Friday, July 10, 2015

Late 1790's open robe gown

I recently took a few days off work to say home and get some sewing done for fun! I've been planning for awhile to do a late 1790's open robe gown, inspired by the one in 'The Cut of Women's Clothes' by Nora Waugh':
"The Cut of Women's Clothes" by Nora Waugh
The fabric I chose is a white with copper sequin 'stripe', very thin fabric (it burns clean so I'm guessing a silk cotton blend? It wasn't labeled) with tiny copper sequin spangles. I picked this up on super deal at Jomar in Philadelphia, PA a few months back. The fabric has a lot of flaws, a few holes, shredding near the edges, but the integrity of the fabric overall seems solid. So I got 13.5 yards on super clearance deal, and I ended up using pretty much all the yardage.

I decided to draft a pattern for this dress by looking at the general shapes in 'A Cut of Women's Clothes.' Since it is an open robe gown (basically a crossover gown) I grabbed my bodice pieces from my modified S&S crossover gown pattern, and then drafted and changed the shape entirely based on how the late 1790's waistline is lower than full Regency/empire style, so I made a long middle bodice back piece, a lengthened side back bodice piece that goes under the arm, and two front pieces (each had it's own unique shape) and then tried to draft a new sleeve, but ended up hating the fit of the muslin sleeve, so I modified my S&S long sleeve pattern for my first try at the bodice.

I did a quick muslin mock up of the bodice and sleeve which fit pretty nicely so I started cutting!
Cutting an Open Robe Gown
I draped the skirt panels by using my white embroidered cotton crossover gown as a faux dress form (I plan to buy one now that I finally have the room for one again!), and added extra panels for extra fullness. I planned to pleat all the extra fabric in, and the fabric is so thin, that I knew the extra fabric would not weight it too much. I ended up with too much fabric though (I do that sometimes) so I unpicked the seams where I sewed the bodice to the skirt panels, and took out a good chunk of fabric from each side. Then I re-pleated and sewed the skirt and bodice back together.
Draping an Open Robe Gown
I started piecing and machine sewing the gown together, but ended up with somewhat of a weird fit on the bodice arm sycles and sleeves and it made the arms too tight for good movement; so I cut down the arm holes and re-set the sleeves, but it was still not working right, so I paused to make a new mock-up, changing the bodice side back piece, but the fit was drastically different with the new muslin, and the earlier fit so much better.

ARG. Frustrating.

Making up dresses without patterns and without taking time to make full fitted mock-ups is difficult. So I decided instead to stick with my earlier drafted bodice back and side back pieces, which I liked, and instead just use my leftover fabric pieces to cut out the sleeves AGAIN, and before I did, I re-shaped the sleeves to add more fabric, re-shape the top, in order to get it to fit the arm hole correctly. Hooray, that worked!! So in went the new sleeves and the outside part of the bodice basically done!

Here is the original in-progress bodice:
Bodice of Open Robe Gown
Then I cut out a bodice lining of a lightweight and flowy lavendar silk, and pinned that into the bodice, sewing it in:
Sewing in the bodice of Open Robe Gown
I made channels from the fabric, pinning them right sides together, sewing the seam allowance and then turning them right side out (which took awhile)...but the fabric was too thin to use one of my favorite sewing useful tools: the wooden chopstick, good for turning out corners, etc. So I had to hand pick the entire channel, meticulously, and it took FOREVER...seriously, FOREVER...
Making Channels
This is what an ironed, finished channel looks like: it's basically a piece I wanted for binding the edges:
A finished channel showing the copper sequin spangles
I already hand sewed this to the neckline edge of the bodice, and down both front pieces, and also to the sleeves to hem them, and then I made 6 more channels to go down the front sides of the skirt panels, and all around the hem of the dress (I cut the hem a bit short so rather than turn under to hem, I decided to make more channels to cover and finish the edges of the skirt). My HB was kind enough to help me turn the channels inside out while watching TV last night!

I still need to make a braided belt from strips of the fabric, which I've already cut out and started braiding, here are the braiding strips here:
Creating strips for braided belt
With so many yards of fabric, I had enough for the channels and braiding strips, and to cut out two sets of sleeves and still have some decent pieces left over, even cutting around the holes/bad edges, etc.

The braided belt I planned was inspired by this fashion plate: I wanted something that goes around the waistline and hangs down like this late 1790's fashion plate:
1790's fashion plate from Pinterest
Here's the ALMOST finished dress: I didn't feel like putting on stays, so it's just hanging on the back of a door for now:
Almost finished late 1790's Open Robe Gown by TheLadyDetalle
It still needs the finished channels sewn on the front edges and hem, and then I plan to add a gathering channel at the neckline/front bodice edges in order to get the fit a bit flatter/improved there, and to finish the braided belt, then it's done, and a few weeks ahead of the event (yay!). Basically I started this on Saturday, worked on it some on Sunday, and for most of the day on Monday & Tuesday. Hooray for sewing vacation, I need more of these! ;)

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