c. 1794 Striped Silk Open Robe (aka: more autumn colours!)

In early November I got to attend a lovely annual event here in the DC area: The Pumpkin Tea and Candlelight Dinner hosted by the ever-gracious Lady Detalle.

This post is about the outfit I put together for the afternoon tea.

The group shots and photos of me in my outfit were graciously taken by Gloria of In the Long Run Designs.

Everyone looked SO GOOD!

Requisite “Regency Wedgie” shot:

And a few photos of my outfit

The pashmina(like) scarf was quickly borrowed from The Lady Detalle’s mother. I would have liked to nick it, the colours are so beautiful and go so well with the ensemble!

The hat was a total last-minute make that was finished up only just before I had to leave for the tea! The ribbons are mostly pinned on!

The construction for this dress was a bit different from my usual M.O. I’m a pattern girl, I usually prefer drawing out and measuring my pieces to draping. However, with this particular project and with the stripes I decided to go a little out of my comfort zone and mostly drape this one so I could have as much control over the stripe placement/arrangement as possible.

It started out with pinning on my dress form:

Then creating the bodice centre back seam to give me my starting angle:

I cut a generous length of my fabric so that I knew I’d have more than enough for the open robe without having to wield the whole bolt through the actual pleating and stitching of the back of the garment. I folded the fabric in half lengthwise, right sides together, matched the stripes and sewed the centre back seam starting from the fold:

I know you will all understand when I say I derive immense satisfaction when looking at this photo:

One of the areas where I did use a pattern was the bodice lining. I planned to wear the open robe with the gown I made for my DAR ensemble so I just used the bodice lining pattern from it and adjusted the neckline to sit higher and the waistline to sit a little lower. The real bonus is that I knew it already fit, so no futzing with that!

I used a decent-weight silk taffeta for the bodice lining, both to provide a sturdy base for mounting the outer fabric onto and so it would be smooth and slippery over the cotton gown I would wear underneath and slide over it rather than cling.

This project is pretty high up on the HA scale, being entirely hand sewn using period correct techniques

Once I’d pieced the bodice lining together I mounted the striped silk to it along the centre back seam line:

From there I pleated and pinned the striped silk into a configuration I liked that was also inspired by this extant at the V&A done in sets of 3 pleats:

I got one side how I liked it first then did the other to match – stripes help to make this really easy and straightforward!

The overall view at this point:

Then it was time to sew.

I prick stitched each set of pleats to the bodice lining with one line of stitching along the edge of the uppermost pleat of each set of three (does that make sense?). Each pleat of the set underlapped enough that I figured why do more work than I have to? I also think this keeps it from looking over-worked, if you know what I mean.

What it looks like from the inside:

I also finished the back neckline at this point, then sewed on the shoulder strap of the bodice lining to connect the front and back together and provide a full base on which to drape the front edges of the open robe.

Next, I added an additional length of the striped silk to one side of the open robe because I wanted a fuller skirt. However, I didn’t know either how long I would need it (to go over the shoulders) or how wide/full I would want it so, starting from the hem, I just seamed the fabric up to the underarm edge without cutting it! This made it pretty unwieldy for a while but meant that I didn’t cut too short or end up wasting more than necessary. I have no idea whatsoever if this would be a period accurate technique; on the one hand it’s a pretty weird way of doing things, on the other people were so anal about fabric conservation (because of cost) that I wouldn’t entirely put it past them! Lol

I then started pleating around the side and toward the front:

And I pleated and re-pleated several times until I could get the look I wanted and the angles I needed:

Once I got that sorted I was able to cut the fabric away from the rest of the length.

I ended up needing enough less than half the full width of fabric for each side to use the leftover to cut the sleeves, which I also carefully pattern-matched.

However, I ended up needing to piece the outer bottom corners of each sleeve piece – now, I know that’s a period  correct technique!

I had intended to take photos through the whole sleeve construction process because I used a historically accurate method that’s really neat, but I got worried about time around this point and forgot to stop and photograph each step. However, I am currently working on a 1780s redingote to wear at the end of December and am using the same sleeve construction method so will try to get process photos of them instead!

Here’s how the sleeves looked pinned onto the open robe:

The sleeves are lined with habotai/china silk instead of linen so that they’ll slide easily over dress sleeves while conserving the more expensive silk taffeta. They are back stitched all around the armholes. I know you’ll all get me when I say I love the look of the insides of this piece almost as much as the outside!

The bodice fronts are cut to the shape of the lining and are stitched under the front-most pleats of the open robe – which I’ve just realized are almost like robings, ha!

The buttons are fabric covered wooden moulds from William Booth Draper and are just decorative, the bodice front simply pins closed. I didn’t see any evidence of open robes with more of a bodice front than just a strap that used functional buttons. I got the idea of the decorative buttons from the redingote I’m currently working on, it’s based on the extant and pattern of the LACMA redingote and its bodice front buttons are purely decorative – no buttonholes – so I took my cue from that.

To help protect the hem of my precious striped silk I faced it with more of the habotai/china silk that I used for the sleeve linings.

To finish off the sleeves I used the set of ruffles I made to wear with my cutaway front Anglaise. They had just been basted into those sleeves so I easily removed them and basted them into these ones. I’ll probably do the same again with the redingote I mentioned above when I wear it at the end of this month – I love being able to do this and not have to make a set for every single garment I want them for, and it’s totally HA!

I won’t lie, I’m immensely pleased with how this turned out! I’d kind of forgotten how very satisfying something like careful pattern/stripe matching can be. This is also a very comfortable outfit wear and I’ll be very much looking forward to the next opportunity to do so!

I also made the hat you see in the full-ensemble photos for the event. It was a totally last-minute thing – which, of course, means it got almost more attention than the painstakingly made open-robe, lol – but I’ll give it its own short post after this one. So, in the meantime, are there any construction questions that come to mind that aren’t already addressed in the post?

And let me know about some of your most satisfying makes – whether they involved stripe matching or not!

7 thoughts on “c. 1794 Striped Silk Open Robe (aka: more autumn colours!)

  1. Just Getting ready to cut out a striped open robe to wear for a garden tour next Saturday, and thought I would just google around to see what others had done. Yours is simply stunning!! And now I think I will cut it with a bit of a train, due to your inspiration. Looking forward to seeing you again at Costume College! -Cheryl

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    • Thank you so much! There can be no higher praise than to inspire others, no matter in how small a way! And please make sure you say hi at CoCo! I’m good with faces but terrible with names! Lol

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