Last month I finally felt brave enough to revisit a period I always seem to fail at: The 1700’s. The eighteenth century seems to be the favorite of historical costumers, but my attempts never seem to turn out well. In 2014 I devoted October to 18th century projects which ended with two finished dresses that both sucked. Last year I made a more elaborate ensemble, which I like…but the skirts hem is uneven, and I can barely lift my arms when it’s worn.
Earlier this year I had some success with a 1790’s dress, which gave me enough confidence to attempt 18th Century October again. The plan was to complete a Robe a la Turque, and a striped Robe a L’anglaise. I didn’t end up finishing these in October since the month was busier than planned, but I did complete both projects in November! And today I’m going to talk about one of them.
I came up with this design and purchased the fabrics for this back in April. It’s supposed to be a Robe a la Turque, but 18th century garment classification is hard and I haven’t researched it that thoroughly so I’m not sure if this qualifies as one or not. I think it is just a zone front gown, but I’m going to style it like a turque and it has features that were common on them.
The fabrics I got are very warm in color – orange shantung, iridescent organza, and pink taffeta. I based the color scheme and design on this painting.
All the fabrics are polyester and not particularly accurate to this period
The first step in making this was creating a pattern, which I draped on my dress form, then transferred to paper. I turned the pattern into a mock up which actually fit pretty well!
I originally cut out and assembled the bodice with a straight waistline. Only after doing this did I realize the back should be pointed. So I did a bit of adjusting, then recut the bodice. This is actually still wrong, the back panels should have continued down to form the skirt, but I didn’t know that until recently.
I cut out the lining from lightweight cotton.
Then from shantung. Everything was assembled with half inch seam allowances, then sewn together with the right sides facing each other. I stitched around each edge by hand.
The very front edges were turned inward by a half inch as well.
And trimmed with piping. I used gold spandex for this piping which was really dumb. I forgot that I have gold brocade that would look better and be more accurate.
I wanted to add interest to the front of the bodice, so I sewed on some glittery organza ribbon.
Then I outlined the ribbon in sequins. And this is where I abandoned the project and chose to focus on my Civil War Era dress instead (this was months ago) since it seemed weird having two very detailed projects in progress at once.
I resumed work on this at the end of September, where the first thing I did was cut out the overskirt. This was cut from the same shantung as the bodice.
I turned the edges inward by machine.
Then made a TON of piping and sewed that onto the edges.
The reason I did all of that by machine is because the edges will be covered with puffed trim. I made the puffed trim from strips of organza that had the edges ironed inward. I left the wrong side facing up since I like the texture it has.
The trim was created by gathering and sewing down the organza every inch. I’m going to make a tutorial on the process in the future, but “The Art of Manipulating Fabric” covers the process nicely (I reviewed that book here).
To make it a bit more interesting I sewed three sequins above each puff. This process went surprisingly quickly, I had it done in a few days (while also working on other things) and zoomed through it while watching TV.
The top edge was gathered down and that finished the overskirt!
As much as I like the detail work on this, I really regret not taking more time to shape it. I cut the train in a bit of a rush and didn’t realize how ridiculously long it was until after finishing all the detail work. And at this point it was too late to cut it. I’m really hoping it will look less silly when it’s worn.
I worked on this project a bit backwards, and I’m blogging about it in the same order as I constructed it. Which means now it’s time to talk about the petticoat/underskirt which can be seen above.
This is a relatively simple garment, made from rectangles that are gathered and sewn together. But it took me a month of on and off work to finish between the other things I had going on. By the time I finally finished it I was so sick of looking at it that I stuffed it in my closet.
I made the lower portion first, which will eventually form a ruffle. This was made from strips of striped organza sewn together, which was then sewn to taffeta to give it the opacity needed.
Both edges were hemmed, then I gathered the ruffle down to half its length. I did this by machine at first but didn’t love how it looked, so I did it again by hand.
The upper portion of the skirt is also made from rectangles. The front panel was cut entirely from taffeta and organza, but I didn’t have enough left for the back panels. So I cut them partially from cotton, which is hidden by the overskirt when the costume is worn.
After sewing the side seams for the upper panels I topstitched the ruffle onto the bottom edge. Now it was time for even more puffed trim. I made, and sewed the trim all the way across the point where the ruffle was gathered.
Then I roughly pinned the skirt to my dress form, which made me realize the front was too long.
I ended up cutting the waistline on a slope, and raised the front by three inches.
I left the front ten inches of the waistline smooth, which makes the front of the skirt flat, and gathered the rest down until the top edge measured twenty eight inches.
I turned the top few inches of the back edge inward twice, by hand, to prevent it from fraying. I left this portion open so I could get the skirt on and sewed the rest of back edge into a french seam.
The waistband is another rectangle. The top edge of the skirt is tucked between its layers to hide any raw edges, and it closes with three hooks and bars.
Was it worth a month of work? Probably not. But I do like how it turned out, the fabrics for this project make everything look so pretty!
And that’s it for this post! The bodice beginnings, a skirt, and an overskirt, how exciting. The next post will show the completed bodice, the process of making sleeves, and making a matching headpiece.
Thanks for reading!