18th Century

The Construction of a LACMA-Inspired Redingote: Part Two

When I last wrote about this gown, it hardly looked like a gown yet. The base components were there (the bodice lining, the pleated back), but it still had a long way to go.

Ready for the ball!

Once it was at this stage, I basted the silk fashion fabric to the fronts, which was a bit of a feat because it was so fiddly (the shape was somewhat odd). I used prick stitches to finish the side seam of the bodice and attach the silk. I then finished the front edge and part of the bottom, but I left the silk basted in place and turned my attention to the sleeves.

The sleeves are a two-piece bent sleeve shape, like those seen on the original. I cut these out of linen lining and silk fashion fabric and first I sewed the seam on the outside of the sleeve (the seam that touched my elbow, not the inside of my arm).

This is the linen lining of the sleeve. You can see the first seam I did on the outside.

At this point, with two sleeve linings and two sleeve fashion fabrics, I had four unfinished sleeves. I decided to complete the sleeves using the “magic” lining method, because it’s much faster. To do this, I layered the sleeves on top of each other with under sleeve of the lining touching the under sleeve of the silk. I then used a strong backstitch and sewed the inside seam of the sleeve through all four layers. Then, the sleeve was turned so that it was right-side-out, and I had a completed sleeve. This was repeated for the other sleeve, too.

The sleeves were layered together…
…then the inside seam was pinned and sewn.

Once the sleeves were constructed, it was time to make the cuffs. I did this by covering four rectangles of linen buckram (made by coating linen in gum tragacanth) in silk: two for the actual cuffs, and two for false button plackets. I chose to do a false button placket because it is far easier and I have small enough hands that I don’t need to unbutton a cuff to fit my hands through it. I think that I have seen non-functional button plackets on extant gowns and in fashion plates, so hopefully this feature is accurate.

The silk covering the rectangles of linen was basted in place.

The cuffs were then sewn in place with whip stitches, and I added the button plackets with spaced backstitches.

I chose to attach the button placket in the way shown in the bottom of this picture.

Once the cuffs and button plackets were attached, I used a bit of cotton voile to make a cuff ruffle, and I whipped it in. At this point, the sleeves were completely finished and ready to be attached!







I’m going to end this post here, but keep an eye out for the part three of the construction of this gown!

Thank you for reading!

18th Century

The Construction of a LACMA-Inspired Redingote: Part One

So, somewhat ironically, I actually managed to get pictures of the finished gown before writing about it here, but the draft for part one of the construction was already saved to my WordPress account. Because of this, I will be blogging about the construction of my redingote for the next few posts, so stay tuned!

As I discussed in my recent post about my plans for 2018, I’ve been wanting to make a redingote based on the one housed at LACMA for a while. I already had the fabric from when I went shopping in the New York City garment district, and luckily for me, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art recently released PDF gridded patterns of some of their most famous pieces, and the redingote about which I’d been dreaming was among them!

I drafted the pattern in mid-February and was able to complete a complex gown and two matching petticoats, all entirely by hand, before the end of March, which I consider to be a massive success. I was lucky in that my first mockup fit almost perfectly. I ended up using the pattern from my floral dress (see here and here) as a rough base, which helped a lot with the fit.

Once I had a mockup, I started sewing. This involved a lot of guesswork, but I was aided once again from LACMA because their gridded PDF patterns have construction notes. One thing that was interesting about the gown off of which I based my redingote was that it has a under bodice that laces closed. I quite liked this idea, so I decided to do this too.

The back lining

The first thing I did was put together the back lining. This had two boning channels that are accessed through eyelets (they’re on the other side of the fabric in the above picture).

Next, I attached the front outer lining (the one to which the fashion fabric was eventually attached).

The front inner lining with eyelets

After the front outer lining was attached, I made the front inner lining by sewing a boning channel and six eyelets in each side. This was pinned in place, hemmed where necessary to make a clean finish, and attached to the lining at the side seam. I attached this in a way that makes it so that when the dress is laying flat open, the inside looks clean: the hems on the inner lining were turned away from the body, if that makes sense.

After the lining was put together, I realized that I had made a mistake when drafting the pattern. I realized that the neckline in the back of the dress was too low and too squared to support a curved collar, so I had to piece in a bit to raise the back of the neckline. However, piecing is period, and I really like how authentic it makes this redingote feel.

