No Guts No Glory: Blue Wool Italian Gown

Hello Lovelies!

Well, after a long hiatus I am back to this little bloggity blog, blog. Feels weird, but not in a bad way. For my first post in (...3 years...holy crap...) I figured I would write about my blue wool Italian gown.

To start, I'm a huuuuuggeeee fan of Italian gowns. I really think they're the best sort of 1770-90 gown there is. Easy to make, easy to wear, flattering, and less likely to make you want to go running face first into a brick wall (I'm looking at you pleated back English Gown...). Maybe I'm just incredibly lazy, but they really are my "go to" if I need an 18th century gown in a hurry.

Gotta see those gown guts

So one winter, a few years ago, I started working on this particular gown. I fell in love with this French blue wool at Burnley and Trowbridge, and I'm pretty sure I bought it all up before anyone else could get their hands on it (I'm an aggressive fabric buyer that way). It's a nice heavier weight wool - perfect for winter and getting dirty in. Inspired, I went to town cutting and sewing my little heart out.

Now, unfortunately, there was one minor issue with this fabric that I didn't really consider when I started cutting the gown out. It's a herringbone weave wool. Woven just like coutil for know..that stuff that doesn't stretch? Welp...guess what happened...

That sucker doesn't have any give or stretch at all. None. Zip. Nada. Zero.

So when the time came for me to put on this gown after sewing it all up, I could not, for the life of me, get this bastard to close...not even a little bit! Gotta love the magical shrinking bodice, huh?

The easiest way to fix that problem is to piece in the front of the bodice so that way I have room for overlap. Now, seeing as how I sewed this gown a few years ago, I cannot speak as to why on earth I pieced it the way I did vs. just back-stitching pieces together like a normal person. I claim temporary seamstress insanity (it's a thing).
Weird ass piecing. Why did I do this?!
Lining side of the piecing section...why. WHY DID I DO THIS?

Even after adding a large chunk of fabric at the front of the gown, I still have a hard time closing it. I can get it on, but I totally work up a sweat in the process. That's honestly one of the reasons why I never really wore the was just too much of a hassle to actually put on.

But when Lauren and I were planning our holiday photo shoot, we knew we wanted to feature the sexy new red leather Dunmores & we needed a weather and period correct gown - in a hurry. Obviously, the French blue wool gown is the one that came to mind. It was already ready to go...kinda.

...I had ripped off the skirt 2 weeks prior to make a really pretty 1940s circle skirt. It's also pieced, but definitely fits better than the gown...oops.

Well, that was going to be problematic, but amazingly I had a stash of the same blue wool that I guess I hard started making into a petticoat...? I don't remember (talk about a UFO!), but it was there and it was the right amount for the skirt of the gown. It took my just a few hours to get the gown back to wearable condition & I was happy to not have to fiddle with the shoulder straps, sleeves, etc. Cause I really, really hate messing with shoulder straps.

Anyways, that's enough lamenting of the pretty blue wool gown that didn't want to fit, but I made it fit - here are some photos of the construction guts.

Badly cut split at the center back to allow the skirt to flip out correctly.
You can also see the English Stitched Seams, skirt ties, and ugly basting that is still there!

Shot of the back. Side seams were top stitched, the back pieces were English stitched together, and the shoulder straps were top stitched into place. Not my best sewing, but this fabric was on the bulky side. 

Detail of the small applique stitches to attach the skirt. It's important to catch all layers of the skirt pleats at least one per pleat. 
I took a small tuck in the sleeve to create a cuff and allow me better mobility. You can also see the dart I took to shape the sleeve better to my elbow.

In my next post, I'll share some of my favorite shots from the American Duchess holiday photo shoot!

<3 <3


  1. So glad to see new posts here! I'm starting on my mockup for the 1780's gown in taffeta, and I'm wondering what weight linen lining you use? I like the Kaufman linens and their lighter weight (4oz?) was great for my shift, but guessing it's too thin for gown lining. Hoping to avoid an online ordering fail--thanks!


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