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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

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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

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Chemise c. 1780, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Chemise with sleeve and neck ruffles, c. 1780, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Recently, I have been making some more stays to wear beneath my eighteenth century costumes, and I had the idea to begin work on a chemise for the same period. Since I have made my Regency Day Cap, I have been looking for something else to handsew and this chemise seemed to leap out at me to be a good option. As a result, this garment is completely handsewn and took about 3 weeks (with a few hours of sewing per day) to finish.

Whilst few chemises of this period survive, I was really keen to find one with some sleeve and neck ruffles, and even something with a touch of lace.

Pattern

The pattern I started with was the one provided on How to Make an 18th Century Chemise. There is also a helpful cutting diagram to help with pattern placement on the fabric.

My chemise consisted of four basic pattern pieces:

  • Main body: Cut 1 – 260cm x 80cm (This piece will have a hole cut in the middle for the head opening, which means there will be no shoulder seams.)
  • Sleeves: Cut 2 – 40cm x 35cm
  • Sleeve gussets: Cut 2 – 15cm x 15cm
  • Gores: Cut 4 right angled triangles – 80cm x 25cm (height x width of a right angled triangle)

Other optional pieces:

  • Sleeve cuff – a thin piece of material about 1-2 cm wide and 25 cm long (just make sure it will fit around your arm at the elbow).
  • Sleeve ruffle – I used a strip twice the length of the bottom of the sleeve and 5 cm wide.
  • Neck ruffle – Once again, twice the length of the neck opening and 3-5 cm wide.

I followed the sewing instructions provided at “How to Make an 18th Century Chemise” fairly closely, and have detailed my progress below.

The stitches and techniques I have used have been a running stitch, back stitch, rolled hem, rolled whipped gather, whip stitch, slip stitch, and flat felling.

Construction Steps

Step One: Assemble sleeves and gussets, flat-felling the seams with a slip stitch to neaten. All of my basic seams have been sewn with a running stitch (with a back stitch every so often to anchor the thread). For more information on how to sew a gusset, you can look at my previous post My Regency Journey: Making a Chemise for more detail.

The sleeve with the gusset, all sewn to the main body.

The sleeve with the gusset attached, all sewn to the main body.

The bottom edge of the sleeve can be gathered and finished with a cuff. For information on this type of finishing, go to “The Cognitive Shift” link below. I finished mine with a rolled hem (ungathered).

Step Two: Sew the gores (all four of them) onto each side of the main body, sewing from the hem upwards. Then sew the side seams of the main body together, upwards from the hem, finishing where the gores end.

Step Three: Sew the sleeves in position, then finish any side seams that are still open by flat felling.

At this point (before I attached the sleeves) I decided that an 80cm wide chemise was too wide for my body, so I trimmed the top of the main body so that it was a little narrower (60cm wide across the shoulders rather than 80cm). I sloped the new narrower width out to meet the gores, which had already been sewn in.

You can see where I have altered the width. Instead of the side seams going straight up, they go diagonal when they reach the gores.

You can see where I have altered the width. Instead of the side seams going straight up, they go diagonally when they reach the gores and then straight up again where the sleeves are attached. There is no neck opening as yet.

In “How to Make an 18th Century Chemise”, at the very end of the article under “Alternative Patterns”, the patterns provided are all 60cm wide at the shoulders. They also show that there were various ways to cut out a chemise to suit various figures.

Step Four: Flat fell all the side and gore seams with a slip stitch.

The gore seams being flat felled with a slip stitch.

The gore seams being flat felled with a slip stitch. The top one is complete, the middle one is being felled, and the bottom one is trimmed ready.

Step Five: Hem the bottom edge to mid-calf area using a slip stitch.

Step Six: Cut the neck opening and finish with a rolled hem. A casing and drawstring can be added if you need one.

My neck opening was done by trying on my chemise underneath my stays and marking the neckline with an erasable fabric pen. This did lead to having an opening which seems slightly too big, but which still worked well without a drawstring. For an interesting discussion on necklines and drawstrings of 18th century chemises, have a look at The Cognitive Shift; or, 18th Century Shifts: What I Know and How I Learned It.

