06 September 2014

HSF #14 Paisley & Plaid: An 18th Century Gown

This is a rather late Historical Sew Fortnightly, for Challenge #14 Paisley & Plaid which ran in early August, but I *just* finished it. Yeah!

It's a 1760s, open front en forreau gown with a little flounce trim.

When I found this silk taffeta earlier this year, I had thought I'd use it for a 1790s gown someday in the far off future but Kitty pointed me in the direction of some great '60s documentation...

Swatch book with 99 textile samples, c.1763
Victoria & Albert Museum Museum Number T.373.-1972

...like this 1763-1764 swatch book from the V&A. In looking closely at my fabric...

It's a plaid (which could probably be classificed as a check, but I'm calling it a plaid) with little flowers...

...that are embroidered. It reminds me of some of the plaid-check florals on the following two pages.

While these examples are probably a brocade, it's pretty close. Especially since the color scheme on this page...

...is a pink and sage like my fabric. In terms of gown construction, there's nothing groundbreak. Here are some process photos and images of the completed gown.

Much like cutting stripes, the plaid-check lines were a helpful guide during the construction process. And lucky for me, the pattern isn't bold so I never felt cross-eyed.

When cutting the bodice pieces, I tried to line up the location of the flowers so they would be fairly symmetric.

The center back panel.

 A detail of the completed center back panel.
Pleating the back was a pain in the butt! The lines of the fabric make it impossible to evenly line up the pleats. As you can see above, one side looks fine but the other appears as if it's crooked.

The pinned skirt panels, with an attempt to not hide the embroidered flowers in the pleats.

 Just about ready to attach the skirt and bodice.

A detail of the completed en forreau.

Using the fabric's lines, pleating the skirt was easy. For the robings...

 ...they have a little pleat on the side that's prick stitched in place. I modeled this after this c.1766 portrait.
Mrs. Martha Vinson, c.1766
Gibbes Museum of Art, Accession Number 1934.009.0002

I tacked the robings to the bodice so it's, hopefully, a little less pinning when getting dressed.

 For the flounces, I used scalloped pinking shears to finish the ruffly side...

 ...which are, unfortunately, fraying pretty badly. To finish the top of the flounces, I simply hemmed it...

 ...added a gather...
...and crudely whip stitched it to the sleeve. Knowing that the one end is fraying, I'll probably remake this at a later point. Overall this project turned out well. I'm hoping to debut it in a few weeks, so photos to follow. And if it weren't for the HSF this pretty silk would still be stashed away, waiting to be used.


  1. It's gorgeous! And so lovely to see silk in the sun, glowing with such depth, just delicious. I can't wait to see you modelling it!

  2. Your gown turned out so well! I really love how shiny and fresh the silk and pattern look. We really do have to find a place for a genteel picnic.

    1. Thanks! Besides berry picking, I've been thinking a kite outing would be fun too. : )

  3. Your gown is beautiful! You don't see very many plaid gowns at events so this is really wonderful. I love the colors too! Where did you find your fabric?

    1. Thank you! I found the fabric at Sewfisticated in Cambridge.


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