Friday, March 27, 2015

Historical Sew Fortnightly March Stashbusting Challenge

The Challenge:March – Stashbusting: Make something using only fabric, patterns, trims & notions that you already have in stash.

Fabric: A I'm-not-sure-what-it-is-but-it-has-silk lampas like drapery fabric probably circa 1976. I also used dark green silk dupioni and sand colored linen in the dress. Oh, and muslin...

Pattern: My own! :-)

Year: 1750's/1760's more or less

Notions: Silk thread, cotton thread, ribbon trim

How historically accurate is it? It looks much better than it actually is. The fabric is too heavy for the period but the design is pretty well in keeping with the later half of the 18th century styles (mix of floral and stripes). All the visible stitching is done by hand as are the stitches holding the skirt pleats to the back bodice.

Hours to complete: If it weren't for the sleeves, I'd guess only 16 hours or so. Because of the sleeves, it took 22, I think...

First worn: Hopefully, this Saturday!

Total cost: All stash! Every last thing. The linen I used for the hem was one of those Joann's remnants I hoard. It was a half yard and 50% off so, maybe $4.50 USD? The green dupioni was also a Joann's remnant. Probably another $3 or $4 USD there. The main dress fabric I bought back in November off of ebay for $17.99 USD with another $16 for shipping (did I mention it's heavy?). The silk thread I got on sale for $2 sometime last year (I just remember there was a sale on silk thread so I gobbled up a few different colors). The trim....I don't remember where I got it or how much it was. I *think* it was one my NYC trips but I really don't know. Knowing me, I doubt I paid more the $2 a yard.

I draped the patten using an old bedsheet.  I've mentioned before how much I hated these sheets.  They used to be in my room at my family's beach home.  When Mom said she got them from my room, I thought she meant the lovely blue and white ones....  

Anyway, I originally cut it to do a closed front anglaise but I didn't like that idea and went with the stomacher front instead.

The back pleats are all very pinned into place.  Only the right side is draped and drafted for the final pattern in this photo.  

This is what my animals were doing while I was draping fabric.
Eventually, Abby decided to investigate why I was taking pictures of things other than her.  This is the final pattern for the back, front, and sleeves of the dress.

I cut out and pleated the back as well as I could.  It's still a little wonky at the top but if it really bugs me later, I can always patch it over with more fabric.  

I had to cut the fabric long ways and make sure the floral pattern was running down the dress correctly. More on the fabric itself later.

To do the front robing, I just made the fashion fabric 2" longer width wise towards the front.  I then sewed it to the lining along the front edge.  Once I matched the side edges together, this created a small overlap in the fashion fabric towards the front.  I stitched along the channel (where the fashion fabric met the lining at the front) by hand and used this as a guide to fold the robings.  

This is where I folded it and hopefully the photos make more sense.  I then ironed it down before attaching it to the back bodice section.  

The full finished dress!!

Close up detail of the sleeve.  I added the ribbon trim to the cuff edges as well as the front of the stomacher.  Despite having five yards, just doing the cuffs and the stomacher used every last inch of trim I had.

The back of the dress.  It looks more wonky that it really is because the dress dummy doesn't have arms.

The lining of the cuffs.  I wanted something that would go well with the dress.  I was going to cannibalize a UFO that had spring green silk when I saw this dark green remnant in my stash that went a lot better.  (okay, I compared the spring green to the fabric  Just no.  So I ran back and got the dark green.  It looked way better) 

The stomacher front.  I took what was left of the trim and ran it down the center stripe.  I had just enough left.

And this is what is left of the fabric I used for the dress.  It's maybe a half yard.  It's enough to do the sleeves over if I wanted to.  

Evil sleeves.   Okay, so the first time I put them in, it was totally my fault.  I matched the seams wrong and had to rip them out.  Fine.  Then the right sleeve kept giving me trouble.  It would bunch up at odd points or it wouldn't line up correctly.  It took 3 1/2 tries (the last time it bunched up , I just ripped out that section and redid it) before the sleeve looked okay.   

The fabric:  Well, truth be told - you are looking at only 4 yards of fabric.  With most 18th C dresses, you do need 9 yards - and even that doesn't feel like enough- because you need the matching petticoat, the dress, the self trims....tons and tons of fabric.   This fabric is over 52" wide (I'm not sure by how much, I measured the skirt and its 104" around so...not sure how much got eaten up into the seams).  This helped a lot for the skirts.   The front skirt is just a rectangular panel - 41" long- that I pleated to a strip of the fabric (3" wide strip that folded over).   The back of the dress isn't much different (just the back panel of the bodice plus a 41" long skirt).  Because of this,  I cut out the front from the excess above the back panel skirt, next to the back bodice.   

The sleeves and cuffs were cut out from the remaining fabric and the stomacher was cut out even more scrap (from next to the front bodice piece).  I used a little less than 4 yards to make the dress.  


Dress at the Met circa 1760
This was the main inspiration for my dress.  I was going to do the self trim along the opening but the fabric really is just too heavy to do that well.  That, and I didn't have any of the ribbon trim left. ;-)
Other inspiration pieces included this early 1770's dress at the Met, this pink and green dress recently sold at Christies (probably early 18th C based on the robings), and this one at the Met as well.  

Because of the yardage issue, I liked the idea of a closed front dress.  I liked the overall style as well because none of them are overly trimmed - it's more about letting the patterned fabric speak for itself.   


  1. Oh my goodness! What a lovely dress!
    I was a little shocked when I first saw it, because I recognize that fabric!
    And you had better be grateful that I didn't end up snapping that fabric up when I first saw it on eBay! ;-) Just kidding, if I had bought it, there's a 99.9% chance that it would still be sitting in the stash. But you have made the most gorgeous gown out of it!
    I didn't realize that the fabric was so heavy or brocade-like (sorry, I just CANNOT get over the fact that this is the exact same fabric I had seen listed on ebay!)

    Anyways, good job on this incredibly lovely dress! It looks amazing!

    1. Lol! Thanks! Yeah, I kept staring at the fabric back in Nov and figured, for ht price, it would be made into something eventually.