Green Wool Robe a l'Anglaise

Sunday, November 5, 2017


18th Century Robe a l'Anglaise, made from Larkin & Smith's English Gown. 

I have two ensembles in my wardrobe. I have linen gown for everyday summer wear, and a cotton chintz dress for semi-fancy occasions. Yet, I have one problem.


I wanted to take a break from sewing after the chintz gown. All of that extra work, some of it unnecessary in the end (housewives are coming), took a toll on my interest in handsewing. Then I endured the unfortunate loss of two family members in a span of a week, and I found a way to handle my grief with an empty pocketbook and a new project. Keeping busy helps me deal with my emotions. Idle hands and all that.


The Fabric:

I like my color scheme I chose, though I'm a little concerned that I'm going to be looking like a walking st. paddy's day, lol!

I splurged on some dark green wool from Burnley and Trowbridge. It is listed as a lightweight wool, but I was a little hesitant about the weight and weave. However, I changed my mind as the garment took shape. It drapes beautifully and presses nicely. It was a perfect choice for the gown, even if the pattern recommends midweight fabrics.

Also, their cotton stockings are. the. bomb. Seriously. I'm getting all my stocking through them for now on. They're thick, soft, breathable and roomy. They're basically the pajama pants of stockings. I'm in love with them.

The Pattern:

I'm reusing Larkin & Smith's English Gown. I intend of making a "camp follower" gown. Something practical for those dirty demos like candlemaking, washing raw fleeces, building campfires, and walking across muddy fields after the frost melts. Taking a second hack at this pattern gives me the opportunity to fine-tune my construction techniques.

There is one change I'm making to the pattern. I'm adding one inch to the edge of the bodice front. I'm a whiny brat when it comes to the cold, so I'm giving myself room to include all my woolies. HA be damned, I need to be warm!

Me when it hits below 40. 

Construction:



So, my backstitches haven't approved that much. Truth be told, I'm a costumer moving into reenacting and I have some bad habits I need to break. I'm used to skirting period-correct techniques and using a machine for all the seams, even visible ones. Handsewing has definately helped improve my patience with projects. I'm not rushing and sacrificing quality just to get it done anymore. I'm quite proud of my work now.



I have made great improvement on my handstitching since my first gown. It's not as if there isn't big, sloppy stitches in original garments, but there is a sense of accomplishment and beauty in tiny, evenly spaced stitches done by hand. 


With a washable marker and grid ruler, I marked my stitches along the edge of the fourreau pleats. At first I thought it was unnecessary for a dress that's going to get dirty, but I like the result of neat, even stitches. It also helped with my muscle memory with making 1/4th-spaced stitch. It was good practice, if not a bit obsessive.



Of course, if walk away for more than a minute, my little furball will make a home on it.


My first boo-boo. I folded the fabric to change the grain and forgot to look underneath before I cut. Instead of cutting into my 1.5 yard remnant, a little voice on my shoulder called Dawn at Dawn, AKA the Queen of Mending, told me to patch it and move on. I imagine that is a HA solution. In the 18th century, labor was cheap, but fabric was expensive. I can't imagine some manteau-maker found a reasonable solution when her apprentice made a mistake, rather than wasting good worsted wool.

      

I followed my instincts and finished the patch with a flat felled seam, topstitch the right side and whipstitching the wrong side. 

But the mistakes keep coming...

Thanks, Hannah Montana.


When I was attaching the skirt panel to the gown, I didn't stitch the fourreau pleats down the skirt enough, and I mindlessly arranged the pleats without hiding the pocket slits. I was almost done when I tried it on, and to my horror, the pleats didn't lay flat over my bumroll and the pocket slits hanged open. So, guess what I had to do?


I had to rip out all my stitches! The seam, the pleats, the topstitching! All of them! Grrrrr! WHERE'S THE WINE????

After this, I'm considering forgoing the pocket slits on my gown for now on. I really don't use them. Instead, I tend to slip my hand under my gown and into slit of my petticoat, so what's the point making more work for myself?


