Making an 18th century, quilted petticoat… actually ensemble

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I have always been somewhat ambivalent about quilted petticoats. On one hand, they are unavoidable if you are a completist when it comes to 18th century ladies garments. *cough* It appears that the quilted petticoat used to be a garment of universal appeal for all social classes, nearly as ubiquitous as stays and shifts.

On the other hand they look…. cozy. Like “my grandma would have loved one” cozy. When I think of the “ideal” frilly, frothy, pastry-colored 18th century dress, the dress is quite changeable but the quilted petticoat is never featured.

Now I was never sure whether this is sour grapes. Hand-quilted petticoats  are serious, seriously work-intense pieces. Until you made one, you don’t know what that actually means. I certainly didn’t. But it’s easy to say that you only want to make frilly, frothy pastry dresses anyway.

Now I started this project…  for reasons I am not all that proud of. I needed something new for an event (and that was not a good idea) because it looked like everyone else was bringing new things and I was literally bringing last year’s wardrobe. A helpful “it goes faster than you think” from another petticoat quilter made me seriously consider it and then I got myself some silk satin and thought up a pattern and there were six seasons of Downton Abbey I had never seen…

Spoiler alert: It did went faster than I imagined. It also went slower than I imagined.

But let’s start at the direct inspiration for the petticoat:

Left is the color inspiration: the famous mermaid quilted petticoat from the Connecticut Historical Society. In the middle is the main inspiration for the pattern. I simplifed mine  and added a curved collection of leaves not unlike the petticoat on the right. Of course there are a large number of petticoats with similar colors and patterns, like these two from a museum in Utrecht.

I adjusted the quilting pattern I had made a bit to have a width of 105 1/8 in/267 cm all around.  This width was based on two realities: the width of my fabric and the width of this petticoat. One justified the other. This meant that the the repeat would not be centered (I think  I could have centered it while transferring and just didn’t realize it at the time because sometimes the easy way doesn’t just occur to you.) which meant that late in the process I would have sew both panels together and then cut into the petticoat to put the pocket slits elsewhere in order to center the pattern.

Funnily enough in the quilting process I lost only about half an inch (1 cm) in width but actually 2 in/5cm (!) in height. This was even more pronounced with the stomacher. I think it’s a weft/warp issue where the warp simply had more stretch than the weft to accommodate the quilting. Loss of width and height is obvious and unavoidable once you think about what quilting actually does. But I didn’t realize when I made the pattern that this was a thing.

Thankfully, I had some seam allowance on top of my petticoat and my pattern was endlessly repeatable at the top – so it didn’t even matter. But if you ever make your own pattern, it’s something to keep in mind.

The color caused the first challenge. The duchesse satin I had bought was not red-red but rather brownish red. If this had been a quick and easy project I would have dealt. But this once-in-a-lifetime-because-I’m-not–doing-it-again project? No.

So I first hit the fabric with some color remover and then dyed it red again. Now it was a wine colored red (and the fabric was a lot less stiff) which had to suffice as “close enough”. Interestingly hardly any photographs actually capture the color correctly, causing it to look pink, orange and all shades of red in between. I apologize for that.

Dyeing the fabric caused major wrinklage and an attack of pure “WHHHHHHHY” as I spent two hours ironing it. And then some of the dye was running into the fabric of my ironing board. At this point – ironically, only at this point – the whole project started to look like a stupid idea to me.

Challenge #2: transferring the pattern onto the fabric in a way that would last through the quilting process but was removable without getting the satin wet again. I didn’t trust carbon paper or tailor’s chalk  to stay through endless touching or to be easily removed. (I  have a silk petticoat with tailor’s chalk on the hem that has still not gone away after three years.) Trick marker would fade too quickly. So I chose to use water-removable trick marker on the inside cotton fabric. If push came to shove and my great “wipe it off with a wet cloth” plan  didn’t work and I would not be able to remove it, no one would see it anyway.

(Unsurprisingly, my plan didn’t work, but I figure with time the markings will fade. For the later part of the project though I used actually tailor’s chalk (on the lining fabric) and it did stay on exactly as long as I needed it and was actually gone when I finished quilting. Who knew the obvious answer was so simple?)

The obvious downside was that I was quilting from the wrong side but it seemed the lesser evil at this point. It was a compromise, if not a last resort. I would not really recommend it. Because it is important that you do see the “good side” of your quilting when you quilt. Quilting from the wrong side means that you lack quite a bit of control over your stitch length and spacing and even placement of your stitching. You have to wrestle the control back and be much more alert and constantly check that the good side actually looks good.

