Friday, February 14, 2014

18th Century Englishback Gown-Pink Frothiness for Valentine's Day

My daughter has outgrown her beloved first 18th century lavender gown. She's hinted that I can now make a new one for her from the pink and white striped fabric I bought a few years ago when Rebecca, of A Fashionable Frolick, found it for me on-line. Knowing that I was considering making a striped English back gown, Rebecca kindly found a yellow stripe for me and a pink stripe for my daughter, on-line.; I forget now which company I purchased it from, and I was leary of buying it, only because I prefer to touch and feel fabrics for drape before purchase. However I took a chance and was delightfully surprised! It's called heirloom cotton and has a lovely light and airy feel and drape. I sewed my yellow English back gown shortly after the purchase and have worn it on many a sweltering day in Colonial Williamsburg. One hot afternoon one of the good citizens of Williamsburg (a most wondereful costumed interperter) told me that I looked quite fresh and cool in my gown.  lol  I'm glad I looked fresh and cool because I did not feel fresh and cool! =) (One day I'll add trim to this gown...stay tuned for that.)

However, when my daughter saw the fabric, she was not taken in by it at all. She much preferred her choice of non-period accurate florals, which the lavender gown was. However, it was my first English back gown made five years ago when I had no idea how to sew 18th century style at all, so I was quite content to sew from and make mistakes on fabric from my fabric stash.  After four years, she's starting to enjoy a few period fabrics, like stripes, more than before. Now she likes the pink fabric.; The stripes are quite narrow so that it reads as a solid from the distance, as does my gown.

 She has a birthday coming in March. She is busy with school and has no time for draping.  Could I possibly make a secret English back gown for her, based off measurements from her more recent white floral on blue English back gown, which I made four years ago?  Why not?  At worse, I'll have to pick apart and redo and even piece, all of which is period accurate.  I knew I'd have more time now than waiting for later, so I decided to take the challenge!

Quite secretly I completed the entire gown.  Initially, I put her blue gown on my dress form to check for fit, so I could drape the pink gown on it based on placement of the blue gown. Also I tried the blue gown on myself for fit.  Although I'm taller than my daughter, we pretty much fit width-wise. For the sleeves, I kept trying on the pink bodice for direction after setting up the sleeves when the gown was on the dress form.  I also compared everything with measurements taken from the blue gown.  I did make a few mistakes that I tried to camouflage, but hopefully it will all work out. Even after having taken an incredible Burnley and Trowbridge class on draping English back gowns, I feel quite at a loss with my mistakes and everlasting puzzlements. Don't let me deter anyone from taking a class though because they are excellent. Everyone else in the class catches on quite quickly. Alas for me...I'm fearfully full of everpresent question marks, so my skill set in these gowns most definitely is not refined.

On my daughter's birthday I'll have her try it on to see if I need to make adjustments. At that time I'll cut off excesss fabric that I left inside the bodice, just in case I need to let some seams out. After any adjustments are made, I'll add trim. Stay tuned for the final result! Trim will definitely add forgiveness to my historical sewing mishaps.

Working with this fabric kept reminding me of pink sodalicious frothiness. Of course all the pink works for Valentines. I had thoughts of giving this to her for a Valentine's gift, but she has no opportunity to wear it until she is free from school for the summer in Colonial Williamsburg.  Oh well.






The sleeves are set a bit differently from each other because no matter how often I ripped them out and repositioned them,, this was the only way they laid nicely and felt comfortable on me.  I wonder how it will work for my daughter.



Now for the HSF details:

HSF 2014

The Challenge: #3 Pink

Fabric: cotton

Pattern: draped

Year: last quarter of the 18th century

Notions: thread

How historically accurate is it? highly accurate

Hours to complete: lots

First worn: next trip to Colonial Williamsburg

Total cost: $40


  1. Oh, this is soooo pretty and delicate and feminine. I love this fabric, and it's going to look so pretty with her pink-trimmed hat. Miss C is going to be SO suprised!!!! :-)

    1. She now has a pleated turquoise trimmed hat! =) I think you saw it last summer when it debuted? =) The pink one was all dirty and rumpled, so she redid it in tuquoise. =)