02 February 2014

Lady Willoughby, what are you wearing?

Last fall I committed to the 18th Century Court Ensembles project to recreate Lady Willoughby's extensive gown. And to help motivate me to complete a kit for my sprouting toddler, I'm aspiring to make a child ensemble too. I know, I'm crazy.

I'm working from a painting at the Getty Museum, which I find tricky to decipher the details from their online photo. I have a copy of The Art of Domestic Life: Portraiture in Eighteenth-century England which features Mrs. Willoughby and her family on the cover. Gown details are easier to interpret from this, which is what I'm working from. Here's a checklist of what I'm anticipating to make, or acquire, that attempts to breaks down all that self trim:
  • A stellar silk sacque, of course, with an oversized petticoat for pocket hoops.
  • Two silk sleeve flounces with gathered self trim and a little bow.
  • Two embroidered linen sleeve ruffles.
  • Yards of self trim that run along the gown skirts. I've been studying this feature and I'm pretty sure the center is gathered twice and that the center poof is stuffed. 
  • The self trim along the petticoat is similar along the top and bottom layers; the middle layer is like a cafe curtain. It is also gathered, and possibly stuffed, to create the poof. It has it's own self trim and, I think, the bottom portion is pinked. 
  • Lady Willoughby wears self trim along the neckline of her bodice and a bit of lace. 
  • Who knows what's going on with her stomacher! 
  • Her choker is pretty nuts. It appears to be a layer of lace wrapped around her neck that drapes and a soft green ribbon choker on top of that...but I'm not entirely sure.
  • Her cap has a little bow that matches her gown.
  • For accessories, my white American Duchess Georgiana silk shoes will work and kid gloves I found at an antique store. Those earrings are a bit trickier...
The toddler ensemble seems straightforward. She's wearing:
  • A linen gown with growth pleats and a pink sash. I'm pretty sure the gown has leading strings that match the sash. 
  • White stockings with red shoes. 
  • Her ruffly cap has two layers of ribbon and a sweet bow. (I'm thinking this ties under the chin so hopeully my sweetpea will keep it on her head.) 
  • Stays and a shift of course.
And that's all, not much right! This project is going to be an on-again off-again one which I'll share periodic progress. The gown itself is underway thanks to guidance from my talented sewing friends...

The lining.

Pleating the back.
The back has been prick stitched; the pink fabric is 
a fitting muslin. Unfortunately this green silk is gorgeous 
in person but doesn't photograph well.


  1. Ooo, it looks exciting! Can't wait to see more.


    1. Thanks Quinn...I hope to see you this weekend!


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