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The next part of my latest 18th century ensemble is the closed-front robe a l’anglaise, with en fourreau pleats at the back.

The robe a l’anglaise was fashionable for an extended period of time during the 18th century. Literally, “the English gown”, it was characterised most generally by a fitted bodice, in contrast to the robe a la francaise which had a pleated-and-draped back that flowed free from the shoulders.

During the 18th century, the Anglaise often had a long centre-back panel piece, extending from the shoulder to the floor. This back piece was then formed into a series of sewn-down pleats on the dress bodice (the “en fourreau” back) which were then released to form fullness into the skirt of the gown.

Towards the later half of the 18th century, the gown began to be seen with a closed front bodice, even though the skirt could remain open revealing a matching or contrasting petticoat. The front of the gown could be closed with hook and eyes, or by long pins. The skirts could be trained, or pulled up polonaise-style, or left at the same length as the petticoat.

A robe a l'anglaise with an en fourreau back, c. 1770-1780, from Patterns of Fashion 1, by Janet Arnold.

A robe a l’anglaise with an en fourreau back, shown over a quilted petticoat, c. 1770-1780, from Patterns of Fashion 1, by Janet Arnold.

Pattern

The pattern I wanted to do for this dress was another of Janet Arnold’s patterns, in Patterns of Fashion 1. It has a closed front bodice, with an open skirt. The back is cut en fourreau, and the skirts are gathered up in a polonaise-style. The gown is shown over a quilted petticoat, whereas mine will be over a matching petticoat.

The pattern is made up of several pieces:

  • Front bodice panel
  • Front bodice lining panel
  • Back (bodice and skirt) panel
  • Back bodice lining panel
  • Sleeves
  • Shoulder band
  • Skirt Front

A few points to note: Janet Arnold’s patterns do not include seam allowances; and I always do a mock up of the bodice over the correct stays before I begin. In this case, I did a mock-up of the lining pieces so I had an accurate idea of how it would fit me and could adjust the pattern accordingly.

This gown is made with a printed cotton fabric and lined with white cotton broadcloth. It is entirely hand sewn.

Construction Steps

Step 1: The first place to start seemed with the en fourreau pleats in the back panel. I happened upon a great article by The Merry Dressmaker (En Fourreau Back – The Lazy Dressmaker’s Version) and decided that this was a great way to do it.

The back lining piece had a curved centre back seam to allow for fullness at the bottom of the bodice for a false rump, so this seam was sewn first. Then I began pleating the back panel, making sure I had the back lining piece to use as a comparison of finished size.

Most of these types of gowns had 3 pleats on each side of the back bodice. The first pleat was generally pleated into the middle of the back, and the second and third pleats were turned to the sides, however there are some instances where they were all pleated in towards the back. They tended to be curved pleats, which accentuated the slimming look of the waistline. It took me quite a few tries to get the pleating to look right.

The en fourreau pleats have been pinned down to the lining. (You can also see in this picture that the front panel has been pinned to the back panel at the sides as well.)

The en fourreau pleats have been pinned down to the lining.  The first pleats are curved and have been drawn into meet at the centre back. The second and third pleats are straight and have been folded in towards the centre back. (You can also see in this picture that the front bodice panel has been pinned to the back panel at the sides as well.)

Then I laid the back bodice lining piece underneath (wrong sides together) and did a running stitch through all layers to secure the pleats. The pleats are secured down to where the skirts begin, and are then released to allow the fullness into the skirt.

Step 2: The front bodice panel was then sewn to the sides of the back panel. I did this by laying the outer-fabric front panel with the outer-fabric back pleated panel, right sides together. The front lining panel was put with the back lining panel, also right sides together. This created a seam with four layers. Then the seam was pinned and sewn through all thicknesses.

The front panels are pinned to the back panels.

The front panel in the outer-fabric can be seen on the left. The front panel in lining fabric can be seen to the right. The seam (in the middle) is sewn through all thickness, which means the seam allowance is pushed towards the side.

This means that, once the front panels are placed together, the raw seam allowance is already hidden within the lining of the garment.

Step 3: The skirt panels were sewn together, front skirts to back skirt-bodice piece. I left a 10-inch gap in the top of the side seams for a pocket slit.