Step Seven: For any sleeve or neck ruffles, do a rolled whipped gather on one long edge and a rolled hem on the three remaining sides that will not be gathered. Whip stitch the ruffle ends together and attach the gathered ruffle edge to the bottom sleeve edge using a whipped stitch. I sewed lace on to the bottom edge of my ruffle as well.

The sleeve ruffle attached. Very pretty, I think!

The sleeve ruffle attached. Very pretty, I think!

All finished!

All finished! I am still decided whether to attach a neck ruffle to it or not...

All finished! I am still undecided whether to attach a neck ruffle to it or not… decisions, decisions!

I love the feel of wearing cotton lawn undergarments. Whilst I know most (if not all) chemises of this period were made of linen, I have not been able to find any linen within a reasonable price range to do the job! And I find this is a very suitable alternative.

And hand-sewing has recently become my cup of tea!

Related Posts

My Regency Journey: Making a Chemise

A Second Regency Chemise

Making 18th Century Stays

Sources and Relevant Links

Image Source: From the Metropolitan Museum of Art

How to make an 18th century chemise – by La Couturiere Parisienne

Links to extant 18th century shifts – by 18th Century Notebook

Extant chemise with lace neckline and lace cuffs (c. 1750-1800), from Belgium Art Links and Tools (BALaT)

Extant chemise with woven lace neckline (c. 1780-1810), from Colonial Williamsburg

The Cognitive Shift; or, 18th Century Shifts: What I Know and How I Learned It – article by Sharon Burnston

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Stays (1770-1790)

English Stays (1770-1790), made from red silk damask, Victoria and Albert Museum.

My last pair of 18th century stays took about 13 years to finish, and by the time they were finished they didn’t fit me, so I have decided to make another pair.

I finally decided on a half-boned style, and used this pair of red silk damask stays (from Victoria and Albert Museum) as a starting point.

Stays of this era were designed to conform the body to an inverted cone shape, with a round bosom and a much smaller waist. They were also quite elongated, to draw the body upwards, and therefore came up high under the arms. The armholes were placed further back in the garment and, along with the shoulder straps, were designed to force the shoulders backwards to create the desirable “small back” posture.

My dear Louisa, you will laugh when I tell you, that poor Winifred, who was reduced to be my gentlewoman’s gentlewoman, broke two laces in endeavouring to draw my new French stays close. You know I am naturally small at bottom but now you might literally span me. You never saw such a doll. Then, they [the stays] are so intolerably wide across the breast, that my arms are absolutely sore with them; and my sides so pinched! – But it is the ‘ton’; and pride feels no pain. It is with these sentiments the ladies of the present age heal their wounds; to be admired, is a sufficient balsam.

Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, The Sylph (1778)

I really like this style of stays, with the round, broad oval neckline and the way the bones are wrapped diagonally around the body. It looks very flattering for the 18th century figure!

This project fits well with the Historical Sew-Fortnightly Challenge #12, hosted by Dreamstress.

Pattern

The pattern I have used is based on the 1780’s pattern from Corsets and Crinolines, by Norah Waugh. This one is very similar to the one pictured above – in fact it may be the same one, despite the minor styling differences apparent in the printed pattern.

A pattern for 1780's stays, from Corsets and Crinolines, by Norah Waugh.

A pattern for 1780’s stays, from Corsets and Crinolines, by Norah Waugh.

Beginning with my measurements and a piece of paper, I drafted my pattern up, using the Corsets and Crinolines pattern as a guide to panel shape and grainline. I used eight panels: 2 x centre back, 2 x side back, 2 x side, 2 x front.

The panel pieces all cut, excepting the shoulder straps which I cut and fitted at the very end.

The panel pieces are all cut, excepting the shoulder straps which I cut and fitted at the very end.

Four layers of material were used in this pair of stays. The outer layer was a cream/pale yellow cotton damask. The two interlining layers were a white cotton duck. The inner lining was a white cotton lawn. I used 6mm plastic boning with a tiny bit of 12mm plastic boning in the centre front. The embroidery was done with plain cotton sewing thread.

Construction Steps

In order to construct these I referred mainly to How to Make an 18th Century Corset but I have also detailed my progress below.

