|LACMA – via|
Those of you who follow me on Facebook will know I’m working on an enormous Robe a la Francaise for the Costume College Gala. I’m calling her The Silver Ghost. I’m about a third of the way through the project at this point (and I’ll share progress images soon!), but I spent as long in the planning phase as I will in actually sewing.
The big question was – use a pattern, or drape this thing to fit?
The pro’s of using a pattern:
- Pattern pieces already worked out, particularly the back width
- A guide to pleating the Watteau pleats
- Taking the guesswork out of the sleeves
- Instruction on pleating the skirt around the pannier
The con’s on using a pattern:
- The gown may require quite a lot of alteration through all pieces to fit you
- Pattern may not be made to fit over the size of pannier you’re using
- Historically accurate construction favors draping over flat patterning – there’s no guarantee that the pattern you buy will be period accurate in fit, construction, or closure.
In the end I decided to consult my books and drape my Francaise on my dress form, but before I came to that decision, I sought out every available printed pattern for a Robe a la Francaise. Here’s what found:
|Simplicity 8578 Robe a la Francaise sacque gown.|
|JP Ryan Francaise Pattern|
Many consider JP Ryan the best in historically accurate 18th century patterns, and I agree. The pattern comes as a full length sacque or a short sacque (Pet en l’Air), with no waist seam. The pattern includes sleeve flounces and a stomacher, and directions are given for making a petticoat to go over pocket hoops.
Simplicity 3637 (Out of Print, but still available on eBay, Etsy)
This pattern goes with Simplicity 3635, for the stays, chemise, and grand pannier (which I have used to make mine). I have not made the pattern up, but it is meant to be a costume pattern rather than a historically accurate one. The sleeves and bodice construction are modern, but the overall effect is grand. The skirt creates kindof a rounded shape rather than the trapezoid silhouette of originals, but this can be altered by adding another hoop to the hem of the pannier, and stiffening the bottom 18″ or so of the gown
I have never used this pattern (if you have, please comment and tell us how it was!)
In the end, I decided to go with my own draping informed by a few really great books. These are:
|Gridded pattern diagram for a Robe a la Francaise, from Patterns of Fashion 1|
The Cut of Women’s Clothes: 1600-1930
This books contains several pattern diagrams for sacque gowns, along with original 18th c. plates for pattern shapes, and primary source material describing these gowns.
Period Costume for Stage & Screen: Patterns for Women’s Dress 1500-1800
This is the most practical book I’m working from, with gridded patterns, full instructions, and “watch points” for tricky areas. It’s a book aimed at theatrical costumers, but I find the patterns within very accurate and easily altered.
There are a couple patterns for sacque back garments in Arnold’s book, with gridded patterns for each. While I did not scale up any of the gridded patterns, I am using the diagrams for reference in draping and drawing my own pattern shapes.