Saturday, 27 July 2019

1800 Bib-Front Dress - Silk Organza.

Patterns: Laughing Moon's "Bib-Front" Gown, with some alterations.
Fabrics: 100% silk organza, with a jacquard border weave of flowers in gold/silver metallic threads. Fully lined in gray broadcloth.

Measurements: *Pattern size 20
Chest: 41-43"
Under-bust: 36-38"
Hem: 40.5" at front, 41.75" at back.
Back Width: 14"
Upper Arm: 16" max
Sleeve: 25" (long to give the scrunched up look, popular at the time).

Due to the silk organza being sheer, I had to add the step of fully lining the skirt (more on that later). All visible stitching is done by hand, including edge stitching on the bodice and the hem, which is faced with broadcloth to protect the delicate metallic threads at the back of the border. 

The side openings are probably the fussiest part of this gown, especially for those who might not be used to delicate hand stitching like this: 

The opening is cut into the side-back panel and then narrow hemmed (or rolled hemmed) down as far as possible. I have added a buttonhole stitch overlap on the bottoms to protect the slits from strain and tear. Still, even with this step, this will be the most sensitive are of the garment. As you can see (above) I did this separately on the outside silk and the lining. The slit is entirely hidden under the folders of the dress once the top is tied back.

The bodice front is where most of the fit adjustments take place. A drawstring channel at the neckline allows you to fit the bodice down to the swell of the bust. Behind the bodice front (not pictured), the lining secures across the bust with 3 sets of ribbon ties. 

The buttons are made in the period accurate style, with circles of fabrics wrapped around blank wooden molds, then secured at the back with heavy over-stitching. The buttons can be moved for fit adjustment, but since the bottom of the bodice front is in line with the under-bust seam, this shouldn't be necessary. 

The majority of the skirt width is concentrated at the narrow space of the center back. Now, the pattern calls for this area to be pleated, not gathered, and there's a good reason for that. The back of the skirt is very wide, and unless you're using a very lightweight fabric, you will find it difficult to gather down that much width into such a small space. The only way I was able to do it---with the additional thickness of the lining too!---was that I took out some of the width from the gathering area and folded it around to form a wide box pleat behind all the gathering (I know, what the heck is she talking about?) 

All the heavily gathered area of skirt you see (above) is resting on top of a wide box pleat. This serves two purposes. One, it gets some skirt width out of the gathering area so you can, hopefully, fit it to the center back. And Two, it creates a "bouncing out" effect on the gathers, lifting them away from the body to create the puff back silhouette so many were after (this was also achieved with little crescent pads worn at the center back, etc.)

The Pattern:
I have made this pattern before, but it bears repeating. Laughing Moon is AMAZING. One of the best pattern companies out there, without question. This pattern in particular is meticulously graded (all pieces meet up perfectly, in multiple sizes), and the fit is conducive to more modern body types (i.e. doesn't have the exaggerated narrow back and shoulders common to the time period).

The only change I routinely make is that I attach the opening of the skirt side slit further forward on the bodice than is marked on the pattern, by maybe an inch or so. This is just so I can get a deeper overlap at the side closures. It's not necessary, just a preference. 

View of the side overlap, opening hidden behind folds.
Some Notes on the Fabric:
If you hadn't guessed already, this fabric started it's life as an Indian Sari. I love buying pre-owned saris from India. They are an inexpensive source of--usually--very authentic light weight silks that have already been laundered many times (which gives a garment an even more 'authentic' feel, if you ask me). I do recommend buying from independent sellers on etsy and ebay with lower sale counts, if possible, to support individual sellers in India, rather than big companies. Smaller sellers probably won't be able to give you free shipping, but even with shipping the cost is still well worth it =)

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