Unfortunately as I was rushing to get this completed in time for the First Annual Ft Ligonier 12th Night Ball, I did not get construction pictures. But here is the gown finished:
I used the Larkin and Smith English Gown Pattern, which I have used to make several other gowns so I know it fits! I cut the bodice lining out of cotton canvas (less expensive than linen canvas) and assembled it to test the fit. Knowing all was well, I cut out the bodice fronts and shoulder straps. Then I measured for the back and cut out one long panel, long enough for a small train.
I made the center back pleat a little bit deeper than what is shown on the pattern, for two reasons: I wanted the stripes to slant out in an attractive way (so the pleat needed to be deep enough to take up a whole stripe) and I wanted as much fullness in the train as I could reasonably get. Then I pleated in the en fourreau back pleats and stitched them down. Actually at first I had them backwards and had to refold them! Doh!
Once the back was pleated, I could mount the gown on the lining. I then cut out the side panels and joined them, measuring over the skirt supports on my dressmaking dummy to ensure the sides were long enough. I used one full length of fabric for each side panel, which made the dress skirt three 60 inch panels wide (minus seam allowances and turn under at the side fronts). This is very wide but again, I wanted the skirt to be very full. I had to double box pleat the skirt to fit it into the waist.
At that point, I started the petticoat. I wanted a very wide ruffle at the bottom – it is 12″ wide. I used a very narrow hem on the top and bottom and the hems are covered with trim. A wide ruffle like this takes A LOT of fabric! I box pleated it instead of knife pleating so that saved a little bit of fabric. Knife pleats will take 6 times the circumference of your petticoat. So if you are using 2 panels of fabric, you will need 6 full fabric widths of ruffle to go around it. When you have a wide ruffle, this quickly uses up fabric! At 12 inches per ruffle I could get 3 panels per yard, so the petticoat took up slightly more than 4 1/3 yards which is almost double what an unruffled petticoat would require (2 1/3 yards). I left an inch of space between each box pleat so that ended up saving one length of fabric, taking 5 lengths to cut out the ruffle.
Next I did the sleeves. The wrong side of this kind of fabric is pretty ugly, and I noticed originals tended to line the sleeve ruffles with a light silk. So this is how I did mine. I also lined the sleeves with the silk to avoid the bulk of a heavier fabric, and then applied the faux fringe trim over the edges. I found this trim on Etsy.
Last was to tidy up and add the trim. I box pleated the trim from pieces of fabric that were left over – they are pieced all over the place! And that is period correct! Even with a little over 11 yards of fabric, I still had only scraps left at the end. I also did not make the box pleats on the trim very deep. You only see them from the top, so who knows if they are 1/4 inch deep or 2 inches deep? Using less depth saves a lot of fabric.
Looking at originals on Pinterest, it seemed that during this earlier period it was common to have the trim – usually fly trim on originals – sewn over the raw edges of the trim rather than having the edges of the ruffles / rueshes free. So that is how I did it. I did zig zag over the edges of the trim before applying as this fabric is very prone to shedding strings everywhere.
Last but not least – the stomacher. I had a stash of maybe 6 yards of 2″ and a dozen yards of 1″ green silk ribbon in my stash which matched the fabric and trim very well. It came from Farmhouse Fabrics, the color is leaf green. I found it nearly impossible to match the shade of pink in this fabric. I used the silk ribbon to make graduated size bows for the stomacher. It looked a bit lean with just the 2 inch wide ribbon bows so I added smaller bows from the narrower ribbon in between, and also added bows to the sleeves. The lace tucker attached to the stomacher I copied from an extant portrait. It is made from about a yard of antique valenciennes lace, starched lightly so it would stand at attention and not flop forward.
The gown is accessorized with a pink paste necklace from Dames a la Mode and dyed shoes from American Duchess. They are “Georgiana” shoes which are no longer in stock but she is always adding new styles! I did a tutorial on shoe dying that can be found here.
The Engageantes (sleeve ruffles) were from the costume stash – I made them about 25 years ago to go with a different gown. To fancy and fluffy for any sort of day dress, they were a great pairing for this extravagant gown.
Many thanks to Leslie Mack for taking these great photos and the video!
More to come on this gown – to get the maximum flexibility from this expensive fabric, I plan to wear it with different petticoats and stomachers. Stay tuned!