The skirts are then pleated and sewn (right sides together) to the outer fabric. The skirts do not meet in the front, as there is a large opening for the petticoat to be seen.

Interestingly, Janet Arnold comments that the skirts of her gown were sewn to the lining fabric and then the outer fabric was pulled down, the raw edges folded in, and then caught down to the waist seam (on the outside of the garment) with some stitches.

The skirt is pleated and attached to the bodice.

The skirt is pleated and attached to the bodice. You can see the second row of stitches that holds the pleats in position.

Step 4: Once my skirt was sewn on, the bodice lining was pulled down, with raw edges folded under, and stitched down with a slip stitch.

The lining is pinned down ready to sew.

The lining is pinned down ready to sew. You can see the running stitches that secure the en fourreau pleats on the left. On the bottom right, you can see that the skirts stop very short of the centre front.

Step 5: The centre front bodice could be finished by folding the raw edges in and edge stitching. Instead, I folded the outer fabric over the lining and sewed it down with a slip stitch. I then inserted a very thin piece of boning down each side of the centre fronts. Boning in the centre front does not seem to be a common practice, however boning was often inserted in the backs of these bodices. I just thought that a more firm centre front bodice would help me with fastening.

Initially I had wanted the centre front to be fastened edge-to-edge with hooks and eyes, but I changed my mind when I couldn’t get the hooks and eyes to sit properly. I ended up making a bit of overlap on the left centre front piece so that the right edge could be pinned over the top, to match up the stripes more accurately.

The centre front closure, shown closed with two pins.

The centre front closure, shown with right overlapping left, and closed with only two pins. I had used about 6 pins during wear.

Step 6: The sleeves were flat-lined with cotton broadcloth, and the sleeve seams sewn through all thickness. The seam allowances were then folded under and slip stitched down.

The sleeves were then attached to the bodice with a backstitch, ONLY under the arm. For an explanation of how to fit sleeves the 18th century way, American Duchess has done a great tutorial which I found very useful!

There is also a great video on how to pattern sleeves to have greater mobility in garments, particularly in fitted bodices. I found this a great video, as it explains to me why the shape of sleeves look so different in historical garment pattern pieces. I used this technique in this gown, and it greatly increased my arm movement!

Step 7: The sleeve head was then pleated to fit over the shoulder and the shoulder band was stitched on top. Once again, see the American Duchess tutorial for a great explanation of this technique.

The finished sleeve head

The finished sleeve head.

The bottom of the sleeve was hemmed and finished with trim.

Step 8: The back top edge of the bodice in Janet Arnold’s book was finished by turning the raw edges in and edge stitching, however my en fourreau pleats were sewn to the lining and prevented me from doing this. I decided to cover it with a “back-binder” piece, common for gowns of this period. There is a gown in Costume Close-Up (by Linda Baumgarten) that is constructed in this way.

The back-binder piece

The back-binder piece

If you look closely you will see that the back binder piece does not join the shoulder band properly, however by that stage I was happy that it covered the raw edges!

The rest of the raw edges of the bodice (along the neckline and along the front of the waist) were turned in and edge-stitched.

Step 9: Finishing touches! The bottom edge of the gown was hemmed, allowing for a slight train if left down.

The front edges of the gown skirts and the neckline were finished with trim.

The trim around the neckline.

The trim around the neckline.

Four tapes were sewn to the inside of the gown skirts; two on the bottom of the back bodice, and two on the skirts at the back. These can be tied together to create a polonaise effect over the false rump.

The tapes sewn to the inside of the skirts, and tied up to form a polonaise.

The tapes sewn to the inside of the skirts, and tied up to form a polonaise.

Here are some of the finished pictures from the Jane Austen Festival Australia, 2016. This outfit was worn on the Georgian Day of the Festival.

The Front

The front view; I ended up wearing my pockets over the top of the petticoat, but under the gown. This meant that they could be easily reached through the front of the gown, instead of through the pocket slits.

The side view

The side view

The back view. The fichu is a little crooked!

The back view. When the polonaise is down, the skirt trains slightly on the ground. And sorry, but the fichu is annoyingly crooked!

