Sunday, 6 March 2016

1795 Round Robe - Norah Waugh

Pattern: Diagram XXXII, "Round Robe c.1795", from The Cut of Women's Clothes, by Norah Waugh.
Fabrics: 100% cotton, feather weight, buttercup yellow. Egyptian cotton, 100%, for lining.
Available on Etsy HERE
Available on Ebay HERE

Measurements: *no alterations made to size. "As if" from the pattern, except for skirt length
Chest - 38"
Waist - 29"
Hip - Free
Hem - 42" long
Hem circumference - 189", 5.25 yards.
Back width - 12.5"
Back length (neckline to waist) - 14"

Book Description *I could not find any other information about this dress beyond what is in the Waugh book. I could find no images. 
["Round Robe, c. 1795.
A round robe of very fine soft white muslin with frills of self material. The bodice lining is of firmer cotton, and the backs of both lining and bodice are cut the same. The bodice and skirt are sewn to the waistband, except the left side from, which from the center front to the side opening is gathered into a narrow band 5.5" long."] - Waugh, The Cut of Women's Clothes, p.307.

This is sort of a transition period mix between a chemise a la reine and a proper round gown. The waist sits at natural height, unlike the empire waist becoming popular at the same time. The wide belt, however, raised the look of the "waist" a bit higher.

The skirt is very wide, about 5 and a quarter yards. The opening is 5.5" to the side of center front. I did that according to the pattern, but the gather of the skirt is so heavy you could place the opening at the center front if you wanted to without it really being visible during wear. It would also be a bit less work.

The fit overall is quite relaxed. The back, at 12.5" wide, is pretty comfortable and unlike the narrow, shoulders-thrown-back fit of the 18th century. The sleeves are also a relaxed fit. This one would be very easy to alter by size too.

~Bodice~ *remember, all of these construction steps are what I ended up doing, not what is on the actual museum piece. I was unable to find more info/pictures of the real dress, so I don't know precisely how things were done on the original item.

The backs and sides are flat lined and treated as one piece. The front lining pieces have a fit dart, then the overlay section is gathered to fit.

 (above) I used the machine to for the side and back seams, but did the seam wrapping/binding by hand.

(Below) The lining pieces with fit darts stitched (by machine). There is no indication in the book description that this garment has a neckline channel, but chose to insert one for fit assistance (shown later).

(Below) The overlay piece to be cut. The gather at the waist is pretty heavy and tight; another reason why light weight fabric is a must for this dress.

(Below) The pattern calls for the lining to be gathered a bit as well. If you don't like this, I suppose you could just alter the lining piece to be 2.5" flat between the front and the fit dart. That would force your center front to no longer be on the straight-of-grain, though, so keep that in mind.

(Below) The front overlay gathered and stitched to the front lining. It has a very Edwardian pigeon breast look, doesn't it?

(Below) I chose to finish the front edges with a bias strip, turned, and whip-stitched to the lining only. For the neckline I did the same, creating a draw-string channel. I inserted the ribbon at this point so the ends could be fixed at the shoulders.

At first I didn't want the neckline ruffle, but once I had the bodice partially assembled I could see it would be far too plain Jane without it. I did a 4" wide strip with a narrow hem by hand. (All the ruffles on the dress, including belt, and narrow hemmed by hand).

Unfortunately, my decisions on how to treat the front neckline, and thus the back neckline, meant I couldn't put the ruffle in the seam. It's better I didn't anyway, since the 18th century way of doing things was so that they could be easily altered later. Thus, the ruffle is folded to conceal the raw edge, gathered, and whip-stitched to the bodice lining inside so that it can fold outward during wear.

The ruffles on the neckline, belt, and sleeves are 4" wide and 2X the length of the space required (so, a 2:1 gather.

Needless to say, you'll want to disregard the skirt length in the pattern diagram and instead cut the pieces to what you need. Do keep in mind, however ,that this dress sits at natural waist, despite the more empire look of the line drawing. You will want your length based on natural waist height.

I chose not to follow the cutting layout as shown in the diagram because the fabric I was working with was already as wide as I needed for my length. So I did a single straight panel, 5.25 yards long, with a single seam. This seam sits as the opening at the left side. I left the seam open from the top about 9" for the opening and hand stitched the edges down. I also did the hem by hand.

This method may or may not work for you based on the width of your fabric, your height, and any pattern direction you're trying to maintain.

(Below) It's a pretty tight gather.

~Waistband Treatment~
This is the part of the pattern that confused me the most. I know, it clearly says "The bodice and skirt are sewn to the waistband, except the left side from...", but you know how conciseness can breed confusion, especially when we're used to half a dozen detailed steps to do one thing (Simplicity patterns have ruined me, lol). In the end, it was just as it sounds. A waistband AND a waistband lining, the latter to be used to bind everything inside once you're done.

(Below) Front view of the waistband pinned closed with skirt already attached.

Now, as for the 5.5" strip of skirt going to the left closure, you can treat this two ways. According to the pattern, it's bound in a 5.5" strip, implying it's another piece of fabric separate from the waistband. That's what I ended up doing (see below).

This method is best (as opposed to simply making the waistband longer) because the center fronts of this dress do not overlap. They meet edge to edge, and a waistband overlap would force you to set your hooks and eyes further in away from the edge of the center front closure. (I hope some of that even remotely made sense *sigh*).

~The Belt~
Be forewarned, the belt pattern piece is the same length as the waistband, which won't end up fitting. Obviously your measurement over the dress is going to be larger, so measure that first before cutting your belt pieces. Also, the belt doesn't have any built in overlap, so if you plan to do an overlapping closure like I did, you'll have to adjust for that too. I did a rather wide overlap because I ended up using large, 1 1/8" buttons (handmade, see further down).

Because this belt is so wide, I highly recommend some kind of stiff interfacing to help it maintain shape around the waist. I interfaced with a heavier cotton and also flat lined both layers of yellow (this because my yellow fabric is quite thin). The center back is boned and I chose to make the boning channel stitches visible.

(Below) Making the buttons for the front closure of the belt. A wood round, padded with felt, and wrapped over with yellow cotton and white lining.

(Below) Button holes also done by hand. The belt allows you to finagle the bodice gathers forward to lay as you would like, and ending up looking much more like the line drawing from the book.

(Below) The belt is top stitched to the bodice, according the lines shown on the pattern pieces. The stitching ends at the side-front seam and it only at the top. 

A very light, relaxed fit dress of the 1790s transition period

1 comment:

  1. Yes, I would like to do the dress we discusses from your last year: gold and black.
    Please let me know what you need and if you can send picture of the fabric you are picking - will be great.
    I am OK with any blues, dark reds, some greens - as long as there is some black design to coordinate with the vest.
    Thank you very much for everything. I am looking for your email to send you my contact info and I can't find it. I will try to look for your page on Facebook. Alvira