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  • Writer's pictureMorgan Porter

Mocking It Up: Robe a l'anglaise

In an ongoing effort to take my time with projects, I mocked up this bodice not once...but twice! Crazy, I know.

The Pattern:

I used the American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking for my pattern. I scaled up the pattern from the book, and adjusted it to my measurements. I have had a lot of luck with their patterns before, and this was no exception. While historically these gowns would have been draped directly on the body, I do not possess the skills to drape on myself. Also my sewing background in theatre has made me a better flat pattern maker versus a draper. Once my pattern was ready, I moved onto mocking it up.

Mock-Up Round 1:

For me, fitting historic garments is always more difficult than fitting contemporary garments. Partially because all of the 18th century undergarments restrict movement, but also because historic patterns feel different on the body. For example: the shape of a sleeve is different in an 18th century garment. The shape of the cap is meant to pull back the shoulders, and the large dart at the cuff is meant to create this "romantic robot arm" as I like to call it. There were also additional challenges regarding the center front. In order for the front pieces to not have a dart (which was not invented until the 1950's), they must be cut on the bias. I had never fit a front closure on the bias which had additional challenges regarding stretching and warping. Overall it was a successful fitting, through I did have some changes.

Round 1 Revisions:

The first thing that needed to change was the neckline. My chemise and stays were hanging out all over the place, the front was gaping, and there was a strange slope in the back of the neck. This was an easy enough fix. The next thing that needed to happen was reworking the back and side back pieces. Both were far too long in the waist and shoulder region. I had the most fixes on the sleeve. The cap was too full, the cuff was too tight, and the elbow pitch was not hanging correctly.

I had enough fixes from the first mock-up that I decided to do the unthinkable...make a second mock-up. I made all the necessary corrections on my paper pattern and cut it out of muslin. I also made a few changes regarding the construction. The center back was supposed to be boned to smooth the transition from the waist to the bum, so I definitely wanted to include that in round 2. I then decided to twill tape the center front. I was worried about the longevity of a center front on the bias, and the twill tape will help the center front keep its shape. With all those corrections done, I could move onto the second fitting.

Round 2 Fitting:

I am pleased with the results of the second fitting! The fit in the back is smoother, and the angle of the sleeve is more appropriate. Though I still do have fixes. I will continue to refine my neckline. The straps of my stays want to peek out, and I am still getting that strange shape on the back neck. Also, the sleeve still needs a lot of love. I need to make my armscye bigger so the cap can sit better on my shoulder. The whole sleeve feels a little twisted, so I just need to continue working with it. I will probably move onto fashion fabric for the bodice, and mock-up the sleeve one more time.

Final Thoughts:

I feel more comfortable moving onto fashion fabric because I had a second mock-up fitting. As much as I want this gown to be done so I can prance around in it, I need to do it right. In the theatre world I was always on a tight timeline, so I did not have the luxury to draw out a project or experiment with construction. I am reminding myself to enjoy the journey. Mistakes and all.

Stay tuned for my first fashion fabric fitting!

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