The Red Dress Project: Challenges

Lauren reporting >

I’ve been working on-and-off on The Red Dress, the Robe de Cour pattern for Simplicity. I am making the master pattern in paper, but I am also responsible for making the sample dress that will be worn for the pattern envelope photos.
So far, I’ve completed the side hoops and the skirt.
The side hoops are the simplest you’ll ever make. It’s a one-piece pattern! They went together very quickly with basic muslin, bias tape, hoop steel and ties.
Next, I made a Puffer. This is not part of the pattern (although you can use the skirt pattern to make it, or any other kind of petticoat, which I DO recommend, heartily), but I know Simplicity will need additional undergarments for styling this pattern correctly. We historical costumers all know the Rule of Petticoats, but if I don’t supply Simplicity with one, they won’t have one to use. Without a petticoat, the boning of the side hoops will show through the skirt. The most efficient way to get the most “oomph” was to make a quilted skirt support (and you should too – women of the 18th century certainly favored them for the same reasons). So that’s this white monstrosity:
Now on to the skirt, finally!
The skirt is enormous. It’s about a 170″ hem, much more than a typical 18th century skirt, but such fullness was needed to create the correct look of the gown, and also because the top edge is cartridge pleated, which requires a lot of volume.
The cartridge pleating is not my usual choice for 18th century skirts, but it is the most efficient way to design a multi-size pattern without marking out a gazillion different lines for knife pleating for all sizes (insanity).
Cartridge pleats, though I despise them, are a far better choice than gathers, and can be squished flat in one direction for knife pleats, if you desire (which I usually do). So that’s what I went with. In the end, I’m pretty happy with how they look.
But the greatest challenge of this ensemble so far? This f*%&@er:
Not even kidding.
I pulled the skirt off the mannequin to finish the hem over the weekend, laid the fabric out on the cutting table, began to smooth it, and was met with THIS BITCH making a web in the folds of the skirt!
Needless to say, she’s not hanging out there anymore, but I’ll have to be careful when leaving the gown on the dress form for more than a day or two. Gaaaaaaaaah.
So now, panniers made, skirt finished, spiders removed, I’m on to draping the bodice. More on this later!


  • Erin T./Emelote of Calais

    September 12, 2016 at 9:04 PM

    Wow looks awesome! How would this skirt work over grand panniers? I have some from simplicity's 18th century pattern a few years ago and would Love to use them again.

    • Lauren Stowell

      September 13, 2016 at 3:33 AM

      In theory it should be enough yardage to fit, but the length of the sides will need to be extended, otherwise the Hrm will curve up on the sides. The volume may also fall inward from the sides.

  • Cathy Raymond

    September 12, 2016 at 10:13 PM

    I kind of like hosting spiders, because they eat most of the rest of the bugs that wander in (not the tiny sugar ants, unfortunately). However, I have an iron-clad rule; if a spider, or one of its webs, get in my way, out it goes. Sometimes I'll merely evict the spider instead of killing it.

    • Lauren Stowell

      September 13, 2016 at 3:35 AM

      This lady, and the other that popped out of the photo equipment in the warehouse, were both taken outside and released, but when we find widows at home they unfortunately must die because of the danger to our small dogs. Other spiders get a pass though. They keep the mosquitoes in check!

  • Anonymous

    September 12, 2016 at 11:41 PM

    The dress looks great! I'll have to try the "puffer" technique. I don't think I would enjoy finding a spider in my work either. Is this pattern going to also have a variation for Claire's wedding dress? I am looking foreword to using your new pattern when it comes out. I was also wondering if you could tell me where to find wool fabric for a reasonable price. I have several projects in need of wool fabric and have no idea where to look. As someone who is a fairly advanced sewer, yet new to my journey of historical costuming, I was hoping you could help me. I would look at a local store, however the only fabric store within 3 hours of me is Hobby Lobby which does not sell wool fabrics. If you have any suggestions as to where to look whether it be at a physical or online store, I would be most grateful. Thank you so much for your help. I am excitedly awaiting your new pattern!

  • Lisa H.

    September 13, 2016 at 1:39 AM

    Is it just a personal preference about the knife pleats vs. Cartridge pleats, or is it a historical consideration? I'm used to cartridge pleats as I sew 1860's era, but will now dabble into 18th century thanks to you!

