Thomas Jefferson at Merchants Square, Williamsburg
This is one of my favorite efforts. Of course, that’s partially (largely!) due to the fact that Mark Hutter, the tailor at CW, gave the entire ensemble, from the gown cut and draping to the fabric choice, a thumbs up for accuracy after close inspection when Ashley wore it in there one afternoon back in July. The only mistake I made (which he pointed out, and which I had noticed as soon as she got dressed that morning), was that I had made the waist ever-so-slightly too long. This is the result of finishing it at 2 in the morning in the hotel room, without getting her to try it on over all the period underthings, so I wasn’t too surprised. Thankfully it’s an easy fix, though, which I’ll get around to…one of these days!
The pattern: Draped by me. The sleeve shape is taken from the Janet Arnold polonaise pattern on pg. 39 of Patterns of Fashion 1.
The back of the gown, taken in front of the
Jonathan Trumbull, Jr. House in Lebanon, CT
Construction details: This gown is entirely hand-sewn using period construction techniques. First, I draped the back into "en fourreau" pleats, which extend from the shoulders down through the length of the skirt, and top-stitched the pleats to the back bodice lining.
Detail of the back en fourreau pleats
Then I fitted the front/side bodice pieces, turned the edges under, and top-stitched them down as a lapped seam to the back piece; the front/side lining pieces were then inserted in a similar way and whipstitched into place on the inside.
Interior of the bodice, showing the linen lining whipstitched into place
The neckline and front edges of the bodice were then turned in towards each other and finished using “le point a rabattre sous la main,” which both finishes the edges and secures the lining to the fashion fabric at the same time.
The skirt was pleated and sewn from the outside to the bottom of the bodice’s outer fabric (turned under), and the lining then turned under and whipstitched to cover the edges of the top of the skirt. The box-pleated trim is based on that seen on a gown in Costume Close-up (pp. 24-8), and is secured with tiny spaced backstitches.
Detail of box-pleated trim around the neckline
Detail of box-pleated trim around sleeve end
To give it some weight and make the hem more aesthetically pleasing when it is worn a la polonaise, the bottom 9” of the gown skirt is lined with cream china silk. The bodice closes in front with straight pins.
The inside of the gown, showing the linen bodice lining,
the cotton tape ties used to polonaise the skirts,
and the china silk hem facing
The fabric: The gown was made using a light-weight sea green cotton. The color is appropriate for a cotton or silk textile of the period, since these fibers took to certain colored dyes more easily than either wool or linen.
Finishing the look: The gown and petticoat are made to be worn over a small oval hoop like the one below, reproduced by the CW CDC, based on one in the collection of Colonial Williamsburg.
Small hoops, reproduced by the CW CDC. The original is in the CW collection.
The outer garments are worn over a white linen shift, fully boned stays, the hoop, and two linen petticoats to give the skirts more volume and prevent the ridges from the hoops from showing through. A white cotton lawn handkerchief is worn to fill in the low, wide neckline. To complete an upper-middling class look, Ashley wears this accessorized with pearl drop earrings by Janice Erickson Smith of Historic Delights and a triple-strand necklace Ashley made of tiny round pearls, knotted on silk thread and tied with a silk ribbon.
In front of the Jonathan Trumbull, Jr. House in Lebanon, CT
Under the Redcoat 2010, Williamsburg
Under the Redcoat 2010, Williamsburg
The front bedchamber of the Jonathan Trumbull, Jr. House, Lebanon, CT