The gown is shown here with my pair of embroidered lawn ruffles, my embroidered muslin fichu and my embroidered pockets (sitting over the petticoat but hiding under the gown). I am very pleased with the outfit overall!

Related Posts

Does My Bum Look Big in This? – Making an 18th Century Rump

Making a Robe a l’Anglaise: Matching Petticoat

Sources and Relevant Links

Patterns of Fashion 1: Englishwomen’s dresses and their construction, c. 1660-1860, by Janet Arnold – on Amazon

En Fourreau Back – The Lazy Dressmaker’s Version, by The Merry Dressmaker

Setting 18th Century Sleeves the 18th Century Way – by American Duchess

How to modify sleeves for better arm mobility – video by Threads Magazine

Costume Close-up: Clothing Construction and Pattern, 1750-1790, by Linda Baumgarten- on Amazon

Classic Georgian Hairstyle – by Locks of Elegance

A robe a l'anglaise, with a matching petticoat, from MET Museum.

A robe a l’anglaise, with a closed front and a matching petticoat, c. 1785-95, from The MET Museum.

This year I have had a long list of costumes planned to make, but a Robe a l’Anglaise was not one of them. However, I quickly changed my mind when a friend decided to make one and it became convenient and easy to work on the project together!

The robe a l’anglaise was fashionable for an extended period of time during the 18th century. Literally, “the English gown”, it was characterised most generally by a fitted bodice, in contrast to the robe a la francaise which had a pleated-and-draped back that flowed free from the shoulders.

A gown cut en fourreau, from MET Museum.

A robe a l’anglaise, with the back cut en fourreau, c. 1776, from The MET Museum.

The Anglaise saw many different variations through the 18th century: open and closed bodices; long and elbow-length sleeves; worn polonaise style; etc… During this time, the Anglaise often had a long centre-back panel piece, extending from the shoulder to the floor. This back piece was then formed into a series of sewn-down pleats on the dress bodice (the “en fourreau” back) which were then released to form fullness into the skirt of the gown. Towards the end of the gown’s popularity, the bodice was cut separately to the skirts and attached with a waist seam.

Another transition in this gown was with the front. Gowns that had been worn open to reveal a stomacher earlier in the century, began to be worn closed, either pinned or closed with hooks and eyes. The skirts could also be closed in front (called a “round gown”), or be worn open to reveal a matching or contrasting petticoat.

For this particular costume, I decided that I wanted a petticoat to match the gown, and with a pinked flounce. It also needed to have pocket slits so that I could wear my new pockets!

The petticoat

The petticoat, c. 1775-1785, in Patterns of Fashion 1, by Janet Arnold.

Pattern

In looking for a suitable pattern for a petticoat, I went with one in Janet Arnold’s book, Patterns of Fashion 1. It is dated 1775-1785 and is part of a matching petticoat/gown set. It is a very basic skirt pattern, made up of a large rectangle of material (pieced where necessary).

The FINISHED WIDTH of the front panel of my petticoat (not allowing for seam allowances) was 62 inches wide (and then made as long as I needed it for my height). The back panel was exactly the same as the front.

This gown is made of a cotton printed material, and is completely handsewn.

Construction Steps

Step 1: After you have cut out the large rectangles that make up the skirt, sew the side seams together. I had to piece several pieces of material together to get the required width, but I made sure I had two side seams to make allowing for the pocket slits easier. The top 10 inches of the petticoat side seams were left open for the pocket slits. All seams are either on the selvedge or flat-felled.

Step 2: Pleat the top of the front panel onto a waistband. My pleats start from the centre front and go out to the sides. Pleat the back panel in the same manner with a second waistband. Often petticoats of this era could also be attached to a length of twill tape as a waistband.

Step 3: After finishing the waistband, attach ties to the ends of both the back and front waistbands. I made an eyelet through each end of each waistband and then tied a length of cotton tape to it.

The two halves of the waistband, with ties on each end.

The two halves of the waistband (back and front), with ties on each end.

Step 4: Hem the bottom edge of the petticoat. I inserted some cord into the hem to help it stand out better.

The hem, with a length of cord threaded through the hem casing.

