|Vintage Textile, c. 1780s (click through for more). This is the waist edge at the center back of the bodice.|
Lauren here >
Historical costuming is a journey. It starts with an interest, grows into experimentation, and somewhere along the way it might turn in to … well … obsession. 😉
For me, over the years I’ve become more and more interested in the original construction techniques of various garments. I know how things are put together today but how did mantua-makers in the past approach garment-making? We face the same challenges across the centuries – draping, fitting, setting sleeves (ugh!) – but we come at them from different perspectives and experiences.
With 18th century dress I’m fascinated by the “order of operations.” The Georgian mantua-maker seemed to do everything in reverse, fitting the lining of the gown first, then building the glorious outer garment atop, making heavy use of top/visible stitching and working from the outside of the garment.
They appeared to give few hoots about interior finishing. The interiors of surviving 18th century gowns are often a hot mess. Many a gown shows raw edges at the waist seam and armscyes. At the same time, some archaic stitch techniques were used to produce clean and efficient seams.
|Vintage Textile – gown – 1770s-80s. This is the center back where the skirt is stitched to the bodice. Feel better now?|
This idea of efficiency seemed to override everything else – how quickly can the garment be put together, and how quickly can it be disassembled and re-made? How easily can your milliner get that old trim off and get the new, fashionable trims on? 18th century people were an impatient lot – they expected their gowns fast and the milliners and mantua-makers obliged. Fabulous on the outside, janky on the inside.
|The interior of a sacque gown, showing the back. eBay listing (click through for more)|
So next time you’re beating yourself up over the wack interior of your Georgian dress, cut yourself some slack. <3
For *lots* more Georgian gown interiors, check out our Pinterest board.
To learn how to construct these gowns by hand with the original methods, pre-order The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking.