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!
Irene MurrayMay 16, 2021 at 11:58 AM
That’s beautiful! I love the fabric.
Lauren @ American DuchessMay 16, 2021 at 11:59 AM
Miriam LewisMay 17, 2021 at 2:14 PM
Gorgeous fabric! I love it. I look forward to seeing your progress on this (no pressure, though).
Lauren @ American DuchessMay 17, 2021 at 2:22 PM
It’s progressing nicely, plus I’ve got a deadline – Colonial Williamsburg in June!
Cathy HayMay 18, 2021 at 12:00 PM
I love it, so pretty, and great problem solving! Also, I love how relaxed I felt reading a blog post. My blood pressure thanks you! <3
Lauren @ American DuchessMay 18, 2021 at 12:11 PM
Thanks, Cathy! And thank you so much for commenting…makes me feel so good, especially after the sh*tstorm that was trying to get to and respond to comments on Blogger.
Quinn BurgessMay 18, 2021 at 5:18 PM
Yay! It’s fun to see a new project! The fabric is lovely. Creases and pieces made me laugh out loud. 🙂 Great wording. I haven’t noticed drawstring necklines on these dresses before (aside from dresses like chemise gowns that are gathered across the front anyway), but it makes a lot of sense. Thanks for sharing your musings and ideas about how to solve the issue of butting front edges and a drawstring.
Lauren @ American DuchessMay 19, 2021 at 12:08 PM
Thanks, Quinn! I need to find some scraps to do the piece at the front, although I’m also considering just poking a hole a bit back from the edge on one side, too. No idea if that’s period accurate but it would solve the issue 😉
AnnaMay 20, 2021 at 4:55 AM
I notice how lovely the bodice was paired with the grey petticoat; the fabric would make a lovely waistcoat besides the gown.
I can’t make my hands do pinning for the life of me; maybe I don’t have the right kind of pins and I’m unsure how to do it correctly – from the underside or from the topside, is it one big pick-up or does the pin go in and out, in and out? Ah well, I fudged my 1740s jacket and put in hooks and eyes in the front instead.
Lauren @ American DuchessMay 20, 2021 at 10:00 AM
Thanks! I do like the greeny-grey petticoat with it. That color seems to go with everything. Pinning the front of the bodice does take practice. It’s hard to explain in words. I have a video that shows it at about 6:30 mark – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0rln3TUo_c it’s super duper clear. There are likely other videos to show it too. Hope that helps!
AnnaMay 21, 2021 at 5:07 AM
OMG! I’ve been trying to pin vertically, duh (smacks forehead). Thanx for the video clip, makes perfect sense. Now to order some correct clothing pins from B&T. From your much-cheered up friend in SW Virginia.
RoseMay 29, 2021 at 8:12 PM
So pretty! l love the fabric! Slightly off topic, but I’ve been wondering, is it historically accurate to wear just an Italian gown bodice with a separate, non-matching skirt?
Lauren @ American DuchessJune 1, 2021 at 12:05 PM
Thank you so much! To answer your question, if you add a little peplum, tail, or short skirting of some sort to an Italian gown bodice to turn it into a jacket, it’s perfectly good to wear with just a petticoat, and the petticoat certainly does not need to match. 🙂