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Construction Notes On My New Little White Dress

My latest white 1790s dress (worn to a ball in Bath and at the 2016 Jane Austen Festival) was a bit of an experiment. I had been planning to make a new late 1790s white dress for some time. I wanted a gathered front for adjustability, but I didn’t want to do the exact same construction as my green sarcenet gown. You see so many different ways of constructing front gathered gowns in this transitional period, and I wanted to explore more with this style.

My sweet sewing helper, Buggles, who passed last Christmas. She really kept me on task with this project.

My main inspiration was the Therese dress on page 54 of Napoleon and the Empire of Fashion: 1795-1815. If you look closely at the photo, the front panel doesn’t appear to be cut in one; rather, the gathered portion is like an attached bib, open at the center front and with a waist seam. It was a construction method I hadn’t noticed before, but once I knew what to look for, I found several more examples of this type of construction. Funnily enough, when the catalogue for the DAR exhibit "An Agreeable Tyrant” came out a few months later, there was even a pattern for this style of gown! While it would have been helpful to have that when I was working on the dress, it was nice to know that my conjectures were correct.

You can see the attached bib and center-front opening here.

My gown is made from “finest muslin” from At the Sign of the Golden Scissors and entirely hand sewn with a mix of silk thread and heirloom cotton thread. Because the fabric is so fine, the bodice is flatlined in cotton lawn, both for stability and to help hide my corset.

The seams were backstitched, and then the seam allowance was turned under and whipped to the lining. The front flaps are cut in one with the shoulder strap, shaped with darts and pin closed at the center front. The front skirt was attached to the gathered front panel, which was then hemmed and topstitched down just past the bust. The dress has a drawstring at the bust and in the waist seam, but is only open at the center front to just past the waist. The edge of the back skirt was turned down, then whipped to the finished bodice edge. It is gathered to the bodice with a mix of cartridge pleats in the center back and knife pleats at the side and side back.

I had to add a gusset under the arm, since my original bodice and sleeve pattern didnt give me enough range of motion.

Posted: 7/2/2017 11:55:01 AM by Aubry | with comments
Filed under: 1790s
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Project Details

Little White Dress and Pink Spencer