I used a crayola washable marker to roughly mark 1/4ish along the seam edge for my topstitching. However, the picture above was taken before I corrected my mistake. As you can see above, the front and back-facing pleats meets left of my thumb, instead of at the back-side seam. You might not think it's a big deal, but that extra fold helps hide the pocket slit from showing.


On the yellow linen gown, I left a very narrow edge for pinning. Wearing 18th century garb isn't the hassle movies and youtube videos make it out to be. I'm looking at you, National Liverpool Museum. But it isn't as easy as throwing on a muumuu either. I'm going to test out leaving a bit more and see if it improves the time it takes to fuss with stubborn pins.


Adding the sleeves with backstitches and a narrow selvage. 


It was this point, when I was about to add the robings that I realized my mistake, that I went back and corrected the pleats in the skirt and bodice back. It took around 2 days to rip everything out, rearrange the pleats, sew it to the bodice, topstitch, and tack the lining. 

So....you know what I did to soothe all that regret.


I'm glad I spent the time to fix it. The fourreau pleats aren't as taunt below the waistline as I'd like, but it lays flat over the bumroll now. It's a mistake I doubt I'll ever repeat.


The petticoat took an afternoon to sew and three episodes of Poldark to hem. It's a simple two panel skirt that ties in front and back. 

Dey Mansion in Wayne, NJ

I recently attended an event with the Hearts of Oak at Dey Mansion in New Jersey. I towed along all my sewing supplies and broke in my new dress. Let me tell you. I. Broke. It. In. With the lengthy commute, I didn't have time to do my hair. I stuffed it under a new cap and tried to act pleased with my Miss Muffet impression. I am far from mastering my cap game. 

    
When expectation is far from the reality. You don't even take the time to crop and filter.

Okay, so I wasn't aiming at all for the left, but I did thought it would be more frilly and voluminous. I think I have to invest into some silk gauze or cotton organdy. The handkerchief linen is too thick and structured for a fine cap. 

Silk & Sass came to the rescue with some pomatum and powder. Going grey before my time was never alluring, but I thought it was time to put down the Ellnett hairspray and try the 18th century method to big hair. 

Before

During

After
Peggy Shippen? Peggy Ship-THIS.

I get the allure now. DAMN. I feel like the Ladies Walgrave, Becky with the good hair Franks, and all my favorite period ladies in one! The only mistake we made was applying the hair powder without undressing first. IT WENT EVERYWHERE. I spent the day looking as if I had just baked a cake. 


One thing I love about this wool is the wrinkle factor is minuscule, even after a long commute and sitting in cramped spaces. 

Sass and Silk making a dreary day brighter with her cheery smile!

I told you the powder went EVERYWHERE.

One day I will finish this quilted petticoat. Multi-year project in the making.

Final Thoughts: I really need a shift that doesn't show peek around the necklines. Throughout the day, I had issues with my cuffs sliding below my elbows. Nothing a few tacks won't solve.

I had a bit of a modesty issue without a neckerchief. Yes, the dreaded M-word. You can see I pinned my stomacher higher than usual, and maybe a good shift will help me feel more covered.

Adding a little extra lining had it's positives and negatives. It made pinning easier, but often showed when my robings bowed or buckled.

I underestimated how much I'd like powdered hair and would like to explore it further. I just don't know how I'd go about applying it without my mother disowning me for the mess I made in the bathroom.

A long commute home and all the bobby pins later...

2 comments

  1. Love this post! You did a great job Sarah and look fantastic. Adding a tucker around the neckline will cover up any shift peek a boo (or you just add a neck handkerchief [white for middlin and upper sorts, patterned for lower sorts/working class] like with your yellow gown).

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    Replies
    1. Thank you! I like the idea of a tucker around the neckline! I suppose I need to invest in all the neckerchiefs, I'm not so keen on how low the stomacher is worn in 18th century garb.

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