Tuesday, August 2, 2016

18th Century Round Robe, C 1795

I had an 18th century event looming on the horizon, when the temps started to soar upwards of 90 degrees.  At that point I knew I needed to make a new lightweight cotton gown to be as cool as possible.  I had some wonderful white Dotted Swiss muslin that I was saving for an 18th c gown, and a friend of mine had recently posted about an 18th c gown she had made that I just loved.  As luck would have it, I was able to purchase a graded up pattern from her in my size!  On the down side, she did warn me that there were no instructions, other than the overall gown description as follows: 

*I could not find any other information about this dress beyond what is in the Waugh book. I could find no images. 
["Round Robe, c. 1795.
A round robe of very fine soft white muslin with frills of self material. The bodice lining is of firmer cotton, and the backs of both lining and bodice are cut the same. The bodice and skirt are sewn to the waistband, except the left side from, which from the center front to the side opening is gathered into a narrow band 5.5" long."] - Waugh, The Cut of Women's Clothes, p.307.

So, following along on the basic pattern pieces, I determined what the skirt length should be, used the pattern pieces to create the bodice section, and then started with the guesswork of putting it together.  Prior bodice construction knowledge always helps when you are trying to guess how to put something together without instructions.  I made one error, in that I cut the center back as two separate pieces, when it should have been on the fold, but I was able to work that one inch of fabric back into the mix without problems.  Another error was that I really only gathered it at the shoulders and part way down the bust edge, and I should have gathered it evenly all the way across all edges.  I was able to play with the fabric to get the same look, but that is something I will do differently next time as well.  Lastly, it called for a weird waistband lining, and well I just flat lined it and then pinked the edging and serged it.  It could probably be worked to encase both edges, but that would take a lot of hand sewing, and well hand sewing always makes me bleed and I did not want to get any of that on my white gown!

Overall, the entire construction took only two days.  Once I figured it out, it went pretty quick.  I did construct it a little differently than my friend did, in that I did a "dog-legged" hook and eye closure on the left with a button closure on the right, which hides under the belt, sight unseen.  I also chose not to line the sleeves, as some of the 18th c gowns that I have researched do not have sleeve lining, and I was going for as cool as possible.  The ruffled edge around the neckline, sleeves, and belt was all pinked to save time, and I like the overall look.  The belt is boned center back, lined, and is hand sewn to the gown only on the top edge of the back from side waist to side waist.  I used 3" white satin ribbon for the front closure for a more romantic look.  I can wear it with, and without, a corset depending on the temps I am wearing it in.  With the blousey top it's hard to tell either way, so it makes for a nice alternative on a hot day.

So far as I can tell, this gown design was a precursor to the 18th c Round Gown and the Chemise a la Reine.  It is wonderfully comfortable to wear, and very feminine. I used a pure white "hailstone" dotted Swiss muslin, which has a much more 3D look and feel, and I loved working with this fabric!  I wish I had bought the entire bolt!  I paid $2py at the Golden West Swapmeet, and I know this was a really great deal!

For my hat, I was lucky to also find it at the GWS for $2, it still had the $170 price tag from Nordies on it!  A beautiful wide-brimmed, steel grey/blue straw!  It needed some TLC, which was not a problem.  I shortened the crown, added trim, re-blocked it, straightened out the wire edging, added white swans down feathers, and it was done!  I based the hat look off some of the really big 18th c hats.  My hair was in a simple bun underneath with a couple of big sausage curls hanging on one side.  A small drawstring handbag, some flat white shoes, petticoats and a chemise, and I was all ready to step into the 18th c for the day!  Enjoy!

Myself and my friend, Ms Gina, at the Riley Farm 18th century faire event in 2016


  1. Absolutely beautiful. You look so nice and cool. I think you are brave to sew something up with virtually no directions. I sure need them! Gina's dress is lovely, too.

  2. I like a good puzzle every now and again!