|I just can’t get enough of 18th century back pleats!|
The time has come.
This one has been brewing for awhile. I have a sortof underdog love for weird garments or time periods that people avoid – the 17th century, the 1830s, and now the early 18th century. The Robe Volante has always been one of those WTF kind of gowns and the more of that there is the more intrigued I become.
I’ve seen a few epic makes of Robes Volante from costumer friends in the past few years (not least of all Frolicking Frocks and Prior Attire), so the seed was planted. Then last Summer I was struck dumb by this incredible volante at the National Museum of Scotland, and I knew it just had to happen…and I had the perfect fabric, too.
|Sacque dress – English or French textile 1726-28, British gown probably late 1740s. National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh.|
|My fabric is a silk brocade stripey-viney acanthus pattern, just luscious!|
…even if I have no idea what it will become or when.
Here we are now, though, in quarantine and sewing random stuff left right and center for future events we hope will happen again some day (Versailles, Costume College, Bath, Garden Party…). I’ve just finished my 1765 sacque and I guess I just haven’t gotten enough of those back pleats because I’ve pulled out my grand pannier, acquired a pair of early 18th century stays from Redthreaded, and I’m already draping up fabric.
I have some questions to answer. There isn’t a lot of information on volantes – a couple patterns in Cut of Women’s Clothes and Patterns of Fashion 1 to assist, and thank goodness, but there seems to be a pretty big swing in cut and drape.
|Robe volante, French, c. 1730. MFA Boston 43.664a-b|
Some volantes are very unfitted and hang like a tent from the shoulders. Others are more fitted, like later Robes a la Francaise, but still have great big pleats and the joined skirt at center front, like the volante in Edinburgh. Which style do I go with?
|An example of a more fitted volante worn over a very wide pannier. Museo Stibbert c. 1740s.|
Then there is the question of lining. The Edinburgh sacque, from what we could see through the glass, appears to not be lined but may instead only has lacing strips at the back and potentially at the front too. Some descriptions in museums say partial or half lining…what does that mean? Is there a lining foundation on the front, to which the front bodice is slightly fitted, but not in the back? Is there a full lining foundation like later sacques, and as shown in Patterns of Fashion 1? The answer is – both…but…what do I want to personally do in this project? I’m tempted to try just the lacing strips simply because it’s something I haven’t done yet.
|This gown from Trouvais on Etsy (listing no longer available) shows the unlined bodice with lacing strips in front and back.|
So that is where I am today. I have sky blue silk taffeta on order from Renaissance Fabrics for the petticoat, my hoops are hooped up and ready for draping, and I’m anxious to slice into this beast…
More updates soon!
p.s. I’ve saved a bunch of volante images on Pinterest here, for anyone interested.