A different Red Silk Gown

So Abby and I both love red silk....I bought about 8 yards almost 2 years ago to make a gown for a 12th Night ball in Petersburg, VA.

The gown (shown in pictures below) is the basic fitted back center front closing gown you see so much in the 1770s on everyone from working girls to fine ladies though obviously fabric choice, trim and accessories varies...but everyone was wearing this style of gown. It is usually called a Nightgown in english fashion descriptions...its skirts can be worn long or tied or looped up (I generally refrain from calling this Polonaise as that term was used specifically for a similiar but different enough style of gown at the time..I'll discuss that another time).

One of my apprenticeship projects at the end of my 5th year was to make a bodice shape (or pattern) off an existing gown. My best fitting gown at the time was a red and cream striped cotton, pleated back, and laced closing down the center front. The original shape for this gown was draped by the mistress of our shop Janea Whitacre and I was very happy with the fit of it. I was able to copy this shape pretty closely off it in muslin, added 1/2" to each front of the new bodice and ended up with a pretty good fitting wool gown...then I did a chintz gown off of it...and then finally i decided to use it for this silk gown.

I was barely able to get the red silk gown down by 12th Night...not much time between christmas and Jan 6th...but it should have been enough except that I was helping hmmm 3-4 other friends fit their gowns during that time. As a result the gown got done but I never had the chance to add any trim to it. But since it was untrimmed I was then able to wear it in our shop in Colonial Williamsburg and look appropriate as an 18th mantua-maker in a well fitting but plain looking silk...actually compared to a lot of images of milliners and mantua-makers I look a bit underdressed!

Note: the Hat, Apron, Elbow Flounces and Tucker were all made by me but are property of the Margaret Hunter Shop.....It was hard to let the hat go when I left...but i've got enough scraps from the current gown to make another one!

Now on to the adjustment and trimming of the new gown!

The gown was made to fit the half-boned stays I was wearing at the time that had been made by our Costume Design Center at CW. I loved them, they were lightweight, easy to work in, but a bit flimsy when it came to the tummy area. To remedy this I would have to wear this intense wooden busk that sometimes wasn't very nice to me. So I was able to borrow the pattern for these stays and make my own in white linen, still half boned on the sides but fully boned in oak down the front...much better support but slightly larger fitting all the way around.....so now my silk gown is a bit to small for me. So I am going to add 1/2" to 3/4" to each side of the front bodice of the gown.

Then I'm going to hem a ridiculous amount of trim (about 1 1/2" wide) to go around the elbows, around the neck, down the front (to cover the piecing), and then down the opening of both sides of the gown skirt. Also the petticoat is about 4" to short to wear with my heeled shoes, so I am hemming a flounce to put along the bottm of the petticoat. About half of the flounce will be above the hem and the rest will hang below to lengthen it a bit.

My only decision is whether to gather the trim and attach it down the center of the gathering or to pleat the trim and tack it down (and if I pleat the trim to tack it down the center or on the sides)...but that decision can be made later after I hem about 1,080 inches of trim and flounces first!


  1. It's lovely! And I love the colour!

  2. I love that gown...good luck with that hemming...blah..at least you have plenty to do so you wont be bored! :)


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