My First Pet … en l’Air – Toiling Around.

For some reason I decided a little while ago that I actually like Pet en l’Air jackets.  I never cared much for them before, but I suppose that little green and orange cutie from the Kyoto Costume Institute caught my eye and changed my mind.

Like a fool I set to draping, and discovered that despite the pattern pieces being very simple, the whole pleaty-pulling in-drapey-foldy thing made my brain hurt and it took me literally hours to get the pattern working, even with the aid of Janet Arnold.

Once I was happy with the drape, I traced the pattern onto paper, made my adjustments, and cut out a toile.  I was pleased to find it actually fit (wasn’t at all expecting that), although there are some tweaks I need to make, as you see:

*NOTE – I just happen to be wearing a tshirt the same exact color of my toile fabric, under my stays.  Don’t mind it!  It is not actually a short-sleeved, high-necked pet en l’air, I promise!

Front – don’t mind those wrinkles, it’ll have boning in the final.
The back.  The pleats need some work, and the shoulders

I think part of the problem with the back pleats is that I did not press them accurately – I did it after the fact and I can see that there will be much basting and pressing before lacing in the side pieces.  Inside there are two lacing strips that pull the bodice taught through the back.  This happens under the back pleats, and it creates an excess of fabric sortof squeezed out where it’s been laced together.  Pressing and strategically tacking will help with this, or so I hope.

I have some excess going on at the top, right at the top of the pleats.  I think some of this will be taken care of by pulling in the fabric underneath the pleats and tacking it in place, and the rest of that tailoring accomplished by taking in the shoulder straps.

That excess at the top bugs me, but I do like the look of that side seam and the pleats.

Otherwise I’m quite happy with it so far.  It actually fits, mostly!  I’m going to make the fit adjustments and also shorten the back – it drapes lower than I expected.  The bodice closes by way of false front (comperes), fastening with buttons.  Yay! I love front-closing, easy to fasten, easy to wear items.

This is the fabric it’ll be made up in – a medium-weight woven cream ground with golden starry-stripeys.  I’ll pair it with a cream colored taffeta, and dress it up with gold bows and buttons.  I’m thinking gold shoes too 🙂

Sleeves…later.  They’re my great downfall and I always leave them for last, and I’m determined to get them absolutely right this time.  As for trims, something simple, probably boxy-pleaty down the front edges, and the cuffs.

If you have any help for me, please don’t be shy!!


  • Katy Rose

    January 28, 2011 at 7:58 PM

    I draped sleeves on my polonaise gown…I ended up getting a working sleeve after about 15 tries. In the end I sorta gave up. I used my basic sleeve block and traced it out onto fabric, cut out from the sleeve length, hem, and from the front notch to the back notch on the under arm. I left the sleeve head uncut. I sewed up the length, and sewed the underarm to the bodice from the front notch to the back notch, then I draped the sleeve head and then tacked in place. It worked out very well. the only problem I had after the bodice was finished was that the sleeve pulled across my bicep. This was because I cut the armhole on the bodice too low.

  • Lauren Stowell

    January 28, 2011 at 9:57 PM

    The skirt will be a cream-colored taffeta, and I'm thinking full length but not floor-dragging. I like walking length, too, though, so we'll see.

    Katy, I'll try that with the sleeves. I just gotta mess around with them awhile. I have nobody to help me fit the sleeve caps, so it's all guess work, really. Some day I'll learn how to do this right, right? My problem is usually that the sleeve heads are not tall enough, so they pull the shoulder seams of the garment.

  • MrsC (Maryanne)

    January 28, 2011 at 10:26 PM

    Yum, cream and gold 🙂 But hmm, 'something simple', Didn't I read a post recently where you had had a revelation that you tend to underembellish? Now of cours being the maximalist that I am, I would remember this! Please don't underembellish it. Over embellish it! 🙂 More is more! 🙂

  • Lauren Stowell

    January 28, 2011 at 10:38 PM

    Oh you've caught me, MrsC, I did indeed say that. I was thinking about pinked edges on pleated self-trims, rather than doing a gold ribbon trim. It would all be tone-on-tone, with the cream and gold. And maybe little gold ribbons, and some gold bows, and gold buttons….and…okay, you're right, MORE IS MORE!

  • Lithia Black

    January 29, 2011 at 1:24 PM

    One thing that I learned with my pet en l'air is to make the neck a bit higher that you think you want it, because the weight of the fabric pulls the neck down even with a stiff and proper fitted lining. You can see what I mean here:

    When I worked and fitted the jacket it lay perfectly straight across. But after a couple of hours on me it made this kind of curve in the back…

    It sounds like you'll have a ravishing smashing pet en l'air ensemble when I read your plan for it 😀


  • MrsC (Maryanne)

    January 30, 2011 at 6:39 AM

    Aha, that's where I was going to put my tuppence in too. That sagging across the armhole line will be mostly from the weight of the back pulling down. I suggest that to prevent the sagging over time Lithia speaks of, that you tape the neckline severely, to at least past the shoulder seam but maybe all the way down the front too. Taping (and do forgive me if I am preaching to the choir!) is where you sew a usually cotton, straight woven (never bias) tape in with the seam on the inside. It prevents the seam from stretching, which it will as most of the neckline is curved therefore on the bias. This works best when you've stay stitched the neckline edges and eased them in just a little before sewing, as then it will grab the body not sit away from it. Hope that makes sense!
    Good news re maximalist gold and cream trims by the way 😉

  • Lauren Stowell

    January 30, 2011 at 7:14 AM

    I admit this is definitely a challenge, and uncharted territory for me. Mrs C, could you explain taping a little further? Am I building a support over the shoulders? I've gone quite a long ways today on the final jacket, but am sortof feeling my way through it ever so carefully. I feel like such a newb!

  • Katy Rose

    January 30, 2011 at 6:20 PM

    I would suggest an interlining and boning on the inside where the lacing is. As for the sleeve head that's why I left the top uncut and pinned it to the mannequin where it was naturally falling, (if that makes sense, lol) I did most of the fitting by myself as well and it was ALOT of pinning, putting it on, taking it off, re pinning, etc. It help when Hubster was there to do the pinning. Good luck!

  • MrsC (Maryanne)

    January 31, 2011 at 1:17 AM

    Sure. Now this is not a technique just about holding up your sca back, this is true for most necklines, and very, very useful for wide scoope ones that sit on the edge of the shoulder, for example. Anywhere where time, weight of fabric or wearing will slightly stretch a seam, taping is great. Tell you what, I'll do a tute on my blog. Then I can take pics.

  • Ginger

    June 18, 2019 at 1:44 AM

    I'm attempting to make a pet en l'air as well and I was wondering if you could tell me what kind of hoops you used (double side hoops, crinoline, etc). Also if you have any other recommendations or must-does, they would be super helpful.

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