Constructing the Dress

Important note: I can't claim 100% accuracy with the construction of this dress. I havent done enough in-depth research to definitively say how this style would have been constructed. Since it is a transitional style, I felt comfortable enough to use my knowledge of 18th century techniques to experiment with the construction and make educated guesses as to what they might have done.

Starting with my basic 18th century bodice as a base, I made a fitted lining pattern. I shortened the waist (though not enough as it turns out), and draped the back pleats directly on to the linen. To help keep the back fitted, I kept the center back seam but left 1.5 inches above the waist to form the center pleat.

There are two stacked pleats on each side of the center back seam, and each pleat is sewn down with a spaced backstitch.

The front panel is one width of fabric with a slit at the center front. I used twill tape stitched down with a running stitch to create the drawstring channels at the waist and under the bust. I  I added two extra strips of fabric at the side to help the skirt drape more gracefully.

The fitted lining closes in front with pins, and the outer fabric closes with three drawstrings - one at the neckline, one under the bust,  and one at the waist. I added an inner tie at the back waist to help keep the dress tight against my back. Without a waist seam, there isnt enough tension at the waist to keep it defined, and the dress looked ill-fitting.


Posted: 6/9/2014 9:46:15 AM by Aubry | with comments
Filed under: 1790s

Making Progress

If you've been following my instragram account, you may have noticed that my new print dress is nearly finished. It just needs sleeves and accessories and its ready to wear at Costume College. It turned out differently that I originally planned, but thats the price of experimenting. I miscalculated and the waist ended up sitting at my natural waist, not raised like I planned. Also, the fabric is really too heavy for this style of dress, but I've already invested enough time into the dress that I will make it work. With the right accessories, I can easily transition this dress into a slightly earlier look.

Now to scale up a pattern and tackle those sleeves!

Posted: 6/8/2014 12:20:36 PM by Aubry | with comments
Filed under: 1790s

Costume College Plans and Instagram

Not much sewing has been going on around here lately. I’ve been busy with my garden and yard work (that time of year), as well as finally stripping some hideous wallpaper in my house. I also pushed myself too hard prepping for the Francaise Dinner and Williamsburg and have had to take a break from sewing to let my arm heal. But Costume College is just around the corner, and if I want something new to wear I’m going to have to get cracking!

I’ve decided to take things easy this year for Costume College. I don’t want to push my hand too hard again, so I will be dropping the court dress for the Gala. It makes me sad, especially since I already bought all that lovely silk taffeta, but it will be better for me in the long run. I’ll miss out on the group fun, but I look forward to seeing everyone else’s dress. I haven’t decided what I want to wear to the Gala yet, but I can always fall back on my chocolate francaise. It’s so pretty that I definitely wouldn’t mind wearing it again.

As for the rest of my Costume College wardrobe, I’m taking it one project at a time. First, I will finish up the 1790s print dress I posted about last month. I’ve pleated the back and assembled the lining and am ready to start working on the front panel. I will have some progress to share soon.

Other possibilities for Costume College include finishing my pink and grey habit or making a new open robe or evening spencer to go with my 1790s cross front dress but I'm waiting to see how my hand does after I finish the 1790s dress before I move on other projects. I even have some Game of Thrones ideas brewing, but I have to find the right fabric before I can move ahead with them.  Finding the perfect brocade for a Margaery Tyrell inspired dress is proving more difficult that I originally anticipated but I’m not giving up yet!

Finally, one last announcement. I've dusted off my Instagram account and plan to use it to share sneak peeks of in-progess costumes and of course, cat pictures. It will be an easy way to share my costuming progress more often. You can find me at
Posted: 5/13/2014 2:16:11 PM by Aubry | with comments

Trusting my costuming instincts

I feel I’ve reached a point in my costuming experience where I can safely trust my instincts. I certainly don’t know everything, but I feel like I’ve absorbed enough information that I when I imagine something in my head, I can usually find documentation for it after the fact.

For instance, I purchased some fabric on my recent trip to Williamsburg. I knew I wanted to do something transitional 1790s with it – I envisioned a dress with long sleeves, gathered front, and most importantly, a pleated back with no waist seam. I knew I had seen all three elements separately, but I couldn’t remember finding all three in one gown. There are extant examples of 1790s open robes with pleated backs, and 1780s examples gathered front round gowns, but I could only remember seeing them with a waist seam in back. Still, the idea seemed plausible. That’s the fun thing about transitional fashions; there is room to play and experiment while still staying relativity accurate. Nonetheless, I wanted some documentation, some validation that my instincts were right. I did some more digging and the gown I pictured magically materialized at the MET:

Gathered front, longish sleeves, pleated back with no waist seam.

Ok, so it’s not a cotton print but there are enough extant cotton print gowns from this time that I was happy to move ahead with my plan. All this rambling to say, I’ve learned to trust my gut and just take the leap if I’m inspired to make an outfit. It may seem obvious, but its really validating to reach a point in a hobby where you can feel comfortable making these assumptions. I realize this approach isn’t for everyone, especially if you are making something for reenacting purposes, but it’s a design process I really enjoy.

I’ve started the dress construction, and you can see from my Pinterest board the overall look I’m hoping to achieve.
Posted: 4/19/2014 11:45:29 AM by Aubry | with comments
Filed under: 1790s

Chocolate Brocade Details

Before I move on to my next sewing project, I wanted to share a few detail shots and construction notes from my new brocade francaise. As I mentioned earlier, the construction follows the same method I outlined in my Rose Francaise posts.


There is a long verticle dart hidden under the robings, and a horizontal tuck at the waist to help the skirt sit nicely over the pocket hoops.

The side skirt pleats are a pair of stacked box pleats. They are stitched together at the top, then slipped between the lining and the outer fabric.

The back pleats, insides, and sleeves. The seams were stitched by folding over one seam allowance and topstitching the fabric with a spaced backstitch. Since the brocade frays terribly, I bound the sleeve seams with vintage rayone seambinding.


And finally, I'll leave you with a picture of Luna, the other new addition to our kitty family:


Posted: 4/8/2014 1:47:04 PM by Aubry | with comments
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