English Gowns of the 18th Century

I’ve had my sewing confidence rattled lately by the utter failure of my Robe a la Turque, so I’m sorely in need of some hand-holding through a project.

Enter the Larkin & Smith English Gown pattern. This pattern comes with paper pieces for the bodice, and a spiral-bound color booklet of history, materials guidance, and step-by-step instruction. It’s *fabulous*.

I’ve just started, only cutting out the bodice lining pieces and pleating down the back, but so far it’s been very easy and enjoyable, and I truly feel that an excellent gown will result.

I’m doing the gown up in yellow silk taffeta shot with bronze. I would have preferred a stronger Chinese yellow, like some of the gowns below, but it didn’t seem to be in season. Still, the fabric is gorgeous, and I’ve wanted an obnoxious yellow gown for so long!

To get more familiar with this type of dress, here are a few of my favorites from my Pinterest board:

Museum of London, 1743-50
National Trust, 1750-60 – this one has winged cuffs, which the L&S pattern does have as an option.
KCI, 1770 – fabric is Spitalfields silk from 1740
Kerry Taylor Auctions – c. 1770. You can flick through the archives to find this and many others.
Museum of London, 1743-50 – this dress is a lot more saturate yellow – click through to see better and more photos
The Met, 1740-60
The Met, 1770-75 – isn’t that just gorgeous! Crisp pleats and fly fringe.


  • Esther

    February 13, 2015 at 3:17 AM

    Oh my! That's going to be beautiful!! In fact, it already is!! I love pleats.
    I can relate about sewing troubles!! I am working on a '40s dress that is pieced all over because of a lack of fabric, and as if it wasn't pieced enough, I forgot to make the neckline narrower so had to add these wonky little pieces to cover it up!! I came SO close to dumping it in the UFO drawer..TI can't wait to see this gown when it's done!! I need some more 1700s inspiration – the 1940s have a very gripping hold on me these days. 😉

  • Anonymous

    February 13, 2015 at 3:53 AM

    Oh my sweet baby Jesus, those are absolutely glorious! Especially the last gown. I love the soft, comfortable blue with the bold golden embroidery. I'm sure I'll be dreaming about wearing it for the next several days, Hehe!


  • Rachelle

    February 13, 2015 at 6:47 AM

    I've got that pattern too, just need to finish the 1810's and renaissance Italy and then I can get back to the 18th century again. Have the silk already; it's a deep reddish terracotta. I can't wait to see it finished and your yellow too; love the colour.

    • Lauren Stowell

      February 19, 2015 at 7:16 PM

      Not this one – the fabric was off-grain and funky. The pattern was OK, but I just need to start again with fresh fabric that doesn't fight me the entire time.

  • Rowenna

    February 13, 2015 at 4:30 PM

    Looking forward to your yellow gown! I've been contemplating trying the L&S pattern, myself…though I need another gown like I need another hole in my head.

    Who am I kidding. I need another gown. I will always need another gown.

    • Lauren Stowell

      February 19, 2015 at 7:15 PM

      Thanks! So far it's going well. There are a couple confusing parts, but I figured it out. I can't imagine trying to do this gown as a beginner, without the thorough instructions.

    • Lauren Stowell

      February 19, 2015 at 7:14 PM

      I may take you up on that! I think I had a good thing going, but my fabric was all off grain and weird and I was struggling with things that I shouldn't have been having issues with.

  • Unknown

    February 18, 2015 at 5:51 PM

    Awwww, what happened with your Robe a la Turque? Do you think you'll do a write-up on it here? I learn so much from you and other costume bloggers, and am especially happy when I see blog posts about projects that either didn't turn out or took a lot of fiddling with to get right. It makes me feel less incompetent and it's also very instructive! I should do that more with my blog because half of my stuff doesn't turn out. I still haven't made a historical costume yet, so ladies like you are so aspirational to me!

    On another note, yellow is my favorite color and I am really in love with all those gowns. Can't wait to see how yours continues to shape up! I am also planning on buying the same English Gown pattern once I finish my stays so I'll be interested to read more about your experience with it.

    • Lauren Stowell

      February 19, 2015 at 7:13 PM

      Hi Jennifer – The Turque is just on hold, no worries. I AM going to do a write up about why it didn't work out, but after I start on it again. I wanted to do the English gown here to get my confidence back, because I struggled so much with the Turque. 🙂

  • bauhausfrau

    February 26, 2015 at 8:40 PM

    Oh so sorry about the Turque! I'll have to go back and read what happened.

    I love yellow gowns, this looks so pretty. I've long wanted to do a bright 18th C yellow and black Francaise…

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