Saturday, September 15, 2018

Pinstripe robe à l'Anglaise retroussée

This dress is one that I started making back in 2015 but that I didn't finish until Christmas ball in November 2016.  I also wore it to the Christmas ball the following year again, when the first set of these pictures were taken.

Previously I've made patterns in mainly two ways; either drafting my own patterns according to my measurements and trying to get the seam lines right by looking at extant gowns, or by enlarging scale patterns from books, altering them according to my measurements until they fit. I haven't really had as good results with either of these techniques as I'd like to have so it was about time I tried out something else. So I borrowed Creating Historical Clothes: Pattern Cutting from Tudor to Victorian Times from Mia because this book includes step by step instructions for creating patterns for several periods. First you start by taking your own measurements and, comparing them to measurement charts, draft a basic bodice pattern. I chose to turn my basic bodice pattern into a 1770s style bodice from the book, except so that it doesn't extend below the waist (see photo), and used it as a base for the pattern for my first robe en chemiseSince the pattern was made to my measurements, it required very little alterations to make it fit, except that I had to take it in quite considerably in at the back. Later on, I completed the pattern into a 1770s bodice according to the instructions in the book.

Bodice pattern before extending it below waist and alterations.

But I wan't happy with the pattern as it was because I thought it didn't look quite right. (I wish I had took a picture at this point so you could compare it with my final pattern.) However, the pattern reminded me of the 1770-85 gown pattern on page 39 of Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion 1 so I decided to try to alter my pattern to make it correspond with it. To me it seems the pattern in Creating Historical Clothes might be vaguely based on it, too. I won't go into detail describing all of the things I did because a. it's not that interesting and b. I can't actually even remember all of them anymore. But I ended up altering it quite a lot. In the end, I was slightly frustrated because I had spent so much time on the pattern and yet I wasn't completely happy about how the bodice looked. But eventually I thought it made no sense to keep fiddling with the pattern and decided it was good enough.

The bodice after a great deal of adjustments.

I also experimented with a bodice construction method that I hadn't tried earlier (though I wish I had!): "the weird running whip stitch thingy" that is now known as the English stitch, thanks to the ladies of American Duchess. I must say using this technique made matching the stripes easy. Not to mention how neat and tidy it makes the inside of your bodice, too (as can be seen below).

Here's a close-up of the finished seam, before removing the basting stitches:

The finished bodice seen from the outside:

And the inside:

At this point I drafted the pattern for the sleeves with the instructions in Creating Historical Clothes and had some fit issues with them as well. The finished sleeves (after alterations) look alright but I can barely lift my arms in them so I might add a little triangle to the underarm to allow for more mobility.

After that, it was time to decide on the trim. I wanted to trim the gown in some way, even though the most of extant robes à l'Anglaise aren't trimmed at all or only have a little bit of trim. But I didn't want to use the same trim style as the one in Patterns of Fashion, as it's the style that most people use and I thought it would be fun to do something a little different. So I spent some time researching options (which are collected on my Pinterest) but, as you can tell, I ended up using the same old trim style as everybody else, as I concluded that I liked it the best after all. *facepalm*

When it came to the sleeve trim, I really liked the wide trim seen on this beautiful costume from the Duchess. But I wanted to find validation for the trim style in historical sources. Alas, I was in no luck - which honestly didn't surprise me - so I gave up the idea. It's a trim style that appears to have mainly been used on robes à la Polonaise.

As usual, Mia did my hair for the evening and I did hers. We arranged a little public toilette before the event officially begun.

Mia working on my hairdo after I had finished hers.

When it comes to late 1770s, there's no such thing as too much hair decoration, right? ;)

And there's even a short video clip from the ball (unfortunately the quality is bad because this was taken on Mia's phone :/).

I also wore this dress to a small informal ball in January earlier this year and Mia kindly snapped these detail pictures of my gown and hairdo after the ball.

So here's a dirty little secret: I didn't intend to put trim down the center front (it's not something you see on historical examples and it even hides my careful stripe matching) but the hook and eye closure of the bodice stretched the lining a bit so there's a narrow but ugly gap at the front. Hence this was the last time I used hooks and eyes as a closure on my 18th century gowns. While hooks and eyes make a dress easy and quick to put on, I prefer to be able to adjust the bodice with a center front pieces that are lapped and pinned.

Despite of the difficulties I had making this dress, I do like the gown anyhow. :)

Links related to this project: 

Has anyone of you tried to draft a pattern with the instructions in Creating Historical Clothes? I'd love to hear your thoughts about it if you have! Personally, I'm not going to use it again (unless someone can point out a good pattern from it). Mia has also tried to make a pair of stays with this book and didn't have good results either. In conclusion: If you're thinking about buying this book, I wouldn't recommend getting it. 


  1. This is really cool. I appreciated your efforts and techniques for creating this master piece. I love the fact that I’ve never seen something beautiful like that before.

    Thanks for sharing!
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  2. Lovely dress! Great hair! Also, I was struck by your lovely jewelry!

    I haven't used that book. It sounds a bit frustrating based on your experiences. :/


    1. Thank you! :) I was so disappointed with the book because I was really excited about it in the beginning (I love to draft patterns!). But it made me question if the author had even tried creating something from the instructions herself. :( I remember Mia's stays were especially awful and therefore completely useless. But I must also admit I'm also very picky and that I probably strive for a more authentic cut and look than what the book was created for. So on the whole, it was just more work than it was worth.

  3. I just decided to come at the Christmas Ball this year (Just arrieved in Sweden and get in touch with people by facebook that convinced me to come !) and as I Don't have so much time I thought about using this book too, that I bought 2 years ago without use it (jus the basis).I hope I will be able to do Something, your post alarms me :O

    Your dress is really pretty, I love it <3

    1. Hi! That's great news! I hope you've had a better experience with the book than I did. See you at the ball!

  4. Hello, I came across your blog while I did a Google search for 18th century dress makers. Do you take orders? Thank you.

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  9. Dear Sanna,
    I am amazed by your blog and historical costumes. They are so beautifully well made and seem so accurate!
    For a college assignment I'm doing some research about the robe à la francaise, robe à l'anglaise and the chemise à la reine.
    Maybe you could help me with some information, as there are just few sources on the measurements of the cloth needed to sew this gowns and you have done all three of them.

    Ayleen Ribeiro, the famous fashion historian, gives us some numbers, but I would like to have something more concrete, like experimental fashion history : )
    Making it short: Could you please share with me the amount of cloth that it was needed to make your high quality reproductions? I would be immensily grateful to you!

    Best regards

  10. Hello, I discovered your creation not long ago while trying to reproduce an English dress.
    As soon as I saw yours I knew it was the one I wanted to make but unfortunately I'm not good at making patterns and yours isn't readable enough to take it like that.
    Would it be possible for you to send me the patterns to this email address: ?
    Thanks in advance

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