any sewing done today like I wanted to. I did get my desk cleared off, my in-tray filed, my suitcases totally unpacked and tucked away in the attic, my clothes hung and folded, my room tidy, my hope chest re-organized, a pattern traced, a stack of packages readied to be mailed and my web site updated. Not a bad day really, it's just that I really want to get sewing on something - anything!

At least I'm all ready and prepped to start some costuming tomorrow. *rubs hands together* It's been way too long since I got to sit at my sewing machine…

March 25 2005

I knew it, I just knew it. If the stays went together fairly painlessly then the dress must be a nightmare. Costuming is never simple. *sigh*

I tried on my latest robe l'anglaise toile this morning and it's full of issues. This is what, toile number 7?!! Not to mention after a class, endless book and online research. *whimper* It's so frustrating, with every problem I try to fix two more pop up. And the most frustrating thing is it's the same wretched issues over and over again. I fix the shoulder and the side seam whacks out. I fix the side seam and the neckline is whacked. I fix the neckline and the shoulder and side seam aren't right again. For the love of…!!!! And I haven't even gotten to dratted sleeves. Oh joy.

The amazing thing is I'm still motivated and want to work on this project. This time last year I would have given up in disgust. I must be maturing, or am crazier - take your pick. I'm just a little stumped as to how to proceed. Obviously draping toile after toile is not working, my skills are just not up to the task yet. I so wanted to make this pattern myself!

I think I'm going to swallow my pride and try using a pattern. I'm going to go through our pattern stash but I'll probably end up sizing up the pattern from Arnold. It's exactly the dress I want (except for the diagonal stripe in front thing which I'm willing to give into at this point). Using the pattern is not going to be less work, as it must be sized up and adapted to my modern body but I'm hoping that coming at this style from a different angle will help.

This can't be this hard, people make 18th century frocks all the time. I must admit I'm feeling very stupid at the moment.

March 25 2005

I had a series of errands to run that took up my afternoon but I did manage to size up that Arnold pattern and cut out part of the toile. I'm thinking I'll set that aside now and try out Suzi's brilliant-beyond-brilliant idea of using the Diderot stays as the base pattern though. It's perfect really, as I love my stays and they are already sized and fitted.

If that doesn't work for some reason (crossing fingers), I can always go back to the Arnold. I'll probably use that sleeve regardless, since it's all ready to go. I'm starting to run out of that odious pink and black stripe though… Too many more toiles and I'll have to find something else to use. I love working with brightly colored stripey toiles though, it makes me happy.

March 26 2005


Well, I started to work on the Diderot stays idea but found it really wasn't going to work. As I began to really critique my stays and how they fit, I saw several problems. These are fitting problems I can get away with (for now) on the stays but would have needed major fiddling to create a bodice from the pattern. *perfectionist side of Jenny mentally adds new stays to the do-to list*

So, I went back to the Arnold pattern after all. I did use the stay front as a guide to recut and shape the front bodice though, which was something I really should have thought of a long time ago. *rolls eyes*

I cut and constructed a new toile. It isn't too bad, it definitely needs some work but I think I'm on the right track. The next toile will really be the test though. The side seams need to be re-worked quite a bit so I can shift the whole front over and the arm hole needs major attention as well. I also want to cut the “side” seam into the back a bit more, although I'm beginning to suspect that some of my troubles may be from that darn back being over too much. I really like the look of it, but the cut may simply not work on my figure. We'll see.

I've signed up to go to a costumed tea with the ladies of the dance group on May 15th so I now have a firm deadline to finish this outfit. So I need to make the gown, a shift, two petticoats, a cap and a neckerchief in the next 7 weeks. No problem right?

*deep breath* Yeah well, no one has ever accused me of being sane.