The hem, with a length of cord threaded through the hem casing.

Step 5: Using pinking shears, pink the flounce with a scallop at the top and a zigzag at the bottom. Attach the flounce. My flounce is 9 inches deep, and twice the length of the bottom of the petticoat. It is box-pleated to fit the petticoat, and it should only just overhang the hem.

The flounce, box-pleated to fit.

The flounce, box-pleated to fit.

Step 6: Add any trim. My trim is just a piece of plain gimp-like braid with a ribbon threaded through it at intervals.

The trim; a length of gimp-like braid with ribbon threaded through it.

The trim: a length of gimp-like braid with ribbon threaded through it.

The finished pictures!

The front, shown over my hip roll.

The front, shown over my hip roll. The front half is tied around the waist first, and the back half is tied around the waist second.

The side view. Because the petticoat is not shown with my stays, you can see the pocket slits in the side.

The side view. As the petticoat is not shown with my stays, you can see that it doesn’t quite fit the dummy. There is normally a bit of an overlap between the front half and the back half. The pocket slits can be seen in the side.

I was quite pleased with the end result, though I do think I need another plain petticoat underneath (over the hip roll) to help with the skirt’s body.

Look out for the next post in this series, the closed-front gown to match. – coming soon!

Related Posts

Does my Bum Look Big In This? – Making an 18th Century Rump

An 18th Century Robe a l’anglaise – a very early and non-historical attempt!

How Heavy is Too Heavy for a Dress? – about a quilted petticoat

Sources and Relevant Links

Image Source: Robe a l’Anglaise, c. 1785-95, from The MET Museum

Image Source: Robe a l’Anglaise, c. 1776, from The MET Museum

Patterns of Fashion 1: Englishwomen’s dresses and their construction, c. 1660-1860, by Janet Arnold – on Amazon

A sailor's tarred hat

A sailor’s tarred hat, made of leather with a gold and black striped ribbon streamer.

The last thing to make my little midshipman uniform complete was some sort of hat. I had planned on making a bicorn hat but, whilst I was waiting for the millinery supplies to arrive, I decided to make a sailor’s tarred hat for “undress” or casual/work attire. Many sailors wore these hats for dressing up smartly, but a midshipman would wear an officers bicorn for dress occasions.

Sailors of His Majesty’s Navy wore a variety of headwear to protect them from the cold, the sun, and the rain. The sailor’s tarred hat was generally made of leather and was coated with black tar to make it waterproof.

It was trimmed with black and gold ribbon, the ends trimmed with gold fringe, and the ribbon was often embroidered with the name of the ship that the sailor belonged to.

Pattern

After looking at few pictures and extant items online, I referred to the patterns in one of my books called From the Neck Up, by Denise Dreher. This book has a pattern for a sailor’s boater hat, which gave me a basic pattern to work from. The pattern was adjusted a little to fit a child.

My hat was made from the following materials: cardboard (the sort used for dress slopers and hat mock-ups), PVA glue, tissue paper, florist wire, gesso, acrylic paint, spray lacquer and ribbon.

Construction Steps

Step One: Cut out the cardboard, adding “seam allowances” or extra bits for joining the pieces. The tip is a circle shape, but it is actually slightly oval to match the actual shape of the head. “Seam allowances” are added around the outside of this piece. The side band is a long rectangle, and “seam allowances” are added to the short ends of this piece (about an inch). The brim is a circle shape with a circle cut out of it, but is once again slightly oval to match the shape of the head and tip. This means it is important to distinguish the front/back of your pieces so that they go together correctly. “Seam allowances” for the brim are added to the inside of the circle.

The pieces cut out. Extra is added around the tip circle, at the end of the crown rectangle, and on the inside of the brim circle.

The pieces cut out. Extra is added around the tip circle, at the end of the side-band rectangle, and on the inside of the brim circle.

Step Two: Glue the pieces together with PVA glue. I started with gluing the tip (circle) to the side band (rectangle). The “seam” edges should be snipped, folded in and then glued to the inside of the hat. You can glue the side-band piece together at the “seam” at this stage as well.

The tip of the hat is glued to the crown.

The tip of the hat is glued to the side band.

