Friday, March 14, 2014

Making an 1814 evening gown from Ackerman's Repository

A white crape, or fine muslin petticoat, worn over white satin, embroidered in silver lama round the bottom. A bodice of olive, or spring green - green satin. ornamented with a silver stomacher. Short, full sleeve, rounded bosom, trimmed with a full silver border to correspond. A fan frill of fluted lace, continued around the back, and terminated at the corner of the bosom. A silver fringe round the bottom of the waist. Ackerman's Repository March, 1814.
I choose this gown for my Jane Austen Festival Australia 1814 challenge. It was simple, elegant and relatively easy to recreate. Or so I thought. Little did I know that it would become the 1814 bodice from hell!

I went shopping for some green satin at the local fabric stores, everything but green of any kind.  I bought all the trims, the silver plastic 'lama' ribbon for embroidering, silver fringing and two mother of pearl buttons for the sleeves.

I went home and searched through my stash for fabric to go with the silver. I decided on a royal blue saree silk Georgette that I could interline with a pale blue taffeta. Blue and silver always look well together.

To create the 'rounded bosom' bodice, I cobbled various Regency pattern drafts together. For fitting, I'm using my paper paste dummy that was created over my stays. Its actually slightly bigger than I am due to the T-shirt and paper, which means I can make the gown nicely tight, but on my more malleable body it will be comfortable. You can make one for yourself, it saves you having to put stays on and off for fittings. Plus fitting oneself is NEVER easy!

 The gown apperared to have a sweet heart neckline so I cut one in, but then I realised that it was the stay busk separating the bosom and so didn't continue with it.

As there was no back shown, I made my standard Regency triangle back. So far so good.

Now the trouble starts, a stomacher to me is an 18th and earlier front in a V shape, often covewred by lacing. Its highly embroidered and decorated. The one below from the Museum of London is a beautiful example.
Stomacher for a spitalfields woven silk Court dress. The stomacher is roughly triangular, with a straight bottom edge; trimmed with eight rows of metal thread braid with bows and tassels alternating with seven rows of ivory, yellow, purple, green and pink silk rosettes; edges finished with cream silk tape. The Court dress was traditionally thought to have been worn by Mrs. Ann Fanshawe when her father, Crisp Gascoyne, was Lord Mayor of London in 1752-53. Mrs. Fanshawe acted as her father's Lady Mayoress as her mother had died in 1740. Image from Museum of London
This what I had in my mind, so why did I go off in some weird 'Heidi or Snow White meets Regency' fantasy land? Reader, I know not, but off into this land I went and here's the results.

Now, admittedly, I was using the blue ribbon as it showed up better on the calico, so at first I thought, 'Its just the colour'. WRONG! I pinned on a coloured sheer skirt that I thought I might use, but it was too green for the blue. I then added the lace, now I was really in Disneyland...

... but still I persisted in my blindness to the fashion fabric, grrrr! Does this look like Snow White I ask you dear Reader?!?!?!
I have no picture of the sleeves on the above bodice, but trust me, I would have been singing to the seven darves!

I frog stitched off the front pale blue stomacher and moved to the next version. I thought that as the stomacher was unseen in the image I could be as creative, or not, as I liked. So I placed a single line of silver 'lama' down the front. This looked better and I started to relax, but a very lame (pun intended) attempt at a stomacher! I couldn't leave it at that.

Having solved the stomacher issue, or so I thought, I added the skirt. I needed a sheer fabric and the only one I could get was a sheer spotted polyester, plastic as hell. Honestly our local fabric shops get worse and worse, no wonder I mostly buy online. Sadly I left this project too late in the day to fetch good silk from OS.
Skirt on, I continued to fiddle with the stomacher again and the spotted sheer isn't anywhere near as drapey as I would like. I don't like the lace either, still smacks of Snow White.

Final fiddle with the stomacher. I think this version is best and frankly I'm over this dress.

It should have a satin underlining but I will wear it over my muslin petticoat as I'm not wasting more time on it. I hope I like it more when its on me, but as I'm still making my new short stays, that has to wait for the weekend.

My next project is an 1814 day gown from Ackerman's, hopefully I will enjoy the process more!


I'm The Tailor's Apprentice, maker of The Miss Page 1940s reproduction patterns, gowns developed from pattern pieces found amongst the remnants of Miss Violet Florence Page’s life and work. Affordable, elegant, and unique garments from the 1940s war years. 

All my patterns are available on Etsy and my website where you'll find out more about me as well. This year I am publishing an 1820s gown wardrobe pattern and have already published the Australian Army Nurses Services WWI uniform pattern.

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