The weird pieces sticking out at the top corners (near the tops of the shoulder straps) are the added pieces.

Once the possible catastrophe of a too-low back neckline was averted, I basted down the inner lining so it wouldn’t flop around. At this point, it was time to add the silk. The original off of which I based my redingote had a back cut in one with the skirts, which I decided to do too, even though it can be difficult and time consuming. When I was cutting out the silk, I cut out the back skirts with the back bodice attached. However, I split the back bodice into two parts, like in the original, and I spaced them several inches apart so that I would have extra fabric to pleat into the skirts.

The pieces at either side of this picture, flopping around, are the other parts of the back of the bodice.

First, I used spaced back stitches to attach the back bodice silk at the center back, carefully avoiding the reed bones at the back. There had been extra silk between the two pieces, which was pleated at the center back (that’s where one can see the pleat at the bottom center of the above picture).


Next, I pinned the side back bodice silk so that the entire back of the bodice lining was covered in silk. I then sewed it on using spaced back stitches. After the silk at the back of the gown was attached, I sewed the shoulder straps to the back.


This was the front of the dress at this stage in construction.

I’m going to cut this post off here; thank you for reading! I will try to have the second part of my redingote saga posted soon.

18th Century

A Floral 18th Century “Italian Gown” – The Skirts and the Trim

Soon after I finished the bodice of my floral 18th century “Italian gown” (see here), I added a skirt and trim, and the dress was completed. I’ve heard that these dresses go together quickly, and that is no lie. I think I could make one in two or three days now that I’ve worked out the techniques.

As I said in my previous post, I used techniques described in the American Duchess Guide to aid in the construction of this dress. The mantua-maker’s seam was new to me, and I quite like it (I used it for the skirt seams and the sleeve seams). If you want to learn about 18th century dressmaking, get their book. It’s the best.

With those two points made, it’s onto construction.

I had four skirt panels, each the legnth of the selvage width. This fabric had a border print at the bottom two inches or so, but I hid that in the hem, and the undecorated selvage edge became the top of the skirt. I hemmed the edge of the panels that was to become the skirt fronts.

I seamed the panels together with mantua-maker’s seams at the sides and a normal seam at the back. The side seams of the skirt also had the pocket slits, which hemmed. I then pinned and basted pleats in each side of the skirt to fit to the bodice.


Then, I pinned the skirts to my dress form until the hem was even. Once it was even, I attached the skirts to the bodice with small whip stitches.

The pleated top of the skirt naturally folds over, which is something often seen in extant skirts as well.

After the skirts were attached, I hemmed the gown, and then it was structurally done.

However, it was yet untrimmed, which for the 18th century generally means nowhere near complete.

I did a bit of research, because I simply couldn’t decide upon trimmings that would compliment this dress. I again turned to the American Duchess Guide and I followed their lead and decided to leave the dress itself relatively untrimmed, so that I could make millinery with which to trim it later. I decided to include neck and cuff ruffles, however, in case I don’t want to wear a neckerchief.

The neck and cuff ruffles were made with the selvage edge (no roll hemming! yay!) of some cotton voile. I used whipped gathers to fit the ruffle to the neckline and cuff, respectively.

The ruffle was not as densely gathered as I would have liked, but I still think it’s elegant and pretty.


Once I had added the neck and cuff ruffles, all I had to do was add some ties in the skirt so that I can tie it up, as was popular in the last quarter of the 18th century.

I think I’ll wear it almost exclusively with the skirts tied up like this; I find the effect very aesthetically pleasing.



No guts no glory


All in all, I’m quite pleased with this dress, and I look forward to making some millinery with which to decorate it!

Thank you for reading!

18th Century

A Floral 18th Century “Italian Gown” – The Bodice

If you are at all familiar with 18th century dressmaking, you’ve probably heard of The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking, by Lauren Stowell and Abby Cox. In the fourth chapter of their magnificent compendium, they describe the construction of the “Italian gown” of the late 1770s through the 1790s. I had attempted to make one of these with my Duvet Cover Dress (here, here, and here), but I didn’t know as much about construction then as I do now. As such, I have decided to re-attempt making an “Italian gown,” or a late 18th century gown with a closed bodice cut separately from the skirts.