I transferred the pattern by putting a lot of light under a huge glass table that I happen to own and putting the pattern (printed on transparent paper) between the glass table and my fabric.

Now, not everyone has a big glass table. Other options are apparently carbon paper, using heat transfer pencils or artist’ chalk and then applying that onto the fabric  or using so thin, light fabric that your pattern shines through without being illuminated from below. I only ever tried the carbon paper for stays. It’s okay but the light table method is better.

I didn’t trace the diamond pattern, it just happened to have the exact same width as my ruler.

Then I made the quilt sandwich. I made sure the fabric layers had the same size and extended past the quilting pattern. However, the batting only extended to the quilting pattern and ended up a few inches under the top of the petticoat pattern. Originally I left of 10 in/25 cm free of batting but then changed my mind about that later and added more batting at the top, so only 4 in/10 cm were free of batting.

I used fairly thin batting because I didn’t want my petticoat to be too thick, heavy and unwieldy and harbored the suspicion that the original petticoats I liked were also not that thickly batted.  I pinned the layers together – not only on the outside of the pattern – but all over. There is really no reason to be stingy there. I mean if you actually want to spend time on that you should baste the layers together all over. I just used a lot safety pins because I am a lazy person making a quilted petticoat.

Then I queued up Downton Abbey and started quilting from the bottom up of the pattern. Technically, I could have also started going from left to right, right to left, and centre out. (Top down, going through the unbatted part first, would be not such a great idea though.)  But you need to pick one of those and stick with it.

I picked bottom up because there the pattern was the most complicated and I wanted it out of the way. This was the only part that had curved lines which renders the typical quilting stitch aka “rocking stitch” inefficient to useless. With small, curved lines you often have to make only one running stitch, pull the needle through and then to do the next one. To make this even more annoying is that in order for a small form to be visible, your stitch length and spacing has to be small.

My general non-curved lines quilting technique was pretty simple, just move the fabric sandwich up and down so the needle picks up something between three and six  running stitches and then pull the needle through the sandwich. Depending on the batting and the pattern at this point, some stitches were tinier than others. My smallest stitches per inch average was 12, my largest was 6. Mostly I was between  those extremes. Sometimes I threw in a backstitch because I love backstitches and think they make things more secure.

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Anyway Season Four of Downton Abbey was over and I got finally started on the diamond/lattice pattern of my petticoat. Since it was all straight lines, I thought it would go really fast. (I was so wrong about that.)

At the point where I finished the lattice pattern, I had already spent roughly 100 hours quilting. (Not counting the 10 hours of prep work.) Now this could have been it, if I hadn’t had the great idea to shade the background of the bottom pattern with thin lines. And with thin lines I mean, lines that had the width of a chopstick which amounted to 3/10 of an inch/0.7cm. This was ambitious and stupid.

You can see the resulting problem in the last image. My shading made the actual flowers and foliage practically invisible. So I turned to trapunto/corded quilting. Here you pull yarns with a needle through the quilt sandwich to raise certain elements. Alternatively you can push batting through the backing fabric into the sandwich with a toothpick.

Unfortunately, that was dull and boring work. So I started working on the matching stomacher. (I needed one since I wanted to wear the petticoat with the green casaque and none of my existing stomachers matched in color.)

My inspiration I found on Instagram of all places, just as I was kind of despairing over what the design should be. The gown there is usually exhibited in the Palazzo Mocenigo in Venice, Italy but was apparently part of a temporary exhibition in New Orleans. Here we have a quilted (but not corded) stomacher with a latice pattern and some flowery foliage stuff. Just what I was looking for. I  changed a few things up to make them more like my petticoat but kept the overall look. Then I started quilting… and then reigned myself in and continued working on the petticoat.

Straightforward cording is pretty easy to understand. The only caveat I have for this tutorial is that it’s easier to built up thinner threads/yarns by pulling multiple strands into the same place than try to accomplish this with one thick thread. (I also would not use artificial fibre for an 18th century petticoat but that’s me being weird about artificial fibres.)

Pushing batting through elements that are too wide or large for cording sounds like a good idea, but unfortunately it’s more complicated than cording.

The tricky thing is pulling apart the backing without being cutting into the fabric. Using a toothpick really helps here. After you finished pushing the batting in, you use the toothpick to pull the weft and warp back into place. It’s a bit tedious but the result was an improvement from before.

