V189: Beginning a Robe a l’Anglaise a la Polonaise

I’ve been procrastinating on, well, everything costume-related, and with Costume College a mere month away, it’s time to get down to business with this striped gown.

My material – I have enough for both a gown and a matching petticoat

The gown is really for our trip to Williamsburg in October, but I might as well get it done for CoCo in August, lest I continue to procrastinate and truly run out of time.

So here’s a start…

I’ve hmmm’d-and-hawwww’d on the design, but have finally settled on a simple pin-front Anglaise from Patterns of Fashion 1: Englishwomen’s Dresses & Their Construction C. 1660-1860, page 37-39, that can be polonaise’d up in back.  Here is the original dress from the Snowshill Collection, National Trust:

And here is Janet Arnold’s sketch:

Janet Arnold, Patterns of Fashion 1, pg 37

And lucky me, here is also Nancy Bradfield’s drawings and notes from Costume in Detail: Women’s Dress 1730-1930

Costume in Detail, pg 57 and 58

Now to draping.

I decided to drape this pattern instead of scale it up from the Janet Arnold gridded pattern, because I find it quicker and more accurately fitted to my measurements.

Back draped

I tried out some draping techniques from Period Costume for Stage & Screen, primarily in correcting my bad habit of not leaving enough at the waist and in the armscyes to accommodate adjustments when finishing the paper pattern.

Front draped, without corrections to CF, or grainlines

Here is my paper pattern:

Front, Side, Back, and for the first time, a proper sleeve draped and corrected as the pattern calls for, and specifically for this dress.

The back piece is quite a bit different from Arnold’s pattern, due to my sway-back-edness.  I also made sure this time to lay the center front on the bias, instead of the straight grain, a mistake I made in the Revolution Dress.  I’ve given 3/4″ seam allowances, to be safe, and plan to tailor out any excess through the back, on Franken-Lilly, hopefully resulting in a super-awesome-accurate fit, and no warps. Fingers crossed. 🙂

Arnold’s pattern – you can see the CF on the bias.

Now for the cutting!


  • Hallie Larkin

    July 8, 2012 at 1:26 AM

    the construction of these gowns is deceptively simple (not simple at all!), the original in Janet Arnold has all the bodice pieces finished and then joined together, making the curves a lot easier to deal with. You might have a challenge with those curves and the stripes. It might be a good idea to practice on a cheap striped fabric to see what happens with the stripes and the pattern pieces before cutting your good silk. Happy stitching!

    • Lauren Stowell

      July 8, 2012 at 9:42 PM

      I should have seen your comment before jumping right in! Luckily the stripes haven't given too much trouble, although I managed to mis-match the side-back pieces…not sure how, since I thought I had matched them exactly when cutting out individually, but oh well … it's not one of my mine unless there is something glaringly wrong with it!

  • Beara

    July 8, 2012 at 8:32 AM

    Last year I had the opotunity to see parts of the Snowshill Manor Costume Collection. This dress was part of it and it was so wonderfull. It will be nice to see it re-created.

  • Gwenyver

    July 8, 2012 at 1:16 PM

    I love draping and got good grades in that class in fashion school, but I am lacking a body double to drape anything accurate for me. One of these days, I'll have to remedy to this problem.

  • Anonymous

    July 8, 2012 at 3:45 PM

    Good choice, Lauren. This was the first 18th century gown I made– for myself, not a doll– about thirty years ago. It went together pretty well, although that may have been a combination of beginner's luck and being less demanding about the way the pattern worked up. With the smaller stripes, and for your constituency, Hallie has the right idea.

    • Lauren Stowell

      July 8, 2012 at 9:43 PM

      Next time I will be more careful with the stripes … got lucky this time with the stripes working out alright, especially in the front and back, but missed proper matching on the side back pieces. Drat!

  • Tricia

    July 8, 2012 at 7:49 PM

    This is my favorite style of gown; the fabric you have chosen is beautiful, I can't wait to see the finished gown. I have not tried to make a gown yet. Thanks to Hallie Larkens for the warning about them being deceptively simple. What would be the best pattern on fabric to start with; sounds like stripes are for experts.

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