The Revolution Dress – Beginnings, Again

Last time, I wrote about a new 18th c. project concerning a Robe Retroussee dans les Poches, but since then the project has been morphing and smooshing around trying to define itself.

And I went fabric shopping.  Red and white stripes just seems to be one of those fabrics that isn’t around when you want it.  I found thin stripes in too-light cotton, or fat stripes in too-heavy upholstery canvas, and nothing at all in taffetas, linens, or wools.  I know online sources have it, but I just won’t pay that much for fabric, sorry.

Red silk-ish, and off-white sheer stripe.

So compromise.  I wanted RED, so I looked for that next, and came up with a rather delightful silk-ish with a lot of crispy body, important for poofage.  I also found a loose-weave striped cotton that just screamed out to be made into a petticoat.  And these are my two fabrics.

The red pinned around the form and pulled up in the “skirt” to see how it will drape.

Also on the list of materials are large tarnished silver buttons similar to those seen on the KCI red/white striped 1790 jacket.  I know they are not an exact match, but I rather like the French Revolution feel they have, and I want the buttons to stand out against the red fabric.

These are my buttons and I’m sticking to them.

I’ve been waffling on gown styles, but I figure the best thing to do is make a Robe a l’Anglaise and deal with the polonaising style later.  Now I am waffling on bodice style, but a visit to the 1780s section of Dames a la Mode has given me a better idea of what to do up top.

1789 – cool tied back detail on the skirt.
1784 – like the sleeves on this one, and the big bow at the front of the bodice.
1782 – again, cool sleeves.  You’ll see all of these have lace around the neckline, flopped over like a collar, which seems distinctly 1780s, and might be a nice touch.

All the prettiness is compiled, but I’ve got undies to make first.  I cut the skirt off an old Regency frock and refashioned the voile into a simple short-sleeved chemise with a gathered neckline.  I *hate* making shirts/smocks/chemises, which is why I’ve not had one until now, but I’m really quite happy with how this one turned out.

Re-purposed voile from an old Regency frock.

Also, the green floral stays I showed last time turned out not to fit.  The front curve was about an inch too low on my bust, which made things, er, uncomfortable and weird.  Also, getting into them myself really was a pain in the neck, so the new pair is front and back lacing for convenience, and the pattern has been adjusted to (hopefully) fit me better.  They are also in the 1780s style with the prow-front.

New new stays, high in front, and also higher on the strap tabs.  I’ve made these strapless, but thinking of ribbon straps over the shoulders.  Front and back closing.

Next is a walking-length flounced petticoat, from a nice thin muslin.  One can never have too many petticoats, and I’m tired of safety pinning up the long one to wear under shorter skirts.

And that’s the progress so far!  I have more boring stuff to do before I can cut into the red, but hopefully those foundations will make the final silhouette that much more correct :-).  Until next time…


  • Lauren

    April 26, 2011 at 5:26 PM

    This is going to be so stunning! I love the inspiration fashion plates you shared.
    I'm so with you on the chemise thing. I used to wear a tank top until I finally broke down and made one. hehe. Yours looks really pretty and (almost) wants me want to sew one!
    The stays look gorgeous, too!

  • Lauren Stowell

    April 26, 2011 at 8:46 PM

    Melissa, that is one of my favorite costume dramas! Enjoy it 😀

    Lauren, I'm totally with you. Tank top is usually my mode, and with the straps just pulled down and tucked in it it needs to be strapless. I feel so improper, and it's also nice to show a bit of pretty chemise above the neckline sometimes, do you think? I still need to make an 1860s one. /sigh. 'Course, most of what I hate about them is the seam finishing – always get steam burns, ALWAYS – but a quick trip down the serger does the trick too, tee hee 🙂

  • Anonymous

    April 27, 2011 at 4:55 PM

    Oooooh! Thanks for the plug! 🙂

    You're definitely right about the big, frilly kerchiefs. They show up in TONS of 1780s fashions. Can't wait to see what you decide on!

  • Kaisa

    April 29, 2011 at 2:11 PM

    Wow, the red looks really beautiful! I feel envious, for you are so talented!

    I was woundering if you could help me with this small problem of mine. I'm making a robe à la polonaise/robe l'anglaise (haven't decided yet) for my self and I was wondering that what kind of fabric would you recommend for that purpose. I'm planning to use cotton (it wasn't banned in my country), but what kind of fabric weight would be ideal?

    I've found an absolutely beautiful striped lightweight cotton fabric, but I guess medium weigh would work better on a polonaise?

  • Lauren R

    April 30, 2011 at 1:04 AM

    Hi Kaisa – cotton is a great fabric to use for Robe a l'Anglaise for daywear. I would go for something fairly lightweight, as sometimes with gathering up the skirts you can get a "droopy" effect instead of a puffy one, if the fabric is too heavy. You can also line at least part of the skirt with something like organza, to give it some hidden body and help it stand up when polonaised.

    If you want to use a silk-like fabric, taffeta is a good choice because it's fairly lightweight and papery. Satin would be a bit heavy, as would upholstery jacquards. Hope this helps!

  • The Dreamstress

    May 2, 2011 at 5:55 AM

    OK, now I'm really curious about those stays! Please do a post all about them and the pattern you used and historical inspiration and your boning layout!

    I love the fashion plates you posted!

  • Lauren Stowell

    May 2, 2011 at 8:59 AM

    Hi Dreamstress. Okay, I will do a post just about the stays. They're actually still unfinished because I ran out of bias tape and haven't been out to get any since the last time I posted, lol. Should be done "officially" this week, though, and then I'll talk about them.

  • Lauren Stowell

    May 16, 2011 at 6:49 PM

    Hi Brenda, I have not made a quilted petticoat yet, but I'm fascinated by them and some day I will jump in and do it. I want to do it proper-like, all hand-done, but I know it will take for flippin' ever. Some day 🙂

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