Friday, 5 August 2016

Pet en l'air - Silk Taffeta with embroidered stomacher

Pattern: diagram XV "1740s Sack Dress" from Norah Waugh The Cut of Women's Clothes. Cut to Pet en l'air length. Other alterations as well *see further down*
Fabric: 100% Silk taffeta for pet-en-l'air and petticoat. Lining done in 100% cotton.
Available on Etsy HERE
Measurements: *Taken as they are on the dress-form
Chest - 42"
Waist - 37"
Hip - Free
Back Width - 14"
Shoulders - 19.5"
Sleeve length (shoulder to back of elbow) - 13.5"
Upper Arm: 16.5" max
*The overall fit of the pet-en-l'air is more relaxed than most. The back width is wider and the shoulders are further forward than typically seen in extant pieces. The dress has been made to be more suited to a modern posture and shape. 

As far as this pattern is concerned (Norah Waugh, XV), I have already made it several times and won't really rehash the same construction details here. For more information on this pattern and my use of it, see the pink plaid taffeta pet-en-l'air. And also the black and beige dotted silk

So, I will move on to what makes this particular ensemble special: the hand embroidered stomacher

This image taken from The American Duchess
~The stomacher~
As of me finishing this stomacher, which happened last night, my experience with embroidery has been limited. In the past I have embroidered a few letters, some simple little flowers on buttons, that sort of thing. This is my first attempt at hand embroidering a full motif.

I started by searching for an existing pattern, as I wasn't comfortable yet just drawing out my own image. I used the thistle stomacher pattern drawn out by The American Duchess, which is just beautiful and very well balanced.

As for materials, I would have loved to do this in silk floss, but I would have had to special order it and I wasn't willing to wait to get started (impatience is not a virtue, lol). So, I went with standard cotton floss.

I started by tracing the pattern on the silk taffeta with a simple pencil, since my embroidery would cover all the pencil marks anyway. Luckily, the silk was quite easy to see through, so I was able to trace right over the print out

(Above) The marked lines are a bit difficult to see in this photo. Also, I made a total rookie mistake by cutting out the stomacher shape before I started my embroidery. In the future I will work with a square of a decent size, then cut out my stomacher shape around the embroidery once I'm done.

(below) Luckily, I was using a rather small embroidery hoop and had no trouble fitting the design without the hoop going over the edges of the fabric.

~Plan & Method~

Ha! I had no plan, and my "method" was whatever sounded good at the moment. I used the colors of floss I had on hand, only thinking once I was halfway through that I might not have enough to finish. And a few of the skeins I used were vintage purchases, so...if I had run out of floss on a certain color, I would have been in some trouble. Luckily, the Fates were with me on my slap-dash excursion.

The vines are simple stem stitch and the flowers are basic satin stitch. The little yellow flowers are doubled over satin stitch in the middle. I would like to wholeheartedly thank Marie-Noelle Bayard and her book Embroidery Techniques and Patterns...not to mention my local library for tolerating the fact that I check this book out repeatedly =)

Despite the novice origin, I'm pretty happy with the result

I did self ruching for the sleeves, front, and hem of the pet-en-l'air. I started with a single long strip then folded under the edges to create the smooth edges. I used a long machine stitch to do the gathering, then applied all the trims by hand. Afterward, I went back and pulled out all the gathering threads. *This dress has no machine stitching visible during wear.*

~Lining and Lacing~
Since the lining is not visible during wear, I used metal grommets for the front lacing (which are definitely not historically accurate). The center fronts of the lining are boned. The placement of the grommets is suited to spiral lacing.

The lining is attached the silk of the dress only at the cuffs of the sleeves, the neckline, and the top of the back above the Watteau pleats.

During wear, the fronts of the dress are pinned to the stomach under the robings. This can be a fussy process if you aren't used to it, but ladies rarely got dressed in these sorts of garments without help.

The back of the lining has ribbons to adjust fit. Here they are shown fully closed to their smallest measurement.


(below) The pillow stuffing in the neckline was meant to show the general shape of the wearers bosom, but I don't think it worked, LOL


  1. The fabric print is really beautiful! The dress is very nice and the fit is perfect, like all the things you make. You look great!

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