March 29 2005

I finally got off my lazy butt and worked on the robe anglaise a bit tonight. I enlarged the side section, (too much as it turned out), and moved the side seam back ½”. The fitting went okay, although it was way too big, particularly above the waist. Opps. :>

As I had much fabric to work with, I spent a bit of time playing around with the toile, trying to find the best way of fitting it. I smoothed one side out by taking the extra fullness in at the side seam and the other side by smoothing the side and pushing all the fullness to the front. The fullness to the front definitely didn't work. I want to try it again, only pushing *some* (1-2") of the fullness in front and removing the rest from the sides. I should have done it tonight while I was all laced up but it was getting late and I was tiring of messing with it. Tomorrow is another day. I spaced out and forgot to take pics of the toile all pinned but I'll do it when I try it on again…

In addition to using a pattern this time around, I've also altered my "method" by doing *all* the fittings on me and not Narcissa. Normally I would do the original fitting on Narcissa then tweak it on myself. However, I think one of my problems has been that I'm not accurately approximating my 18th century shape on the dress form,despite my measurements and padding.

Trying to tweak a toile while it's on me is a challenge but so far so good. My arms are still a bit numb from holding and pinning behind and to the side so frequently. I definitely have a better appreciation for my lovely Narcissa now. *wink*

March 30 2005


Today ended up being a good toile day – I got lots done and am feeling more content with this project than I have in a while. I started out by trying on v1.0 of the Arnold toile again. My idea of only pushing *some* (1½") of the fullness in front and removing the rest from the side, turned out to be a sound one and resulted in the best fit so far. With Mom's assistance I pinned up the sides and tweaked the shoulder strap.

I then took the toile apart and using the pinned side, recut another side modification.


The fitting of Arnold v1.1 was fairly painless. I ended up shaping the center front a bit. The seam is definitely curved not straight but as I'm going for a later 1780s look, it's okay. Hopefully the stripes at the center front will look interesting and not silly.

The sides gave me some fits, until I let the seam out a bit at the very bottom. Dratted hips, or I should say my natural bum roll!

Before I was finished I took a few full-length pictures so I could better judge the proportions of the gown. I think the bodice would be easier to fit if I raised the bodice up a bit (a fit sans hips) but I'm afraid of appearing short waisted. For some reason, I have a tendency to look so in the 18th century mode although I'm in fact slightly long waisted. Anyway, I think the proportions look good as is, so I'm determined to tweak through the longer bodice…


I have to admit that puzzling out how to split the side modification and add the correct width to the bottom while still retaining a flat pattern piece took me a little while to ponder. I did eventually figure out how and where to add but I had begin despair. Walking away from an issue for a few hours can do wonders!. :P

The fitting of Arnold v1.2 was good and I think I'm about finished with the bodice. Just a few tweaks more and I'm ready to tackle the armhole and sleeve area. I'm not entirely happy with the fit of the back but as I'm going to cover it with an en fourreau style back anyway, I'm not going to worry about it. The bodice appears a bit wrinkly when it's not all pinned down but in reality it does fit and smooth over my stays nicely. I think once it has a skirt attached - weighted down a bit - the results will be just fine.

*sigh* Can you tell I'm ready just to move on and have a finished frock? *chucks perfectionism out the window and smiles blissfully*

April 5 2005


I tweaked those little things I noted last time I tried the toile on and added a zipper, for easier fittings. Everything looked pretty good so I repeated the changes on the second side.

I had to leave off there to go to a quilting fellowship meeting. Bad news was, I had the wrong week! Slightly embarrassing. :P It was ok really, I had a few errands to do on that side of town anyway. On the way home I stopped by Hancock's and got a separating zipper for my toile – 18th century bodices are hard enough to get in and out of by oneself without the odd wiggling required to get in and out of a short zipper. :>


I replaced the zipper (which has turned out to be one of my more brilliant ideas!!) and proceeded to start work on the sleeves. I got one sewed in, laced up my stays once more and took some pics. That's it. I'm just not in the mood for sleeves tonight. Overall it looks pretty good (I'm encouraged) but I'm just not in the mood to analyze fitting problems at the moment. I'll tackle it in the morning, when I'm fresh.