I’d eventually like to attend reenactments, so this dress is meant to be suitable for such events. I’m making it specifically with summer events in mind, so it has long but unlined sleeves to protect my arms from sunburn and to keep them cool at the same time. The fabric is a block-printed cotton similar to those seen in the 18th century that I purchased from Etsy, and it was lined with linen from a shirt from Salvation Army. The small amount of linen for lining was the other reason that the sleeves were unlined. The linen shirt I used was fairly loosely woven, so I had to finish every edge of the bodice before attaching the skirts (which I have yet to do).

This dress is entirely hand sewn using linen thread. I also am using many of the techniques described in The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking, such as the “English stitch,” of which I will definitely make use again in the future.

Anyway, without further ado, the construction:

I started by drafting a pattern, using the original pattern from the Maureen gown as a base. I drafted new sleeves (with help from the American Duchess guide, because it’s awesome) that took many mock-ups, but I think I finally have a functional late-18th century two-piece sleeve pattern, which is nice. Once the mock-up was fitted, I cut it out in linen and in cotton. I had to piece the front panel of the lining, but piecing is period!

This was taken at a later point in construction, but the seam on the right is the seam that pieced the bodice lining together.

After I had pieced the lining, my first step was to make boning channels at the center back. I made these accessible with an eyelet; should I decide to wash the dress or should a bone break, which may happen, as I am using reed boning rather than zip-ties, I will be able to easily access the reed. I then English stitched the back panels together.


My next step was to attach the lining for the front pieces. I did this by lapping the seams with backstitches for strength. I also added the shoulder straps in this manner. However, when I was fitting the front of the shoulder straps, I realized that the bodice was too loose in the back, so I took in the lining at the seam. I didn’t loose any fabric; instead I just pulled it to the side to tighten the back of the dress. I secured this with whip stitches, and after determining that the fit was now correct, I whipped on the front bodice fashion fabric.

Here you can see the bodice as I attached the front with backstitches.
Here you can see how I changed the seam: the more opaque white to the left of the seam was the overlap of the fabric.

Once the bodice front was attached, I did another fitting and closed the front edge of the bodice on each side by attaching the lining and the fashion fabric so as to hide raw edges.


I then had to make the sleeves, the construction of which I did not take any pictures. They were constructed with a mantua-maker’s seam as described in the American Duchess guide because they were unlined and I wanted the interior to be neat. I then set the sleeves in the usual manner.

At this point, the sleeves were attached and the bodice was structurally done, but the shoulder straps had no fashion fabric and were fraying badly, so I hemmed the outer edge underneath the sleeve cap. I then attached the shoulder strap fashion fabric and a scrap of fabric to the top of the back to neaten it. From there, I finished the raw edges of the bodice all the way around by turning the raw edges towards each other, and the bodice was finished.



I hopefully will have an update on this project and others soon, so stay tuned! Thanks for reading!

18th Century

An 18th Century Short Cloak – Construction

This project was one of the “UFOs” that I mentioned in my post about my plans for 2018. I was able to finish it quite quickly, which was nice. I will most likely update it with some fur trim, but for now, it’s wearable.

My inspiration for this project came from the numerous portraits and extant examples. I also read through some newspaper ads from 1770-1790, and it seemed like red was the color of choice for cloaks, so that’s what I chose for mine.

This plate is from 1772 (sorry for the poor quality of the image).
Galerie des Modes, 1781
“November” of The Twelve Months, 1781

I had significantly less fabric at my disposal than the wearers in these portraits seemed to have, so my cloak is a bit too short, but that doesn’t bother me too much. I used the pattern and construction notes from Costume Close Up, but I decided to line my cloak. I cannibalized an old Halloween costume that was made of an ecru silk dupioni without too much slub for the lining, and some Burnley and Trowbridge wool plush for the fashion fabric. Now, a note on lining: I had a hard time finding a source describing or depicting a fully lined cloak, but given what I know about 18th century dressmaking, I inferred that the use of what would have been considered at the time to be poor quality silk (the dupioni) to line a cloak for extra warmth could well be accurate. This being said, to improve accuracy, I will add some fur trim and arm slits at some point, because the extant examples and plates I’ve found seem to indicate that those were almost omnipresent in late 18th century women’s cloaks.

