Draping a Robe a la Polonaise

Back view of Sapphire's Robe a la Polonaise with some piecing
This weekend, Sapphire came down to Linköping to do the rest of the draping for her Robe a la Polonaise. A few weeks ago, F & I went to Stockholm to visit and I did some of the first draping there. I did the bodice and also the center back pieces. We ran out of time, so I had to prolong the front/side draping. This was ok, because you don't need that to make a fitted mock up. However, I had to fiddle with the back pattern sans human body reference so I ended up making it too narrow (way too narrow) in the shoulders. This is a total easy fix, and as you can see I already created a patch and the gown is totally laying properly.

4 hours together we managed to do a fitting (the bodice was perfect I was so excited...did you know this is my first time draping on someone?) and drape the shoulder straps, the front/side, and the sleeves. Though when draping and cutting the sleeves, I cut them out without seam allowance so they're super tight, and you can see my oversized shift bulging out in the picture above. However, it worked out just fine in the shoulder without seam allowance, so I am very please with that.

Front view with a too narrow petticoat
Draping the side/front was probably the most interesting aspect. I have a cutting layout courtesy of Mantua Maker in Cairo and some in action images from Burnley and Trowbridge's Robe a la Polonaise workshop. Other than that, I was on my own. I have no idea how MMinCairo does her draping, so I cannot say my method is the exact same as hers. I would also state that her method probably has a bit more methodical steps and careful planning.

I am not that kind of person. If I do it that way, I usually make a mistake in my numbering. There's a reason I date an engineer, he does the math.

So I knew a few things going into draping this part of the gown.

1. Sapphire wants to look like an atomic cupcake. This means you need lots of volume in the skirts. The back panels were NOT wide enough in the skirt section. This means I need more fabric in the sides.

2. I'm doing 2 pleats in the side to get the shape I want. I know in Norah Waugh's book there is also a method of cutting the pattern carefully, but let's be frank, that's way too much like work and the pleating method is much easier. I find the pleating method to be a good way to work in extra fabric for volume, and also accurate with this kind of front. You have more control over the way it drapes, the angle, and the fabric is sturdier than having a sliver of fabric dangling around to be sewn in.

3. Pleating is easier than cutting small pieces.

So I literally took a length of fabric, did a guesstimation of how wide I wanted it to be, cut out a corner so you had some skirt panels and then the bodice section. I then just pinned down the end to the side seam focusing on making a pretty curve. Then I piddled with the pleats until I got the fabric hanging the way I wanted to, the pleats in a pretty shape and as smooth as possible with pins, and Sapphire was happy. I then cut out the extra fabric in the arms eye and neckline. Done. It took probably around 20 minutes for the initial drape and then an extra 30 or so with piddling with the pleats, arm's eye, etc. The result is the picture at the top of the post. I'm really quite pleased with it.
Close up

My challenges with the back: fixing the piecing and elongating the CB seam just an inch or 2.

Shoulder straps & Sleeves: Tweaking the shoulder straps mostly and getting everything nicely organized and in the proper shape and length. I also need to remember to cut out seam allowance with the sleeves. har har.

Everything else I'm just dandy with. I might shorten the front just a tad, but I'm a little worried to ruin the front's fit...cause I'm that happy with how smooth it is right now.

Also, I need to finish her stays. I have the binding on, but now am putting in the lining, so obviously, I can do all the fittings I want, she'll just have some loose lining. No biggie. I'm happy with the stays, a few concerns, but overall I'm quite pleased. I'll post more on those later. This is already a monster post.

Lots of fabric!
Finally, here are pictures of her fabric and how it will be used in the gown. Sapphire just got married in India (I'm still annoyed with myself for not going, damnit.) so she did some serious fabric shopping while there. With the fabrics I'm about to show you, I want to make a PSA announcement. The fabrics are not die hard accurate. So please don't take this as 100% accuracy. This gown is about what Sapphire wants, not about being a museum piece. With that, the fabrics are silk, and fabulous, and the color of the main fabric is perfect for the time period. This gown should turn into something really fun and very atomic cupcake.  I'm really excited. The sari fabric is quite sheer, and she wanted to incorporate all 3 fabrics into her gown, so we'll be using the champagne fabric with a pretty paisley print and a nice weight as an under petticoat. I believe it will bring a nice volume as well as movement to the gown. The border of the sari is just stunning and matches the solid silk perfectly.

It's a unique combination of fabrics, colors, and prints, but once completed it should be fantastic. I'm already loving it right now, so I'm just assuming it will be better when completed.

That's it for now with sewing. I'll write about her stays later. Right now I need to get back to paper stuff. Wee! (P.S. Doesn't the picture on the right have a disheveled 17th century look to it? Minus the modern kitchen in the back?) <3 <3


  1. gah! the fabric is out of this world! OMG, can't wait to see this complete!!

  2. Yeah, it's beautiful fabric!

    ....and I have a green and red version of the sari silk for my own evil plans...muah.ha.ha.ha.ha.

  3. omg I love this and I cannot even tell you how excited I am to see this when you're finished! all I can say is WOW Abby, you continue to impress me!


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