|1770s Polonaise – the skirts are drawn up with cords, to create the three partition effect the gown is named for|
Work on this crazy froofy dress comes in spurts, but now that I only have about a month to get it done, I best knuckle down!
It’s quite a complicated type of dress. Despite the popularity of the Polonaise in the 1770s, there are no patterns available and only just recently have we even begun to differentiate between this and any gown with the skirts drawn up.
I can see why it’s not a style made by many. It’s *complicated.* Seriously.
|Testing the drape of the gown skirts when drawn up – there’s quite a lot of adjusting that goes on there, to achieve different looks.|
To clarify, this type* of Robe a la Polonaise is a style of gown wherein the bodice and skirt is cut in one, like a man’s frock coat. The volume in the skirt comes from the inverted box pleats at the center back and side back seams. The difficult part is in the fitting of the bodice through the sides – the front hangs open loosely, but the sides skim close to the body, achieved through tucks and pleats that *must* be fitted on the person (or in my case, the dress form). Beneath the open front is a false front that attaches all the way at the side back seams and pulls the back taught. Getting all these pieces together, hanging right and fitting well, has been a challenge, to say the least.
*Edit – There are examples in fashion plates of Robes a la Polonaise with back waist seams. They still have the open, hanging front of bodice and overall loose fit, as well as the skirts drawn up in the three distinct partitions. We might be tempted to call these Robes a l’Anglaise, but while they are closer in construction, they are still not the same type of gown.
|The little false front vest is attached on the inside at the side back seams. All of this will be piped with organza.|
And if I had it to do over again, there are a hundred things I would do differently. Luckily, though, every extant Polonaise is different. There didn’t seem to be a set-in-stone way to do the seaming, the tucks, the cutaway, so you have all kinds of variation, which I find to be a comfort when constructing this crazy thing.
|One organza cuff done by hand. This was 60 inches roll hemmed by hand on both sides, then gathered on 3 lines by hand, applied by hand, and those hands? they hurt like hell after the *hours* this took. So the rest will be done by machine, and I won’t apologize for it.|
Luckily, too, I intend to cover all my wibbly bits with trim, lots of trim. This is partially because it goes with the style, but also because it will obscure where I pieced in cotton because I didn’t have enough pink silk.
The most intense piecing is on the petticoat, with a very deep hem done in the cotton, to be covered with organza. The back of the petticoat is heavily pieced on the sides and left as plain cotton down the center back, where it will be covered by the gown skirt. I’m astonished I had enough to get even this far, and quite like the quirky imperfections of this costume already.
|Piecing the back half of the petticoat.|
I have quite a lot of work to do, as you can see. I need to hem and gather all the organza. Originally I intended to roll hem all of it by hand, but for the sake of my hands I’ve decided to do the majority of it by machine. I also have the petticoat to construct (it’s still in flat yardage at the moment), boning to add into the bodice, and some fiddling with the cuffs to create even more fluff and puff.
I realize at this point I will only have this one new gown down for Williamsburg, but I hope it will be the enormous fluffy monstrosity I imagine, and will be as much fun to wear as I hope. 🙂