Thursday, March 14, 2013

And suddenly... Progress!

Well, my little breakdown a few weeks ago has passed, and the good news is that there is now some progress in the way of finishing my degree. I received notification last week that I have been approved to take the comprehensive 2 exam, which is the part where my thesis committee comes up with questions pertaining to my proposal, and I do my level best to answer them. Once the committee has been satisfied that we're all on the same page, I get to enroll in the thesis writing course and write write write until I go cross-eyed.

But that's not all that this new development has given me... I now am motivated to work on my chemise gown Mark I based on the visual analysis I did of the Platt Hall chemise gown and the diagram in The Cut of Women's Clothes by Norah Waugh.

Some thoughts about the process, so far:

  • I used the sheerest, lightest weight cotton voile I could find. After swatching a zillion fabrics, I settled on this stuff for the body and sleeves of the gown. The neck flounce is going to be made from the bleached harem cloth from Dharma Trading, Co. The difference between the neck flounce and the body and sleeves of the gown is based on the Platt Hall chemise.

  • Waugh's diagram lacks seam lines, which has always frustrated me. Based on the measurements I took of the Platt Hall chemise, each panel is ~31" wide from seam to seam, and the whole outfit is comprised of 4 panels, for a total finished circumference of ~124". 

  • My fabric, however, is 59" wide, so I settled for a width of 29.5" for each panel, not including seam allowance (~1/4"), which gives Mark I a total circumference of 116". Given that this is essentially a trial run for my pattern and construction techniques, I'm not too worried about the 8" difference between then original and my version. However, for the final version, I am going to cut the panels from the length of the fabric, rather than the width (selvedge to selvedge), to get more width into the gown. 
  • The first thing I did was to measure my neckline to waist, and then divide it a little less than half for the first row of gathers. The top row of gathers should technically hit about where a bra band would hit on your body, and I under-estimated a little bit and ended up with the top row of gathers slightly above that point. The second row of gathers should sit at the natural waist, though the Platt Hall chemise shows a dip in the CF waistline, which could either be intentional or the result of hanging on a mannequin for all these years.
  • DUDE, THIS FABRIC IS SHEER. Seriously, it hadn't really hit home to me until I finally got the body of the gown assembled and on my dress form that this style of gown really is not like anything else seen during the lead-up into the 1780s. Sure, we can look at the portraits and the fashion plates and say, oh, yeah, it's not quite the same sort of gown people typically wore during this period, but when you're actually working with the fabric and putting it together, it just smacks you in the face how skimpy the chemise à la reine really is. I can wad it up into a little ball about 5" around. And this was something meant to be worn out and about? Yeah, no wonder it caused a sensation.

  • Once the gathering channels were stitched down (by hand, because I'm hardc0re like that), I inserted the cords and tightened them while on the dress form. This is where the loss of 8" in the dress was first apparent. There should be more fullness from the waist down, and the additional width from the waist up would make the bodice portion of the dress less transparent when gathered. Still, it's not too bad.

  • One of the things that is not apparent until you examine the Platt Hall chemise up close and personal is that the neckline is actually piped. I hadn't consulted my notes prior to going for it and piping both the front and back portion of the neckline, and it turns out that there's a possibility that the front neckline is actually still tied closed at the CF. I stitched it down, however. The irritating thing is that my notes and photos are a little unclear on the treatment of the front neckline, so I'll have to go back and visit the dress again, I guess! ;)
  • The back neckline, however, is definitely piped all the way across, with the gathers totally stitched down.

  • You will notice, no doubt, that I haven't actually cut the armscyes at this point. I wanted to get the neckline stabilized and the shoulder straps put in before I started cutting away extra fabric around the armholes.

  • And this is where I stopped progress. The shoulder seams are stitched down in front and need to be attached in the back after I put it on my own body to make sure they're properly positioned. 

Next stage will be figuring out how to insert the sleeves. Gotta let it sit and stew in the gray matter for a while, though, before I take that leap...


  1. It's great that you've gotten your school stuff sorted out. Good Luck on your comps.

    1. Thanks, Sahrye! I'm trying to keep a positive attitude despite myself. :)

  2. Great stuff! Thank you for sharing so much detail. It's looking fantastic already. And congratulations on the red tape progress!

  3. I can easily imagine some women of the period deliberately wearing their loudest petticoats or stays beneath these things and set tongues wagging.

  4. I nominated you for a very inspiring blogger award! :)