Category Archives: Accessorizing

Outfit Planning – Time to Cut the Expensive Silk!

FWAP – Fabric With A Plan

Figuring what to make out of what fabric is another one of those things that is hard to explain.  Sometimes I just know what I want to make as soon as I see a piece of fabric.  Other times I buy the fabric with one or more ideas in mind, and it changes over time.  It might end up making something totally different out of it than what I planned, especially if a new event comes over the horizon and I need to make something I was not originally planning to make. 

So I have – as part of my sewing Kanban process – a FWAP list.  I have had these two large pieces of silk for some years now and have waffled back and forth over the exact type of 18th century gowns to make out of them.  The main question being, robe a la francaise (sack gown) or robe a la anglaise (fitted back).  I know in both cases I wants stomacher gowns as I do not have a silk stomacher gown right now.  The two fabrics are:

Pink Baranzelli 100% Silk Lisere Fabric


Burgundy 100% Silk Schumacher Brocade Fabric

So how does one decide?  Well first I thought: maximum flexibility.  I bought both of these fabrics on Ebay at a steep discount, but the pink stripe lisere was FAR more expensive.  So I want as much flexibility with that as possible.  So first lets think about how many different things it will match.

A single 18th century gown can be paired with a different petticoat and different accessories to create many different looks.  A stomacher gown can also have multiple stomachers, and will still fit you if you gain or lose weight as the fix it more flexible.  Planning ahead for this can save you a lot of money.  Instead of making an entire new outfit, just make a new petticoat or stomacher!

The pink in this silk is VERY hard to match.  I bought numerous swatches over the four or five years it has been in my stash and of all of them, nothing matched except for this one 5 yard piece of silk satin ribbon.  It matches a few different greens due to the variation in colors in the floral stripe.  I found a nice piece of trim that looks similar to period fly trim on Etsy:

Green Silk Satin Ribbon, Pink Silk Satin Ribbon, Green Faux Fly Trim

Here it is with a couple different colors of green ribbon from the stash:

Antique Olive Green Rusching Ribbon, Dark Olive Silk Satin Ribbon, Green Quilted Silk.

But honestly I like the lighter green in the first picture better.  It also goes well with this piece of quilted green silk, which would give it a silk petticoat for a different look:

Green quilted silk,  olive green rusching ribbon, olive green silk satin ribbon, green silk satin ribbon, pink silk satin ribbon, green faux fly fringe trim.

It will also work with my existing green silk petticoat:

And someday, something new and blue.

So really this fabric has a lot of options for different petticoats and stomachers to give it great flexibility.  It could have a stomacher with decreasing size bows out of either ribbon (or both) in addition to a self fabric one, and a compere stomacher (buttoning up the front).  So I have decided to make it as a robe a la anglaise as this style is also more flexible, and depending on what skirt supports I wear with it and what accessories I can make this gown work for any time from about 1750 – 1780’s.  But the primary target will be 1760’s.  I have a little less than 12 yards of it so that should be plenty for the gown trimmed out with box pleated trim and a petticoat with a wide box pleated ruffle around the bottom.  Something like this:

18th Century Gown from Met Museum

And this:

Gown from Philadelphia Museum of Art

So now looking at the burgundy silk – I have 15 yards of it and it was far less expensive.  So there is enough to make a very fancy sack gown that fits over wider panners.  It also looks great with gold trim, and could also be worn with the same green quilted silk petticoat, ironically enough.  But it looks its best with gold trim:

Burgundy silk with green quilted silk, green silk ribbons, and various types of gold trim.  It looks better with the dark olive ribbons.

So something like this:

Robe à la française, 1760’s France, Museo de la Moda

And this:

Gown MFA Boston

I should also clarify it took me a while to make these decisions.  It is better not to rush, to take time and lay the fabric out with various trims and other fabrics, and order swatches from the internet for additional fabrics and trims that might work.  As a general rule, don’t cut into expensive fabric until you have sat with the decision for some time and feel at peace with your choice.

I will make up the pink lisere first as I have had it a long time and want to finally wear it!

Accessorizing – Late 18th Century Tucker

A large part of the process of improving at creating a real looking 18th century persona is in the accessorizing.  In this case, I had a late 18th century event that was dressy and in the evening, so I decided to wear “Pink Thing”.  Having a spectacular new Dames a la Mode Necklace I wanted to wear, I decided to stay away from fichu’s.

A tucker is a ruffle of either lace or fine material (cotton mull or silk gauze) that is ruffled onto a tape and then sew to the inside of a gown’s neckline so that it shows on the outside.  Through most of the 18th century tuckers were relatively narrow and stuck straight up, partially filling in the low neckline:

But beginning in the 1780’s you start to see tuckers that are wider and lay downwards, almost like a collar.  In this example both types of tuckers are present:

Charlotte Stuart, Charles’s daughter by Clementina Walkinshaw. Portrait by Hugh Douglas Hamilton, Scottish National Portrait Gallery circa 1785-1786

And here, just the wider one:

Marie Antoinette in 1791, painted by Alexandre Kucharski

So I decided to create a similar tucker for Pink Thing.  As it is sewn on a tape, it can easily be worn with other gowns.  During the period they would be hand based to the inside of the gown, but I just attach them with tiny safety pins.

First thing, some lace.  I purchased this 19th century bobbin lace some time ago.  It was old and yellowed so I gave it a nice soak in “Restoration” soap.

Here it is stretched out for a good pressing:

First, I measured around the neckline of the gown and added two inches extra, then cut a piece of linen tape to that length and hemmed each end 1/4″.  I attached the end of the lace to the end of the tape and then began whipped gathering the lace:

For whipped gathers, sew in a spiral with stitches about 1/8 apart.

Then once I had about 4 inches sewn, I pulled up the gathers:

And then using a second needle, whipped the gathered lace to the edge of the tape:

Once I got to the end, I trimmed the lace to size and sewed a narrow hem to finish the edge.  I was hoping I would have enough to make 2 sleeve ruffles but alas, no.  So I used the ones that were already attached to the gown.  I also made a breast knot of white silk ribbon with 2 matching bows for the sleeves (I later ended up using them on the shoes though).  But here you can see the difference in how the gown looks by itself, compared to with the tucker and breast knot:


With Tucker and Breast Knot: