1780s Embroidered Italian Gown – Skirts and Sleeves

In the first post on this project, I constructed the bodice front and back. Now it’s time for skirts – the fun part – and sleeves – the evil part.

Skirts first. My fabric was blessedly 60 inches wide, so I used two panels with the seam down the center back. I went for the smallest pleats I could, though honestly I’ve never been able to achieve those really tiny 1/4 inch ones, and I actually don’t think I even had enough fabric in the skirt to do so.

An attempt at really small pleats
I don’t think I had enough fabric in my skirt, even at 120″, to do those 1/4″ pleats so I ended up at about 3/8″ to 1/2″.

My favorite thing about Italian gowns is how messy they are in the waist. You just turn up the bodice bottom edge, slap it on over the skirt, and stitch it on. The secret is to then split the center back of the skirt under the point and fold it down. This makes the skirt lay nicely around the deep V.

Turn up and baste the bodice waist edge and slap it on straight over the pleated skirt.

Skirts on, hemmed, ties stitched in for pulled it up into delightful poofs. Yay!

Next – sleeves. Ugh.

I fit the shoulder straps first – easy – but then I struggled with fitting the sleeves on myself, as usual. The method of applying the sleeves and then cutting out the armscye after the sleeves are stitched on is really tricky on your own body, so I did a lot of very careful trial and error in cutting out the armscye before stitching the sleeves. This is nerve-wracking, but I did manage to succeed and can still move my arms up and down.

I’m very happy with the silhouette. Looks great!

I previously purchased the Bootstrap Fashion soft arm pattern with every intention of finally making them for this project and then promptly didn’t…so I best be making those arms before the next time I have to do this! I hear they help a *lot* in self-fitting.

The last bit for the gown construction was applying the silk shoulder strap pieces to polish the whole thing off. This is one of my favorite parts because it signifies the end of the gown project. And with that, the thing was done.

The gown is done/wearable! There’s always that point where you just can’t help but dress the form fully. As I haven’t done the matching petticoat yet, I pulled out my use-for-pretty-much-everything green one.
Poofs! I love to wear the skirts drawn up, but I also like the beautiful silhouette of them left down. Options!

Well…almost. I have that lil’ fix on the drawstring neckline to do, and I plan to sew a tucker and ruffles into the neckline and sleeves. I’ve also been musing on trying some contrast sabot cuffs and maybe a little collar in shell pink, but I can always add those at some point in the future.

The last piece will be the matching petticoat, but we’ll come back to that in the next post.


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