28 April 2009

Another foray into the 18th century?

What with my new copy of Fashion in Detail, working on the strapless stays, and a trip to the Fort Frederick Market Fair this weekend, I seem to have the 18th century on the brain. The dress that has really caught my fancy is this one in the V&A's collection. It is English, estimated at mid 1770s, in a pumpkin color that I'd probably look awful in. If you don't have the book for reference, the front is flat with a round neck and open skirts. What I really like about is the way it is at once both quite plain and finely detailed. I also love the back pleats that run continuously down from the top of the bodice (where they are stitched down) all the way down through the skirts without any sign of piecing or a waist seam.

I'm not sure that I want to start this gown, but I'm starting to plan out how I would approach it if I decide to. I need to look through Bradfield's Costume in Detail, as there are likely a few similar gowns in there, and it's as good an excuse as any to pick up the relevant volume of Arnold's Patterns of Fashion. Kass from Reconstructing History has a photo diary of making a closed gown with similar details, and of course there's also her pattern for an open robe anglais. J. P. Ryan also has a Robe a l'Anglaise pattern, which based solely on the line drawings on the covers might be closer to the style I'm looking for. On the down side, though, her patterns are single-size-per-envelope, which would mean a significant amount of redrafting. If anyone happens to know of other resources which document this particular gown more completely (it's certainly in good enough shape to be patterned from), I'd be more than happy to hear about it.

As for the progress on the strapless stays, they perplex me at every turn. My center front insert is trimmed down to 2 1/8", and boned with more reed, and I'm really quite happy with the fit. But if I lace to comfortably snug, the back edges touch, suggesting that maybe I didn't need to enlarge them after all? And yet I can assure you they were really too tight before. In theory, they're now ready for lining and binding, but I may rip out and re-sew the new section one more time, because the seamlines aren't as straight as I'd like.

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