Sunday, 27 November 2016

1770s "ribbon candy" Anglaise - Larkin & Smith English Gown Pattern

Pattern: Larkin & Smith "English Gown" is the base, though the fronts are altered to have a closed front rather than a stomacher, and the robings have been omitted
Fabric: Cotton blend, cream, with narrow stripes of purple, blue, red, and green.
             White cotton for lining, bodice and sleeves only.
Undergarments: Dress form torso padded to reflect general shaping of 18th century stays. Foundation item is a large crescent bum roll (see further down).

Chest: 43"
Waist: 35"
Hip: free
Hem: 40" at front, 10" drag at back. *hem is shaped to accommodate a bum roll.

Construction Notes: Hand stitched

~Features of the Pattern~
The Larkin & Smith English Gown pattern is by far one of my favorite,, and is definitely the best produced (i.e. printed) pattern I've ever used. The gown features:

  • en fourreau style back
  • stomacher closure
  • Loose robings to be pinned over the stomacher edges
Obviously, my finished gown is missing the robings and the stomacher. I altered the fronts to be a full center closure with hooks and eyes. This required a redrafting of the front pieces, slight alterations to the front shape of the shoulder straps, and omission of the robings. 

Everything else about the gown is essentially the same. I did ad width to the skirt panels, though, because I wanted more fullness there. 

~En Fourreau Back~
The first time I made this style, I could not understand how one was meant to attached the skirt at the side backs where the slit in the fabric had been cut, since it appeared to me there was no seam allowance to make it happen. Folding under the waistline only seemed to make this problem worse. Of course, I was confused by this because before getting this pattern I had never had the pleating instructions adequately explained.

The first pleat you make on the skirt backs is deep and does all the way to the center back seam, this basically causes the curved top of the skirt panel to raise up about 3/8" of an inch, giving you the allowance you will need. In the past, I had started pleating almost right at the edge of the slit, which was why is never worked properly. Below, you can see the center back pleat from the inside.

And from the outside:

Laying down the pleats on the en fourreau back is probably going to be your most frustrating aspect of this gown. For one, you have to work from the outside, so transferring markings is not really possible unless you are absolutely sure your markings won't stain and can be easily removed (I never assume this. I treat all markings as if they are now permanent's just safer that way). 

The pattern recommends tracing the back pleat pattern onto tracing paper (thin and transparent), and then pinning the tracing paper to your fashion fabric and doing it all as one. Then, you have to carefully and painstakingly removed the paper and repin from the bottom up. It's slow and aggravating, but really there isn't a better way. 

Another thing you will have to contend with is the fact you are forcing fabric to do what it doens't want to do. The back pleats are meant to be elegantly curved from waist to top, not just straight lines at an angle like a triangle, so getting your fabric to pleat in a curve will be irritating and require a lot of ironing in the process (Highly recommend glass head pins, so you can iron right on top of them).

This is also another reason why hand stitching these pleats is highly recommended. It's much easier to manipulate fabric into an unnatural shaping by hand then under the presser foot of a sewing machine, which doesn't really accommodate the teeny-tiny tucks and ripples that occur between hand stitches and which provide much needed easing.

 ~Attaching the sleeves - 18th c. method~
First, I'm sorry to say I neglected to take good pictures of this step. Luckily, the American Duchess did a write up on this method that explains everything perfectly. What's basically going on is that you are sandwiching the top of the sleeve between the lining and fashion fabric rather than stitching through both, right sides together, and turning. This method eliminates the bulk and misery of a fat armhole sleeves that won't lay flat.

Above (never mind the pillow stuffing in the sleeve, lol) you can see the inside of the sleeve. The lining is flat, facing into the sleeve, with the edge left raw. If you are concerned about fraying, you can whip-stitch or blanket-stitch this edge. Up to you.

Below, you can see the typical 18th century shape of the sleeve at the back, coming into toward the center back at a point. This sort of shaping is also much easier to achieve and maintain if you use the sleeve attachment method mentioned above.

~Skirts and Hem~
I essentially followed the instructions original to the pattern, except for two variations.
1) I increased the skirt widths on both sides by an extra 20" to provide increased fullness. If you are using a thin fabric, as I did, I recommend this.
2) Instead of leaving the skirt hem straight all around, I shaped it to accommodate a drag length at the back and curved front edges, rather than blunt 90 degree angles.

Below: Because the stripe pattern blends with itself so well, you can't see the curved edge of the dress skirts very well. Here is a pick to better see the shaping. (also note that the hem is entirely hand stitched, 5/8" allowance)

Showing the drag length:

The inside lining is folded under at the bottom edge, concealing the raw edges of the skirts entirely =)

~Sleeve Flounces~
The cuffs of the sleeves consider of a partial upper flounce (partial because it does not go all the way around), a ruffled band, and a larger under flounce. The pattern has all three parts being made from the same fashion fabric. I chose to make my under flounce of white cotton, but I also chose to to make it quickly and easily removable.

The white under flounce I made has it's own draw string channel, ties, and is very lightly tack-stitched to the sleeve lining. Because of this, they can removed for separate laundering to keep them bright white, as well as for use on other dresses. 

Below: closeup view of under flounce, inside the sleeve. Wide tack stitches attach it to the sleeve lining. Easily removable.

~Scalloped Edges~
Finding an iron edge punch similar to those used in the 18th century is difficult, and even when you do find them they are usually designed for leatherwork and not sharp enough to get the clean cuts needed on fabric. I decided to go with a straight, tiny scalloped edge achieved with vintage scalloping shears (be careful buying modern scalloping shears, as they are often designed for paper rather than fabric). 

~Crescent Bum Roll~
This shape is wider at the back, producing a rump, and designed to be worm down on the hip, not up near the waist. If you wear it up to high you end up with a very jutting, Elizabethan shape rather than the elegant expanse you want. I made this one for mannequin use rather than personal wear, so it's made of a polyester taffeta. 


1 comment:

  1. this is one of my FAVORITE pieces of your work.. its elegance and simplicity draws me in..
    i am saving my pennies to one day own one of your pieces of art!!!
    in the meantime i LOVE your eyecandy!!