Sunday, 6 September 2015

1770s Polonaise from The Cut of Women's Clothes - Striped Silk Taffeta

Pattern: Diagram XXI, "1770s Polonaise" from Norah Waugh's The Cut of Women's Clothes. I was unable to locate any images of the extant garment.
Fabrics: 100% Silk Taffeta, striped. 100% silk dupioni for the petticoat.
Alterations: MANY alterations, yes, mostly relating to making the garment suitable for a modern figure. See below for specifics.

I made some obvious changes from the original pattern, mostly just because of personal preference.
1) No collar. I didn't like the look of the collar piece with the narrow edge trim. Instead, I just did a traditional ruching around the neckline.
2) No decorative braid or tassels at the back seams. I wanted the dress to fit more snugly against the back rather than having the looser "house" look. With the new jutting at the back, the braid and tassels would not have looked very good.

Other changes I made were based on fit. Beware that this pattern is from an extant garment, and thus has the shaping of an 18th century women who spent most of her life being formed by stays. These features include:
<>A very narrow back.
<>Shoulders and armholes thrown very far back (even a petite woman would be practically pressing her shoulder blades together in order to get into this original piece).
<> Extremely low neckline. When I made out the original pattern before alteration, the neckline rested 12" below the clavicle. Although, this may have been the result of my dressform not being able to accomodate the narrow back, and thus spoiling the lay of the whole rest of the garment. Regardless, I recommend cutting the neckline high and then altering it later.

Below you see the pattern for the front/side section. As you can see, it's a very large piece and I could not cut the whole thing in double from my 54" fabric. I decided to add a seam rather than unfold the fabric and cut it that way. It would have been a huge waste of fabric and would have ruined what I had left for cutting the back pieces. I highly recommend piecing in order to save fabric.

Note on Cutting for both pieces: remember that the shoulders/armhole are set very far back. Adjust that BEFORE you cut. Also, widen the back section pieces to make them accommodate a modern figure.

Now that I have told you adjust the back before you cut, I will admit that I was stupid and did not do this =/ In order to make the back wide enough to even begin to take an average figure, I was forced to add two strips to the back. Shown here:

 I stitched the back  and side seams together and did up the pleats on the inside. They would later be whip-stitched to the inside lining. If you didn't notice, I took these pics before I realized I needed to add the additional panel.

 This is the mess of ribbons and ties. I really need to makeup a better hip-pad/bustle, as I'm always having the supplement the one I have with extra foam pieces.

Below you can see the lining section inside. I later added a line over the ties to keep the section straight and flat.

Even though it was not indicated in the original pattern or the description, I did end up adding a top-stitched tuck on each side of the torso to help with fit. The way it was without the tuck was too loose and billowing and I didn't find it very attractive. See the tuck below:

Trim: I wanted to do ruching all around. I used eyelash novelty yarn as the edge trim. It's wonderful stuff and ridiculously cheap for the yardage you are getting. It is hard to work with, though, so be prepared for that. You have to use a narrow zig-zag stitch to attache it. 



  1. I think it looks great! Polonaise are NOT easy. I found it really hard to wrap my head around the construction of the front. You did a beautiful job with it. I hope to see you wearing it soon!

    1. Thanks a bunch! I agree, the construction is frustrating. But, at least with the tie lining and the pinned stomacher, it can fit a little size range. =) As for seeing me in it, nope! LOL I made this dress just because. It's nowhere near my size, unfortunately.