Getting Started

Setting off on a journal of garment construction for Fetes Galantes

This month, I am embarking on a new creative journey and will also blog that journey in my first blog ever.  I expect very few people will ever see it, but I want to journal my progress.  For the past few years, my close friend and I have discussed attending the Fetes Galantes at Versailles.

For 3 years now on the last weekend of May, Versailles has opened the Hall of Mirrors and other rooms for a remarkable evening where one can dress in the finery of the time and enjoy entertainment from the 17th & 18th centuries.

I don’t want to bore you with the details of the event itself in this blog as there are plenty of other websites that will give you a glimpse of the possibilities.  Suffice it to say, in 2018, we are making it happen assuming they open the halls for the ball in 2018!  Fingers crossed!

This blog is going to be about my journey in constructing garments for both myself and my wife, Sarah to attend Fetes Galantes.

If you’re interested in costuming, cosplay, period garments (but not necessarily period garment construction), then I invite you to follow along as each week or two I will post a blog on my progress with details of construction, challenges faced and overcome and likely a few cocktails along the way.

Next Post – Fabric selection and my journey through some great fabric stops in Vancouver, BC., then finally entering beginning construction of foundational undergarments for Sarah’s Robe á la Française

Constructing a Robe a la française – Part 4

The finishing touches…

This weekend I’m working on wrapping this sacque up. It seems that setting sleeves are always the most challenging, at least for me.

This last week, I was just outside of Toronto in the city of Hamilton. It is where McMaster University is. The 11th FIB-SEM User meeting was held and I gave a talk on optimizing beam induced deposition in a plasma FIB.

Last night, Sarah and I realized we have just 2 more weeks until we take off for France! This is so on…

And so, this weekend is the final push. Let’s get ‘er done!!!

First up – getting the stomacher in place.

I am using hooks and eyes to attach the sacque to the stomacher. Practicality always wins and these seemed to be both practical and the least complicated. If you’ve been following, you know that I did not slash the back for eyelets. Not having done so has allowed me to fit the bodice just so and now with the hooks and eyes, I’m hoping the fit looks good.

I did this fitting on the model

Next up – checking the hem of the sacque with shoes on. I’d like to leave the gown length so that it just skims the floor. When all was said and done, I had just under an inch for the hem. I’m going to press the easy button here too and use stitch witchery to finish the hem.

[insert picture of hem with stitch witchery]

Sleeves and setting them

I ran a stitch up the length of the sleeve. On the sleeve pattern, there is marking for gathering up the top armscye, so I followed this.

1. Run a basting stitch about a 1/4″ in from the seam to gather along the top of the armscye

2. Fit the diameter of the sleeve to the diameter of the bodice

3. Right sides together, pin and stitch the sleeve to the bodice. I chose to use a very long stitch so that after the fitting if the sleeve needed tweaking, I could easily remove the stitch and restart.

As it seems with these patterns, the fitting revealed a lot of excess fabric in the back shoulder portion of the sleeve (about 2.5 to 3 inches) where the sleeve was gathered.

I pulled out the sleeve re-gathered the sleeve in this area about 2.5 inches in from the seam and reset the sleeve.

The length of the sleeve was just right. It his the model right at the elbow.

Sleeve Ruffles

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I didn’t get enough of the silk taffeta and have literally been running on fabric fumes.

I had to piece together several remnants of the silk in order to cut out the sleeve ruffles, but I did it.

I used the pattern shapes from Cox and Stowell’s The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking. If you haven’t purchased any 1″ square paper for pattern making, then you can easily make some, it just takes a little more time. I didn’t feel like running to the fabric store for it, so I just made some. The books calls for making a top and bottom sleeve ruffle. They are ever so slightly longer and wider to each other.

This is the one place, where I’ve chosen to use pinking shears as well. In Cox and Stowell’s book, they pink the crap out of their dress and in looks good. My plan was – use furbelows everywhere and pink the sleeve ruffles.

1. Cut out 2 of the bottom and top sleeve ruffles

2. Pink the edges if desired. (I picked up a pair of them off of amazon for about 12 dollars)

3. Wrong sides together, lay the bottom and top of the sleeve ruffles together and pin along the straight edge

4. Baste with machine or by hand, two running stitches next to the straight edge

5. Gather the sleeve ruffles by pulling on the basting stitches

6. Pin and stitch the sleeve ruffle to the end of the sleeve.

To finish off the ruffled sleeves I stitched on some furbelow trim around the outside of the top portion.

Lace flounces

I found this great lace at one of the local fabric shops. It has. A really nice border.

I’ve chosen a 3-layered flounce to go on the ruffle. First, I cut away the border of the lace, so that I could reattach later. Using Cox & Stowell’s pattern, I cut out the flounces. Next, I pinned at stitched the lace border back to the flounces (shown below).

I used a long running stitch to attach all 3 layers along the straight edge.

After they were combined, I created some bias tape with fine linen and finished the straight edge.

Lastly, I basted a running stitch in the bias tape, gathered the flounce to fit the inside of the sleeve ruffles and whip stitched them into the inside.

Here is the final sleeve and sleeve ruffle. Sleeves are always a challenge for me. I need to find a class on setting sleeves and fitting the properly! Hah.

Lace Tucker

Measuring across the top of the stomacher, I cut out some of the lace I used for the flounces, attached to some bias tape and used some stitch witchery to attach to the stomacher.

One final fitting

I’m pretty happy with how this sacque gown turned out. Especially for my first one! One area I’m just going to deal with on the day of Fêtes is where the stomacher meets the robe. I think I’ll just end up whip stitching it for the evening. The hooks and yes do a good job holding everything together, but you can just see them if you’re looking close.

The final touches have been added. I embellished the furbelows with rhinestones and pearls in the front. And then a few other additions. It seems like years and years ago, Joyce and I were shopping for beads, when we stumbled across these cameos. I’ve been meaning to do something special with them and what better than a large necklace of pearls with the cameos playing center stage.

We’re just about ready. In my next post, I’ll focus on sprucing up my watch chains with some new ribbons, discuss shoes for the occasion and even do some shoe modification.

Until then!

Constructing a Robe a la française – Part 3

And the countdown to the Fêtes continues.

T minus 29 days!

A lot has happened with the sacque since my last post. Feeling the crunch ever so slightly, rather than giving any time to my posts, I decided to spend it on the garments knowing I’d be travelling soon and could dedicate some quality airplane time to writing!

This week, I’m on my way to Toronto, ON in Canada. The 11th annual North American FIB-SEM meeting is occurring at McMaster University and I will give a talk and run their new plasma focused ion beam during the meeting.


After completing the sloper for the sacque gown, I felt pretty confident in the fitting of the bodice. That being said, I wanted to confirm on the model!

I chose to interline the bodice with a fine-woven, white cotton because both the lining and fashion fabric were delicate.

I’m using a modified construction method, blending techniques from Reconstructing History and supplementing with my copy of The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking by Cox and Stowell.

I cut out the bodice from all three fabrics and then used the interlining to fit the model.

After fitting to model and leaving the pins in place, I transfer to the dress form to make sure I could use it for the rest of the fitting/forming.

Good to go!

1. Mark and trim the bodice fashion fabric to the correct fit, using your lining or interlining. The directions from both of the references I’m using stress not, to use a muslin at this step. If you use a different fabric, it can pull differently on the model/dress form and and then when you cut the final fabric and fit, there could be large differences

2. Baste the interlining to the lining. I also overlocked the seams together so that they would act like one piece of fabric

3. Pin and stitch the side seams and the tops of the back bodice to the front bodice (right sides together)

4. Refit onto model/dress form to ensure fit is good

5. Repeat #3 for the fashion fabric

7. Right sides together, pin and stitch the fashion fabric to the lining around the the front seams and around the neckline

8. Turn out and press

9. At the top shoulder seams and side seams baste the fashion fabric to the lining (wrong sides together)

10. Put bodice aside for now

Sacque Back

For this part of the gown, I found that both references directions were pretty similar, so I went ahead and cut the back out from Reconstructing History, but followed the books instructions (because frankly, they were a lot better).

The back is composed of about 60 – 80 inch wide fabric to allow for lots of pleating.

I chose to go for the 80 inches of fabric to get a true voluminous feel to the back. Now is when those measurements form Part 1 are going to come in handy. The back and front skirt length measurements will come from the waist to floor and shoulder back to floor measurements that were taking with the underpinnings on and in place.