Step One: Draft the pattern up on paper, using your measurements. Do a toile to fit it to your body, marking any alterations on your pattern. Cut out the pattern pieces.

Step Two: Sew the panels together. I pressed the seams to alternate sides (rather than pressing each seam open) in order to alleviate stress on the seams.

The top layer is damask, then there are the two interlining layers of cotton duck. The lining was sewn in at a later stage.

The top layer is damask, then there are the two interlining layers of cotton duck. The lining was sewn in at Step Seven.

I found it easier to piece together the back, side back and sides first and then do the fronts separately until I was ready to put in the boning. This is because the front panel has boning that goes in different directions, rather than just up and down.

Step Three: Sew boning channels and then add boning.

One side of the back, with the centre back, side back, and side panels sewn.

One side of the back, with the centre back, side back, and side panels sewn together. Some of the boning channels are sewn. I am beginning to applique the ribbon on the seams here as well.

Step Four: Apply ribbon to the seams. I used nylon ribbon, as it was thin and of a similar thickness to silk ribbon. The boning should be inserted into the channels before you apply the ribbon, or else you may sew the channel shut by accident! I used a simple running stitch to applique the ribbon on, as this appears to be what was used on the extant pictured above.

The centre front panel, with ribbon being applied.

The centre front panel, with ribbon being applied.

Step Five: Add embroidery or other embellishments. Whilst a great deal of embellishment was not frequently used for stays unless the front was to be seen as a stomacher, some smaller amounts of embroidery (usually straight or curved lines) was occasionally used. I generally embroider my stays because I enjoy doing it and I think it looks pretty!

The central splays of boning is slightly different to the original, as the size of the panel is a little different. I have embroidered an 18th c. stylised set of buds and flowers between each. Note that the horizontal boning at the centre front is continuous and goes behind the vertical boning. Using two layers of interlining helps as you have two separate layers to run the crossing bones.

The central splays of boning are slightly different to the original, as the size of the panel is a little different. I have embroidered an 18th c. stylised set of buds and flowers between each. Note that the horizontal boning at the centre front is continuous and goes behind the vertical boning. Using two layers of interlining helps, as you have two separate layers to run the crossing bones.

The detail of the central embroidered flower.

The detail of the central embroidered flower, using mainly backstitch and running stitch.

Step Six: Hand sew eyelets and add lacing.

Step Seven: Attach shoulder straps. I did this as one of the last things, as I wanted to be able to try it on first so that I could fit the shoulder straps properly.

Step Seven: Piece together the lining panels and lay the lining layer to the inside of the stays. You can do this step earlier so that the eyelets go through the lining fabric, but I folded under the raw edges of the lining and handsewed them just inside of the eyelets. (You can see this on the finished pictures below.)

Step Eight: Cut the tabs after fitting it to your body. Cutting the tabs later in the process saves them from fraying everywhere or getting damaged in the construction process. I used a buttonhole/blanket stitch over the raw edge of the stays, and then added the binding.

I used twill tape for binding and sewed one edge down to the right side before folding the rest over and handsewing it down on the inside.

I used twill tape for binding and sewed one edge down to the right side of the stays before folding it over and handsewing it down on the inside. You can see the blanket stitch visible on the raw edge.

The extant stays pictured above have areas where the binding has worn away to reveal the raw edge sewn over with what looks like a blanket stitch. I was interested to try this technique as I wondered if it helped keep a narrower bound edge. It certainly helped with reducing the fraying as the binding is completed!

Finished!

Outside all finished

Outside all finished

Inside all finished

Inside all finished

And tried on!

Back view

Back view

Front view

Front view

The other HSF items to cover are firstly historical accuracy, which was pretty good. Obviously the stay pattern was made to fit me, rather than an 18th century women that has been wearing stays her whole life, so the pattern is slightly different in shape to extant ones of the period. The fabric I chose was semi-accurate as cotton was in production then, but often linen was used for stay making. Secondly, the number of hours it took to complete are hard to calculate, as many hours were spent pattern drafting and making a toile. I began this project four months ago, but didn’t work on it solidly through that time. I am guessing 50 hours? Maybe more? Thirdly, it was first worn to a Three Musketeers Ball the day after it was completed! And lastly, the total cost was about $60 AUD.

My next post will be on my 18th century chemise made to go underneath.

Related Posts

Stays from the 18th Century – my first pair of 18th century stays

My Regency Journey: How to draft a corset pattern – a helpful beginning to drafting a pattern if you have never done it before.

Sources and Relevant Links

Image Source: from Victoria and Albert Museum online collection

The Sylph, by Georgiana Cavendish – read online

Corsets and Crinolines, by Norah Waugh – on Amazon

How to make an 18th Century Corset/Stays – by La Couturiere Parisienne

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Early on, I had decided that I needed to make a new stomacher to match my 18th century robe a l’anglaise. The original one I had made 12 years ago was completed using quick and easy ribbon embroidery and appliqued lace motifs, mainly so that I could wear it immediately to a ball. But once I found out that the dress no longer fitted me, I decided to make a caraco jacket.

An embroidered stomacher (c. 1700-1729), displayed in Victoria and Albert Museum. (Image source below.)

Caraco jackets were worn as day wear in the last half of the eighteenth century. They were styled similarly to a gown but the skirts were trimmed off at mid-thigh level, with a petticoat worn underneath. Some would meet in the middle, fastened with hidden hooks and eyes, but others were worn open and had a decorative stomacher displayed at the front. Since I really like the idea of a pretty piece of handiwork displayed on the bosom, I decided to make another stomacher that would match my new jacket!

Stomachers were often worn during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, though they did change shape a little throughout the period, depending on the fashion. They were triangular shaped pieces of material, either boned or unboned, usually pinned in place at the front of the bodice. They were often elaborately decorated, using many different methods and items such as embroidery, bows, pleated ruffles, braid, lace or sequins.

My Pattern:

Using a stomacher pattern in Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 1 for inspiration, I drew out a pattern on tissue paper and cut out two pieces of calico and one piece of outer fabric. I researched common embroidery patterns for stomachers and drew out a pattern for this on the tissue paper.

The pattern

Construction:

The two layers of calico were placed together and boning channels sewn through all layers. As you can see from the picture, the stomacher is fully boned. Once the embroidered outer layer was completed, it was laid on top of the boned layer and the edges bound with satin bias binding.

The back of the finished stomacher

Embroidery:

After a lot of deliberation, I decided to stretch my embroidery skills to long and short stitch, and try embroidering a carnation with some buds in true eighteenth century style! The V-shaped border and the stem of the carnation was done with a whipped chain stitch, and the scrolling curves at the sides were done with backstitch. The leaves were done in a satin stitch, creating a groove where the stitches met in the middle of the leaf.

The front!

I am VERY VERY pleased with the result! I have never been good at embroidery, but I have spent a lot of time practising with very simple plain stitches to create some good effects on my costumes. I never thought I would be able to do this so well!

Now all that remains is to finish off my caraco jacket!

Relevant Posts

An 18th Century Robe A l’anglaise

Stays from the 18th Century

Sources and Relevant Links

V&A Stomacher Image from In Jane Austen’s England

Embroidered Stomachers, c. 1700-1729, from the Victoria and Albert Museum

Embroidered Stomachers, c. 1700-1725, from the Victoria and Albert Museum

Patterns of Fashion 1: Englishwomen’s Dresses and their Construction, by Janet Arnold – buy through Amazon

Long and Short Stitch Tutorial – on Youtube

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Plate XX, from Diderot’s Encylopedie. Title Translated: Tailor of bodices, closed bodice and open bodice, front view.

Corsetry, or stay-making, was an important craft in the eighteenth century – as much as dressmaking and tailoring. Every woman wore one, and even the poorest women still owned the basic garments – a pair of stays and a petticoat – even if she could not afford a gown over the top.

Stay-making was generally a male-dominated field of work, though females could make stays as well.

Sarah Hurst (1736-1808) spent her youth as an assistant to her father, who was a tailor in Horsham, England. She records in her diary on 31st July, 1762, that she “begin[s] making Mrs Hurst a pair of stays.” On the 13th August, she records that she “Finish[es] Mrs Hurst’s stays and she greatly approves of them.” Sarah had been staying with the Hurst’s for a short holiday and, despite being busy almost every day, she still managed to finish handsewing the stays in two weeks.

This week I was sorting through some boxes in my wardrobe and I found an unfinished eighteenth century corset that I started 13 years ago. I got it out and then remembered why I had put it away! I had made a few corsets before this one (and have made some since), but the tabs on the bottom of the stays had me completely stuck! I just didn’t know how to cut and bind them properly.

With a sudden burst of motivation, I decided that I should try and finish them, and here is my finished product! Sorry about the quality of the photos, as they were taken on my phone.

The front (shown over my Regency chemise)

The back

The outer layer is a peach and cream brocade, with a lining of calico. The boning channels are in twill tape and I have used plastic boning. The stays are bound with some peach-pink satin bias binding. The seams and channels have all been sewn with a sewing machine, but I ended up hand-sewed most of the binding. This made the tabs much easier to bind! The eyelets are hand worked and it is laced with the spiral lacing common to the 18th century.

Unfortunately, the top is a bit too big and the waist is a little too small. Obviously the last 13 years and 5 pregnancies have had an impact on my figure! Nevertheless, I am so pleased to be finished it. It means I can start another one that fits a bit better!

Related Posts

My Regency Journey: How to draft a corset pattern

My Regency Journey: Corset Construction

Sarah Hurst’s Diaries: From 1759 to 1762

Sources and Relevant Links

The Encyclopedia of Diedrot and d’Alembert, translated and available online.

The Diaries of Sarah Hurst, 1759-1762: Life and Love in Eighteenth Century Horsham, transcribed by Barbara Hurst, edited by Susan C. Djabri. – buy through Amazon

Corsets from the 18th century, (1700-1750) from the Kyoto Costume Institute

Corset, Panniers and Chemise, (1760-1780) from the Kyoto Costume Institute

Corset (c. 1770-1799), from the National Trust Collections

How to lace 18th century stays

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The deliberation required for deciding what to write for one’s first ever post, in one’s first ever blog, is, in one word, excruciating! In the end, I decided to write about something I love: 18th century costumes.

Being a keen sewer – ever since my mother first sat me at the sewing machine at aged 6 – as well as a keen historian, the natural progression to making historical costumes appeared to make sense.

Today I am going to share a reproduction of a sacque-back dress from the 1770’s.

When you make a costume, it is important to have the correct undergarments before you begin, or else the finished result does not look as historically accurate. So this means firstly reproducing the undergarments; in this case, the corset and panniers (hip attachments).

Corset and panniers from the 1770’s

This corset is not the type that was worn in the 1770’s, but is more similar to those worn in 1850’s. However, the corset has been made to perform a similar function of the corsets from that era, as the front contains an embroidered stomacher that shows through to the outside. (There is also a convenient piece of lace gathered to conceal some cleavage, as this type of corset was made to reach the nipple-line and no higher, therefore showing much more cleavage than I felt comfortable with. In hindsight, it would have been a good idea to make a chemise to go under the corset…)

The panniers are accurate to this era, and are made of calico and boning.

The outer garments consist of a petticoat as an underskirt, and a sacque-back outerdress. The dress attaches to the corset with large hooks and eyes at the front, and then laces up at the back (hidden under the sac).

A sacque-back dress of the 1770’s

Sacque-back dress Back

The back view of the “sack”

Bodice

Close up of the Bodice

I got many of the details of this dress from pictures and drawings that I could gather from original dresses from the period. This was back “in the day” when the internet was not quite as abundant in resources as it is today! I then used these pictures and descriptions to draft my own patterns.

As this costume was made to go dancing at balls, I made several adjustments to the bodice to help me feel more comfortable! For this reason the bodice is cut much more like a modern bodice. For one of my first “proper” historical costumes (i.e. a costume that wasn’t made for a school production!), I was very proud of it.

I hope you enjoyed looking!

Related Posts

How to Make a Regency Poke Bonnet in Ten Steps

How to use Ribbon to make Decorative Trims

Dress-ups for a Baby

Relevant Links

There seems to be a range of different patterns available to purchase on the internet if you are interested in making historical costumes. Here is a link to only one of many sites.

18th Century patterns

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