    • Lauren Stowell

      September 13, 2016 at 3:45 AM

      Knife pleats are accurate. I don't actually know a definitive reason why cartridge pleats weren't used, because they did exist on earlier clothing. It may have been because there just wasn't that Mich material in the skirt, or could be due to the lightness of the fabrics like silk taffeta. Maybe it just wasn't in vogue…

  • Unknown

    September 13, 2016 at 5:26 AM

    do you do the cartridge pleats by hand or by machine…I have made them on pillow shams but I have a stitch that I sew over a cord and then stack the pleats…I have done bridal and prom dresses but not much costuming…I had a home dec business for 35 years…whole lot different but simular sewing….

  • Crystal

    September 13, 2016 at 6:28 AM

    I said it on FB and I'll say it again here, finding a spider on my dress would probably have me burning the dress as a sacrifice (to which gods? Spider or Sewing? Both?). NOPE NOPE NOPE with a side of NOOOOOOOOOOOPE. The most "dangerous" spider I've seen in my province was a hobo spider (which are NOT native to my region!). I generally let them live, but bets are off if they're going to be where my hands are (I usually give them the option of leaving first — "I'm gonna go for 10 minutes, and when I come back, you better be gone." Squishy the House Spider was the only one in recent years who ignored this edict.). NOOOOOOOOOOOOOPE. (I luuuuuurve the colour of this dress. No wonder she wanted to see it up close and decide to stay…)

  • Anna

    September 13, 2016 at 4:21 PM

    Step 4 of Simplicity pattern: in case of poisonous spider sighting on fabric, burn house down. Return to step 1!

    There, I fixed the instructions for you 😀

    That is one of the creepiest Nopes I've ever seen, and I live with a houseful of Brown Recluses. But they have the good sense to stay away from my fabric so we're at a detente right now; I think they're aware that craft room shenanigans like this will result in neither of us having a place to live anymore, just a heap of smoking rubble.

  • Jen in Oz

    September 14, 2016 at 12:24 AM

    There is one thing worse than finding a spider in your half-made dress… I sew in the garage at home and once a friendly neighbourhood cat got locked in the garage overnight. The next day when I went in there and it escaped, I found that it had used some of my fabric for a toilet.

    About the dress, are you making it as a skirt and top? Your photos seem to show it as having a waistband. As I remember the red dress, it only had a waist seam?

    One more thing: you say you won't be including a puffer underlayer in the pattern – will there be instructions on making one somewhere?

    Looking forward to this pattern eagerly!

    • Lauren Stowell

      September 14, 2016 at 12:55 AM

      Yes, the skirt and the bodice are separate. Normally in 18th century dress, the skirt and bodice are sewn together and worn over another petticoat, but in the case of court dress (Robes de Cour), the skirts and bodices were separate.

      As for the puffer, you can actually use the skirt pattern to make one, or any petticoat pattern. I am not going to include separate instructions.

  • Cate

    September 15, 2016 at 12:30 PM

    Oh my gosh, this is absolutely stunning! Having just watched this particular episode of Outlander for the first time last night I cannot wait to see the finished gown. I'm in awe! xx

  • Unknown

    September 16, 2016 at 5:14 PM

    That dress is stunning! I can't wait until the pattern is ready!
    I am in the process of buying the last two Outlander patterns that you made. I am using them for a special project for school, and I was just wondering if you had any quick tips on making it as historically accurate as possible on a tight budget?
    I am so excited to see the finished dress, and I hope that you make more patterns! They are so nice and easy to follow:)

  • Abbey

    September 21, 2016 at 5:59 PM

    First things first: cannot WAIT to get my little mitts on this pattern when it is released. <3 <3 <3 (And I don't even watch/read "Outlander," I just love 18th Century clothes!)

    LOLOLOLOL for days at that spider making a web in the giant folds of the enormous skirt: I would not have been okay, LOL. I need that "NOPE" .gif where the person gets on a rocket and leaves Earth entirely–an appropriate reaction to this situation if there ever was one. 😉 Glad you took back the skirt from the invading spider, though!

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