1765 Robe a la Bon Bon Sacque – Simplicity 8578 – Construction Complete!

Trying on the new sacque – it’s always nice to have something, y’know, fit at its first real try-on.

Next time I say something like, “oh I’ll just throw this sacque together real quick…it won’t take too long to finish this,” please just shoot me.

I started this gown in February of 2018 shortly after the Simplicity 8578 Robe a la Francaise gown pattern came out. I wanted to do my own version and also blog along my progress with the Simplicity pattern to document how that went together and help anybody else making the pattern.

Ah, the best laid plans o’ mice and historical costumers…

I got as far as pleating the back, sewing the lining and bodice fronts, and even joining fronts to backs at the side seams. I felt *accomplished* but then, for whatever reason, I abandoned the project. Life got in the way. The sacque landed in the UFO pile.

Picking up where I left off two years ago – the sacque pulled out, ironed, and put on the dress form to be assessed.

Fastforward two years to a pandemic and the shutting down of basically the entire world, and I decided to spend some of my at-home time finishing old projects. I repaired and completed a couple vintage dresses so I was feeling super fly and ready to take on a bigger project. “How about that sacque?” said I, “there’s not much left in it…I bet I could have that finished up pretty quickly. It’s half-done already.”



With the half-assembled Francaise ironed and put on the dress form, I first needed to correct any mistakes, and there were meaty some. Primarily my side skirt gores and front skirt panels were too short. I learned that the Simplicity pattern skirt length was sized for someone between 5’3″ and 5’4″. I’m 5’6″ without shoes and with 2.5″ Pompadour heels on that made the skirt about 5″ – 6″ too short. To correct this I carefully pieced in fabric to each panel, matching the stripes. I did not add to the gown back panels since they were at the floor already, but this means I ended up without a train, which is kindof sad really. 🙁

The front and side skirts needed to be lengthened by about 6 inches to meet the floor + add a little for hem.

I picked out the mantua-makers seams a little, then carefully matched the stripes for piecing in length to the hem.

The next major operation was to set the front skirt panels. What was easy in the book for some reason was tricky this time, and I now believe it was because one of my skirt panels was slightly off-grain. I struggled to get them attached at the waist and must’ve torn out and redone these three or four times. In the end, one of my skirt panels still rumpled down the turned-back front edge and I ended up just taking a sly tuck a few inches below the waist seam and covering that little sin with trim.

My first go at setting the front skirt panels. I’d turned back too much of the skirt front edges and didn’t have enough volume up top to gracefully go over the hoops, so they look like they’re kindof “tight” here. I ripped this out and did it again..and again…

That rumple on the right side just would NOT play nicely and it’s because this panel was actually off-grain. Usually you can cut and tear panels of silk taffeta and if it’s really good stuff it’s on grain and dead straight. Sometimes, though, if the fabric is slightly offgrain, it doesn’t tear straight, and then manifests later with problems like this one.

Pretty good try on and Chris did really well setting the sleeves. They’re not perfectly smooth, but they’re on and good enough. Also you can see where I took a little tuck on the skirt panel.

The greater challenge was the sleeves, mostly because I knew I wasn’t going to be able to fit them on myself and 18th century sleeves somewhat require a body fitting. I needed to shorten my sleeves quite a bit and adjust where the arm crook curve was. I still didn’t get it right and next time I do mid-18th-century sleeves I’m going to just wack ’em off straight at the bottom like so many original sacques do. Luckily, and once again, I covered the wonky curves with the sleeves ruffles.

Then it was on to the fitting. I enlisted Mr. Chris to perform this tricky operation and he did SO well! Fitting 18th century sleeves is challenging even for experiences mantua-makers so I have to hand it to him.

Sleeves set – the parts sticking up at the top got gathered and sewn down to the shoulder strap lining, then the whole thing covered with the fashion fabric.

With the sleeves on and a separate stomacher made, the gown was basically constructed. I hemmed the blasted thing with the 6″ wide hem facing (wow, that took forever), and patted myself on the back for completing the construction of this fancy-ass frock.

But I congratulated myself *too soon.* *TOO SOON*

Stay tuned for trimming this beast, coming up in the next post…


  • Kathleen S.

    May 14, 2020 at 4:24 AM

    I'm working on the underpinning pattern now. The pattern has a generous ease and I have had to make a down size adjustment. ( A good thing 😉) Hoops adjusted, stays adjusted, chemise adjustments in progress. I can't wait to move on to the gown. Thank you for the updates on the pattern.

  • Lisa Bennett

    May 14, 2020 at 1:58 PM

    I did this exact gown during the pandemic. I had lots of problems too! (Sides of skirt was an issue as well!) I finished in just under two months. I feel your pain!

    • Lauren Stowell

      May 14, 2020 at 8:40 PM

      These gowns only look simple – but there's a lot to consider when going over such interesting underpinnings. For example, if the pocket hoops or panniers are larger than what the pattern was made for, then there will most definitely be issues fitting the pattern skirt as-is over the panniers. There's also fun with body measurements – bust size, waist length, etc, that can get tricky. The pattern also has its quirks. All in all, it's never a "quick and easy" sacque, lol!

Leave a Reply

Discover more from American Duchess Blog

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading