For several years I’ve been very curious about late 17th century mantua gowns as the progenitors of so much of 18th century women’s fashion. I wondered how the process of making and wearing one would compare with what they later evolved into. I also wondered how they would look on a real body compared with the often-considered unattractive period images of them.
In 2018 I decided to take the plunge and try making one for myself, using Costume College 2018 as my excuse to finally do so – and boy am I glad I did because I LOVE this ensemble!
The weekend before American Thanksgiving a few friends and I enjoyed a little jaunt to Williamsburg. We dressed up one day for a carriage ride in the historic district:
So, I really seem to be a lot about the 4th quarter of the 18th century these days – and there’s more to come!
Back in the spring I crossed another style off the wishlist: a 1780s Chemise gown (aka Chemise a la Reine, Robe en Chemise, etc):
Back in mid-August I had the opportunity to participate in a really great experience. My friend Gloria (of In the Long Run) and her husband, Mike, organized a meet-up of historical costumers and photographers at the National Portrait Gallery here in DC for an afternoon photoshoot.
photo by Justin Schneider
There were 8 of us in costume (from left to right: Gloria, Stephani, Glynnis, Me, Nastassia, Tarisa, Taylor and Maggie) and 3 photographers (Dan, Justin and Mike). So we split into 3 groups of costumers and each group rotated through the photographers for about an hour with each, taking turns getting photographed. And what costumer doesn’t love an opportunity to get good photos of their hard work in a beautiful setting?! Continue reading
This is now so late that it’s almost redundant to post but for the sake of posterity I’m gonna post it anyway.
Also, I’m just gonna come right out and say it that I really sucked at taking photos at Costume College this year. I had all these grand plans of being so engaged, introducing myself to lots of new people and taking lots of photos of everyone. But I also taught 2 classes this year (my first time teaching at CoCo) and experienced some annoying technical difficulties with them. And the added stress of that was just enough to rob me of the extra mental energy this hardcore introvert needs to be socially outgoing. Ah well, lesson learned for next time!
I didn’t take a lot of photos of the Kentucky Jane Austen Festival (wish I had got some of the pugilists!) but I did get a few and thought I’d share.
Mackenzie of Fig Leaf Patterns and I both worked on patterning for the DAR Agreeable Tyrant Exhibition catalogue. So here we are together , each in our own versions of the sleeveless spencer that I patterned from the original garment and Mackenzie digitized for printing. I just love the colour she made hers from!
It’s been a busy-ish past couple of months for me since I decided to try out the Louisville, Kentucky Jane Austen Festival this year in addition to attending – and teaching at – Costume College, both in July. And, of course, there was much sewing and preparation to be done for both!
But now it’s time to start catching up on ye olde blog.
Let’s start with the Jane Austen Festival. Because everyone I knew who’d gone before warned me repeatedly about the heat and humidity I realized that most of the regency-era clothes I already had risked being too hot to wear because of their medium-weight linen bodice linings (yeah, it’s that hot!).
Thus new gowns had to be made – and they had to be made as cool as possible! This meant trying out something new and a little scary for me: unlined regency gowns in very lightweight fabrics! I was pretty nervous approaching these as I feared they wouldn’t stand up to actual wearing but I ended up being very pleasantly – and gratefully! – surprised at their durability.
I also decided to make 1 new hat that I would wear with my 3 outfits for the weekend.
And lastly, I made a new shade for an adorable antique parasol I managed to score online just in time for the festival!
The festival started with a twilight shopping event on Friday evening. Since it was later in the day and less disgustingly hot I opted to re-wear my DAR reproduction gown + sleeveless spencer ensemble (most or all of these photos were taken by Angela Burnley of Burnley & Trowbridge with her magic iPhone camera!):
A little shameless self-promotion here. In case you haven’t seen or heard (about) it yet, I recorded a podcast with Lauren and Abby of American Duchess at this year’s Costume College. They were kind enough to express an interest in my academic research on 18th century women’s clothing alteration and my related reproduction project this past spring and we ended up having a really fun time chatting about it!
Go ahead and have a listen, if you’re interested!
As a refresher, or if you haven’t seen them yet, here are links to the posts I made about the alteration reproduction project I undertook back in February/March:
Part 1: Project Intro and 1760s Version
Part 2: The Alteration Process
Part 3: 1780s Version Reveal + Thoughts and Conclusions
And I’ll be back soon with more sewing/costuming posts, I’ve got a whole slew lined up from Jane Austen Fest and Costume College!
This is the third and final post in my small series chronicling an “experimental archaeology” project of mine about 18th century alteration practices by first making then altering a 1760s style gown to a 1780s style gown drawing upon research from my PhD thesis on the topic. If you’re just joining and would like to start from the beginning you can click for Part 1 and Part 2.
This reveal has ended up being a tease for some of you since it took some time for me to get pictures that I was really happy with. I hope it won’t be too anti-climactic for you! For the first photoshoot of the 1780s dress I ended up being unhappy with my styling of the gown – hair, ruffles, ribbon colours. It took time to schedule a re-shoot, which Taylor of Dames a la Mode was very gracious to do for me (she took the styled photos of the 1760s gown and the first round of the 1780s dress – she has a lot of patience with me, for which I am very grateful!).
And now, without further ado, I present to you the altered gown:
Phase 3: 1780s dress
The first set of photos are just the gown mostly alone but with the proper underpinnings for the 1780s, mainly a split false rump in addition to the stays, rather than the pocket hoops worn for the 1760s iteration.
With the skirt left un-tied at the back: