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:

Plain:

With Tucker and Breast Knot:

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