April 6 2005


Before tackling those sleeves again I decided to look through my books and screen captures once again. If you will recall I went through all this last November when I worked on the sleeves for my original toile. This afternoon's exercise was more to refresh my memory than anything. Also the sleeves for this pattern are slightly different than the ones I used before so there were a few specific things I needed to look at.


I'm a visual learner and I've found, especially with sleeves, it's helpful to actually see them in action. Where the seams lay on the body, how they move and wrinkle - that sort of thing. They always look so perfect in stills and crappy in toiles. :> I went through my L'Anglaise et le Duc captures and watched some of Slipper & the Rose.


The captures were more helpful, better angles and such, although the sleeves are slightly different styles than what I'm doing.


While I was messing about with the files I found an easy way to make the files larger than the last ones I uploaded. So, I'll be adding a page of captures to my site at some point. For now here are some of the ones I found helpful today.

April 6 2005
I can't believe it but I think I'm on the right track. Oh my goodness… it actually looks like a real 1780s gown now!!! *Jenny-happy-dance* I guess all that researching, the class and all my prayers for sleeve bliss paid off, I can't believe the second try looks and feels so good!

*sigh* You are reading the entry of a very happy and rather shocked seamstress right now.

I'd love to post my post my lovely pics to show y'all but I must dash out the door for a babysitting job. Oh well. Earning money is never a bad thing, right? Especially when one went over budget on vacation! :P

April 6 2005


First, for your viewing pleasure, are pics of how I initially fit the sleeve. First I lined up the mark to the front seam (as indicated on the pattern) and pinned, from the inside, the bottom half. I then pinned, from the outside, the top. I had to ignore an 1-1½” of fabric on the sides for the turning of the fabric but this method allowed me to easily control the amount of ease and shape at the top of the sleeve as well as access the pleats without hassle.


Once I got that pinned to my satisfaction I removed the toile from Narcissa and added a row of pins on the top's underside along the edge of the strap. I then flipped the piece over and marked this row of pins on the front of the sleeve. I removed the sleeve from the strap, trued the line and added the correct seam allowance. I then pinned it back on the strap and sewed it up.


This is more or less my interpretation of Marsha's method, or at least the basic method she demonstrated in the only way it made sense to me once I began working with the fabric. It worked well… better the second time of course. :P


And the toile on me.. it's starting to look like a real dress now. There are some things to tweak of course.


The lower part of the sleeve is a little loose, I need to fit it a bit more. The strap needs to be taken in on one side of the back. In other words I need to change the angle a bit so it will stay on my shoulder correctly, the sleeve wants to drag it down. Also I need to move the pleats toward the front a little, closer to where the original markings indicated. *yeah* Let's see what else… oh yes I've marked the elbow darts so I need to sew those up and test them out.

I also need to decide how long I want the sleeves to be. I kind of like the length they are now (with the seam allowance taken into account), but I had originally intended them to be a bit shorter. Any opinions?

edited to add:

While I'm soliciting opinions… what do y'all think of the neckline? Should I leave it the way it is? This would require adding a seam allowance when I finalize the pattern, as I forgot to include one there.

Or should I leave it, meaning it would actually be ½” lower. If you can make out my basting stitches, there. It would be less than ¼” higher than my stays and would require me (for comfort and modesty sake) to always wear a neckerchief with it. I would also have to fudge the strap on that side a bit.

I wouldn't mind it being lower, so long as I'm covered with a filmy neckerchief and my stays aren't going to show all the time. In fact most of the gowns in this later style seem to have them so, including the stripy gown from L'Anglaise et le Duc I posted earlier today. Then again, it might be a good idea to have a gown I can be more flexible on the neckerchief thing, especially if I want to wear it to the October ball. Any thoughts?

April 7 2005

Considering I spent most of the day working on my toile, I got remarkably little done. Or it just seems that way.

I sewed up those darts on the sleeves, and fitted them a bit more. Ahh much better! :> I then took the whole thing apart so I could transfer updated changes and markings to the other side/sleeve. It was rather tedious and I seemed to be going in slow motion as I worked but it gave me a chance to make sure everything was even and clean up old threads.

I just finished putting everything back together so I have a complete, neat bodice toile again. I should really try it on again to double-check everything but I'm tired and don't feel like it tonight. I have to go pick up the parents from the airport at midnight so I think I'll go take a little nap instead and worry about the bodice later.

Once I have this bodice finalized (wouldn't it be fun if I didn't have any more tweaks to look after when I try it on!), I will drape the back pleat section. I probably don't need to do a toile of that (I could just drape it on) but I want to make sure I can plot out my fabric usage and stripe matching to best advantage. I have *just* enough fabric after all.

The next step will be tracing a master pattern and starting on the real thing… I'm so excited! *sigh* Unfortunately I have a wedding and other things this weekend so I may not get back to this before Monday. I hate it when real life gets in the way of costuming!

38 days to the Belmont Tea and counting…

April 10 2005


I tried my finial toile on and it was practically perfect!! Just a ¼” added here and ¼” subtracted there. I've decided to keep the neckline where it is and shorten the sleeves just a bit, maybe more once the whole dress is made up. I'm not going to bother changing the toile at this point. I'll make the adjustments on the finial pattern/bodice fitting.

I worked on the pleated en fourreau back section a bit too and decided I didn't really need to toile it after all. So much of it is hands-on, working with the fabric and the stripes to achieve a pretty look. It was a good practice run though and I have a good idea of what I want and how I'm going to do it now.

April 14 2005

I didn't get as much done as I wanted to today. I don't know where my day went. Well, yes I do – emailing, cleaning, sorting and then music practice. Once I was home from church and some errands I was to tired to deal with the project, especially the stripes. It all made for a little window of sewing time today. Mreh!

It took me forever to trace my master pattern, not sure why. I was just being a slowpoke I guess. I enjoyed doing it though, so that should count for something right?

I measured out what I thought I needed for the back and skirt panels. Unfortunately when I measured and marked it out on my fabric, it didn't leave me enough room for the other pieces. I didn't really expect it to so no real drama ensued. I knew it was going to be close, if impossible.

The sleeve and shoulder strap fit okay but the front hangs over my skirt allowance a bit. I am quite determined to see this though, so I didn't let it stop me. Hopefully I can eek out my extra inches in the skirts, creating a false hem or something. If not then I just won't have a full second panel for the side skirt. Either way it's a small sacrifice and I'm thankful I didn't have to do any real piecing.

So far I've only actually cut the sleeves, the rest will wait until tomorrow.


Uhmmm... Is it just because I'm super sleepy or do these notes not make much sense? Oh well, it's as good as it's going to get tonight! :P

April 15 2005


I finished cutting the striped bodice today. The back and skirt panels I'm not worrying about until I have the bodice together. I started constructing the bodice tonight. I didn't get too far, as I ran out of Rigilene for the front. There is a pattern sale tomorrow so I was planning a trip to the fabric store anyway.

I did sew enough to discover that my shoulder strap stripes are not lined up with the bodice stripes. (Yeah shoulder strap stripes – say that three times fast!) I did get close though, considering I didn't really know what I was doing! I'll have a dig around my scraps tomorrow to see if I can recut the pieces. I never throw out scraps until the project is complete… just in case.

The second toile is all ready to be sewn up but there isn't any point in bothering with it at the moment. I can't finalize the shift pattern until I get the bodice sewn so I can mark the correct neckline on the shift.

These cart-before-the-horse projects are so annoying.

April 18 2005

I feel like such a sluggard with all the sewing my LJ friend's list got done this weekend! I worked a bit on my dress but the weekend was packed with other events, including Bridget's birthday celebrations.

I went through my fabric scraps but only had a piece large enough for one strap. So I started work on the back pleats, knowing that part of that would have to be cut away, giving me some extra fabric to work with. I did a rough basting, pinning and cutting of the pleats on one side so I could cut out more straps.

You see I can't really finalize the back pleats until I can try it on, which I can't do with out constructing the bodice, including the straps. *sigh* I'm used to putting things together in a more systematic way so this project seems very odd. It seems to be working though.

So far I'm got half the back pleats basted, the two fronts sewn, boned, clipped and pressed and one strap cut, sewn and attached. The stripes on my second attempt are much closer to being lined up, but they are still not perfect. Hopefully I can get closer on the other side (which I haven't cut out yet). If so, I may cut yet another strap so everything looks perfect. I normally try not to be this fussy about things but with the bold stripe the difference it really shows up and bugs me.

April 18 2005


The basic bodice is all put together now. I need to try the bodice on before I can proceed. I want to make sure the straps and everything fits properly while adjustments are still easy. I also need to double check those back pleats and mark off the back hem. Working with bodice while the bolt is at the end is rather awkward.

So I guess the next thing is to fix my stays so I can lace up and try on the bodice. I just realized that I need a total of 4 layers of green fabric and I only cut two. *slaps forehead* Duh! I'll have to get the fabric out tomorrow and cut some more.

April 19 2005

I cut some more green fabric and sewed the stays back up. I still have the binding and handwork to do but they are wearable for fittings at least.

The bodice is okay. I need to adjust one of the straps but the back pleats look fine. I'm pretty unhappy with the way the bodice wrinkles though, especially at the side/hips. I was hoping once I'd sewn, clipped and curved that section it would all work out just fine but no such luck. It should be a bit better once the sleeve and skirt are attached, to weight everything down, I hope so at least. Right now I smooth everything out (like on the left side of the picture) but once I move it's wrinkled again.

I'm not sure what the problem is or how to fix it. I suppose I could try cutting the bodice up a little more at the sides but I'm reluctant to do that for fear I'll just end up with a too short but still wrinkled bodice. That would really be worse.

April 20 2005


I made good progress today. I took a bit off the waist curve, shortened one strap and took a tiny bit off the armhole curve per everyone's suggestions. The wrinkles are much more under control, I'm happy to report. I'm going to raise the bodice portion of the armhole a tad and then stop worrying about it. I think once the weight of the skirts is in place, it will be quite tolerable.

I started work on the sleeves but only got as far as sewing up the darts on one before I had to quit. I have church tonight, which I should be getting ready for at the moment. *grin*

April 21 2005


I didn't get as much as I should have today. *bad Jenny* I had a whole, gloriously free day to spend sewing and I managed to fritter away most of it on… I don't even know what now. Nothing worth while anyway. I hate that.

I think I've finally finished tweaking the bodice fit. I'm pretty happy with it and more than tired of messing with it. It was worth the effort though, I must admit. Thanks for all your suggestions, hints and everything, I couldn't have done it with them.

I finished pleating the back, attached it to the back lining and added the sleeves. All the changes to the straps and bodice threw the sleeves off a bit but I got them back into shape in the end. I'm not entirely satisfied with the pleats though. I didn't want to have to totally redo them so I just fudged. If I have time at the end I may mess with them a bit more but for now I'm done. There comes a point when you just have to move on.

So tomorrow it's on to the skirts. That should be exciting since I don't really know what I'm doing there. :P I guess it's time to pull out my books and class notes again.

*crossing fingers I have enough fabric to pull this off still!*

April 23 2005


You are reading the post of a very happy seamstress. Have I ever mentioned I love pleating lengths of fabric? Well, I do. I find it extremely relaxing, even more so than embroidery. I knew pleating the stripes of the skirts would be the most enjoyable part of this gown so I've really been looking forward to it. I didn't measure anything out but eyeballed it all, trying to use the stripes to best advantage. It took me three tries to get a pleat method that worked but I had so much fun with it that it didn't matter.


My first try resulted a small, shallow pleat with the stripes alternating (red, white, red, white ect.). I didn't like it all at – not enough fullness in the skirts and the look was too busy.

My second try was a deeper pleat underneath, narrow pleat on top , with the stripes showing only red. These pleats were rather thick and very full, which was fun but I didn't have enough fabric to bring the skirt into the front of the bodice. The red pleats created a cool effect though… too bad.

The third try proved to be perfect. These finial pleats are also narrow but are fuller than try #1, with alternating color every other pleat (red, red, white, white, red, red, ect). I used a few of the deeper red pleats of try #2 in the very back, to provide some extra fullness there. (Bum rolls and polonaise here I come!)

One side of the skirt ended up being a few inches wider than the other side. Not sure how that happened as I lined everything up evenly. I didn't want to cut the end off, wanting use the salvage there to avoid a hem or facing (which I don't have fabric for). Luckily I was able to move the extra inches to the back, add some more deep red pleats and tuck the rest under the wide en fourreau pleat. Other wise I would have had to take all the pleats out, and take the extra inches out in the skirt's side seam – ick!


So here is what the dress looks like at the moment. Most everything is tacked down with pins and temporary basting stitches, which I'll replace with hand stitching over the next few days. I'm really happy with my progress. It was fun to wake up this morning staring at my pretty dress on Narcissa. Now if I could just make these evening migraines go away I'd be finished even sooner!

Oh yes - and I had just enough fabric to pull this off! *throws confetti* I should have enough for a small hem and everything. I have practically no scraps though... it was close!

April 24 2005


Wow, thank you all for your kind comments to my last post. *blushes* You are so sweet and your words mean a lot, they really do!

Today was spent in handwork, endless handwork. I've attached the skirts, finished the back neckline and finished stitching the back pleats. I'm using the technique described in Costume Close-up and illustrated in Fashion in Detail of stitching the down on the underside of the skirt pleats. I still have one half of the skirts to do, although I have to say I don't see that the running stitch on the underside does much. Perhaps it's more helpful with a thicker fabric or shallower pleats, like the yellow dress in Fashion in Detail. Oh well, can't hurt right?

Tomorrow I'll be taking a break from sewing to see to other projects (web sites, audio files for church, quilt signatures due on Tuesday etc). I hate to stop so near the finish line but to be honest I'm ready for a break. Another day of pure handwork would not be good for mental health. It's so not my thing, although I love the results. *smile*

...20 days and counting to the Belmont tea...

April 28 2005

I didn't end up getting too much done after all. Cleaning, dishes and cooking dinner seem to have taken up most of my day. Oh well.

I finished up the skirt, finished one sleeve and attached some of the hooks and eyes. Still, it's progress. Now I'm sleepy and can feel another headache coming on so I think I‘ll make it an early night…

April 30 2005


Despite a nasty sinus & allergy day I managed to push through and finish the handwork on the gown. *yay* Well, practically finished… A few of the hooks & eyes may need to be redone as well - I may have put some underneath! I'll try the gown on before I rip out any stitches though to be sure. Sewing hooks and eyes is definitely not on my list of favorite things to do.

Oh yes and a pic of all that is left of the striped fabric. The largest piece is laid out flat there, the rest are much smaller. The interesting bit is that most of what you see was trimmed away after the basic pieces were cut. Now that was close!! *grin*

May 14 2005

I finished re-doing those wretched bodice hooks. I really hate sewing on hooks and eyes - blah! I ended up redoing all but two of them. Well at least I know for next time!

May 15 2005

I wore my gown today to tea!

March 2006

I have made this dress into a new garment - hear all about this project here!

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