c.1780 Italian Gown – In Action – literally!

Now I can finally show you the whole look of my new 1780s ensemble all put together!

(In case you’re just tuning in and/or would like to revisit the construction posts I wrote about this here are links to the bodice, petticoat, and skirt + finishing)

(and I will still be doing a post about the sleeve cuffs, some of the underpinnings, and the wig, which I will link to here when it’s done and up)

Taylor (aka Dames a la Mode) graciously volunteered to do a photoshoot for me last Friday. The location is St James church + yard just up 8th street from my house here on Capitol Hill that’s done in an atmospheric faux-gothic-Jacobean mash-up style. I kinda love it!

And now on to the show!


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Italian Gown – The Gown Skirt & Putting it All Together!

A quick re-cap of the original dress/pattern in Patterns of Fashion and how I modified it:

the original dress has a box-pleated skirt but I wanted the tight, narrow knife pleats so common for this period.

(Also, here are links to my posts on making the bodice and petticoat)


So I used the skirt pattern from another dress in Patterns of Fashion as a rough guide.

Although I still did things a little differently from either. I cut my skirt as two full-width panels of my fabric with a little bit of a train at the back but completely straight along the top. Instead of cutting the waist edge with a curve I just sewed it with one – you’ll see what I mean in a moment.


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c. 1780 Italian Gown – The Petticoat

The style of the petticoat is based off the original one that goes with my primary dress inspiration/pattern in Patterns of Fashion:

p59 JA 40. Petticoat - 4.5 widths. Flat pleated towards sides. Top edge bound linen tape, ties both sides. Deep self flounce all round hem:  petti-pattern

Although to make it I simply cut 2 panels of my fabric, with the back slightly longer than the front to help accommodate the false rump that’s going under there. I also pleated mine differently from the original since it appears to have been done according to an older style where the pleats all face towards the side/pocket openings – another clue that the ensemble *may* have been an earlier one altered in the late 1770s/early 1780s. During the later period petticoat pleats tend to all face towards the centre back similarly to dress skirts, although the pleats themselves tend to be larger than on dress skirts.

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Red + Aqua Spring/Autumn Dress

This dress post is even more belated than the summer ones from this year as I made it back in the spring. However, since I’ve also been wearing it over fall I thought I could get away with still posting about it.

It’s actually one of my overall favourite dresses right now because it’s both so pretty and super comfortable!

It’s made of lovely soft, swishy rayon challis in an aqua/pink/red print, with solid red rayon for the accenting bands.


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2016 Summer Frock Parade – Yes, there’s one more

This is the final summer dress I made this year. It’s also quite possibly the most comfortable, making me wish it had been the first. But at least it was done in time to help get me through the horrors of August heat/humidity. It was also a favourite during my recent trip to Italy in September.

It’s made using the same bodice pattern as the Flamingo dress, just altering it back to be sleeveless (as per one of the options with the original Burda WOF pattern). For reference, the pattern is number 112 from the November 2007 issue of the Burda magazine when it was still Burda World of Fashion, so unfortunately earlier than they started archiving them on the website.

Oh but look, I did just find an image of the line drawing from the Russian site on Pinterest:

#112 Burda 11/2007:

The skirt is just 3 panels of the 54-60″ wide fabric gathered/pleated up using the ruffler foot on my Singer Featherweight.

It’s made from a really lovely cotton voile I’d had in the stash for a few years. I love the swirly, impressionistic print of it and the combination of light and dark olive greens with hints of aqua/turquoise.

It also happens to be THE perfect fabric for DC summers – so lightweight and cool, and with just a hint of crispness to it that keeps the surface smooth and cool. I have some more of this fabric in an abstract watercolour-ish print in shades of mauve that I was hoping to make up this year, but it will now have to wait until next spring. Next summer it is quite possible that I will live entirely in these two dresses (unless I can get my hands on more cotton voile of this type).


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‘An Agreeable Tyrant’ and Me

**Warning: Long and image-heavy post ahead**

A new fashion exhibition has just opened up at the Daughters of the American Revolution museum here in DC, ‘An Agreeable Tyrant’: Fashion After the Revolution. It explores Americans’ various relationships with prevailing fashions during the early Federalist period of 1780s to 1820s. Over the past year I’d been assisting the curator, Alden O’Brien, with the exhibition. First, with some late-stage planning and design, then with drafting scaled down patterns of several of the garments going on display, a little bit of photography, and finally mounting the garments on their mannequins including making adjustments to the mannequins themselves and also making some of the underpinnings needed to properly display the garments. Most of this was on a volunteer basis but I also wrote one of the essays for the catalogue (on fashion and thrift) and that was on a professional level. It was very exciting for me because its the first time I get to see my name in print this way!

FYI: The exhibition runs until April 29, 2017 and the catalogue is available to purchase online here – and they do ship internationally.

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c.1780 Italian Gown – Intro

A couple of weeks ago I started a new, large-ish historical project: a c. 1780 ‘Italian’ style gown with matching petticoat although. This is very like a robe a l’Anglaise except that it has a completely separately cut bodice and skirt – so no ‘en fourreau.’

The reason for doing one of these now is another Gadsby’s Ball on November 12 that’s 1780s-themed. Hooray for not being Regency! As much as I love it, I’m getting Regency-d out. Most of the balls around here have been for that period over the past year and I recently finished a c.1800 ensemble I still need to post about, so I’m very ready to do something different. I’m pretty excited since I’ve never done 1780s before! Bring on the pouf!

Anyway, my fabric for this is an iridescent rust silk shantung – a very smooth one. I bought it from Fabricmart during one of their silk sales wherein it was described as silk taffeta and looked very smooth in the photos. When it arrived I discovered it was actually shantung – a very smooth one, but nonetheless not taffeta. This had happened once before with a silk purchase from them so I sent them an email to let them know there was an issue. I didn’t ask to return the fabric because it’s gorgeous all the same but wanted them to know it made me wary of ordering from them in future. They sent a kind reply saying they’d gone back and amended all the relevant listings on their site and sent me a $10 gift certificate by way of apology.

So, that’s a long-winded explanation for why I decided to just go ahead and use shantung for this instead of actual taffeta.


It’s pretty scrummy, shantung-ness notwithstanding.

For this ensemble I’m doing a bit of a Janet Arnold mash-up. Essentially, I’ve combined 3 of her late 18th century patterns:

The main one is this 1775-85 gown in the Snowshill collection (now at Berrington Hall). I’ve done research there, pity this one wasn’t on my radar at the time to check out in-person.


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Mini Gala at My House

Last weekend I hosted my first party at our lovely, historical row house here on Capitol Hill. The idea was for it to be like a mini little version of the Costume College Gala to give local people an opportunity to dress up in periods they may not usually get to (if they were so inclined) and for me to be able to make some new friends and continue getting to know others. As such, it wasn’t period specific, people were encourage to wear whatever took their fancy/don’t get to wear often/made them feel fabulous!

So I thought I’d share some of the photos taken since everyone looked so fabulous!

In keeping with the date of the house (1908) I had been on the lookout for some time for classic-looking champagne coupes and finally got a set of 12 (from I’ve already forgotten where) a month or so ago. I really wanted them in time for this party!


I also brought out our little chocolate fountain


Photo by Kat

Yes, those are stained glass windows in the dining room. It’s going to be a wrench when we have to leave this house in a couple years!

And no, this isn’t all the food there ended up being – quite a bit more showed up after this, I’m still working through the left-over baking!

I didn’t make anything new for this, instead opting to wear a c.1912 style evening dress I made for a Titanic-themed dinner in 2012 (before I started the blog). I also thought it apropos that it suits the age of the house.



photo by Kat

Unfortunately, it’s gotten a little on the snug side. Good thing I’ve started running/exercising again!

Jess came in an adorable 1920s dress.


Photo by Kat

And to be fair, she wasn’t the only one who was double-fisting wine and champagne at some point.


Photo by Kat

Gloria and Mike – I loved Gloria’s Victorian Catwoman cosplay, it was fabulous!


Photo by Kat

Although my favourite may have been Glynnis’s A-mazing Robe de Style. It was just divine!


Photo by Kat


Photo by Kat


Self-portrait by Kat

Sahrye in a Victorian fancy dress costume of a raven that was really wonderful


Photo by Kat



Photo by Kat



Photo by Kat



Photo by Kat


I think this is when Taylor was showing me an image of a parrot bathing in a chocolate fountain.

Oh, and her headpiece is something new she made, a beautiful carnelian bead one to match her necklace. Hopefully she’ll be offering more like it in her shop.

Maggie’s beautiful ensemble with the jacket she cleverly eked out of 1 yd of fabric!

So much pretty!


The ever-fabulous Jenny Rose

Glynnis also had just perfect hair and hair accessories for her dress




Kat brought cards and a booklet of old games for some high-class gambling ;o) (aka, an old candy she had in her bag and a drawing of a tiara done on a napkin).

Tarisa was exquisite in her regency eveningwear


Kat’s seriously epic 1830s hair



A small-ish gathering but lots of fun (3 bottles of champagne certainly helped with that) and fantastic outfits!

Thank you so much to everyone who came and helped make this house even more beautiful!

My hope is this will be just the first of many for the remaining time I get to live in this gorgeous house!

2016 Summer Frock Parade – Vintage Bedsheet Dress

This is a second dress inspired by this vintage early 60s (?) one with the button tab shoulders:

1950's Floral Print Sun Dress:

You can see the first one I made here.


As you may have guessed from this post’s title the fabric is a (vintage?) bedsheet I found at Value Village probably 2-3 years ago.

I used the same bodice pattern as before, modified from this early 60s one:

2016-07-14 13.17.28c

The skirt is selvedge to selvedge panels of the bedsheet (yet another nice thing about using bedsheets for sewing is that they usually have pretty nice selvedges!). Since I wanted as little left over of the sheet as possible (and I think it was a twin size?) I cut 3 panels for the skirt, each 1.65m wide making nearly 5m in this skirt – it’s a lot of skirt! And sometimes makes finding the pockets difficult, lol. To make my life easier, I used my ruffler foot to pleat/gather it all up at the waist.


As opposed to a couple of the last dresses I posted that had flat piping at edges, this one has actual proper piping around the neckline/armholes and waist.


I only ever wore this dress with the white pumps and purse for these photos but I’ll have to make sure I have occasion to do so next year, they’re the perfect accessories for it!


A detail of the waist piping…


And the button tabs. I played around with a few button options (at first I was sure these orange ones in somewhat abstract flower shapes would be perfect) and ultimately decided on these blue ones that match the piping. At first I ruled them out as being too small but discovered I liked the effect of them in pairs.


Another exposed zipper using a vintage blue one because it’s what I had!


The dress interior (are you getting tired of these yet? I feel like they all look basically the same):


So much skirt!


for added stability I stitched-in-the-ditch around the piping of the frontwards facing tab on the right side – you’re seeing it from the underside here.


Such a happy dress!


And this is the last dress (so far) photographed by Taylor. Next post will be about what I did for her in exchange for playing photographer for me. Hint – we’re going back to historical sewing.