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1780s Dress

19 Jan

Back in November, the DFW Costumer’s Guild hosted a “Georgian Picnic” at the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens. It was such a beautiful day and everyone’s costumes were fabulous. It was my first event in costume and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I was inspired by the “curtain-along” by Jen Thompson over at Festive Attyre. She had the idea after discovering Waverly curtains in an Indienne print. You can buy the fabric, but it turns out it’s cheaper to buy the curtains and cut them up. I decided to go with the black color scheme, as I’d seen quite a few examples of the cream and I just like to be different. I did more hand-sewing on this dress than I have ever done before. All of the top stitching, hems, and ruffled trim is sewn by hand. Call me crazy, but it was almost therapeutic. I get why people like it now.


Pattern: Sense & Sensibility Pattern’s 1780s Portrait Dress. I was very happy with the pattern, and it was the first time I’d used one from that company. The bodice fit wonderfully without much alteration aside from lengthening it by two inches and cutting the neckline lower to fit the period more.  The sleeves were very narrow and I really should have added a few inches to the sleeve length as well. I think if I were to make it again, I would raise the back neckline a bit, as it seems a little lower than most dresses of the period. I would also lengthen the “v” in the front of the bodice.  I didn’t use a pattern for the petticoat, although I probably should have not cut the hem straight since I ended up using a bum roll which made the skirt a little shorter in the back than it should have been, although the benefit of not cutting it longer in the back means more versatility for multiple time periods.

Fabric: Waverly Noir curtains from Lowes. Mustard linen from Joann’s for the petticoat. (I’ve decided I like linen. A lot. This could be bad news for my bank account.)

Shoes: Kensington, by American Duchess (I also like her shoes. A lot. And she keeps coming out with new ones. Also bad news for my bank account.)

Hat: Blank from JS Townsend and decorated with various trims (and dead bird) from Joann’s and petersham ribbon.

A note about stays: Because I was under a time crunch and I have no experience (yet!) making stays and corsets, I opted to purchase the “half-boned stays” from JS Townsend. The best part is that they lace up the front, which is really a necessity when you live alone (and don’t have servants to help you dress). Yes, they’re very basic and I did find the boning used on either side of the front lacing to have way too much “give”. Replacing it with heavier flat steel boning helped the fit immensely. The bonus is that I used the old boning down the front of my dress bodice. Eventually I’d love to make my own stays, but in a pinch, these work quite well.