11. Using a large flat surface or the floor, lay the back flat and mark the center of the back

12. Working from the center out, follow the instructions making large box pleats. Be sure to pin each of them not only at the top, but about 5-7 inches down the back to ensure they are straight and uniform. I found that using a clear, fabric ruler worked well for straight pleats when placed on its edge

13. Pin the sacque back onto the model/dress form to ensure it fits across the back nicely. The back should extend across the entire back. Make sure the pleats look uniform and to your liking. The instructions from Cox and Stowell discuss adding a hidden pleat on the sides of the back and how key this is in the back laying properly. Please pay attention to this remark

14. Stitch the pleats into place as show below. Turn the back over and hand baste the remaining pleats into place

15. Finish the top of the back to keep it from fraying and put aside for now

I took a piece of fashion fabric that was the width of the top of the back and about 2 inches wide and stitched over the top to finish the edge.

Front skirts

I really liked how Cox and Stowell explained making the front skirts and had a great trick from making the most of your fabric by making a gore out of a panel. Since I knew my fashion fabric supply was tight, I chose to go with this method rather than Reconstructing History’s method.

You will need 4 20 inch wide panels cut using the measurement collected for the side waist to floor (make sure the pocket panniers were on when this measurement was collected).

Two of the panels will be used for the back port of the front skirts and two will be used for the front facing portion of the gown. Follow the instructions for making the gore out of the two front panels. I’m not going to detail the instructions here because I think what the authors did is clever and they deserve proper credit and royalties for their resourcefulness. Please refer to their book.

Furbelows and frills (some say optional, but really?)

Let’s face it, I’m making these garments so that my wife and I can attend Fêtes Galantes. THIS IS NOT THE TIME TO HOLD BACK! Too much just doesn’t fit in the vocabulary here.

So that in mind, I needed to stop with the construction of the gown and start making furbelows. If I count the time it took for me to make and place the furbelows on the petticoat, I think I counted 38 hours of furbelows making and placement! Or 6 nights burning the candle after working all day! The great thing about the process was that it was mostly mindless and so I could just rock out to music and pound away on the sewing machines.

For the furbelows, I chose to use the lining fabric primarily because I was running on “fashion fabric vapor” and knew I would NOT have enough of the silk to get them all done. In hindsight, I really like the contrast the lining gives on the robe. I selected a 3/8 inch burgundy elastic trim and I think it looks fancy and pretty!

I used two widths of furbelows to give a dramatic effect. A narrow strip ~ 2.5 inches and a wider one that was about 5 inches wide.

To construct the furbelows, cut long strips of the desired fabric, finish the edges (I used the serger in this case) and then sew the trim onto the edges.

After the all of the furbelows were made, it was time to start placing them onto the front skirts. First, I ran a strip of trim along the front edge. For the next portion of furbelows placement, I laid the skirts down onto a flat surface and and pinned them into place the way I liked the look.

Actually – I saw Starlight Masquerade’s Robe and I just thought it was so elegant that I had to do something very similar.

After the furbelows were attached to the front skirts, it was time to get back to the construction.

Piecing the robe together

16. Right sides together, pin and stitch the front panels to the back panels of the front skirts

17. Press seams

18. Pin and stitch the front skirt panels to the side seams of the back of the gown

19. Press seams

20. Pin the back and front skirts to the model/dress form

– start at the center back

– pin the front edges of the skirts to the front of the bodice

– the front skirts have a pocket opening in the gored front panel. Place this a couple of inches behind the opening in the petticoat and pin into place

– from the waist up, fold over the back side seam (below) from the waist up and pin into place on the side seam of the bodice

– use a hidden stitch and stitch the side seams together

– from the pocket opening through the back of the front skirt panels, the remainder of the fabric will need to be pleated to fit the bodice dimensions (I basted everything into place to ensure a proper fit, checked and then moved forward.

21. With the back portion of the skirts pleated and fit into place, you will now pin the rest of the front skirt in place and fit it along the bottom of the bodice as shown below.

Make sure before you cut off the excess portion of the front skirts, that a seam allowance is added to sew the front skirts to the bodice. In the image above, you can start to see the robe form as I’ve pined it to the stomacher to make sure the fit is right.

22. Remove the excess material from the front skirts

23. Unpin the skirts and back from the dress form

24 Right sides together pin and stitch the skirts to the bodice

25. Place the sacque back on the dress form or model and pin the furbelows along the front edge of the bodice and up around the neck

26. Sew into place

Wow – it’s really starting to look like a robe a la française!

Next post will focus on making the sleeves, setting them and putting the finishing touches on!!!!

Until then!

Construction a 18th century stomacher for Robe a la française

As the robe continues to come together, it was time to make the stomacher so that I could really start to understand how the robe will fit with the stomacher in place.

For this project I used:

  • Heavyweight buckram
  • fashion fabric
  • fine cotton as an interlining
  • back lining material

I followed the pattern instructions from Cox and Stowell’s The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking.

It was a Friday night, with Rum & Diet Coke in hand, I started by first making my own graph paper!

Then, I just followed their pattern instructions, by measuring across the tope of the model’s bust line. Their pattern was a little smaller than mine, but no worries, I just went with it. Each of the squares are 1 inch in size.

After adding 1/2″ seam allowance to the the pattern (except on the fold line), I went ahead and cut out the pieces from buckram, lining and the silk taffeta fashion fabric. Below, you can see that the buckram was overlocked to the back lining material.

I went for the fast easy option with the fashion fabric and just used stitch witchery.

With the palette complete, embellishment started. There are many videos on YouTube for great ideas on how to make simply bows, so I’m not going to go in the details here as so many already have.

Above, you can see the piece coming together. Using some of the furbelows I’ve been making for the robe, I made some simple, large bows that get just slightly smaller as they go down the stomacher. Adding some rhinestones and pearls along the way, the piece started to look very elegant, at least in my opinion.

And finally after about 1.5 hours –

This is a fun project that didn’t really take too much time either! Happy constructing!

Constructing a 18th Century Jabot

With the frock coat, waist coat, breeches and shirt complete, I’m getting pretty close to being done with my outfit!

Finishing touches!

First up – the Jabot or Cravat. I chose a fine silk satin to make the ruffles of the jabot.

There are plenty of online tutorials for constructing one of these garments, so I just followed one of these.

For the base of the jabot, I used a medium weight linen.

1. Cut 2 pieces of linen 10″ X 8″ in size

2. Stitch along the long sides and one short side

3. Clip corners, turnout right side out and press seams

For the ruffles, I used a length of 24″ and width of 4-5″. I decided to have 4 ruffles on the base.

4. Press under 1/2″ seams on the silk strips

5. Gather and pin onto the base

6. Stitch

7. Do this 4 more times, evenly spacing out the ruffles across the base.

With all the ruffles sewn onto the base, make a narrow band that the base can be stitched too. I chose a 2.5″ wide strip for the band.

8. Attach the base to one side of the band. Press seams in for the band

Finish the band.

Constructing 18th Century Men’s Frock Coat

Last week, I spent in Madison, Wisconsin. The university’s College of Materials Science had its annual core facilities open house. Since, the college had purchased a DualBeam last year, I was invited to speak on focused ion beams and then also spend a day with people on the microscope.

Madison, as a small city, is actually a fun little place to stay a few days. If you don’t know, Wisconsin, is known for beer and cheese. The downtown area lies on an isthmus and is structured around the capitol building.

The weather started to turn bad on Friday afternoon and when I arrived at the airport, there was an earlier flight to Minneapolis I could catch that would get me home 3 hours earlier. However, the flight had been delayed by an hour due to weather. I was lucky enough to get on this delayed flight, but had no idea if it would actually take off. Well it did and the flight I would have been on was cancelled due to weather. Phewww! The problem with flying home on Fridays is that the later the flights, it seems the higher the chances that something can go wrong in getting home. Well, anyway, I did make to MSP and my flight home took off on time.

Frock Coat

This week’s project is focused around making the frock coat I will wear. As I have mentioned several times in my blogs, I am using patterns made by Reconstructing History. I began by tracing off the patterns for the frock coat and added 1/2″ seam allowance.

After the patterns were traced off, I began cutting fabric. I’ve been pretty excited about working with this fabric. It’s heavier and more sturdy than the silks I’ve been working with so far.

For the pattern pieces that were narrow enough, I cut both the lining and outer fashion fabric at the same time. For the front coat pieces, I cut them each individually, ensuring the pattern matched on both sides.

Also, I as I mentioned in my post on the waist coat, I have chosen a heavy weight buckram type interlining. In the pattern instructions, it indicated to use cut a 4″ strip along the front center and for the skirts of the coat, to use a spongey type fabric like a loose wool. I’m going to try and interline the whole front and back pattern piece with the buckram fabric and see how it turns out. I think I can switch this out pretty easy if I need to. After I cut out the interlining, I pinned it to the wrong side of the fashion fabric and overlocked the two pieces together. Normally, I would have basted the two together from the center outward, but these two fabrics stuck together pretty well, so I took a chance to just overlock..

1. Pin and stitch the center backs together. Press seams open

2. Attach fronts to back at the shoulder. Pin and stitch. Press seams open


I’ve chosen to have a separate post on pocket construction for this frock coat and the waist coat. It is located here.

3. Pin and stitch the side seams together. On the pattern, there are points marked X and Y for the back and sides, so follow the instructions about leaving the portions of the sides open at these points. Press seams open

4. Repeat steps 1-3 for the lining

5. Match the fashion fabric to the lining, right sides together

6. Baste the center back seams of the fashion fabric to the lining

7. Pin and stitch the outer fabric to the lining along the front edge and around the back

8. Trim and clip the seams allowances. Fold right side out and press


To reinforce the collar, I interline the collar with the heavy buckram lining.

9. Pin and stitch along the sides and top of collar. Trim and clip. Fold right side out and press seam

10. Pin the outer fabric of the collar to the neck of the coat. Stitch

11. Whip stitch the lining to the lining of the frock coat. Press


12. Pin and stitch the upper sleeve to the lower sleeve for the right and left sleeves. Pay attention to the orientation of the sleeves

13. Fit the sleeves to the frock coat, gathering around the armscye. Pin and stitch

14. Pin and stitch the upper sleeve lining to the lower sleeve lining and pin the cuff lining to the out fabric cuff. Stitch. Do this for both sleeves

15. Pull the sleeve lining up through the arm

16. Press down the lining seam allowance and whip stitch to the body lining


17. Follow the instructions of the pattern for aligning the cuffs

18. Pin and stitch the side seams. Press open

19. To the same for the lining, if lining

20. Turn the out fabric cuff right side out and slip inside the lining cuff, which is wrong side out

21. Pin and stitch the wrist edge closed

22. Turn the cuff right side out, press seam

23. Gather top open portion of the cuff, pin and stitch to the sleeve

24. Fold up lining and whip stitch closed

At this point, the frock coat construction is complete. What is left is embellishing the coat with buttons and trim.

In terms of sizing, I run a medium and for suits between a 40R and 42S. Based on the waist coat, I chose to construct the frock coat in a 42. I wish I would have gone with the 40. I think it will work out fine, but I prefer the cut a bit more slim. I did fit this, but unfortunately, I didn’t do as good as a job as I could have.

The trim I used came from India and discussed the shop on Etsy in my last post on waist coat. It’s super sparkly and should look amazing at Fetes!

In terms of buttons, I ended up putting 20 buttons on the front. I’m still contemplating adding the button holes. I don’t plan to use them and it would be hard to see them in the trim.

In the end, the frock coat turned out pretty amazing though it weighs a ton!

Until next time!

Constructing 18th Century Men’s Waistcoat

What a great week it has been, indeed. Right now, Hamilton has been playing in town and even though Sarah had tried to get tickets on the first day they went on sale, they evidently had sold out in 2 hours. I looked around to get some tickets, but the price was really out of control. Several hundreds of dollars and I just didn’t think it was worth it.

So, when the show finally arrived in town, we both downloaded the app for Hamilton (upon her insistence). Perhaps a little known secret is that within the app, there is a daily lottery where you can enter the lottery to purchase tickets for $10/person. The tickets are for the following day, so you definitely need to have a flexible schedule if you win.

Well, we were well into the second week of the run and it was nearing the end. As is with all lotteries, neither of us had won. And then, Boom!

Sarah had actually won the lottery for a pair of tickets. When she called to buy the tickets, the agent said they would try to place us together, but there would be no guarantees. Of course, she was excited just to go and I was happy to be able to join. We assumed we would be placed in empty seats throughout the venue. When we arrived, we picked up our tickets and were happy to see that we got to sit next to each other, but still didn’t know where we’d be.

Wow…we were literally in the front row and center. Amazing. The orchestra was right in front of us.

I actually had heard about the show from Sarah and from Joyce, but hadn’t looked into it. It really was a fantastic show and so thrilling to have been giving some of the best seats for $20!

Then, over the weekend, Sarah treated me to a class on making your own bitters. So fun! The course was focused around tasting tinctures both bitter and aromatic, making tinctures and finally combining them to create one’s own blend of aromatics and bitters for food and cocktails.

Over the past several years, I’ve gotten quite a collection of bitters and it was fun to experiment and play around with different flavor profiles.

Some of my bitters collection.


Needing a break from the sacque, I decided to embark on the waistcoat I will wear.

Working off of Reconstructing History’s pattern for the waistcoat, I am hoping that constructing this garment will go much more smoothly than the breeches did. I’ve made vests and jackets before for myself and have some basic understanding of tailoring techniques as a foundation.

Many years ago, I spent a couple of years learning design, construction and industrial sewing techniques from Margaret Islander. She was such a sweet, amazing teacher and I learned a lot from her. I think the skills that I will never forget are the industrial sewing techniques.

The waistcoat calls for an interlining that can be made out of a 3-5 oz linen.

I laid out the lining, fashion fabric and interlining on top of each other, pinned the pattern to all three layers (an invaluable industrial technique) and cut out the patterns.

After the pieces were cut, I then basted the interlining to the fashion fabric from the center of the pieces outward. This will minimize any bunching of the interlining as the construction continues. A good strong interlining is important for the garment to maintain its shape and allows the fashion fabric to drape right. I’m using a medium weight linen for the waistcoat and I will use a heavier buckram type interlining for the frock coat construction.

Above you can see where the fashion fabric and the interlining were basted together.

After that I overlocked the edges for the back and front pieces.

1. Pin center backs together (right sides facing each other) and stitch, leaving about 12″ from the bottom of the back (this will be the back vent)

2. Pin front should seams to back should seams (right sides together) and stitch

3. Pin front side seams to back side seams (right sides together) and stitch, leaving about 12 inches open from the bottom (these will be the side vents)

4. Try on model and assess the fit. Adjust as needed with pins

In the end, I took in the side seams of the waist coat by another 7/8″ beyond the seam allowance. This was for a size 42. I was playing with the length of the waistcoat as well. In researching these garments, there are two different lengths. The shorter of the two looks really good from the front, but not as good from the back. In the end, I decided to stay with the length from the cut pattern.

With the fitting done, adjust the patterns and re-cut fashion and lining.


I’ve decided to make a separate post on the pockets (link will be here).


I’m using a very delicate taffeta for the lining. These fabrics tend to slip and slide a lot, so make sure to pin the pieces together well.

1. Stitch the center back together and press open seams, leaving about 12″ from the bottom open for the back vent

2. At the shoulder seams, bring the fronts to the back and stitch at the shoulders. Press the seam open

3. Pin the side seams of the front and back and stitch down to bout 12″ from the bottom just like with the fashion layer. Press seams open

4. With the top and lining layers completed to the above finish, it is time to bring them together, rights sides facing each other

5. Baste the center back seam of the lining to the back center seam of the fashion fabric

6. Pin from the top of the neck line all the way to the back vent for both sides

7. Stitch starting from one front side to the other front side. I left the apex of the side and back vents unstitched and finished those by hand.

8. At corners, clip and trim seam allowances

9. Turn right side out, work corners out gently and press all seams

At this point, there will be several points that need to be hand stitched closed. Neckline, armscyes and apex of side and back vents.

10. Pin these areas and hand stitch closed. Be patient with these areas. You want them to be smooth and the stitching should be hidden.

With the garment constructed, it was time to work on the fun part – embellishment!

I found a great little shop on etsy.com named shopofembellishments and boy was it ever!

For the waistcoat, I selected a 2″ wide gold embroidered trim with small amber rhinestones and round pearls. I finished the embellishment with some small amber colored rhinestone rosettes.

I spent what seemed like forever pinning the trim onto the waistcoat.

And in an ideal world, I would have hand stitched this down, but alas, it is not and the rigors of life keep me from spending that kind of time on it and so to the machine I went.

Once all of the trim was sewn on, it was time for buttonholes. I really wanted to add many, but in the end settled for 14 buttons.

This waistcoat turned out pretty much like I had in my head and I’m very happy with it.

I worked on this off and on over a week! Now onto the next garment!!!

48 days to go to Fetes!!!

Constructing a Robe a la française – Part 2

Greetings! Another week passes with business travel and continued progress on our garments for the pending Fetes! Last week, I spent on the east coast visiting MIT, Harvard University, Yale University and Brookhaven National Labs. Spring hasn’t quite sprung on the east coast and snow still lies on the ground still. We started off in Boston, visiting Harvard and MIT.

Then is was off to Brookhaven via ferry and automobile. Normally, I would avoid any water moving vehicle because I get extreme motion sickness, but the trip was a short 80 minutes and I did pretty well; well enough, in fact, to get a little work done on the ferry!

Last on the tour was Yale. Yale is definitely one of my favorite Ivy League’s to visit. The old campus feels like something out of Harry Potter and one could get lost wandering through the outdoor hallways and gates.

Picking up where I left off with the sloper, it was time to attach the outer fabric to the lining and then add the skirts to the bodice.

As I mentioned, I will do a more thorough job of detailing the construction of the sacque with the real fabric. I attached the skirts to the bodice, checked on the model for proper fit.

And…attached the back part of the gown, set a sleeve into the bodice and checked the fit.

Feeling like I had a good first start on the garment, I set out to start with the real fabric and keep my fingers crossed!

Petticoat Construction Details

Make sure that you take accurate measurements of the model with the underpinnings on.


1. Waist to floor for:

a. Side over pocket panniers to the floor

b. Front to the floor

c. Back to the floor

For the sacque, I used a modified construction method, blending techniques from Reconstructing History and supplementing with my copy of The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking by Cox and Stowell.

For the petticoat, I preferred Cox and Stowell’s method.

In their garment construction techniques, they instruct to make the petticoat out of 6 20″ panels. If you have 60-inch wide fabric, I suppose you can just use that as well, but according to the authors, the gown will look more authentic with narrower cut panels. I chose a silk taffeta that is 45 inches, so for me the 20-inch wide panel works fine.

1. Cut 6 panels 20-inch wide to the length measure for waist to floor on the side

Now – as you may have read from the previous post, I didn’t end up getting enough of the silk taffeta to finish the whole sacque, so I’m using the lining material where I can to make up for the deficiency. I’m also using the lining to make the furbelows.

In my case, I used the lining for the back 3 panels and then also some of the side front panels (what won’t be seen).

2. Sew 3 of the panels together and do the same for the other 3 panels

Above, I am piecing together the front panel to one side front panel. Note, I’ve make a 20-inch side panel out of the silk taffeta and the lining material.

3. For the front of the petticoat, embellishing the front prior to piecing together the petticoat is wise as it will simplify the process later

I’ve chosen to add furbelows to the sacque. The process I’m using is this:

Using 1/4″ elastic ruffled trim, I attach to long rectangular strips of the lining fabric.

After the trim is attached, turn the trim and narrowware edge over, press if needed.

4. Lay the front panels flat, and lay out the embellishment to the desired location

5. Pin the furbelows and stitch down. I stitched the furbelows onto the panel in the 1/4″ ruffled trim (see below)

6. Fold the panels in half lengthwise

7. Using the waist to floor measurements, subtract the front waist to floor measurement from the side waist to floor measurement and mark this distance on the fold of the front panels

8. Cut diagonally from the mark to the top of the side panels, making a V shape.

9. Do the same for the back panels, subtracting the back waist measurement from the side measurement.

10. Knife pleat both the front and back panels to the waist measurement for your model.

11. Create waist band strips for the front and back panels. I used 45″ length, overlooked an interlining of cotton broadcloth (with a width 2.5-3″)

12. Find the center of the waist band and pin to front center

13. Stitch to the front panel

14. Wrong sides out, stitch the waist band closed and turn out (a chopstick works really well working the waist band right side out)

15. Fold under seam allowance and finish attaching the waist band to the front panel.

16. Do the same for the back panels

17. Bring together the front and back panels, wrong sides out, and stitch the side seams from the bottom to about 10″ from the top of the panels

18. Press seams open and turn out.

19. Try on dress form or model to ensure the waist fits properly. I found that you could make the waist slightly smaller because you can tighten or loosen the waistband at the sides.

To complete, the embellishment for the petticoat, I Used 10 mm round pearls, and pearl and rhinestone findings. Also, I’m going to finish the hem after the sacque is completed. Except for some additional pressing and steaming, which I’ll take care of at the end, I think the petticoat turned out pretty good for having only ever made two! What do you think?

In Part 3, I’ll tackle the bodice and back part of the sacque gown. Stay tuned!

