Friday, 12 April 2013

18th Century Gown Obsession

I've always had a love for 18th century fashions, even since before I knew anything much about them. I always though that the straight, clean lines on the bodice and the extravagant, curvacious lines of the skirt were beautiful together. Not to mention those massive hats, gorgeous shoes and wonderful hair.
In the last six months I seem to have learned an inordinate amount about 18th century dress construction, mainly from reading blogs such as American Duchess, my favorite historical costume blog so far (and probably forevermore).
Now the idea to make my own gown has been bubbling away at the back of my mind for months and in the last few days I've started to realise that idea. My aunt is a costumier for theater and movies amongst other things and she lent me two sets of stays to take patterns from just after Christmas. One of which was 18th century (the other was Tudor I think), so taking advantage of my Easter break I finally nabbed patterns from both of them, thus beginning my Robe a l'Anglaise project!

I was spurred on mostly by the thought of owning a certain gorgeous pair of shoes (which I'd need an excuse to buy). American Duchess isn't just a blog it's also a company focusing on creating as historically accurate as possible shoes and accessories. They've got some really gorgeous things on there and Im looking to buy this pair of black Kensingtons with the additions of Dauphine shoe buckles and black and white stockings. I hardly ever buy myself shoes and now that I'm sure my feet have stopped growing I'm quite prepared to splash out on shoes as pretty as these (and the best thing ever, they go up to my size *cries tears of joy*).

It's taken me a little while but I've come up with an initial design. I want to make a Robe a l'Anglaise that I can pull up in back and turn into a more fun - and practical - Polonaise gown when the mood takes me.

My rough sketch, just so that I could get a vague idea of the look

My local fabric store had some rather gorgeous cream and red striped cotton the last time I went in there that I was oggling with glee but didn't have anything to use it on, I think it'd work with this rather perfectly. The design was inspired by a couple of pieces from the Kyoto Costume Institute that I've loved since I don't know when.

 The colour scheme and squared off front of this jacket inspired the bodice and overskirt of my design, whilst the overall feel, silhouette and belt/sash of the ensemble underneath influenced the rest.

I've decided not to go for full length sleeves as I'd constantly worry about dragging them through something, and three quarter lengths might go some way towards helping me to not boil and die.
As for headgear I've decided to go for a Gainsborough hat, in black to match the shoes. Inspiration and aspirations bellow.

We'll see how making it all goes I guess, but there's plenty of people to ask and reference online and I've got a bunch of books so here's hoping!!