I drafted my pattern to be hip legnth, and once I had a usable pattern, I cut out the silk for the lining and the red wool for the fashion fabric. The silk lining was pieced to within an inch of its life because it was in strange pieces (it used to be an old Halloween costume), but piecing is period.

The outer fabric was pieced too, according to the pattern in Costume Close Up. The pattern on top of the cloak is a commercial pattern placed there for size reference.
My cat did not want me to work on my cloak!


This is the hood, the lining of which used four pieces and the outer fabric of which used only one.

I sewed together the lining and outer fabric with combination running and prick stitches. The first time sewing one of the cloak’s side’s outer fabric to the body of the cloak (sorry if that doesn’t make any sense), I sewed the wrong side to the right side, so I had to rip that seam out, but I sewed it correctly the next time.

Once both the lining and outer layer of the cloak were constructed, I flat-lined the hood and the cloak body. The edges were turned in and basted so that no raw edges were visible, and then I used a hemming stitch to attach the lining to the red wool.

IMG_1060 The hood was then pleated with the fan-shaped pleats commonplace in the backs of 18th century cloak hoods.

This is the back of the hood with the pleats basted into place. I soon thereafter secured the pleats with matching thread.

Once that was done, all I had to do was attach the hood to the cloak body and make some ties with which to secure the cloak. I gathered the cloak’s neck to the size of the hood, and attached the two with whip stitches. I then roll-hemmed some strips of lining silk for ties, and after attaching them, the cloak was done!



I’m altogether quite pleased with this cloak – it was sewn entirely by hand, and it’s warm and soft. I look forward to updating it with some fur trim, and I will post an update when I do.

Thank you for reading!

18th Century

Maximilien Robespierre – The Shirt and Frock Coat

I swear, I’ll be blogging about this project for eternity. I think that there will be at least two more posts about it, not to mention finally getting proper photos.

Anyway, I believe that in my first post about this project (here), I mentioned that I wanted to remake the shirt and the frock coat. The shirt has some good elements (the roll-hemmed ruffle) and some bad elements (the poor fit, the fact that it was sewn almost entirely by machine). After reading this blog post, I’m pretty excited about making a well-fitted men’s shirt entirely by hand.

This isn’t ironed, sadly

As it is, I should be able to pick apart the shirt and re-sew it with the same pieces. I’ll probably add some elements to make it more historically accurate, which may involve a bit of piecing, but it shouldn’t be that big of an ordeal. One thing that I’m excited about is making thread buttons with which to fasten the shirt. They seem like a fun project.

Remaking the shirt should be simple, but remaking the frock coat will be decidedly less so. The frock coat in its current state fits poorly and the lapel is too low. The sleeves are too tight and are set badly. I may eventually pick apart the coat and make myself a new one, because I like the fabric and I have a few scraps left, but my plan right now is to make a completely new frock coat.

It used to have buttons, but I ripped them off for Max’s Frock Coat Version 2.0.


I didn’t have time to line the coat when I made it.

I shall use a brown and orange corduroy that is more similar to the fabric in the portrait, and hopefully it’ll be less finicky when it comes to holding up a large collar than the silk taffeta.

Thank you for reading!


Plans for 2018

Hello! I have plans, resolutions, and announcements to share for the new year (a bit late, but better late than never).

In 2018, I am going to attend at least two costumed events: Costume College 2018, the Jane Austin Festival in Louisville, and probably the Port Townsend Victorian Festival. I may also attend the Port Angeles Colonial Festival, but I won’t need any new costumes for that. Additionally, I’d like to audition to join a Dickens Caroling Troupe this year, because I love Christmas Caroling and dressing up in costume, and I understand music (I took AP Music Theory and play the French horn), so I can sing decently. All of these things will need costumes! Thus, most of my sewing will be for these events, but thankfully, they all fit in with eras I’d like to explore and costumes I’d like to make.

I will divide this post by era, but I should give a disclaimer: if I go to the Port Townsend Victorian Festival, I will be wearing regency, which I believe is allowed at the Festival, even if it’s technically not Victorian, due to time constraints.

16th Century:

My Costume College Gala gown will be 16th century, with a white and gold theme. That’s all I will reveal for now.

18th Century:

Most of my planned sewing will be 18th century this year, because it’s my favorite. However, a large part of this will be early regency (1795-1800), so that will be discussed in a seperate category.

My first 18th century project is a cloak that I actually finished, and will likely be posting about soon.

My next project will be a 1780s floral gown, hopefully with some millinery (perhaps a new cap and hat).

After that, I’d like to make a redingote modeled after the LACMA redingote. LACMA has released gridded patterns of some of it’s most famous pieces, and this redingote is among them, so that will take a lot of the guesswork out of this project. This redingote will likely be one of my daywear pieces at Costume College. I will use a beautiful shot silk that I got in the New York Garment District. I’ll probably make a new hat and petticoat to go with this.

The redingote


It’s hard to see here, but the silk is shot with red fibers, which makes it change colors as the light hits it.

Another priority is remaking my Maximilien Robespierre frock coat (with new fabric) and redoing my 18th century men’s shirt, because I hope to wear my Maximilien Robespierre costume at the Costume College Friday Night Social (the theme of which is “A Princess in Paris,” so Max will be delightfully contrary).

I may try to find time to make a 1770s pleated back gown and a jacket based on the beautiful red 1790s jacket at the Kyoto Costume Institute, but these will be low priority projects.

Throughout the year, I’d also like to work on finishing some of my UFOs (unfinished objects) from last year, particularly my shift, 1770s cap, and men’s stock.


Because the Jane Austin Festival is a regency event, I have to make a new “kit” for the early regency! This will include stays (which I’ve already started), a petticoat, and of course, the dresses and millinery itself. I had the foresight to make my (yet unfinished) shift short-sleeved, so I won’t need to make a second shift, though it would be nice to have two. I plan on making two dresses for the regency festival: a plain white round gown and a yellow gown with a pleated front. These will be made more versatile with an open robe, a cap, a spencer, and a few other accessories. Hopefully, with a little mixing and matching, I will have four “looks” from only two dresses.

19th Century:

After Costume College and the Jane Austin Festival are done, I plan on focusing some time on making an 1840s kit and an 1860s kit.

For the 1840s, I’ll need a corset, a chemise (hopefully this will be multifunctional for the 1860s, but I need to do more research), a corded petticoat, some plain petticoats, a chemisette, and a working class dress. I’ll try to make a mantel/caplet, muff, and bonnet as well. There may be more components of which I don’t know, so more research will also need to happen. The 1840s has long been one of my favorite eras, so I’m looking forward to making outfits from this basic kit.

For the 1860s, I’ll need a corset (I’ll try to make this functional for the 1870s as well), a chemise, a hoopskirt, some petticoats, and probably some other underpinnings. Like with the 1840s, I have a lot of research ahead of me, but I find research enjoyable. My main idea for the 1860s is to make an ice skating ensemble like the one at the Met.

Sorry for the poor photo quality

20th Century:

Throughout the year, I will probably make myself 1930s- and 1940s-inspired garments for everyday wear. I actually finished a 1940s dress recently, so keep an eye out for a post about that.

Resolutions and Announcements:

My main resolutions for 2018 are to update my blog more and to read at least a book per week (I’ve read five this year as of January 21st, 2018). As for updating my blog more frequently, this will likely include posts about various sewing books, posts exploring certain types of gown, and more inspiration posts. I’m really looking forward to it.

One thing that I will be specifically blogging about (probably starting around May) is my goal to “read my way through the 18th century.” I love 18th century literature from what I’ve read (Frances Burney’s Evelina was very entertaining), and I learn quite a lot reading books from the period. I’d like to read Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe, Julie, or The New Heloise, Emile or On Education, and The Social Contract, all by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Candide by Voltaire, Cecelia and my old favorite Evelina, both by Frances Burney, and perhaps some others. However, only about half of my list will be books published in the 18th century; the other half will be books published later but set in the 18th century. I’d like to read Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities, and I’d like to reread Hilary Mantel’s A Place of Greater Safety (probably my favorite book ever). I’d also like to reread The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue and hopefully its new sequel. I’d also like to read A Visitor’s Guide to Georgian England by Monica Hall, as recommended here. If you have any other recommendations, please leave a comment! I am a voracious reader and I will try to get through all of the mentioned books, and perhaps more.

That is all; thank you for reading!