In order to increase the stability of the cardboard hat, I glued some tissue paper over the top of the “seam” edges. This meant that the “seams” would be held from both sides.

Step Three: I glued the brim onto the side band next, with the “seam” edges snipped and glued to the inside of the hat. I added tissue paper on the inside of the hat again to strengthen the seam.

At this stage I noticed that cardboard doesn’t always behave very well with PVA glue, as it absorbs the moisture and can go a bit wrinkly. At this stage I decided to bend some paper-covered florist wire into the shape of the brim’s outer edge and glue it on. I covered the florist wire with more tissue paper. This helped the edge of the hat brim be a bit more sturdy.

Step Four: I painted the hat all over with gesso.

The hat is painted with gesso.

The hat is painted with gesso. You can also see the tissue paper around the brim’s outer edge where I have attached the florist wire.

Step Five: I painted the hat all over with black acrylic paint (two coats). Once this was dry, I sprayed two coats of clear gloss polyurethane over the hat.

I imagine that you may be able to purchase a black gloss paint in a spray can, which might neatly combine this step! The polyurethane does give the hat a little bit of protection from moisture during use. The last thing I wanted was a sweaty forehead with a black line smeared across it!

Step Six: Then I attached some ribbon around the hat. I could only find gold and white striped ribbon, so I hand sewed some thin black ribbon onto the white parts to more closely resemble the traditional ribbon of this era. I sewed a little bit of gold fringe to the end of the ribbon to complete the “streamers”. Remember to fray-stop or melt the ends of your ribbon!

The ribbon was attached with some double-sided craft tape. I did add a little bit of black elastic to the underside, as the hat wasn’t deep enough to sit properly on my son’s head, so it was a bit more practical to have something to hold it on.

The finished hat!

The finished hat! It does have a few anomalies in the way it sits, but I figure a seaman’s hat would surely have looked a bit beaten out-of-shape after a while.

My son really wanted me to embroider the name of a ship onto the front of the ribbon, however we were running a little short of time. I am also pleased to announce that the hat survived its first whole weekend of wear, which I was initially concerned about! It’s not completely accurate, but it worked well for what we needed it for.

The outfit worn at the recent Jane Austen Festival in Canberra, Australia.

The outfit worn at the recent Jane Austen Festival in Canberra, Australia.

I would love to add to this midshipman’s costume by making a bicorn hat, for dress occasions. – coming soon!

Related Posts

The Making of a Midshipman – the first post in a series.

Sources and Relevant Links

Image Source: Royal Navy Uniforms: Sailor’s Shore Going Rig – by The Dear Surprise

From the Neck Up: An Illustrated Guide to Hatmaking, by Denise Dreher

Making an 18th Century Tarred Sailors Hat, by Jas. Townsend & Son – Youtube video tutorial

My new quilt, “Jane Austen’s Bonnet” by Brenda Ryan, is coming along nicely!

This quilt is a wall-hanging, and features 20 diamond patches that are embroidered with various stitcheries on a Regency theme. The embroideries are nicely framed within the patchwork structure of the quilt and the result is very pretty.

For my eleventh embroidery, I have done another bonnet, this time a purple and straw-coloured bonnet.

A Purple and beige embroidery

A Purple and Beige embroidery of a bonnet

This embroidery used: backstitch, running stitch, blanket stitch, french knots, colonial knots, fly stitch, lazy daisy stitch and beetle stitch. The bow was done with ribbon embroidery, as was some of the flowers on the bonnet.

For my twelfth embroidery, I did a fashionable Regency lady, shown outside some curved Bath windows. I changed this embroidery from the original design a little. It did have flowers on either side of her, a little randomly placed, so instead I extended the “wall” embroidery on the left and put some climbing roses along the wall instead.

A Regency lady outside Bath windows

A Regency lady outside Bath windows

For this embroidery I have used: backstitch, running stitch, stem stitch, colonial knots, and lazy daisy stitch and bullion stitch for the roses. The bow on the side of the bonnet is done with ribbon embroidery and there is beading down the centre front of the gown.

I have also stitched a quick running stitch around the outside of the diamond to mark the stitching line on all of the embroideries, which I hope will be useful when I put the quilt together.

