Going Baroque – The Danger of Satin, and a Tale of One Sleeve

This 1660s bodice is coming together in bits and pieces, in no particular order, with no particular sense, yet is somehow coming out alright.  I’ve run out of bones, but that didn’t stop me from forging ahead.  I finished stitching the boning channels into the linings, and then moved on to mounting the poly satin on top of this under structure.

Satin is a dangerous fabric.  And polyester even moreso.  A bit of bad tension on the sewing machine can cause ripples and buckles like you wouldn’t believe.  My goal is to stretch the satin as tautly across the corset-like lining, and hand stitch it into place (like flat-lining, but on the outside), to avoid rumples, wrinkles, buckles, and pulls.  I want the polyester-ness of this gown to be as discreet as possible.

This is tedious and takes lots of time, but I’m very happy with the results so far.  I like the tiny top stitching too – for some reason, in the sea of anachronisms and costuming sins that is this dress, these little seams make me feel oh-so-historically-accurate…they look just like seams I’ve seen on 18th c. extant garments :-).

I’ve many more pieces of the satin covering to go, but it moves along surprisingly quickly.  There are a couple rumpley buckles in the side pieces, but I suspect these are caused by the un-cut tabs, and will disappear once I’ve made those slices.

For the front pieces, I’ve lined them in muslin, since these pieces hang free of the lining at center front, and will be heavily boned and pinned into place over the front lacing closure.  Just for fun, I pinned all the trim on the front, to get an idea how it will look.  I’m still not sure about this trim – it’s very stiff and doesn’t arc nicely over those curved seams.  I’m also not thrilled with my mistake in placement of the curved seams.  The more I work on this dress the more I realize how *wrong* I’ve gotten everything!  It’s almost more of a Victorian interpretation of a 17th c. gown…

So without finishing the satin cover, I attempted to draft/drape the sleeve pattern, which I’ve actually never done before.  I don’t count this occasion, since all I did was pleat up one side of a fatty tube, then pleat up the other, and call it done.  I don’t know if it’s right – I didn’t put a curve in the top of the sleeve – but I’ve been wearing it around for awhile and there seem to be no problems.  Surprising range of motion, too.

I’m thinking of lining the sleeves in muslin, to give them a bit more body.  The satin is very soft and floppy, and I need the sleeves to poof a bit without being gigot-ish.  There will be a line of trim covering the seams on the sleeves, which match up nicely with the side front seams of the bodice.  Yay!

No telling what’s next on this project, but I’ll be sure to take pics and update soon!


  • Isis

    April 29, 2010 at 6:47 AM

    I like the effect of the trim on the silk, though. 🙂 Hmmm, could you dismantle it a bit, cutting away some of the trim? To make it move more easily. (Probably not, I guess, but it's hard to tell from pictures if it's possible.) And if you want to, too, of course. 🙂

    When I've read up on 17th century clothes, the repeated message have been that the sleeves "are too bulky". As if teh 17th century person chose to have it like that because they couldn't do it properly… So I guess that a fatty tube isn't such a bad place to start from.

    Probably historically incorrect for this time, but I think silk organza as interlining in the sleeves could work quite well.

  • The Dreamstress

    April 29, 2010 at 11:07 AM

    Gah! Wrote a whole comment and the internet ate it! It went something like this:

    I love the idea of a Victorian interpretation of the 17th century. Worth did a whole range of quite literal baroque gowns, and there are plenty of less obvious ones too (like my rate the dress).

    Your sleeves are looking gorgeous. I'm glad they weren't hard – my theory for sleeve draping is that lots of historical seamstresses weren't very good either 😛

    The whole thing is amazing, and you are really inspiring me. Thanks for sharing!

  • The Gentlewoman who is also a Thief

    April 29, 2010 at 12:05 PM

    I hope you don't get too bogged down in what you think has gone wrong with this project as I can assure you that I (and I'm willing to bet, everyone else) can only see the awesomeness going on here. The seam lines look lovely; I'm envying your pretty little top stitches and your anti-wrinkle prowess is very impressive. Lovely!

  • Gloria

    April 29, 2010 at 1:26 PM

    It really looks awesome, so don't get yourself down looking at so-called "mistakes." This isn't an era most people do, so we don't have that collective knowledge for what works.

    Also, dropped shoulder sleeves can be straight across the sleeve head. Civil War gowns with dropped shoulders have the sleeves cut straight across the sleeve head, as do dropped shoulder sweaters. So I think you're in good company there. You need a curved sleeve head when it's extending over the shoulder.

  • American Duchess

    April 29, 2010 at 6:23 PM

    Thanks for all the support, ladies! I've decided to go with a different trim – lightly spray-painting some lace, so I'll post about that soon.

    Isis – you're right about the sleeves being HUGE, but I found them surprisingly comfortable. I think organza would be excellent for puffing them up a bit, so I'll see if I can pick some up today. I don't want them TOO poofy, but they need some body for sure. Gloria, thanks for the info about the sleeves being straight across the top! That makes me feel much better, since mine are indeed straight, and I was worrying that I'd not done something right.

    I'm so glad you guys are finding this project interesting! I'm still enthralled with it, and can't wait to get the trims going and the skirt made, and..and..and 🙂 More posties to come!

  • MrsC (Maryanne)

    April 29, 2010 at 10:49 PM

    Duchess, how about using visflex or some other double sided iron on sticky to bond the satin to the musln? This would make a fabric with a hand a lot more like the kind of satin the dress would have been made of orginally – not too stiff. 🙂

  • Duchess

    April 30, 2010 at 1:30 AM

    Mrs C – I'm a fan of fusible, but sometimes it comes out all wrinkley warpy. I'm a little afraid of it! I'll pick some up and do a test, though.

    Thief – WHOA, what a gnarly bodice! Pretty epic, I must agree! I picked up some pretty lace to spray paint, so hopefully will be closer to our inspiration pieces than something totally off-the-mark. Thanks for the link!

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