Believe it or not, this is actually my fourth attempt to make this dress.
The very first 18th century dress I ever attempted to sew was in college, when I tried to make myself the Sleepy Hollow Dress. What I’m showing you now is truly embarrassing.
AHHHHH! I did absolutely no reading about 18th century clothing before I sewed this dress and it shows. No corset. The front is actually held together by Velcro. I used super heavy upholstery cloth. I didn’t even make a muslin and the waist was about an inch and a half too high.
I got so frustrated with the top that I ended up turning the gown portion into a bolero and an overskirt that I would wear to steampunk fairs. I confess, I did like how it looked for that use.
THAT was my very sad and pathetic first attempt.
But we all have to start somewhere right?
The second attempt was four years ago. I used a really cool polyester fabric that had white satin stripes with black velvet ones. Cool fabric that I attempted to make movie accurate. It actually turned out pretty cute and was used in some awesome photoshoots by Carol Lara, who is an amazing photographer with a very modern goth, fantasy point of view. If you want super modern shots, she’s your gal and she made this gown shine to perfection.
The interesting thing is that while I was in love with the Sleepy Hollow black and white striped dress, I was also absolutely mad about the 1780’s gown in the Met, labeled as an “robe a la anglaise”. For the life of me, I have no idea how much I agree with that description because it’s so much more than that. The anglaise portion is a remnant of it’s previous life as a francaise, then remade in a time when Italian gowns (separate tops and skirts sewn together) were so much more popular. And that shows in the construction as well. (Again, not a historian. Let me know if I’m totally wrong here.)
However, I hated zone fronts so I remade the dress as an Italian gown. This was done in my second year in residency, and I called it my “Bo Peep” dress. You can see me wearing it here.
This year, I decided to combine both of these loves into one dress – the Met/Sleepy Hollow dress or my “HA” Sleepy Hollow dress. (Again, not truly HA since I use machines for linings and longer seams, and I’m at the point in my life where I will admit I will NEVER not do that. I work 80 hours a week and I refuse to spend time doing something by hand JUST so I can say I did it by hand. Especially when a machine will do it just as invisibly and better. That’s not to say I don’t respect all of you who do – I just don’t enjoy it so I don’t want to spend my time doing it.)
I think ALL of us are perpetually looking for that perfect black and white striped fabric. I had these goals in my head:
JET black. Not a dark grey. Not a charcoal. Can’t look light or white in the light.
Ivory, not white.
½” to 1” stripes
Must have 10 yards
The one that I found was a beautiful beige/gold silk taffeta, 44” wide, with ½” black stripes printed onto it. The stripes weren’t woven, but the print was pretty firmly on, so I didn’t mind too much. The price was quite reasonable (less than half of what I had expected to spend). They only had about 9 yards but I decided this was good enough and I got all I could.
Being 4 months pregnant at the time, I decided to postpone this dress til after the pregnancy so I could get it to fit a more normal Stine-figure.
The original goal was to just remake the Sleepy Hollow dress as in the show, complete with non HA trim and lots of shirred chiffon fabric trim. However, then the Met did their “Visitor to Versailles” exhibit while I was 5 months pregnant. I was in NYC for a wedding so I didn’t get to go- not really – but I did manage to pop in for ten minutes… and there it was! THE anglaise that I had so wanted to reproduce in my youth! I took a picture with it, but then had to run out.
I didn’t have a chance to take the notes and closeups I wanted and reached out in the wide vastness of the web. I had some amazing people send me photos and notes! I want to give a GIANT shout out and thank you to Lauren of American Duchess who figured out that each stripe was 3/8″ of an inch and sat around COUNTING the stripes so that she could figure out how full the skirt was. I wish I could share her notes and photos but feel uncomfortable publishing someone else’s work. All I can say is… it was amazing. Meanwhile Paul Malcolm, a facebook friend sent me some amazing high resolution photos of the dress from an all angles. This ALSO helped immensely.
And so… the idea for the Sleepy Hollow meets Met Anglaise gown was born. Why NOT make the gown in black and white stripe? Why NOT make it utterly ridiculously Tim Burton? If I hated it, I could always remake it in pink and white stripe later. (Aaaand I love pink so I may still do this.)
I did have to wait a while after pregnancy. It took me about 6 months to go back down to my full pre-pregnancy weight, and on top of that… I had a lot of other stuff I wanted to get to first. What finally made me just sit down and start drafting the pattern was a post on my instagram, where I talked about the first 18th century dress I made.
Seeing that sad creature on my IG made me want to redo it. I spent the next 19 days frantically sewing, in hopes of getting it ready for my photoshoot.
I originally made my pattern via the draping method.
Now, I had no idea this project was a dream project for many. So if you guys want to sew along with me, and use my project as a guide for your own, please do! It would be an honor! To help all of you out, I’m sharing my PDF of my pattern free of charge. You can click below to download it.
FYI: Please note to measure yourself ON TOP of your corset. I used my red threaded 1780’s front lacing synthetic whalebone corset, which has been custom adjusted to my body (somewhere between an XS to a S). With this corset, I have a 31″ bust and a 26″ waist. This pattern is sized to those measurements. I will not be releasing this pattern with any other sizes, and would highly recommend using the drafting method and my lines to make your own if you are different.
Also FYI: This is a PDF. To print, open in whatever pdf viewer, and then go to Print. Click “Poster”, and print at 100% (do not resize), and it should print on your home printer as multiple pages for you to scotch tape together.
Please note that this is a rough guide to sewing this dress. I cite my sources and tell you where to go for the instructions on how to sew this dress – anything further is all up to you.
The rest of the gown is kind of sewn up like an Italian gown. I used the American Duchess instructions “English gown” for that.
The pattern does not include sleeve patterns. I used my favorite 18th century sleeve pattern (The JP Ryan Anglaise gown) pattern for the sleeves, but feel free to use your favorite.
In any case, this is how I made mine:
I made a lining out of cotton coutil. I find twill works just as well for this. While the original was almost certainly lined in linen, I find that linen tends to stretch and distort, so I stopped using linen as a lining. I feel vindicated in this, when I found out that Academy Award winner Gwen Russell also uses cotton duck for lining since it olds up better for wearing and rewearing.
Once the lining was on, I started cutting out the back pieces. I used the English Gown pattern instructions to sew the back “En fourreau” style.
I used two different needles with two different threads at the same time to make sure I had the right color thread on the right colored stripe. This was not actually done on the original but I enjoyed doing it this way. 🙂
Now, this may sound weird – but the gown foes from classic anglaise style in the back, to an more of an Italian style gown. (Look at the AD book for the definitions). While pleating up the skirt, I ran into an issue with this. To get around this, I cut a vertical slit, around 4″ long from the top, and folded the gown under the edge of the bodice, and then pleated the rest of the skirt a la the “Italian Gown” instructions in the American Duchess book. If this sounds confusing, don’t worry about it- pleat it however it looks pretty and makes you happy. I have no idea if what I did was HA.
I did line the “flippy flappies” in the front of the gown in linen so that it would act a little more free and less thiff than it would have in the coutil.
The front of the gown is sewn to the sides of the “zone front”.
I used a pinking iron to make the pinks. I finaly found a use for my Monitor magazines! The original pinks were about 3/4″, mine was 1″. I then sewed it on.
To close the gown in front, I just pin it closed using dress pins.
Okies, now that that’s all done, time for fun photos of me wearing the dress!
Apologies for the super long post – but there was a lot of different things that went into making this dress.
We decided last year while I was four months pregnant, that we would go to the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra to hear Mozart in costume. We all agreed to make 1780’s outfits, even though I really didn’t like 1780’s (I mean, zone fronts just never spoke to me!). But, there WAS one that I did love – the color, the embroidery, the happy way it just all melded together…
I emailed the Rijks Museum and they were kind enough to give me some back and side shots as well. I will not be sharing these here in full form since I’m not sure if they would be ok with it. I will show snippets of them here and there below, where I’m describing some of the seams. Suffice to say that these pictures are incredibly helpful and beautiful, and if you have any interest, you should go ahead and ask for them. The Rijks Museum is incredibly helpful and I can’t emphasize how grateful I am that they’re that generous.
During the research phase of this project (all of October and November 2018), IG’s @the_corsettedbeauty kindly led me to a the book called Costume and Fashion by the Rijks Museum, (available for purchase on Amazon here, if you’re interested). This book explained how this gorgeous gown had been heavily altered for a costume party in the 1880’s, including a picture of someone WEARING this gown during the Victorian era as a living tableau. (An aside: This book is absolutely fabulous – high quality pictures and fantastic information with long descriptions of each item.)
I’m really starting to realize how the Victorians were the plague of locusts upon art and history, changing everything to suit their needs, whether it was cannibalizing gorgeous laces and gowns, or destroying Roman art that didn’t fit their prudish sensibilities. In any case, this gown had been heavily modified.
Modern Mantua Maker was incredibly kind with her time and used her oceanic knowledge base to figure out which seams were period to the 1780’s and which were most likely modified by the Victorians. For instance, the horizontal seam in the front of the gown was machine sewn, and so definitely done by the Victorians. There were more subtle things as well – for instance, the dart in the back was added by the Victorians later, which explained the bad ruching and wrinkling in the bodice. Those silly Victorian locusts!
That seam was added. Explains the ruching there! Silly, pesky Victorians!
Note how the pleating doesn’t match there. That’s also the Victorians.
Victorians, you are the worst! Why would you put a hideous machine seam there!?
The circled areas are just some of the modifications done by the Victorians. Base pictures from the Rijks Museum.
Just looking at these pictures, it became evident that there was a LOT of digitizing of embroidery to be done. This is the list I came up with.
Front button hole (white/pink/green) as seen on the green portions of the dress
Contrast color button hole (white/brown/green) as seen on the white portions of the dress
Bouquet of lilies on the bodice front
2 Bouquets of lilies on the gown bottom held together with a garland
Bouquet of lilies at the waist seam
Mariner’s cuff loops and leaves
Embroidery along the edge of the gown bodice front
Front collar emboridery
Back collar embroidery
Petticoat embroidery along the border of the white and the green (which has delicate little swirls and leaves along it)
Bouquet of lilies at the top of the petticoat
Bouquet of lilies at the side of the petticoat
A DIFFERENT bouquet of lilies at the side of the petticoat
Lily cluster at the bottom of the petticoat 1
A second cluster of lilies at the bottom of the petticoat
A THIRD AND DIFFERENT cluster of lilies at the bottom of the petticoat
Yes, we are looking at no less than 6 DIFFERENT bouquets of lilies and 3 different clusters of them!
This isn’t even all of it
More bouquets, each different…
I circled a few of them for you here so you could see what I mean.
I came to realize this was my most ambitious project to date. There were a LOT of primary digitizations to be done. With all this figured out, I started, but decided to make some changes to the original gown for mine.
These were the changes I decided to do intentionally.
The shape of the gown was altered. The original gown’s front has a very square appearance. I drew it as below, so you could see it. The shape isn’t easy to decipher, but after staring at it for a long time, I came to the conclusion that this was the actual shape of the front. (If anyone knows differently, please correct me.) I didn’t LOVE that shape, and instead decided to change the shape to a more typical redingote shape (the sloped V in front). (Please don’t hate me!)
By changing the shape of the front, it removed a few inches from the waist of the gown, which left me about 3″ less on each side for the embroidery of the waist bouquets. I chose to remove the bouquet portion of the embroidery at the waist, leaving just the ribbon loops and bows.
The petticoat at the bottom is… curious. At some point during its original inception in the 1780s, the gown’s recipient changed from someone short to someone tall. Instead of fixing it, they just kind of coughed and looked the other way. Look at how abruptly the embroidery ends there. (circled portion on image below) Anyone else find this super awkward? Modern Mantua Maker assured me that the gown had never been sewn for up someone of that short height, and from looking at this, her guess was that the lilies were supposed to go down all the way to the bottom of the petticoat, as were the button holes. So I decided my gown would have this as well.
All changes the Victorians made obviously (and badly) were omitted, including the machine seam at the front waist, the bad ruching in the back, and the mismatched pleating along the sides.
And most significantly of all (to me at least) – the original gown was done in tambour embroidery. I have major respect for the embroiderer(s) of this gown, but I myself do not have the time, patience, or skill to do it, so I chose to do all embroidery on the machine. Moreover, I couldn’t find a satisfactory way to replicate tambour on my machine (I did try! Really, I did!) so I chose to turn all the tamboured areas into satin stitch or stem stitch.You can see here how the original has incredible tambour (on the right). embroidery The left is an early draft of my version in satin stitch. This particular one is an early draft in polyester thread on some cotton linen scraps lying around the house but you can see how the tambour and the satin stitch are different. At the same time, I also loved my version and chose to continue with the satin stitch.
Some of the colors were changed – for instance, the embroidery on the top of the petticoat was just white and green. I chose to add pink because… I like pink. Also these lilies just looked really basic to me, and I liked the more complex lilies like the ones on the bodice. So I swapped them out and freehanded it.
So there we go! Some alterations, etc, were all done to try to make this gown and I started digitizing and embroidering – all about 7-8 months (34-37 weeks if you prefer weeks like me) pregnant.
So here are some early digitizations and experiments I did.
One thing that I don’t know if people understand, is HOW MUCH TIME it takes for you digitize, embroider, and fix it, to get it to look RIGHT. Just because it looks good on a screen doesn’t mean it’s all done. A lot of fixing and post correction has to be done before it looks good. So yes, it may take about 2-3 hours to digitize something small (or 6-8 hours for some of the larger bouquets). But then you have to go and print it which takes another 3-4 hours, and then I would spend another 2-3 hours (or another 8-10 hours for a larger bouquet) afterwards fixing the details I didn’t like! Or… maybe I’m just bad and slow at this because I’m self taught…
Needless to say, it took a while. Meanwhile, I got fabric samples for green silk from a bunch of places. The original gown is clearly done in silk satin, so I went ahead and ordered a bunch of silk duchesse samples. No one seemed to have the right green. I found one company who made just the right shade of apple/moss/green-yellow green… but then when I went to order 11 yards, they found that they only had 2. Finally, I found the perfect shade from NY Designer Fabrics… but only in double faced silk duchesse. At this point, I had emotionally given up on not spending a fortune to make this dress. I sighed, apologized to my credit card, and paid for the double faced satin…
AND I AM NEVER GOING BACK TO SINGLE FACED SATIN. CHECK THIS OUT:
Now, what you’re NOT seeing is the backside. Usually in order to handle embroidery this heavy (without pulling stray threads and utterly destroying the base fabric), I have to interface the ENTIRE gown or piece of fabric with horsehair interfacing. Yes, Matt’s frock coat is ENTIRELY lined with horsehair interfacing. It turns out that had I just paid for double faced silk satin, I wouldn’t have had to. So in some ways, the double face satin pays for itself (Ok. I’m exaggerating. Financially, it actually doesn’t add up to the same cost. Double faced silk is still more expensive. But it does drape better, and I like the look of it better, so I’ll pay for it.)
I ended up lining the entire double faced silk portion of the gown with only tear away interfacing, which normally would not be strong enough for this much heavy embroidery!
So what you’re seeing up there is my first draft in silk threads on silk embroidery, with tear away interfacing. This was December 2nd. I put this on the printer, admired it, and then went into work for my 24 hour call shift at the hospital.
At the end of that shift, I went into labor.
By December 4th, I had a new baby boy! Malcolm! He was born 2 and a half weeks early, but still healthy at 7 pounds and 8 ounces. And I’d be a terrible mother if I didn’t share pictures of how cute and wonderful he is.
Yes! So obviously, I’d stop sewing right?
It turns out that he hated sleep unless it was directly on human flesh. So at night, Matt and I would take turns being a human mattress and cuddling him while he slept. It was absolutely adorable and endearing. For the first 48 hours… After that, we were wondering what sleep felt like and fantasizing about getting more than 4 hours at a time. This was especially true since since we couldn’t fall asleep as we held him, lest we drop him when our arms gave out.
So at night, I started digitizing all 16 portions of the gown. Night after night, I would cuddle my beautiful son in one arm and with the other, I digitized bouquet after bouquet. I would occasionally run my embroidery machine to try out these patterns during the day, and then edit again at night. Normally I would keep track of how long I spend digitizing for my own amusement, but in this case, I failed to do so. I was so sleep deprived I couldn’t remember if I had eaten that day, moreover how much I had digitized.
In any case, this is how I finished the embroidery WAY faster than I thought I would. By the time he was four weeks old, I was done with most of the embroidery and had started on draping out the bodice.
PSA: After you have the baby, you still look pregnant. For up to about 6-8 weeks afterwards. This is because your uterus still has to go back to its normal size (a process called involution) which takes a while.
So during this period, I just made my dummy up to reflect a larger size than I had been and starting patterning…
I use painters tape to mark out the design.
Using the draping method I got a pattern off of those pieces on the dummy.
I used the draping method on my dummy to get a pattern.
I tested this pattern on a dummy piece using some muslin.
I used just the draping method as well as the pattern of the LACMA’s redingote, as well as what I got from Norah Waugh’s book to draft this. Looks good, right?
NO. I made a 6 piece back, which was wrong. The original actually had a 4 piece back, which is a lot more standard to the 1780’s but the way the Victorian’s (damn Victorians!) had darted it, it looked like a 6 piece back in some shots. I edited this, made a second muslin (didn’t take a photo of it), confirmed that I liked it. Then I then traced the pattern pieces I would need to put embroidery onto white paper, then scanned those in.
(You’re welcome to use this pattern piece if you’re remotely interested btw, though I won’t be posting any of the back pieces… because that’s extra work. 😛 )
I then put this into my embroidery program (PE Design 10) and started placing all the pieces on it.
You can see the embroidery pieces all lined up on screen, then printed onto some random broadcloth I had lying around the house to test alignment.
Phew! A lot of work already right? Well, I had to make a sleeve pattern. Honestly, I suck at sleeves. ALL sleeves are sleevils to me. Luckily, Lady of the Wilderness came out like a beacon of light, and posted two videos – one on how to draft sleeves, and another on how to fit sleeves – ALL in one day. She saved my butt big time. I won’t go into the details of it because I don’t feel like reliving it… but at the end, I had a sleeve pattern.
So at this point, I felt like I liked my pattern enough to start printing on the real thing so I got started. I ordered ALL thread I could find in this country in my colors (Tire Silk #50 wt, colors: #20 for the brown, #36 for the pale pink, #156 for the creamy white, #37 for the bright pink, #96 for the light green, and a bunch of others for everything else). Honestly, the pattern could have used some perfecting, but you know what – I had a baby who only slept 2 hours at a time, I was breastfeeding, getting over a C-section, and my husband had just gone back to work (for his 2 weeks notice, but you know, those 2 weeks still sucked), and my mother in law had just gone back to the East coast… So… frog it (we’re dong animal based cursing in our house now that we have a small child), I had to get started on the real deal at some point – I decided to ignore the imperfections and just start sewing.
I was inspired by Lady of the Wilderness so I decided to sew all non long skirt and sleeve seams by hand… So I got started with the back seams…
ENGLISH STITCH FTW
The back of the dress was cut in one piece. I chose not to put in any skirt seams that didn’t need to be there.
Basting stitches are still in
Basting stitches are still in.
I used the American Duchess book as my personal guide along with tidbits from Amber’s Dress in a Weekend adventure. I can’t recommend both sources enough. I ended up English stitching the back together and LOVED IT. Hand sewing was just the relaxing activity to do on my moments off that I needed.
Of note, the gown itself has a contrast lining in white with green/brown embroidery (circled on the left). I LOVE this aspect of the gown, though I’m not sure I will be leaving the gown opened on the sides like the original. I wasn’t sure how far up the contrast went, so in mine, I had it go ALL the way up. 🙂 It wasn’t too hard – just time consuming. I just embroidered both parts and hand sewed them together, making sure that each false button hole lined up to the opposite color on the other side.
So here you can see the dress coming together.
While this was going on, Malcolm was still not sleeping so I was making excellent headway digitizing the petticoat. Reminder, there is a LOT of embroidery on the petticoat…
Redingote or Great-Coat Rijk Museum Item number – BK-1978-250 1786-1789
But turns out when you give up sleep, you can get anything done pretty fast.
So I digitized the petticoat, and converted this incredibly large piece of embroidery into 15 easy to print pieces… Except for where it wasn’t easy.
Notice the floating flower here.
I got it right on one side.
I ended up making some errors in alignment, which I couldn’t fix and will have to live with. At least until the Superior Threads imports more Tire Silk Thread #50 wt, color #20.
I show this not to be bratty, but because I want to emphasize – we ALL make mistakes in our gowns. We all frog up pretty hard at some point. And we all scream “Frogging Shark!” (Except it wasn’t animal based cursing when I did it IRL) and “Son of a Beehive!” – but then we weep for a while and pout and move on and finish.
And the key part of that sentence, is the word “Finish”. Because I did finish this gown. I was angry, pissed but I chose to share this on IG, yell a lot at myself, and then move on.
At which point I promptly messed up another alignment.
I got it right on this side.
And wrong on this side.
And I may redo the petticoat some day. But that day will probably be when my son decides he likes sleep.
So after all that, I started sewing things together and the petticoat came together pretty fast. I chose to put a lace up panel inside of the gown, which is attached to the gown at both sides of the dress (through all layers of fabric using tiny stitches), so that there is less stress on the silk embroidery when I pin the gown closed using dress pins. I’m not sure if the original Rijk Museum has it, but it is present in some 1780s gowns, including the LACMA redingote.
So at this point… I went ahead and finished the gown. Here are some pictures of the gown on my mannequin.
And every outfit needs amazing accessories, and here are mine:
“Bouquet Francaise” is the name the @littlebitGerman gave to the Red Francaise after she saw it in person and I think it describes it beautifully. Throughout the bulk of it’s existence, it was just the “red francaise” which is what I’ve called it in previous posts and I’ll leave it as such for ease of finding it.
So during residency, I was working 80+ hours a week, and had very little time to sew/sleep/eat, or much else of anything really. So to reward myself, I told myself I would buy myself 10 yards of any fabric I wanted when I got out. So I did. I rewarded myself with 10 (which eventually became 12) yards of this beautiful Scalamandre Basilica. It is now discontinued which is how I was able to afford it, but remains findable on some incredible sites like silkresource.com
Initially, I was terrified of it. I literally stared at it for four months and could not get myself to cut it. I finally got myself to touch it, by making TWO mock ups before I touched it; one in muslin (no photo) and one in yellow silk taffeta as you can see here:
Finally, feeling like I finally could remotely trust myself to not shame myself by cutting the fabric, I started.
I chose to use the JP Ryan pattern as the base; and though I changed the shape of the bodice to accommodate by more modest bosum, otherwise, I kept very close to the original shape.
I started as we often do with any 18th century cutting (as per the Larkin and Smith patterns, which is where I learned to sew more period correct clothing, and reinforced by the American Duchess book) the lining. I actually have a hard time keeping linen from stretching so I elected to use cotton coutil for mine.
One thing that is totally not HA about JP Ryan patterns, but something I absolutely love about them, is the panel that laces up in front. This region is then covered by the stomacher. It does make for ease of dressing since I don’t have a lady’s maid. Not HA, but so is not having a lady’s maid so… I think it evens out. 🙂 It does promise a great fit and smooth sides once I put on the gown, even in a rush!
PS: You’ll notice my totally HA doggy (a little Rescue Eskie named Elspeth) in the picture. She loves photobombing everything I do. One thing I LOVE about American Eskimos is that they were totally the breed of choice for Gainsborough.
Mr and Mrs William Hallett
Bitch and puppy
Jane Lady Whichcote
Mrs. Mary Robinson (Perdita)
And before you start messaging me about whether or not these are pomeranians, compare them to the size of pomeranians and then look at standard American Eskimos. Either way, whatever breed these historically accurate fuzzballs were, I can safely say, my dogs can costume them to perfection!
Well, in any case, after my lining was complete, I went ahead and started work on the fabric itself. I started on my favorite portion – the Watteau pleats!
Luckily I have a very lovely and large cutting table so I was able to stretch the fabric out as much as I needed. After an initial center seam (by machine since I do all my non visible seams on a machine… this is where my impatience does present itself.), I started pinning down the pleats.
After these were CAREFULLY pinned on, I then started the process of sewing it down, attaching it carefully to the lining. Sewing down pleats is my FAVORITE part of dress making. This was fun! I sat watching Poldark for hours and pleating.
At this point, the gown was starting to really look like a gown.
This was the most exciting part! You must understand, up to this point, due to hours of deliberating, staring at the pattern, matching the pattern, trying to get the perfect pleats in the back, I must have spent approximately 30 hours getting to this point. I tell everyone, I am NOT a fast seamstress. But even then, I understood that I was nowhere near the finish line.
But I can’t lie, I was super proud of my Watteau pleats matching up as they did. 😀
On a slight side note, for the bottom hem of the train, I really didn’t want the lampas to fall apart. Historical gowns have a little bit of white silk or linen sewn to the bottom to keep the lampas from unraveling. I actually elected to use a bit of modern technology to fix my problem. I put about 18″ of iron on horsehair interfacing to the bottom of the hem and train, to protect that lampas as well as keep the train firm as I walked. I suppose I could have used something more HA, but I really didn’t want the seam to of where I sewed the lining on to show up on the outside, which would have been inevitable, no matter how careful the stitches.
(Again, my personal philosophy is embracing the use of modern technology in order to make historical clothing as beautiful as possible. Hence my love of laser cutters, 3D printers, embroidery machines… But I’m a technology junky at heart. This is why I either costume 18th century…. or 40,000 years in the future. Also I enjoy robotics in my spare time but I don’t plan on going into that on this blog.)
Then sleeves went on, and I was finally able to try wearing it for the first time.
Again, you’ll notice my HA doggies photobombing. 😀
I LOVE wearing this gown! I just love the way the train sweeps after me, and absolutely everything about a Francaise. I really do think that there is no gown-type on the planet more flattering on the average figure than a francaise. No matter your height, body type, etc., a francaise sewn to the right proportions, with the right undergarments is as majestic and flattering as you’ll ever look.
Anyways, this was about… 35-40 hours of my life so far? This was the exciting part.
So, after purchasing the fabric, I had spent about 4 months online shopping for trim. I wanted something in silk, with the warp weave look so common in the 18th century. I finally realized I loved the look of fly trim, but could find nothing that really had the same look as it in modern day. So I elected to weave it myself.
I started off slow; I would say the first two meters took about 24-30 hours.
The initial plan was to make all my trim and then get started putting it on a dress. I had read somewhere that the average francaise took 12 meters of trim. That person was clearly drunk when they wrote it. I made 12 meters and started putting it on my gown. I didn’t even make it to half!
THIS was my 12 meter point. I didn’t even make it around the “swirls” (technically called “furloughs”) around the front of the skirt! It was laughable how wrong they were. In any case, I just kept going, and at that point, I had sped up to the point where each meter took me approximately 8 hours instead of the initial 12 – (including the time knotting the fly trim, cutting them to the right length, fluffing them up with a tooth brush, collecting them, fighting my dogs for them when they decided that eating silk fluffs was fun, and then refluffing the flys, and then weaving it).
As for the stomacher, I was aiming to have it look like the one from at the Museum of Victoria and Albert.
So I placed my 1″ trim very similarly to the stomacher on the right (despite the fact that my stomacher was distinctly less triangular…) and did my best.
Before I even finished, I had a photo session scheduled with the INCREDIBLE Lindsey Hinderer (can’t recommend her enough), and I couldn’t resist snapping a few photos.
Random aside: I really can’t emphasize how important it is to work with a photographer who understands your vision and has the same aesthetic as you. Lindsey knew that I wanted to look like an 18th century portrait and she really delivered.
I was shocked at how much I loved the historical makeup I picked up from Little Bits on Etsy. I can say I honestly never would have thought of it, but it was a thoughtful present from my sister in law. Since then, I’ve picked up a bunch more HA makeup! Her pomade is a must have.
From here on in, I just continued towards the finish line. Please note that since October when I started this, this was one of two projects I was working on. Fly trim alone, I think I spent about 300 hours weaving.
I added a third sleeve ruffle (here is where the American Duchess book saved my life! It was INCREDIBLY helpful here! No one else has such nuanced and helpful instructions. And trust me, I looked everywhere!). I changed up my petticoat to have a smoother front panel. I added fly trim EVERYWHERE. At the end, I think I used about 36 meters of fly trim. Again, 12 meters my ass.
After all this, this is the gown I came up with, as photographed by the incomparable Lindsey Hinderer.
And with this outfit finished, we headed off to Paris for Fetes Galante at Versailles.
It was an absolutely fabulous time! I did have to leave an hour early due to my nausea, but overall, it was still incredible.
In any case, this is the story of my francaise and adventures with fly trim! Do post if you have any comments or questions about trim making.
So where I left off on my last post about my V and A coat adventures was that I had just finished ONE part of the coat. For those of you who follow me on my IG ( @sewstine ), you’ve been bored to death I’m sure with sneak peaks of everything in action. In any case, here is the reveal!
It took me about 2 months to finish the other side, the waistcoats, the buttons, the breeches straps, the backs, the collars, the pockets, the waistcoat pockets, the cuffs, etc. Once I had all the parts collected, I started the fun process of sewing it together.
I had him try it on with just the shell.
I actually do something slightly different from other people. I sewed the entire exterior together, and then got each lining piece and just sewed it on by hand to the coat, from the interfacing. Not a usual way to do it, but with the heaviness of the interfacing, it made the most sense.
For the VERY heavily embroidered areas in the front, I used linen buckram, reinforced with gum arabic and blind stitched it to the front. I the covered it with the linen to it wouldn’t be seen. But this prevented some unfortunate buckling in the embroidery- an issue I had with ALL my frock coats to date. 🙂 It seemed to work but I’ll let you judge for yourself at the end of this article.
Once all that was settled, I added pockets to this coat! This is my first frock coat I added pockets to, mostly because I didn’t trust Matt in the past to not stretch it out by putting too much in it and distorting the shape of the garment. And let’s face it – heavily filled pockets usually end up ruining the exterior shape of ANY garment (unless it’s covered by a pocket hoop! Whee!).
I even added the SECRET pocket on the right side of the coat. I first noticed it after it was pointed out by Pinsent Tailor on 18th century sewing group, and wanted it for Matt. I used some heavy handed button hole stitches to make it for Matt as well. His will hold a secret little locket, made for me by Queen and Cavendish, filled with a picture of me (drawn by @belindal.illustrates ). I really do wonder what marvelous little secrets that original pocket held. Love letters? Historic goat intestine condoms? Snuff? I really do hope it wasn’t snuff and something a little more fun in nature.
At this point, I started making buttons. In the past, I used modern button kits but finding that those buttons break apart so easily, and Matt tends to manhandle his buttons, I decided to go ahead and make them the old fashioned way. I got some button “moulds” from Burnley and Trowbridge, and went at them. After a few attempts, this seemed to work best.
Cut a GENEROUS margin around your embroidered button.
Give a margin of around 35% of the button diameter and sew a circle around the button shape.
Trim off excess fabric but don’t cut too close to your stitches. And don’t cut your string (did that like 5 times…)
Pull it closed.
Insert your bone or wood button mould.
Sew it shut, and make sure it’s tight
I sewed a LOT of buttons this way.
I added these, and voila! Coat was done.
Meanwhile, I made up the waistcoat (also using the JP Ryan pattern). However, Matt’s weight fluctuates about 30 pounds in any given 3 months, so I went ahead and made his lace up in the back with some hand-sewn eyelets.
I also made up his pants using the JP Ryan pattern – which I think is a FABULOUS breeches pattern and I don’t think there is a better one out there. Please correct me in the comments if I’m wrong – I’d LOVE to learn. I actually did play with the pattern a LOT on these. While her sizing is good, Matt’s thighs are HUGE. I went ahead and added another 2″ to each thigh, and took out about 10″ on the buttocks. While I understand that the “diaper butt” look to breeches is totally HA, I for one like admiring my husband’s fine rear end. So I went ahead and made it a little more tight. It’s still a little baggy to account for movement as well as his weight fluctuations.
As for the breeches straps, I made it as close to the original as possible. That being said, I noticed the design didn’t print well much smaller than it was, so I made the straps 1.25″ instead of the pattern’s recommended 1″. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but once I was done, I realized my error. Almost all breeches buckles on the market are designed for 1″ straps, and due to the embroidery, the straps didn’t fold very well. I ended up buying two neck stock buckles to compensate, though I may get actual breeches straps now that I found some. 🙂
As for his shirt, I made him a hand sewn shirt complete with THE STITCH (per the pattern by Larkin and Smith) about a year ago so we decided to rewear that. Please note my beloved gathers at his wrist. 🙂
Ok, no more talking. Here are the photos of the finished piece.
Omg this blog isn’t dead! No, it was just hibernating in the frigid cold and wretched rain.
But on to the content! I’m finally done with 2 out of 3 dresses!
The blue dress is finally out and I’m madly in love! It can be seen on Page 30 of St Louis Magazine or the article here. I then got to collaborate with Lindsey Hinderer of Lindsey Hinderer Photography, and Savannah from Summer Savannah Makeup for a decadent photoshoot! Here are the two main images of the blue dress from that photoshoot.
The idea was to capture an 18th century portrait (all Lindsey’s idea! The joy of working with a brilliant photographer), and she even found the perfect backdrop to give it the naturalistic air of a Gainsborough painting.
She even took some wonderfully decadent close ups!
It’s been wonderful to finally see my blue dress complete! About 150 hours of embroidery time went into the jacket; it really wasn’t supposed to take that long but the pattern I designed did not embroider all that well and took quite a few tries.
The skirt was a “rush job” – only about 80 hours of embroidery frantically done in a week to get it done by the St Louis Magazine photoshoot. But overall, I’m happy with how it came out.
Next, Lindsey all took some gorgeous photos of me wearing the yellow dress.
And some detail shots:
I can’t tell you how long I spent pinking that fabric with a magazine on outdated issues of the Journal of Anesthesiology but man… it was worth it!
At this point, we decided to have some fun. We put some white 18th century accurate make up on by lbcc, and even put on some dresses that weren’t even done and went at it.
It’s amazing how much more HA you can get with a little bit of hair and face powder! I LOVE how these came out and I think my next shoot with Lindsey will be entirely with this make up!
And I came to realize that my red dress is my favorite after all – finished or not! And it certainly is most unfinished in this picture. I’ve been working on it nonstop since this photo-shoot and it’s still shockingly not done.
Which is crazy because I haven’t NOT worked on this gown at least four hours a week since November. The problem is the trim. Each meter takes 8 hours of solid work, between knotting, cutting, using a toothbrush to fluff each trim piece, then weaving it on a loom. It used to take me 12 so 8 is much more doable now. But fly trim is beautiful, but insanely time consuming. Since this picture, I’ve finished the stomacher and added a third sleeve ruffle (and pleating to the top of the sleeve!), but still… so much to do!
With all luck, I’ll have it finished by the Versailles ball!
And for funsies, we did a photoshoot in my undies as well. How scandalous!
All I can say after this is that EVERY thing I make has to be professionally photographed now. I love working with different artists and it’s incredible how much insight you get into even things you make yourself when you work with people with vision. Every photographer tells a different story, and I love the different types of stories they each tell.
A few months ago, I ran into an article about a frock coat and suit (complete 3 piece set!) at the Mueum of Victoria and Albert. I fell HARD for it.
You can see pictures of it at two places for the most part – the actual Museum site, and fans who go and take pictures of it. The museum site has the best resolution, but the fans pick up the details. Like a mysterious pocket on the right pocket. Like the details on the back. I myself plan on doing a sojourn to London this coming May/June to see this in person.
But for now, I wish to recreate it for my husband to wear to the Versailles ball. Because let’s face it – it’s GORGEOUS.
So I went to work digitizing. I could go into the details of how, but I’m not particularly good at digitizing myself, nor am I an efficient one. However, my artistic better half, Cari from Cabbit Corner was busy with a combination of life and a GIANT stack of commissions, so I decided to tackle it myself.
As you can see, there are a LOT of different parts to this design. I actually made myself a to-digitize list and broke it down into separate parts depending on how long I thought each part would take. I put it in an Erin Condren book to be pretty.
About 30 hours later, I had a first draft. (On a side note, because I get asked this all the time, the program I use is PE Design 10. The program gives you AMAZING power over your digitizations but it is VERY slow. Not sure if this is my computer or the program, but it’s slow.). This is the reason I don’t digitize for commissions. I don’t think it would be fair for me to charge anything less than 25 dollars an hour to sit and slave away on a design, and yet I know there are people who do it way faster and way better than I do. Which is why if asked, I will always send you to one of them: Denise of Romantic Recollections, Cari of Cabbit Corner, and Liuba of ArtEmbroidery.
You can see my design on the left and this interposed on top of the coat on the right. I then started to put it into a coat setting to see how it would look.
I printed this design about 8 times (6 hours each time) before I found a color scheme I liked. You can see some of the failed prints here:
Another attempt this time on some silk remnants. Oh dear that orange.
I literally ran this with whatever polyester I had lying around just so I could test the concept and see if there were any gaps. There were. XP
Getting closer. No dice yet.
I finally ordered some silk threads and did an attempt with those. But quel beast that pink was too pink.
ANd blammo! I finally had a version I liked. (Please note that there were about 4 prints that went directly to the garbage between images 3 and 4.)
I also tested to see if the image was repeatable. I do this using polyester threads on cheap cotton twill.
And a final cuff printed on silk duchesse (navy) with silk threads.
After I finally decided on a color scheme, the hard part was choosing the back fabric. As you can see from the close up pictures, the fabric is on a gorgeous brocade of dots. For the life of me, I could not find any brocade anywhere like it. And moreover, no one would make it for me for less than 200 a yard. I knew I would need about 10 yards. This resulted in me deciding to go solid. It helped that I realized between ordering two custom historic wigs, custom shoes, and two flights to Paris, I was out of budget.
So after all that I was able to finally print the first OFFICIAL piece of my coat – a cuff. I was happy with it. 😀 You’ll of course notice the antique silk organza applique.
On a slightly different note, I am not going into the patterning of this coat and how to do layouts of the embroidery here. I go into it in previous articles here and here.
The patterning of the coat was complex. I used JP Ryan’s 1780s coat pattern but it turned out my husband had a very odd shape so I ended up using that to draft my own version. Her patterns are always excellent and I highly recommend them.
I did also start on a waistcoat since I happened to have the silk duchesse in house. However, after doing a 24 hour shift at the hospital, I messed up placement of the third pattern repeat and the whole thing turned into garbage
So now starts the process of embroidery and more embroidery. I anticipate at 6-8 hours of active machine time per repeat, 45 thread changes PER repeat (I think I mentioned I’m not the best digitizer ever), and about 42 repeats for the whole coat, not counting buttons or belts… we’re looking at 1,890 thread changes, and 336 hours of machine time or 14 days of machine running 24/7 (which obviously I can’t do so it will likely be 42 days embroidering). Good thing I love the process!
Also I made a new rule for myself – I’m not allowed to work on this tired. Granted, I’m currently working 70-80 hours a week so I may end up breaking this rule now and then…
Let’s end this on a positive note – check out this front panel! Wheee!!
I can’t hold back my excitement anymore – this is how the jacket looks so far(albeit unfinished)!
So this is the story of how we go from a little idea to this blue jacket (which I love so far).
First off – I want to preface this by saying: This is NOT the finished article! The closure isn’t quite set yet and the cuffs are not done.
So after the blue jabric came, the first thing I did was make myself an embroidered stomacher. I made one in blue; didn’t love it, made one in cream. Still don’t love it (the pink kind of blends into the background) but we’ll see how it goes. I may make myself a third.
I also tested out the pattern by making the same jacket for myself in brown wool. I had some gorgeous wool broadcloth lying around the houes (unused, unloved for about two years now), so I used it to make myself an Outlander-esque dress.
I was shocked at how much I loved the pattern! It was comfortable, it was flattering – it was exactly what I wanted. So I started in by doing what I always do – putting a ruler on each pattern piece, scanning it in, and placing the digitization on it. (More on it on previous posts, but I use PE Design 10). This was a particularly painful design to place due to the high stitch counts (each repeat was approximately 45,000 stitches) and the slug-like nature of PE Design 10. (I get asked repeated if I would recommende the software, and I repeatedly say only if you’re very patient.) I went ahead and started sewing it out.
On a side note, I decided to try horsehair iron on interfacing for this jacket and I confess I have a love hate relationship with it too. It works, but it’s very expensive ($10.50 per yard) and it tends to wrinkle the final look a little. But honestly, for embroidery THIS heavy, it seems to work the best. I’ll let you know if I ever find a better substitute, but so far, no.
I did get a new machine somewhere in the middle of this, so at least the 30 thread changes were significantly less painful thanks to my brand new Brother PR1000!!!
It not only decreases the amount of time it takes to embroider each repeat (7 hours becomes 4.5), it also decreases the number of thread changes I go through! I danced around the house for hours.
I LOVE this new machine with a vengeance. My dogs are unspeakably jealous at how much I stroke and pet this machine.
In any case, after about 150 hours of machine embroidery time (not including 12 hours digitization time), I came out with ALL the pieces needed to make the coat.
So I spent some time piecing it together. So the way I do it is a little odd; I will go ahead and iron fold ALL edges with embroidery. I then glue it on using iron on adhesive or iron on hem tape (SO NOT HA, but honestly, neither is machine embroidery). I actually love that stuff because it gives a little stiffness to the hem as well so it flares out prettier. Almost like horsehair braid for trims in the 19th century! You can see the jacket in the above pictures – the hem is NOT sewn or cut. It is just folded over, ironed and glued on using iron on hem tape. It works dreamily – I think!
Once all the embroidered hems on all individual pieces have been glued down, I then machine sew it together, and iron all the folds open. This is about the point where I first realized that this jacket was in fact a good idea and not just a terrible money pit.
Again, I know some HA people will get upset with me for my use for iron on adhesive, monetary support of iron on interfacing, and machine sewing – but I tend to machine sew all seams. I really just don’t have time for it. Anything visible I DO handsew. For instance, my sleeves are all hand sewn, hand hemmed.
So then I sewed on my sleeves, and started work embroidering the cuffs.
I can’t lie – embroidering cuffs are painful. We’re talking 12 hours of embroidery PER cuff. It’s the border! The flowers take 1.5 hour to embroider – each. The swirls, the lace… that takes 4.5 to embroider each. O_O But I did it. And attached it.
And hated it. I hated the way the flower curled on itself… I hated the folds… It wasn’t long enough. Bah!
Just to put this into perspective, THIS is what I was going for.
Embroidered piqué jacket, ca. 1740, Museo del Traje, Spain.
Of course, mine isn’t supposed to be an exact replica but I did love the IDEA of having large luxurious cuffs. Mine didn’t cut it. So I designed new ones. In any case, I realized shortly after that I was out of silk netting. I went ahead and ordered more but til that gets here, I won’t be able to do anything about it. Well, meanwhile, I gave the jacket a linen lining. I do sew all my linings in my hand along the edge.
And voila! Ready for a test wear!
Meanwhile, I do plan on making a blue petticoat with the same embroidery along the edge, lacy engageantes (sleeve ruffles), and a pretty embroidered apron to go! Any opinions out there about headwear? I do seem to have so little care about headwear!
More to come! And Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
As much fun as Versailles was this year – as fun as it can be with your husband sick with a sinus infection, arriving an hour later thanks to Putin (he literally held up traffic in Paris) and flustered in 95 degree weather… – which was not surprisingly, a TON OF FUN. It really was a dream come true and was the prom party every girl has been after her entire life.
My only regret was that I rated my dress a 7/10.
So now the plan is to go again next year, this time in a dress I would rate much higher. 🙂
I found the most lovely Scalamandre fabric and after about 4 months of saving, purchased it.
Sadly, nowhere could I find appropriate trim for this. I looked everywhere for an appropriate passamenterie, but could not. I even had the help of some lovely shop owner of Vintage Passamenterie, who really does have the most incredible selection of silk ribbons.
However, I found myself drawn repeatedly to some beautiful fly trim, such as the ones found on this beautifully curated Pinterest board.
I then chose to make my own fly trim but was not quite sure how to do it. I got some excellent advice and help from Denise Hendrick of Romantic Recollection, and really can’t thank her enough for her support and know how.
For those of you interested in your own fly trim, I highly recommend the tutorial by Quaintrelle Life. I used 4-6 strands of JEC “flat silk thread”. This can be purchased at the Japanese Embroidery Company Store. As for the tool itself, I got a bone knotting shuttle from Burnley and Trowbridge. This one is quite lovely as it’s a little larger and has great hand feel. I highly recommend having more than one so you can work on different colors at the same time.
This is a picture of my early attempts.
Really quite pitiful, right? Took me hours for that little bit too!
So at that point, I tried to do more research and found that there was frequently used a crocheted or a woven center.
Still struck me as a little too weaksauce for this excellent fabric. This fabric deserved the best at this wasn’t it.
So I attempted to weave my own center. I will NOT show these attempts since they truly were pitiful. My only suggestion is, DO NOT BUY A TYPICAL WEAVING LOOM.
After more research, I came to realize you need a special Inkle Loom.
There are a lot of places to get it; I personally love sitting on the couch after a long day of work at the hospital, doing some sort of craft with my husband gaming on one side and a fluffy American Eskimo (such an HA dog!) on the other. So I got myself a lap one from ebay.
How to use an inkle loom is quite beyond the scope of this post, so I’ll post the video that I leraned from. It’s fairly simple and I’m quite sure you too would figure it out in 9 minutes and 26 seconds.
In any case, after much experimentation, and failures, I came to make these trims:
I found all of these lovely on the red silk but couldn’t decide among them! After getting some excellent advice on the Historically Accurate 18th century Sewing group, I finally ended up choosing this one:
Of note, the center weave is done with soie ovale thread. I used 2 rows of red, (one dark, one bright), 5 rows of white (or “corn”, as this one is called) and then 2 more rows of red.
In any case, I have woven about 1.5 yards of it so far, but considering three hours results in about 1 feet of trim, it’s slow going. Good thing I have 7 seasons of Poirot to work through! It’s jolly good fun, and I highly recommend it for the seamstress who enjoys having a little craft to work on at night, every night. 🙂
Last week I left off still attempting to perfect an 18th century flower in embroidery.
After spending approximately 28 hours on this design, I have come to the conclusion that: Conversion is fun, but incredibly time consuming. And unlike hand sewing, mentally exhausting.
It’s fun, but I’m glad that there are artists like Cari and Denise who do this professionally. I think I will personally do this maybe once or twice a year.
So what I do is I use my drawing pad to trace/draw out each color, determine stitch type, stitch density, the direction of the stitches, and move on to the next section. It’s incredibly time consuming, emotionally stressful, but also somewhat chatartic.
After printing this about another 3 times and messing with stitch types, I came up with this:
I designed the layout so that at the last two colors, I could pin a piece of mesh in there so I could get that lovely netting into the design. It turned out lovely.
So then the question was, what to do with this? Obviously, the hubby would be getting a frock coat with this fabric. For me, personally, I wanted to try a stomacher first. Moving about the design to a stomacher was easy, and I have to say, I loved how it came out.
That being said, I need to figure out the interfacing situation more as this current interfacing has a penchant for wrinkling up considerably! (this interfacing is currently cotton woven interfacing with a layer of iron on adhesive in between).
I chose to make my next frock coat in a historically accurate ground. Surprisingly, some of the prettiest frock coats actually are not on solid colors but are on a ground of thin stripes or dots or flowers! I was pleasantly surprised to see this both on pinterest and when I went to the LACMA exhibit “Reigning Men” at the St Louis Art Museum.
As thin stripes on silk or HA dots and flowers are hard to find, there was really only one real viable source – Duran Textiles. If you don’t know them, I’d definitely check them out. They probably have some of the most beautiful fabrics in the world in their collection and I very frequently see their fabrics in one movie or another. After some emails, Laila of Duran sent me a handful of beautiful samples. I pressed one after the other on Matt’s skin and I still couldn’t decide. “This one brings out your eyes”, “But this one might be too busy”… etc. After two hours of discussion, we still had no clue.
I ended up gluing the samples onto a piece of wool and putting the design on the fabric. That answered the question right away!
I ended up going with the blue on the bottom left. I actually bought an extra six yards so I could make myself a coordinating jacket and skirt. (: