Ladies, we are SO excited to finally announce two new 18th century American Duchess patterns from Simplicity!
When Abby and I were writing The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking, we realized that readers, especially beginners, would be confused about where to get patterns for the gowns. We weren’t able to include full gridded gown patterns in the book, so we referenced existing patterns from Patterns of Fashion 1, The Cut of Women’s Clothes, Tidens Toj, and other available sources. Even with these sources listed, though, it seemed like a natural need and next step to produce paper patterns for use with the book. Add to this the gap in our book – stays and shift – and a collaboration between American Duchess and Simplicity was born.
Creating the patterns for the shift, stays, and hoops was easy. We opted for a different style of stays from Simplicity 8162 – back-closing, spiral-lacing, conical in shape, and with the awesome, accurate posture straps you’re all going to love. Additionally, you’ll find the shift pattern is accurate right down to the gussets and godets. The side hoops match those in the book and can be hand-sewn with the book instructions if you so choose.
|Working out pattern shapes in paper rather than fabric – easier to manage the pleats and when unfolded, mark where each pleat needed to go.|
Making the pattern for the sacque gown and petticoat was NOT easy! We faced challenges primarily with tissue space, finding ways to fit huge pattern shapes on only four large pieces of tissue, across all sizes.
|The brown paper underneath is pleated for the iconic back pleats, then I layed the gown lining back piece over to trace the shape of the armscye and side back seam, before continuing on with the waist pleats for the skirt.|
Starting with Abby’s sacque gown lining from the book, I scaled down the shapes to a size 10 (Simplicity’s required standard) and then origami’d the gown in paper onto that lining, constantly double-checking shapes and placement with the sacque made for Abby for the book.
|Scribbles in my notebook figuring out how to make all of this work with the limited tissue space.|
As always with commercial patterns, we had to make some changes to make the pattern accessible to novice costumers. The biggest change is from a pinned stomacher to a comperes front – that is, in the book we make a separate stomacher that is then pinned to both edges of the gown when dressing, and for the Simplicity pattern the stomacher closes center front and is stitched to the edges of the gown instead. Luckily, both methods are historically accurate. There are also very small changes to the trim templates and placement for the petticoat. The pattern also does not include the tucker and sleeve ruffles – instructions for these are in The American Duchess Guide.
One thing I am personally proud of is the use of our own photos for the pattern envelopes. Yup, that’s Abby on both the envelopes, wearing garments that were made and fit specifically to her. One of the most difficult parts of developing historical patterns for commercial companies is that we never have access to the model for fittings and no part of the styling of the photo shoot, which can leads to less-than-stellar results. We have to give a HUGE thank you to Simplicity for bending “the rules” for us this time and accepting our photos for the pattern envelopes. This way, the silhouette and proportion, styling, fit, hair, makeup, etc. is all exactly as it should be.
We hope you like these new 18th century patterns. We tried to make them as historically accurate as possible, and intend for you to use the sacque pattern in conjunction with The American Duchess Guide to explore hand-sewing your gown, whether you want to try a technique here and there, or stitch the entire gown by hand.