Burnley and Trowbridge Gown Workshop Recap

 Last weekend I had the most amazing opportunity to be an 'assistant/model' for the Burnley and Trowbridge Gown workshop that was being taught by Journeywoman Milliner & Mantua-maker Brooke. Brooke has been home from abroad for about a month, and she took this one weekend to really exercise  her gown making muscles. She's one of my dear friends and it was great to see her again and to see her doing her thing (cause she is a genius at draping/cutting/fitting gown making in general).

 The participants were all diverse and awesome, sadly (or luckily?) one participant wasn't able to attend due to a calamity of events and so it left one participant (Norah) sans partner...until I arrived! Muah- ha ha ha ha! This was the first time I really got to use all that mantua making training I have received through osmosis. It was stellar. I got to really nit-pick at her gown and fitting to get it as perfect as possible. I am really pleased with the result, and I'm excited to see her final gown. She didn't have that much more to do so she should be done soon (hint hint hint...).

Since my main job was a model, I got to have a lot of fun making the workshop participants and Brooke laugh, cause I was totally a Vaudeville comedienne in a past life. Brooke also let me talk to the ladies about historical accuracy, construction quality, and stitches.

To sum it up: Neat is nice, but messy is pretty damn accurate. I stressed this because with the modern sewing mentality, neat stitches = good and sloppy stitches = bad. For the 18th century, that was not the case. There can be beautiful gowns that look so perfect, and then you open up and look inside and barf it's a hot mess inside. Or you can just be a narsty  gown (narsty is worse than nasty, btw :) ), like a remade gown from the Burrell Collection in Glasgow. It's just...ugh...a total hot mess of a gown. It's remade, pieced within an inch of it's life (not even pretty piecing, but narsty piecing).  They even used pumpkin orange thread on a deep raspberry colored silk...why? who the hell knows. Crazy ladies made that gown. Crazy ladies.

That conversation lead into an in-depth discussion on textiles and extant garments, and Angela busted out tons and tons of images from her most recent trip to England (specifically going through the billet books of the Foundling Museum) and it was ah-mazing seeing some examples of all the fabrics she was able to look at. It also started an interesting discussion of common fabrics that would have been found in common gowns. I'm not an expert in colors/dye processing/fabrics etc. So it's an interesting debate, especially when you get into the idea of greens and bright pinks in fabrics other than silk (cause acid green and bright pink were in available in silk). But what about the use of the color in linen or cotton? It's an interesting debate and I usually just keep my mouth shut and let the textile expert educate me.

Do you know of any bright pink gowns that are cotton or linen? Cause...if you do...wanna share? Yes? Please?

Ok, enough jabbering, here are some photos courtesy of Burnely and Trowbridge!

Brooke explaining sleeve construction. Notice how fabulous her gown fits...
Getting draped and using Brooke as a hand rest. It's hard work.
I have no idea what's going on here, but I crack up every time I see this picture.
Draping the back of Norah's gown
Sunday, Brooke explaining how to fit the bodice fronts to back
Fitting Norah
Still fitting Norah....
Explaining an easy way of fitting sleeves.
Nit picking on Norah's sleeves. I'm super happy with the fit of Norah's gown. I hope she is too!
If you would like to see more photos from the workshop you can go to Burnley and Trowbridge's Facebook page and look through the images there. :)

So that's the wrap up from me! Next time I should have images of my own garments for ya'll.

<3 <3


  1. Dear Nicole,
    What fun that was to read. So wish I could take part in a class like that someday. The fitting skills you all have are terrific.
    Very best,

  2. Thanks Natalie!

    ...But I'm Abby... :)

  3. Oh how I wish I could have gone! *sigh* Thanks for sharing so I live it vicariously! :-)

    I'm *loving* the green stripes, by the bye. Is that cotton or silk? Very pretty colors there!

  4. Hi Abby,
    Really interesting post. Did you drape the lining of the gown first then build the dress over the top?

    Thanks, Natalie

  5. Thanks Rebecca! The gown is just a simple lightweight cotton. In regards to accuracy that's where the color debate came in, but regardless, it's pretty and I love the stripes too!

    Natalie! HA-looo!!! :D The way we do the gowns is that we drape the pieces in muslin/calico and then cut the lining and fashion fabric from those. In the 18th century they would have cut the fabric directly on the person. It's the longer way around to do things in the workshop, but you're able to walk home with bodice fronts and lining backs. ...and you don't risk ruining your fabric....:)

  6. Ahaha! All the pictures of us look really grim (how could you stand us??)!!. I can't see how Angela could possibly get Norah looking so serious in so many piccies--its so not her nature! You were a delight and a wise sage, not a jester (and like how would I have sewn those dagnab pleats without you???). Go on and show us the result of your successful hijack of the green stiped gown! You earned it (because despite your jokes, you really did work hard for it)!

  7. I wish I could go to one of these? When will ya'll be in California?

  8. Fantastic images, thanks for sharing!


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