Most of my 2020 was spent in working on – and finishing! – UFOs or “unfinished objects.” I completed my 1760s Sunset Silk Robe a la Francaise, an 1890s linen jacket, a couple 1930s dresses, and the 1630s Bumble Bee Bodice.
In the new year, I decided to start with something new. I pulled out a beautiful embroidered silk taffeta I bought years back in the LA garment district. It had been marinating in The Stash for long enough. Why I decided to make yet another late 18th century gown I do not know other than perhaps it felt comfortable and familiar after more than a year of uncertainty.
The design is very simple based on this hand-painted 1780s silk dress at The Met:
When I found my taffeta it reminded me of the original gown even though, well, it really looks nothing at all like it. Still, ivory, purple, pink, pretty, yes.
I had to do some careful cutting to get the embroidered stripes in the right places, and there was no room for error. I under-bought yardage, as usual. Since the design was not mirrored throughout the fabric, I used an 18th century trick of flipping the fabric upside down to be able to somewhat create the mirrored serpentine effect. I chose to cut the front pieces relatively on the straight to get the pattern how I wanted, even though I knew it would result in wrinklage on the bodice fronts. Compromise!
I made a bit of a mistake (er, decision and then un-decision) on the center back, trying a method of tucking to make falsie side-back seams. I didn’t care for it, so removed them, but it left creases I can’t get out of the silk for love nor money. They don’t bother me, though, as creases are as common in Georgian originals as piecing. “Creases ‘n Pieces.”
A new-to-me technique I wanted to try was the drawstring neckline. These are very common in the 1780s and help make the prow-front silhouette as well as making the gown adjustable around the neckline. I like the look of the huge neckerchiefs tucked in as well. Oddly, this simple drawstring has its tricks! I did the opening on the edges of the bodice, but this means the top can’t be overlapped for pinning. Georgian mantua-makers had this problem, too. Here’s one way it was fixed:
I haven’t yet fixed the issue, but this little triangle looks like a good solution to me.
Coming up – skirts, shoulder straps, and sleeves. Stay tuned!