So then it was time to make the petticoat itself. I sewed the panels together (first the fashion fabric, then the backing fabric because I thought that the sharing of batting in some of the quilted elements would make the seam less visible (It doesn’t even sound right to me but well, it can’t hurt.)) I bound the bottom of the petticoat in self-fabric, then cut into the petticoat to make the pocket slits, which I bound in bias-cut self-fabric immediately afterwards to minimize the fraying. Then I pleated the petticoat, attached the ribbons and bound the upper edge of it.

So here is what I have learned about quilted petticoats while making one:

  1. Size matters. Having quilted a doily does not prepare you for quilted a fabric sandwich that is more than a yard high and 1.5 yards wide. It’s unwieldy as anything and nothing but handling this unwieldiness prepares you for it.
  2. This is a not a test. Yes, you are lying to yourself if you think you are going to make your “real” quilted petticoat five weeks after this one. So, splurge. Use the good batting, use the silk satin (it highlights the quilting better), use the color you really want. Odds are that this will remain the only quilted petticoat you will ever do.
  3. Do all of your panels at the same time. Even if it is impractical, switch between working on your panels and ensure that you will finish them nearly at the same time. Basically, there is a huge psychological hurdle that you will face at finishing one panel and then looking at an empty, equally large piece of fabric where you have to do the same thing all over again. Maybe you will have the willpower to continue but it’s a psychological challenge that is to be avoided. You could also make just one gigantic panel but that’s even more impractical.
  4. Don’t quilt on a deadline. Your hands and wrists might not be able to take it.
  5. Switch it up with other non-quilting projects while you are at it. Something that doesn’t require making the same hand movement over and over again. (See #4.)
  6. Don’t switch it up too much or you’ll never finish it.
  7. The thickness of the batting matters. As does the density of your fabric and the sharpness of your needles. All your technique will not wield you a tiny stitch length if you have to stitch through a super-thick quilting sandwich.
  8. Try to line up the quilting pattern repeat with the centre front, centre back and side seams. Cutting into a finished quilt is nerve-wrecking and not a great idea for durability.
  9. Don’t eat or drink next to your quilting. Or your sewing, cutting, hemming or whatever. Because nothing will kill an unfinished quilted petticoat faster than a simple coffee stain.
  10. Consider doing this only if you have run out of other clothes to make. A quilted petticoat was ubiquitous in the 18th Century but in 21st Century it’s not an essential garment. The time you spend on it could be spend making a very decorated gown with a equally overdecorated petticoat. You could make fully-boned stays with hand sewn boning channels and still have plenty of time for a chemise. You could make a wonderfully embroidered stomacher and the matching gown. There is so much else you might need before you need this. Because actually no one needs this.

So in conclusion (to steal the Historical Sew Fortnightly format):

The challenge (to myself): A quilted petticoat

Pattern: My own based on a bunch of originals

Year: 1730-1790 (trends are hard to discern with this item)

How historically accurate is it? It’s entirely sewn and quilted by hand, using only natural and historically accurate fibres. The pattern is based on extant examples. The only thing that is problematic is that I made two of the ties out of self-fabric which is technically a thing you could do in the 18th century but is unlikely to have been done.

Fabric: 90 in/230 cm x 54 inch/138 cm of red duchesse silk satin and 90 in/230 cm x 43 inch/110 cm of a Ikea Ljusöga cotton duvet cover

Notions: 5 yards/450 metres of 730 Guterman silk thread, cotton batting, linen ribbon, trick marker

Hours to  complete: more than 170 hours (unknown hours for research, 10 hours prep, 100 hours quilting the basic pattern, 40 hours of “shading”, 10 hours of cording/trapunto quilting, 10 hours of hemming, sewing, pleating, fishing out a leftover pin etc.)

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Is this worth 170 hours of my life?

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This?

These 170 hours are pretty insane. They didn’t feel like 170 hours because they were not intellectually challenging. Quilting is painting sewing by the numbers. It’s just moving the needle along a few drawn lines without doing anything else. So it can be done with three-quarters of a mind focusing on Downton Abbey or Lucy Worsley’s documentaries and watching all of Horrible Histories. That you can entertain yourself while quilting without getting distracted by switching into another part of the process like you have to when you properly sew, can give the impression that quilting goes by pretty fast.

The thing is – it is still 170 hours. I usually have a only vague idea of how much time I spend on making a garment but that’s enough to know that 170 hours is perhaps actually a record for me to spend on a garment or even entire ensemble. That at the end of the day I am not standing here with a super-ruffled Francaise but rather a mere petticoat is sobering.

That being said, I would have done it anyway if I had known this from the beginning. I mean I kind of knew this from the beginning. However, I cannot imagine doing another one. (Well, at least not one with this sort of complex and narrowly shaded pattern.)

Anyway the petticoat being dealt with meant I went back to the stomacher. I decided to quilt this one with as tiny stitches as I could manage (thickness of the batting is a major factor here) and then corded/trapunto-ed the decorative elements. I trapunto-ed the five-leaved clovers and corded the foliage, stuffing one vine fuller  than the other three for some contrast. The diamond pattern (where I had thinned the batting quite siginificantly before quilting) I left as it was.

I whipstitched the two sides together and then added a strip of folded bias tape as a makeshift boning channel to the back.

After this was done the stomacher lost 1 in/2cm in height, even though the width remained pretty much the same. Since I did make the stomacher a bit longer than my normal ones, this was actually not a bad thing.

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It fits pretty well.

Time spend on the stomacher?: About 20+ hours.

Now after this one, I actually packed my quilting things away and looked at all the other things I had on my to-do list. But then the leftover fabric irked me. There was very little of it but just enough to maybe tease out a 1750s type of jacket.

A quilted jacket.

But “maybe just enough fabric” turned out to be tricky. I didn’t cut corners, but I literally cut some corners very close and still had to piece three pattern pieces (one underside of a sleeve and two bits at the side of the bodice) using literal scraps from the very beginning. (In the process of fitting the quilted jacket I ended up needing two additional pieces. Fun was not had.)

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Who needs seam allowances anyway?

I didn’t have enough material to bind the pieces, so I sewed the left side of the lining (plus the batting I had pinned to the lining) to the left side of the silk and then turned everything over. (Of course, after pulling the pins out of the batting.) Then I closed the open seam. The only exceptions for this were the sleeve heads were I actually had an open seam allowance.

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At this point of this seemingly simple process I had spent already 15 hours on the jacket and yet had not quilted a single stitch.

I halved my batting before making my quilt sandwich. There were four very good reasons for that: 1. Vanity, because I didn’t want to end up looking like the Michelin Man 2. It would be much easier to make smaller stitches. 3. I didn’t actually have enough batting left to use it at its full thickness 4. The pattern was a tight fit without the batting. Fitting issues were bound to arise even with minimal batting and quilting. (And arise they did.)

Quilting was fast though. It was a simple diamond pattern with three lines at outer edges of the jacket and it went so, so fast. I think the difference  to the slooow petticoat was in the small size of the individual pieces. They were simply easier to handle while quilting.

The last step was sewing the jacket together. This didn’t went fast at all and then I had that fitting issue where the skirts of the jacket didn’t fan out properly and so they bunched at the waist a bit. More piecing, quilting and sewing commenced.

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A bit of Frankenstein never hurt the aesthetic value, right?

Time spend on the jacket?: About 30+ hours, although with a little more fabric it  could have been a few hours less. I also sacrificed another 110 yards of silk thread for the stomacher and the jacket.

Time spend on the whole ensemble? 220 hours.

Time I have spent wearing any part of this ensemble so far?: 6 hours.

And yes. This hobby is ridiculous.

 

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220 hours…

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Which is nearly as long as it has taken me to finish this post…

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Finishing the robe de cour

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I finished the court gown. And yes, I ended up adding a small train.I was out of my original fabric (which I knew from the very beginning) so I just used a gold-colored silk taffeta. I kept it short so it could be actually worn in public without causing accidents, leaving it to drag on the ground a little (it was lined) but not by much. So in the end, it did end up being a grand habit de cour.

Continue reading

Robe de cour sleeves, palatine & petticoat

The sleeves of the robe de cour are kinda same-y everywhere and yet not. Basically, it’s layers of pleated white ruffles, some of go upwards and some go downwards. There is logic to this madness but it’s not entirely uniform. I based my sleeves on Janet Arnold’s pattern and went with the material of that gown’s sleeves – which is silk gauze.

I considered using lace. But there is not a lot of lace that is authentic to use – in fact, authentic lace tends to be of the period. And I have some issues with using things that are of the period for reenacting the period. Especially, if it requires those things’s alteration and possible destruction. I mean some 18th century stuff is pretty indestructible. Textiles – especially fragile lace – is not.

But silk gauze was easy to get a hold of and it is 100 percent authentic and can easily be replaced if it gets damaged. Of course, as always, I abused my fray check to keep the edges from unravelling.

