Thursday, 30 July 2015

1795 Open Robe - Norah Waugh

Pattern: "1795 Open Robe", Diagram XXXIV from The Cut of Women's Clothes, by Norah Waugh.
Alterations: Yes. Altered hem shape. Pattern also graded up 1/2" using the shift method. Stitching varies from the original.
Fabric: 100% Silk, laundered. Re-purposed from an antique Sari, heavily embroidered.
Original Museum Garment: Held at the Victoria & Albert museum. Pictures and information available HERE.
Final Garment Measurements: 33" Under-bust. 14" Back Width (socket to socket, well inside the sleeve). 11" Actual Back Width (armhole to armhole across center back). 50" Skirt Length from underbust to hem (intended to drag).

Dress and all matching parts available on ebay HERE

I will discuss in more detail the various changes I made form the original garment as we go, but for a quick rundown  here I will say that I
1)Made the hem straight when the original is curved,
2)Omitted the edge trimming,
3) Lined the skirt and Sleeves,
4) Did not put boning in the bodice back, and
5) Omitted hooks/eyes from the front closure.

~Grading the Pattern~
Like almost all extant garment based patterns, this robe is incredibly small. Even after I graded up 1/2" on all seams using the shift method, the final result is still quite small (see measurements at top). The original sizing would have probably been too small to even get on my dress form.

The shaping is very 18th century, with the back being narrow and the armhole/shoulders thrown further back than is normal for modern body types.

In the future, when I wish to make this pattern much larger, I will use the more accurate cut & spread method of grading.

Below is the upscaling work I had to do first in order to get the 1/8" scale pattern from the book out into 1:1 size. I was lucky to finally found this 1" grid paper from an educational supply company. It comes in a 200' roll.

Below is the lining bodice piece, original size, shown over the up-graded tracing I will eventually use for the garment. (the shiny paper I used for that is the plain back of some old Christmas gift wrap. A great source of cheap, big scale paper).

**I forgot to take pictures of the largest pattern piece, the main dress. I drew it out only on it's top portion to save paper. No need to extend the paper pattern down all the way to the hem when you can just measure for that later.


On the original pattern you can see the pleating guide lines for folding the fronts and creating the "robings". Since the pleats are formed on the front, it's best to mark the lines with pins on the front rather than chalk on the back. Below you can see the folds already made and sewn to the body. Unfortunately, I worked so quickly with this one that I neglected to take a lot of step-by-step photos.

 On the extant garment, the folds are top stitched down very close to the edge. I didn't do this because I wanted the folds to have more spring and definition, giving the illusion they had been folded as the garment was being put on, like a toga. So, I blind stitched the pleats into place from the other side rather than top stitching. Since it is the bodice lining that takes the stress on this garment, loose blind stitching is okay.
  Above you can see the fronts pinned where I eventually would hand stitch the garment to it's lining. On the extant garment, the front closure "tabs" where a different fabric from the dress. I made them to match, using an embroidered section of the original sari.

Above is more pining associated with connecting the dress to the lining. 

*Above* For the side tabs, which are decorative as well functional in keeping the folds held back, I decided to make a Dorset button out of green embroidery floss. The tabs are bound and interfaced with black taffeta.

~The Under Dress~
In the final finished ensemble pictures you will finally see, the open robe is shown over a sheer black dress made from a different pattern. I used the 1795 dress pattern from the Evolution of Fashion book by Margot Hill. It is a sleeves dress meant to be worn under some other sleeved garment. I made this a sheer dress, so it obviously needs to be worn over something else, either a petticoat or another dress. Since I didn't have anything on hand, I just took the picture as was.

I absolutely love this pattern. It is shockingly simplistic while at the same time created one of the most accurate silhouettes and shapes I have found for the time period. Size Grading is almost remarkably easy. You can make this pattern fit anywhere from a size 2 to a size 24 with very little trouble =)

In the pictures, I had to stuff the front of the dress bodice just to show some shape because this dress form has no bust to speak of

 I made the draw string using black cotton yarn. The twisting method results in what is typically known as "Flemish Cord"

**Be warned, there are many, MANY photos ;)
Also, to see the matching reticule and fingerless mitts I made, just go all the way to the bottom.
Note on Fabric: I took these pictures without ironing the dress because my iron shocked me yesterday and I don't trust it anymore. We're having words about it. Anyway, the garment looks even more antiquated and worn without being ironed, lol. 

Below you can see the side tab and the Dorset button I made =)

 Below, I used some edge embroidery from the sari and sort of "appliqued" it on to the cuff of the sleeve. I did this by hand using a very tight blanket stitch.

 Below you can see the applique work I did on each corner of the hem. The sari came with four of these wonderful embroidered/beaded flowers. As you cansee from the wear on the beads, this sari was very old and had seen many washings.

I did not use a pattern for the purse. Is it just a simple tube with the bottom gathered very tightly into a circle, then folded inside. The bag is lined in pink cotton.

 Below are the matching fingerlesss mitts I made, using the heavily embroidered hem of the sari. I made a separate post just for the 18th Century Fingerless Mitts

I would have shown the mitts on my hands for better effect, but I made them to fit a small person who most likely where the dress, and thus they do not fit me even remotely, LOL.


  1. It's gorgeous, and I love how you've used the sari. A small pedantic note, the book by Margot Hill is Evolution of Fashion (not Patterns of F).

    1. Thanks, Ista! I've changed it =)
      I also sent a few pictures of the robe to the Indian merchant who sold me the sari. I hope she gets a hoot out of it! LOL