Weddingote: Draping and Testing

Now that Costume College has come and gone, it’s time to focus seriously on my wedding gown, which is to be worn in two months time.  I’m going to share my progress here (I’ve told Mr. C he’s forbidden to read my blog, not like he does anyway), starting from the very beginning…draping/patterning/testing.

Marie Antoinette redingote gown, photo by Yve Fontilea, via Costumer’s Guide

I set to work on recreating my favorite gown from Marie Antoinette, starting with my basic I-know-it-fits Robe a l’Anglaise pattern.  I smooshed it together with a basic modern blazer pattern, to get the neckline for the collar somewhat in the ballpark.  I’m very unfamiliar with collars – they scare me to death – especially a shawl collar, which has a funny extension piece that goes around the back of the neck, all in one with the front piece.

The tail off the back will be a full extension into the skirt.  For the test piece, it’s going to be the tail of a pierrot.

With a combination of flat patterning and draping, I arrived at something that looked right-ish, but instead of jumping right in to the silk taffeta (like I normally do), I’ve decided to make a test garment out of some faille-like medium-weight stuff I’ve had for ages, asking to something inspired by this KCI jacket:

Kyoto Costume Institute – Jacket (pierrot) 1790

I’m *so glad* I’ve been noodling away on this test garment, because I’ve already learned quite a lot of things.

The button cuffs are stupid and on the final version won’t be functional. After this photo, I promptly wacked them off and the sleeves for the test jacket will be 3/4, thankyouverymuch.

Putting together the collar has been eye-opening.  I’m following the instructions in Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing
, for taping the roll lines and pad stitching the lapels.  I’m also referencing The Victorian Tailor, for help with, uh, everything collar-related.  I didn’t use hair canvas on my test collar here, but will be on the final gown.

So I’ve arrived at something that looks like it’s working now.  I need to extend the waistline about a 1/2″, as is usual for me, but otherwise I think the bodice is going to work out nicely.  Yay! I plan to finish this jacket before starting on the final gown, just in case there are any more surprises, and also because it’ll be nice to have a new 18th c. thing. 🙂


  • Aurynsdream

    August 20, 2013 at 7:02 PM

    Your test piece is beautiful, can't wait to see the finished gown. I don't ever post but lurk and watch your beautiful work, its inspiring.

    Quick question, I see that you pin the seams with the pin straight into the mannequin, when you have to remove the fabric to sew the new line, how do you maintain those edges/adjustments once you remove the pins??

    • Lauren Stowell

      August 20, 2013 at 7:41 PM

      Hi Aurynsdream – thanks! and thanks for following my blog. 🙂

      Pinning – I pull the pin out most of the way, then turn it to go length-wise down the seam. It's still stuck in the fabric, just a tiny bit, so it just catches the layers. I hope that made sense, lol

  • Amy

    August 20, 2013 at 8:15 PM

    Oooh looking forward to reading the updates. I wish you all the luck in the world making your wedding dress, I did the same a year and a half ago. Love the style you're going with!

  • Danielle

    August 21, 2013 at 4:15 AM

    I don't know how I've never seen those original dresses before! They are so beautiful! I love the blue color of the back one and just the style of them both, can't wait to see yours finished!

  • Caroline

    August 21, 2013 at 5:02 AM

    This is great! Looking totally awesome, by the way. How exciting to make your own wedding gown! I'm sure it will be the most beautiful thing you have made yet 🙂

  • Ayana

    August 21, 2013 at 11:45 AM

    Dear Lauren: This is so inspiring! Your work is incredible. I'm also getting married in two months, and I also decided to make my own dress–except, when I started this crazy idea, I had never sewn anything before! I recently decided to blog about the process since my friends/family thought I was crazy, and I thought they might understand when they saw what inspired me. I would love it if you (or some of your smart readers) would stop by once in a while with suggestions–I'm learning a lot as I go!–Ayana,

    • Lauren Stowell

      August 23, 2013 at 8:08 PM

      Wow, I think you are awesome and brave! AND you're manipulating patterns and self-drafting, right off the bat. Very awesome. Good luck with your gown, and please please please post photos 🙂

  • AuntieNan

    August 22, 2013 at 4:33 PM

    So, so inspirational! I too err on the side of "oh, I'll just whack this out and make adjustments as I go…" and then end up losing half a day repairing my mistakes! so I applaud your making a test garment, which is absolutely beautiful, by the way!!! Collars and hair canvas, er… yes. Totally the way to go. Also using a nice steam iron and tailor's ham, and shaping things gently as you go. The better and more natural the fabrics, I've found, the nicer the line. (Never forget trying to tailor a polyester jacket. How dumb was I??) Keep up the work. It's such a treat to see it,

    • Lauren Stowell

      August 23, 2013 at 8:10 PM

      Thanks for your vote of confidence. 🙂 I've just started on the collar portions of the final, using the hair canvas, and you are SO right. It's acting so much more nicely than my synthetic-based test fabric, and is working nicely so far. The pad stitching didn't take *too* long, and I really like the effect on the underside of the collar, with all the tiny stitches. I know that part is not to be seen, but I'll probably be flashing it all during the reception, just because I'm so proud of finally figuring out that little aspect of tailor, woo!

  • ipatchandquilt

    August 24, 2013 at 12:30 PM

    I just love reading your blog! Thank you very much for sharing all of your beauties!
    esthersipatchandquilt at yahoo dot com
    Ipatchandquilt dot wordpress dot com

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