Curtains, and Patterning Update

I'm strongly considering joining the curtain-along.  I want to make a demi-polonaise, because it fascinates me!  (There are a few more examples of them in the coming plates.)  It will give me a chance to try out the polonaise skirt shape and some trim types before I make an actual polonaise with my Williamsburg fabric.  Also, I'm not quite happy with the shape of my stays, and I'm a bit nervous that if I make something with a bodice it won't fit when I get around to making better ca. 1785 stays.

Detail of the Cherry Hill gown back
Last Friday I visited Historic Cherry Hill to pattern a ca. 1780 closed-front gown with sleeves en pagode and a matching petticoat; Monday, I went to the Albany Institute and had a marathon all-day session patterning two rather similar gowns (not as pointed in the front, though), one of which has a matching but waistbandless petticoat with self-fabric trim, the other with loops inside to pull up the skirt, as well as a jacket, a stomacher, and a pair of early 18th century sleeves. Interestingly enough, the skirts of the Cherry Hill gown and the AIHA gown with the petticoat were both cut in curves on the front corners and had similar trim down the fronts and around the curves.  I can't wait to get a bit further on in the fashion plates to see when this started, or if it was never a high-fashion thing, maybe just a local style.

Detail of sleeve trim on AIHA gown with petticoat

I have something to add to my usual caveats about trusting museum-given dates. The petticoated gown was en fourreau and in a striped floral fabric: it was marked "1760-1770, remade 1780" because the fabric is early-looking and the general thought is that fourreau gowns are earlier, and so if you have that plus closed front it must have been remade. But there's no indication that any seams have been changed at all. It's patched, but under the arms, where it was worn. So what I'm saying is, don't assume remodeling when a museum's database/catalogue says so and back pleats go later than most people think.

Detail of pleating on AIHA gown with rétroussée loops
Another interesting thing I've learned is that it seems kind of common for sleeves and their linings to be seamed together, the front or back folded under in both layers and lapped around the other, then sewn all the way through - which hides all the seam allowances.

Detail of front of jacket
I'm very, very happy to say that pretty much everything I've worked on for the whole project so far has at least one attribute that makes it worth inclusion. Most have two.  And I have a couple more leads for finding more articles to pattern.

Detail of stomacher


  1. Ooh! Join the curtain along! That demi-polonaise was SO cute - I'd love to see how you do it.

    1. Think I will! Part of me wants to get them from Amazon and save a few bucks, but it'd be so great to just pick them up from a store and be able to start right away.

  2. I definitely recommend on taking your time to make the new stays. Because in the end you'll probably end up regretting that you can't wear your new stays with the dress. That happened to me with my purple polonaise. I spent hours and hours making it and it doesn't fit anymore! I could, still, wear my old stays but they're in really bad condition and I don't like them... Besides, the new stays are much comfortable AND I can lace myself tighter, too, because they're fitted properly.

    1. I was thinking that I'd try to also make a polonaise caraco, which I could wear with the petticoat if I took the demi-polonaise tail off it - I'll hold off working on that aspect until I finish the stays I started ages ago.

      That's so sad about your polonaise, it's so beautiful! My stays are comfortable enough, but they don't have enough of a lacing gap and I seem to have some kind of mental block when it comes to bust:waist proportions (I really ought to be getting a more hourglassy figure).


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