14 November 2014

What Cheer Wear: Ann Frankland Lewis's Gown

A mantua maker must be fashion forward, right? 

Back when Ktity Calash and I were prepping for the 1812 Salem Maritime Festival this summer, I made a new gown based off of the fashionable 1807 print by Ann Frankland Lewis (below). While my gown was wearable for the event, it was not fully trimmed. What Cheer Day last month was the perfect opportunity to finish the trim and declare it done. 

Here are construction and interpretation notes...

The gown is made from four yards of  Burnley and Trowbridge's cinnamon light weight worsted wool. I started the project by using discounted brown linen from Joanne's, which would have been fine but the two pieces of remnant fabric didn't match--even though they were from the same bolt. The Burnley and Trowbridge wool was a last minute splurge, which ended up being perfect for my two events: 1) our August day in Salem was unseasonably cool (several friends wore spencers) and 2) you can't go wrong wearing brown wool in October.

Since I was juggling milliner preparations during my busy time at work, I opted for slight variations on the homemade pattern I used for my Quaker gown earlier this year, such as.

  • I didn't prick stitch along the bodice drawstring, I just whip stitched it in place.
  • Instead of making a pretty lapped seam along the sleeves, I sewed them the easy way. Because of the gown's rather bold red trim, this more decorative stitching seemed unnecessary.
  • I sewed the bodice lining and drawstring casing with one stitch. You can see below that I tried to make these tight so it all holds up!

An inside view of the top of the bodice: The drawstring casing and the bodice lining are assembled with one stitch.
Three rows of stitches are visible (from top to bottom):
1) the drawstring at the bottom of the bodice and the lining are also assembled with one stitch (an explanation is below); 
2) the skirt panels are attached to the bodice with tiny, tight whip stitches; 
3) the red thread shows where the trim was top stitched in place.

For the drawstring casing along the bodice waist, I tried a different approach from my Quaker gown. Last time I double sewed this: once to make the casing and once to whip the lining to the casing. Knowing that the ruffle on my lappet cap has a rolled whipped hemy gather thing created in one stitch, I tried something similar here--I used one stitch (at approximately 20 SPI) to secure the casing and attach the lining. It's not the prettiest sewing technique, but I think it works.

The skirt panels are just squares, they're not cut triangle-like as my other gowns are. This means there was a bit more pleating and gathering to do at the waist. No one wants extra bulk in front, so I pleated the fabric so it's all in the center back, another different approach from the Quaker gown.
On the Quaker gown, I didn't like the result of my double pleats (which I'm defining as taking fabric and pleating it twice in the same place). Plus I had more skirt fabric than bodice fabric to attach it to, which forced me to "cheat" and make little pleats at the sides. 

This time I made tiny, tight pleats but I collected the fabric in back into longish pleats. For each following pleat I made, the fabric collected in back was equally as long. The result: I used all the excess fabric with eight pleats on each side and the bulk of fabric is concentrated in the back...so it's has a little extra somethin'. 
Any extra fabric from the deep pleats I pulled back in to add to the poof, which you can see in the photo below with the pin going across. 

I then über-basted the pleats in place as I didn't want to risk standing up and accidentally pulling out any pleats. 

Though I haven't seen the inside of enough extant gowns from this era to know if this is a period-correct approach, I have to wonder if Regency gowns often had excess fabric like this and, if so, if this is why we see many fashion plates showing ladies "picking wedgies." (If you don't know of the images I'm referring to, seach "regency wedgie" on Pinterest.)

I think the pleats have a very appeasing appearance.
 You can kind of get a sense for the bulk of fabric at the center back here...well, sort of. If you look close.
While it would have been easier to use several yards of silk ribbon for the trim, I opted for self trim due to budget constraints. The sash on my Museum of London gown from 2011 was just a piece of red Persian silk that I had folded many times. I cut this into 1.5 inch wide strips for the gown's trim, the cheery bonnet and a reticule. When applying the trim, I folded the strips so they measure about 1 inch wide. In retrospect, when looking at the print in closer detail, a half inch wide ribbon would better reflect Ann's print. But I'm not redoing it!
 To mimic the lacing effect on Ann's gown, I used little eyes (haberdashery eyes, obviously) to loop the ribbon through.

Between the drawstring at the bodice top, the drawstring at the waist and the lacing ribbon, I didn't have to worry about pinning it closed.

Now getting to the nitty gritty: my gown for an 1800 event, where I portrayed Providence mantua maker Nancy Smith, was based off an 1807 image. I was arguably a bit too forward leaning in the fashion department. However when you consider...
...this 1801 fashion print, (which I found via Kitty Calash on Pinterest) it shows a similar color palette, trim approach and a comparable gown shape. So I think it works. What do you think?


For a few photos of the gown in action, and lots of gorgeous pictures from What Cheer Day, check out Kitty's recent What Cheer Day Galleries.
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1 comment:

  1. I love your dress and think is a very decent interpretation that suits both of those fashion plates. Which is what i think women of the time would have done - tweak to suit their supplies and preferences.


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