January 11, 2012

Robe a la Polonaise, c. 1779

I made this gown for myself, to wear to colonial living history events.

This lovely, lightweight cotton lawn was purchased from fabric.com. I wanted an elegant, more "dressy" style for my colonial gown since my Civil War garments were a bit utilitarian. I based the style of this gown on one found in Costume In Detail, minus some of the elaborate ruched trimming. Perhaps I'll add that later.

The first thing to put on is the petticoat (also called the underskirt or jupe). I made mine with the same fabric as the outer gown, but petticoats were just as often made from contrasting fabric.

The petticoat was made quite simply; pleated into a two-part waistband and faced at the hem with white cotton.

To put on the petticoat, first tie on the back part (like a backwards apron).....

And then tie the front part around the back! (Like a regular apron, lol. Rather difficult to explain.) The overlap of the two sides of the skirt provides easy access to the pockets, which are worn underneath the petticoats. (More on my colonial undergarments later!)

Next comes the gown (or robe).

(the bodice doesn't quite fit my dressform)

I didn't use a pattern for this gown; the bodice was simply drafted on top of the stays (which I did use a pattern for and will be posting later). It pins shut up the center front.

the back bodice

The back bodice is made of four panels and lined with plain white cotton. The panels are whipstitched together.

sleeves and engageantes

The longer sleeves (on me they're between my elbow and wrist) date the dress to the late 1770s--full-length sleeves would be in vogue by the 1780s. I added lovely engageantes made from the dress fabric--they're simply ruffles cut from a half-circle of fabric, with the edges pinked in little half-circles.

Colonial-era armsyces are always a little bit wonky--lots of room towards the back, which makes it hard to stretch your arms forward!

The sleeve cap is tucked to fit the armscye. The sleeve pattern is actually free and came from here.

The skirt of the gown is "polonaised" up with ribbon attached to buttons on either side of the bodice. This gives the skirt a lovely drape, quite fashionable. (A bum pad is worn underneath to give the "bustled" look.)

You can see the ribbons better in this photo!

All in all, I love this dress. I love the silhouette it gives and I love the fabric. Lots of fun to wear!

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