The Green Goblin: A 1790s Round Gown

Jul 9, 2018 11 comments
The remainder....
It's a few days before Jane Austen Festival in Louisville, Kentucky, and I've stitched the last stitch of a new gown for this year's event.

And what a horror it is.

I'm glad to be done. This gown started out so well (don't they all) but ended up being a real pain in the false rump, calling into question my judgement, basic reasoning, and -honestly- my desire to continuing sewing at all. Yup, it was *that* bad! So I named her the Green Goblin. It seemed fitting, even if nothing else about the dress was.

I started this project with way too little fabric, but it was such a pretty textile that I dearly wanted to make it work. The fabric is cotton voile, maybe closer to gauze, and is yellow shot with turquoise, resulting in a lovely soft celadon green, one of my favorite colors. I mathed shit up and determined that if I was very very careful and made no mistakes then I could get a long-sleeved, trained round gown out of the minimal yardage.

"...if I was very very careful and made no mistakes." LOL.

Getting in there with the *planned* piecing. This is when the bodice and skirt were still one....
It was going well until I got to the sleeves. I tried to fit them on myself and got the placement wrong, which ended up with reconstructing the sleeve head and underarm from tiny scraps of fabric so I could set it in again the right way. I wasn't pleased about the obvious piecing on the sleeve head on just one sleeve, but it was what it was....and it was only going to get worse, truly.


And everything went downhill fast from here...piecing the top of the sleeve head in a very obvious spot.
Thanks to Abby, we got the sleeves on correctly and I was feeling very pleased. I was done! Wait...why is the side of the skirt so short and the front so long? Uh oh...

I had patterned the front bodice and skirt all in one, using an angled seam to make the drawstring channel for the empire waist. Seems clever, right? What I didn't realize was that this caused a droop in the center front at the hem. The quickest solution seems like it would be to just level the hem from the bottom, and there *is* a period example of this in "An Agreeable Tyrant," but the overwhelming majority of gowns show a dead level hem on the straight and the shaping done elsewhere, usually in a seam between the bodice and the top of the skirt.

I was already way too short on the sides of the gown anyway (did I grow several inches or something?), so instead of just shortening the CF, I removed the entire front panel, cut the bodice and skirt apart, corrected it so the hem was on the straight of grain, and then set to work extending the hem of the gown wherever needed to reach the top of my feet instead of somewhere above my ankles.

After cutting off the train, extending the skirts, piecing all over the place.
I didn't have much fabric left. I hacked off the train and used what I could from it, but I was still very short on cabbage. My last ditch effort was to sheer off 2.5" on either side of the skirt front panel, turn them horizontally, and piece in to the top of the skirt. Looking back, I should've pieced onto the bottom of the skirt to make it less obvious. Even though the material is cotton voile, the shot fabric does show a little differently on the length-wise grain. Bugger.

I'm a stubborn one. Instead of wearing what I made last year, I pressed on trying to fix this damn goblin gown. In the end it's wearable, though Abby and I are taking bets on if it's going to survive one whole day at JA Fest, let alone the whole weekend, or even live until Costume College. The fabric is so finely and loosely woven that the seams are already pulling here and there. I've reinforced the sleeve seems and armscyes with top stitching, but even that is pulling. I won't be surprised if it just disintegrates off my body by the end of Saturday. Last year's Ikea gown is going as a backup...

Put enough millinery with something and you can "distract" from the horrors....I hope!
I was hoping this was going to be the "pick-me-up-project," a simple, easy 1790s round gown. I've had very little success with new gowns for myself since doing The Book. It's like I used my entire year's worth of sewing mojo on those projects and have nothing left. It's a discouraging feeling.

The good news, though, is that I made all the mistakes of this 90s gown on my own version and the second version for Amanda to wear to the event came out just fine. I guess this proves, once again...make a mockup!


  1. Argh those fine fabrics are so tricky in any garment with little ease. But she is a very pretty colour indeed and has turned out lovely. I hope you enjoy her short and mothlike life!

    1. Hahhaa, "short and mothlike life" bwahahahahaha I love it!

  2. As a career costume designer, I admire your tenacity, ingenuity, and penchant for authenticity! I know about wanting never to sew again! But we soon get over it. Your gown came out admirably. BRAVA! (Love the hat!)

  3. I really need to learn not to take a drink whilst reading your blog due to giggles. The sewing struggle is real some days and your dress turned out beautiful.

  4. Oh dear! Fine voiles can be such a bear to work with. Your gown, with all her minor surgeries, is still beautiful and what a lovely fairylike green! I hope I get to see her in person this weekend!

  5. Thank you for sharing your struggles. Sometimes, it’s easy to forget how much work goes into a dress when we just see pretty event pictures. I ripped out and re-sewed a shoulder seam twice last night and it’s still not right. Your progress gives me hope. Onwards!

  6. I made myself a maternity top from a vintage pattern using a plaid cotton gauze, knowing I'd be hugely pregnant in the summer. It turned out pretty cute, but OH DEAR GODS was that the fiddliest, finickiest, slipperiest fabric I have ever had the misfortune to work with. It was supposed to have a buttoning front opening, but making the buttonholes on my machine distorted the placket so much I ended up just stitching the damn thing shut and sewing the buttons down. The final product was a delight to wear and super comfy, but cotton gauze and I are donezo.

  7. You mentioned making a similar gown for Amanda. Will you post a picture?


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