Stay tuned for Part Seven of this series. – coming soon!

Related Posts

Jane Austen’s Bonnet – Part One

How to make an American Quilt

My English Paper Piecing Project

Sources and Relevant Links

Brenda Ryan Embroidery Designs

Jane Austen’s Bonnet – by Brenda Ryan Embroidery Designs

I am so excited about the progress of one of my current projects, the quilt “Jane Austen’s Bonnet”, by Brenda Ryan.

For embroidery number nine, I did a very pretty bonnet in dark green.

A dark green bonnet embroidery

A dark green bonnet embroidery

For this embroidery I used: backstitch, running stitch, stem stitch, colonial knots, and french knots. I pleated a thin strip of crochet lace and appliquéd it on with backstitch to create the “frilly brim”. The bows and strings of the bonnet, were done with ribbon embroidery, and the flowers on the bonnet were done with a combination of ribbon embroidery and thread embroidery.

For embroidery number ten, I decided to do another of the Regency ladies, holding a pretty basket of flowers.

An embroidery of a Regency lady with a basket of flowers.

An embroidery of a Regency lady with a basket of flowers.

For this embroidery I used: backstitch, running stitch, stem stitch, french knots, colonial knots, lazy daisy stitch, blanket stitch, fly stitch and bullion stitch. The dress tie and the bow on the basket were done with ribbon embroidery, and the flowers in the basket and on the bonnet were a combination of ribbon embroidery, thread embroidery and beading. The top of the glove has beaded detail as well.

I think that this embroidery is one of my favourites!

I have been stitching a quick running stitch around the outside of the diamond to mark the stitching line, which I hope will be useful when I put the quilt together.

Stay tuned for Part Six of this series.

Related Posts

Jane Austen’s Bonnet – Part One

How to make an American Quilt

My English Paper Piecing Project

Sources and Relevant Links

Brenda Ryan Embroidery Designs

Jane Austen’s Bonnet – by Brenda Ryan Embroidery Designs

The bum-bailiff

“The Bum-Bailiff Outwitted, or the convenience of Fashion” (1786)

In preparation to make a 1770 robe a l’anglaise, I decided that I need to have a bum enhancer of some kind. I have made myself a padded bum before, to wear with my caraco jacket and petticoat, but I really wanted to try a hip roll that curved all the way around my hips.

Padded clothes certainly can have their advantages! The caricature entitled “The Bum-Bailiff Outwitted”, depicts a lady so desperate to escape an unwanted pursuer that she is able to wiggle out of her self-supporting garments and take flight. The accompanying text puts the situation into verse admirably:

Suky like Syrinx changes shape,
Her vain pursuer to escape;
Ye Snapps; of Pans hard fate beware
Who thought his arms embrac’ed the fair
But found an empty Bum-case there.

So an empty Bum-case is what I need!

Monsieur Le Que Ladies Cork-Cutter from Paris (1777), from Demode.

Monsieur Le Que Ladies Cork-Cutter from Paris (1777), from Demode.

I found Demode’s post on “Bums, Rumps and Culs” very helpful, especially as she had tried out a number of different types of “bums” to catalogue their effects to the fashionable shape. After researching a little more, I decided that a hip roll or bum roll would be the best for my gown.

Patterning and Construction

Since I was not going to use a commercial pattern, I had to figure out exactly how to make it.

Firstly, I measured around the back of my hips, from my left front “hip point” to my right front “hip point”. (For want of a better term, by “hip point” I mean the part of your pelvis that sticks out at your side front, just across from your navel. It is often where your fingers sit when you put your hands on your hips.)

Once I had this measurement, this became the inner measurement of my bum roll. I laid the tape measure out on a piece of calico, trying to mimic the natural shape of the hips (that is, not a circle but a sort of oval). If you measure the space between your “hip points”, then you will know how much of a gap to have in the front of your “oval tape-measurey pattern”.

After I was happy with how my inner measurement sat on the calico, I used a pencil to draw the sewing line. Then I began to sketch the outer edge of the bum roll. I used the diagram of the “cork-cutter from Paris” to help in getting the shape fairly right, with a larger portion over the hips and a skinnier portion around the back. Then I cut it out, adding a fairly generous seam allowance, in case of mistakes.

These are my cut out bum roll pieces.

These are my cut out bum roll pieces; two layers of calico.

Then I simply sewed both layers together, leaving a hole for adding some cushion stuffing. Once it was stuffed, I hand sewed the hole closed and sewed some lengths of cotton tape to the front “hip point corners” so that it could be tied on.

The front view

The front view

You can see the cotton tapes tied at the centre front. I actually think – now! – that it probably reaches too far around to the front, just beyond my hip point instead of on it.

The back view

The back view

A bum roll like this is supposed to sit on your “high hip” line, not your waistline. In some of the pictures, mine looks like it is sitting a smidgen high, but that can always be adjusted when a gown goes on top.

The side view

The side view

Since I whipped it together in an hour, I was pretty happy with how it turn out. Hopefully, once its under a dress, it will give the necessary “oomph” to my bottom!

Stay tuned for my robe a l’anglaise; first part up, the matching petticoat.

Related Posts

A Caraco Jacket

Making 18th Century Stays

Sources and Relevant Links

Image Source: The bum-bailiff outwitted (1786), by Isaac Cruikshank, at The British Museum

Late 18th Century Skirt Supports: Bums, Rumps and Culs, by Demode

The Macdonald Children

Ranald Macdonald, Robert Macdonald and Donald Macdonald, “The Macdonald Children”, by Henry Raeburn (1756-1823).

As the Regency Picnic, held in Melbourne in March, drew closer, the last item of clothing to make for my skeleton suit ensemble was a jacket.

Skeleton suits became increasingly popular during the 1780’s and 1790’s, and they continued to be used until the 1840’s. The jacket was generally long-sleeved (though there are examples of ones with short sleeves) and was buttoned to the matching long pants. The jacket collar varied from a short, stand-up collar, to one with fold-down lapels, and sometimes even no collar. The suit set occasionally included a matching waistcoat that could likewise be buttoned to the pants.

Skeleton suit From

Skeleton suit of brown satin, worn by Danish King Frederik 7th as a boy, c. 1800. From the Danish National Museum. (Patterned and available online)

In the previous posts in this series I have made a little boy’s shirt, and a little boy’s pants to go with the jacket detailed here.

Pattern

I used a pattern online, which was taken from an existing skeleton suit in the Danish National Museum. It does need to be scaled up and then – because it is about an 8-year-old size – I had to adjust it significantly so it fitted a small child. Seam allowances need to be added as well.

I took a raft of measurements and used these to roughly alter the pattern. It is a great idea to do a mock up in cheap fabric, just to make sure you have a workable pattern, before doing the real thing.

Measurements to take:

  • Chest circumference
  • Waist circumference
  • Neck circumference
  • Nape of neck to bottom of jacket
  • Length of shoulder (from side of neck to end of shoulder)
  • Arm length and bicep circumference

The jacket was made from burgundy cotton broadcloth, with wooden buttons.

Construction Steps

As this pattern comes with minimal instructions, I have decided to detail my steps here.

Step One: After scaling up the pattern and adding seam allowances, I cut out the pieces. In the picture below, the collar piece, facings and cuffs are not shown.

The pattern pieces; from left to right - the front, the back, the undersleeve, the oversleeve.

The pattern pieces; from left to right – the front, the back, the undersleeve, the uppersleeve. Sleeves in this era were generally made from two pieces, like suit sleeves are cut these days.

Step Two: The centre back seam was sewn first, and then the side seams were sewn. The shoulder seams were sewn next. A fitting at this stage helped with the necessary adjustments!

Step Three: The sleeves were sewn together by putting one undersleeve on one upper sleeve right sides together. This means that each sleeve has two seams. Then the sleeves were set into the armhole.

The centre back and side seams have been sewn, and the sleeves are pinned ready to sew.

The centre back and side seams have been sewn, and the sleeves are pinned ready to sew.

The picture below has the sleeves sewn in.

The jacket has

The jacket has the sleeves sewn in.

Step Four: I decided to do a very small, upstanding collar, as was done in the original. The collar piece is folded lengthwise (right sides together) and the two ends are sewn. One of the long edges should be folded up so it can be used later to cover the raw edges.

The collar is folded over (right sides together) and the two ends are sewn. Once edge is folded up so it can be used later to cover the raw edges.

The collar piece, one end sewn and one being pinned to sew, with one of the long sides pinned up.

The collar can then be sewn to the neckline of the jacket. (For tips on how to sew a collar, see Making, Attaching and Finishing a Collar)

Step Five: Facings then need to be sewn (right sides together) to the front of each side of the jacket. Make sure the collar is left in the same position as it was when you sewed it in the previous step, with the seam allowances pointing upwards.

The facing is sewn, right sides together, to the front of the jacket.

The facing is pinned, right sides together, to the front of the jacket. The collar has been left sitting down against the garment, with the seam allowances up.

The facing can then be turned to the inside of the jacket. At this point the raw edges of the collar can be tucked up inside the collar and hand sewn down.

The facing is folded to the inside. There is a small join on the upper corner of the lapel, as I had to piece the material.

The facing is folded to the inside. There is a small join on the upper corner of the lapel, as I had to piece the material. You can see the small, stand-up collar at the top left.

Step Six: The cuffs are cut and sewn together. I just patterned these off the bottom part of the sleeve, adding a little extra for a seam allowance.

The cuffs cut and pinned, ready to sew.

The cuffs cut and pinned, ready to sew.

Then they can be sewn to the arm of the jacket. Make sure the cuffs are sewn with the right side to the sleeves wrong side, as this will mean they are turned to the outside and will hide the raw edge.

The cuff is sewn to the sleeve.

The cuff is pinned (right side cuff to wrong side sleeve), to the sleeve, ready to sew.

The cuff is turned to the outside of the sleeve, and the upper raw edge of the cuff is tucked under. This raw edge will be hand sewn down. A slit is then made through all layers.

A slit is made through all layers.

A slit is made through all layers. The upper edge of the cuff is turned under and pinned, ready to handsew down.

The placket for the buttonholes is sewn. It is sewn in a very similar way to the collar, structurally speaking. This will provide an overlapping flap so that the cuff can be buttoned closed.

The button placket

The button placket sewn, shown wrong side out.

The placket can then be attached to the cuff.

The raw edges are folded in and hand sewn down. The placket is on the right, and the raw edges will be tucked under and hand sewn down.

The placket is sewn on (the “flap” shown on the right). The raw edges of the placket can be hidden inside the placket and hand sewn down. The raw edges on the opposite side to the placket were just folded to the inside and hand sewn down.

The buttons and buttonholes can then be added; I used three on each cuff.

Step Seven: The buttonholes can be sewn and buttons attached on the front; I did a double-breasted front.

The buttons and buttonholes sewn.

The buttons and buttonholes sewn. The jacket has also been levelled and hemmed.

Finally, the bottom of the jacket can be levelled and hemmed.

And to end, here is a picture of the finished outfit at the picnic!

The finished outfit, as worn to the Regency Picnic.

The finished outfit, as worn to the Regency Picnic.

To make this ensemble more versatile for wear during the summer months in Melbourne, I am considering making a waistcoat that could be worn without the jacket. It was quite hot at our picnic, and my children quickly stripped off jackets, waistcoats and cravats, which left them looking much like Mr Darcy before his famed swim in the lake!

Related Posts

Making a Skeleton Suit – a boy’s pants

The Making of a Midshipman: Cutaway Tailcoat

MY Mr Knightley: Making a Regency Tailcoat

Sources and Relevant Links

The 2nd Annual Melbourne Regency Picnic – an Event on the Facebook page

Image Source: “The Macdonald Children” by Henry Raeburn

Gallery of Works by Henry Raeburn

Image Source: A skeleton suit – from the Danish National Museum

Skeleton suit pattern – from Regency Society of America forum boards (This particular page has two patterns, one for a girl’s dress and one for a boy’s skeleton suit. Just scroll down for the skeleton suit pattern.)

Making, Attaching and Finishing a Collar – by Sew Mama Sew

Costume for a Regency Child – by The Oregon Regency Society

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