The base on which I mounted the silk gauze is a golden silk taffeta that matches the color of the gown. It became fairly invisible though after all the pleats were attached.

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The first pleats

 

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Pleats with gauze underlayer

 

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Sewing with the thinnest silk thread I could find

 

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Sleeve before ironing

 

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Sleeve after ironing and before sewing the edges together

The palatine – the neckline ruffle – was more of the same, except here my base was the bodice itself.

 

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Pleating on the bodice

 

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Sewing

 

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just putting the sleeve in to see how it looks

 

Then I got started on the petticoat. The funny thing is that I realized that none of my existing petticoat supports had any chance of not collapsing under the weight of the fabric. So the actual first step was building panniers. This was boring to make, so I didn’t even take pictures.

Then I started on the petticoat for real.

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The leftover fabric after making the bodice

 

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Trying to figure how I can translate that huge skirt into something workable

The petticoat I ended up with was some kind of a cross between Arnold’s pattern and my British princess painting. It’s wider than the British princess (because it turned out that I had just that much fabric.) but much narrower and with more pleats than Arnolds.

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Halfway to getting somewhere

After finishing the skirt, I added hem protection because I know this fabric. In direct contact with the ground it will not do well.

Then I tried it on:

 

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And came to realize that it was missing a few essential features that I didn’t thought would matter. Like that string at bottom of the bodice or some decoration. Or a ladies maid who would help me closing it completely in the back. (Which I didn’t manage there.) Can’t do anything about the latter but the former I started working on.

Robe de cour – the research

Very late into doing the grand habit de cour, I figured out how to access  Janet Arnold’s article on Princess Sophia Magdalena’s wedding dress from 1766, as published in Costume, the journal of the Costume Society, Issue #1 (1967), p.17-21.

I had no idea what I would find in these five pages, maybe some blahblah, maybe that one bare-bones semi-informative cutting diagram that still hangs around somewhere on the internet, maybe some line drawing.

Instead I got this:

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And more, obviously.

 

Page 17 was a brief description of the dress, page 18 was a line drawing of the bodice with emphasis on the interior (this is the only part of this article that actually can be found on the internet), page 19 is a line drawing of the front and back of the complete dress and pages 20-21  are a cutting and boning diagram of all layers (bodice/petticoat/train) and the gauze sleeves and neckline gauze (palatine).

The only thing that was missing unfortunately was the hooped petticoat (the Livrustkammaren has one, but apparently for a different robe de cour). So if you want to do a robe de cour and need a pattern… well, you can try to find an old copy of this issue of Costume (apparently there was a re-issue) or you can become a member of the Costume Society and grab a digital copy of any of their journal’s back issues.

(Which by the way have other nice patterns, like Janet Arnold’s pattern for the 1660s gown in Bath’s fashion museum or some really intriguing original non-Norah Waugh boning layouts for 18th Century stays in one of their 2000s issues.)

So what does this mean for my robe? Well, first of all my boning layout is pretty good. The major differences are that the boning layer and the fashion layer are not identically cut and that there are more additional bones in the tabs (I don’t know how that works actually – I couldn’t have fit more in mine. Edit: the bones are split vertically in the tabs. Reading is  always key.) And that on the back of the shoulder straps there are a few horizontal bones. Also the fabric is finely corded white silk. Which mine isn’t.

Things that I got right: I have 5mm wide bones, Arnold says the bones in the bodice are 3/16 inches wide which translates to 4.7625mm which is extremely close. 0.24mm is so small that I cannot actually find a good comparison, even the thickness of your fingernail is likely to be greater.

My boning layout in general is pretty on actually. Adding the fashion fabric tabs independently of the main part of the fashion fabric is correct. Adding interlining is good (although I could have added more.) Sewing down the seams is also correct.

All in all, there is no major snafu.

 

So what does this mean for the rest of the gown?

Continue reading

The finished court gown bodice

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Before I start with the story of how I got there, I want to talk about what I am actually doing.

The concept of a court gown seems so easy to define – until you ask “which court”. Mine is obviously inspired by a painting of a British princess of the 1720s, so the answer should be pretty obvious.

(c) Hertford Town Council; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

I know I have posted this before.

The court gown that people do think of when they actually bother to think about it all, is the court gowns that still exist in their complete form – the three in from the Swedish Royal Armoury. They are not merely court gowns – each is by all definitions of the term a “grand habit de cour”, the court gown as worn by the French court.

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This would be also a good place for some studies of the Russian 18th Century court gowns, some of which also appear to be grand habits. But good luck finding info on those.

The French Court was very wasteful when it came to fashion. There is a reason why no other French court gown has survived in its entirety – it was absolutely unthinkable to wear one twice. Madame de Polignac had to stay away from a wedding once because she couldn’t afford to wear a new grand habit.

That also meant that they were not meant to last. The description of their decorations in the later 18th Century sound more like still life paintings (even fake vegetables decorated those big skirts) than textiles and were thus pretty fragile. The Swedish gowns come from an early era were the fabric was the eye-catcher and decorations were not much of an afterthought.

The court gown in France consisted of three main parts: the boned bodice, the petticot and the train. It was pretty mandatory to wear them with double-sided sleeve ruffles, the palatine (the lace/silk gaze around the top of the bodice) and high heeled mules. The width and shape of the petticoat varied, depending on the fashion. From 1730 onwards though, the petticoat was pretty big.

I will be honest about my gown  – I have fabric for a petticoat (not a super-wide one, mind you) but I don’t have fabric for the train. And to be even more honest – I have no interest in recreating a train.

Pattern-wise, a train for a Grand Habit is the second most simple 18th Century garment you can make. (#1 is a fichu.)

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If it looks like an overgrown stomacher, it must be a train.

Even a shift is more difficult. I feel not challenged by making a train, yet I would feel very challenged wearing one. And – lucky me – my inspirational dress has no train.

And also…. lucky me, I have finished what makes the grand habit so little fun, pattern-wise…

So here is what has happened since I started putting the boned pieces together… Continue reading

A robe de cour

I always wanted  to make a grand habit de cour / robe de cour / court gown but there were a lot of arguments against it.

  1. There is no easily available pattern, the only existing pattern is a low resolution scan on the internet that does not bother with a boning layout, showing the tabs or whatever layers are necessary.
  2. I’ve seen a fantastic re-created court gown last year but was not as wowed as I thought I ought to be. Which was a bit weird because on one hand it was with little doubt one of the most elaborate 18th Century reproductions that exist. On other I wasn’t into it. Which I took to mean that I wasn’t into the whole concept of the robe de cour.
  3. The material. You can’t do a over-the-top court gown with just some plain silk taffeta and then call it a day. So either you deliver some awesome trimming or you need some special fabric.
  4. The effort. You basically make a fully-boned pair of stays that can only be used for one dress – and that’s just the starting point.

 

And then this fabric arrived at my door step:

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It’s a vintage piece and it weirdly pre-cut. The short version of this story is that it’s way too nice to not use it for a big gown, and yet there is not enough of it to use it for a traditional 18th Century gown. But you can cut the bodice of a court gown and still have enough fabric for a 1730s type of court gown petticoat.

Something like this:

(c) Hertford Town Council; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Princess Anne (1728) by Philippe Mercier – Hertford Town Council; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

This seem like a contradiction until you realize that piecing this pattern and fabric is a terrible idea.

And since I hate fabric stashes (I hoard enough stuff, I don’t need fabric for something I’ll never make on top of that.), I decided to take the plunge and make a robe de cour.

The first step was taking that low-res pattern and re-work it so it has a boning layout and actually fits me. I did some retro-engineering based on an x-ray of a court dress in Sweden and one of Norah Waugh’s early 18th Century stays to figure out the most likely boning layout. Then I started measuring that one pair of stays that fits me well and dropped my research and numbers and  that low-res scan into Adobe Illustrator. I ended up with a pattern that has actually worked out pretty well so far.

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I altered the tabs further on the fabric version.

I printed the pattern out on transparent paper, started tracing it and its boning channels onto a linen fabric and sewed parts of the outline and all the boning channels.

Then I measured and cut the 174 (!) bones (1/5 inch – 5mm plastic boning), rounded off the edges and stuffed them into the channels. 174 times.

Judging by the few pictures I have of the Swedish court bodices (the only place where anyone bothered to photograph the insides of a court gown bodice), that number must somewhat close to the original. (The width of my boning channels does match up with regular fully-boned 18th Century stays.) Maybe the bones/boning channel are a bit narrower than mine but not by much if at all.

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Not pictured: the boned shoulder straps.

I also added a thick horizontal metal bone and a busk to the inside of the front bodice and evened everything out a bit by adding some interlining.

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I am currently working on at putting these parts together. It’s sloooow because the boning gives the whole thing a very special dynamic.