Constructing a Robe a la française – Part 1

Slopin’ it up

Monday A.M. – jetting to Boston for a week on the east coast. Mini lectures at Harvard, Yale, Brookhaven National Labs and a quick meeting at M.I.T. One – I’m a pretty loyal Delta traveler, but Alaska’s non-stop flight had me at not having to get up at 4AM for a long day of travel. However, I just might rethink this one in the future. Even though I’m in the comfort portion of the plane, Alaska’s middle seats really are criminal…and I’m just an average sized guy! Ugh, such is the life of frequent travel.

This last week’s home spare time was spent getting my mind around the sacque gown a.k.a Robe a la française, coming to grips with the fact that I didn’t get enough silk for Sarah’s sacque (and frantically trying to scour the web for more of the same color!), ordering trim for my frock and waist coats and trying out a new peer-to-peer selling site, called Mercari. Mercari – bottom line. A good app, but still at the mercy of normal people buying and selling stuff. Since most of these folks are not in it for a business, they have no real motivation to ship items on time, to even be responsive or to just review the seller (which is required to release the funds to the seller, once a buyer receives).


While surfing Etsy, I found this online seller called “shopofembellishments” out of India. Amazing embroidered trims, patches and ribbons in all sorts of widths and colors. I settled on the trims below for the coats. I think these will work out nicely.

So, I ordered up the yardage I needed on Monday. And, not joking, the trim travelled from India and reach me on Wednesday! Now that is some stellar shipping.

Getting started with the sacque

Sarah found a giant piece of fabric in a butter yellow (seemed to be a table cloth for a very long table) for $5 at a local thrift store. It must be sacrificed to the garment construction gods…This post will focus really on the highlights of the practice run. I will spend more times on the details with the real fabric in the next post.

I began by pulling out the patterns from Reconstructing History and supplementing with my copy of The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking by Cox and Stowell. I knew, I’d have to pretend drape to get the fit right, but started with cut outs from the Reconstructing History patterns to feel a little more at ease.

I also remeasured my model and adjusted the dress form to match as closely as possible the waist and bust lines. Next, I whipped out the petticoat in the practice fabric to ensure the length of the bodice was right.

After all of the pieces were cut out, it was time to start pinning them onto the dress form and fitting. Both the book and the pattern instructions called for fitting the bodice tightly over the stays, so that is what I did.

After the bodice was fitted to the dress form, I slashed the back up the middle, reinforced the open area with some coutil and added a few grommets. This first set of bodice pieces will be used at the lining.

The fitted pieces were used to modify the patterns and I recut the same fabric for the top fashion fabric. This cheap tablecloth fabric frays really easy, so I had to overlock all raw edges before pinning the top onto the lining. So, here’s where I left it before taking off for the week. On the back, I am thinking I will run some boning in the middle of the back because its gathering up at the bottom. Perhaps when the skirts are added to the bodice it will flatten out. Also, I need to set the sleeves and see what fitting needs to be done there. I think I’m probably a day’s work away from starting on the final sacque.

Until next time!

Constructing 18th Century Fly-front Breeches – Final

I’m kind of bouncing back and forth between Sarah’s and mine costumes. After finishing the underpinnings for Sarah, I really wanted to finish the breeches I will wear at Fetes…So with that in mind and following my other two blogs for construction, I set out to make them happen!

This is just a short update to show the highlights of construction and how they turned out.

Unfortunately, my camera just can’t get the color of the breeches right, but I chose a robin’s egg blue silk. This picture however, is likely, the closest to the true color. Here the fronts are being stitched to the back breeches.

Prior to stitching, I overlocked all pieces of the breeches, which in the end was a good thing. Not historically accurate, but good for costuming!

Below is an image of the back of the breeches being gathered to the waistband

Here are the fronts and back attached to the waistband. Notice that rocking welt pocket for my pocket watch!

Wire cuttings and irons go together!

Here are breeches legs with bands being attached and button holes in place. I did add a placket where buttonholes were to reinforce.

And below, is the finished product. I’m pretty happy with these. They fit well and after making a few of them, I think I have got it down. Not that I will make them again!!!

I picked up some fantastic trim that I decided needed to go at the bottom of the breeches’ legs.

And so the breeches are finally finished. I love them and am now looking forward to working on the next garment. All of us that are going to Fetes are in the throws of costuming. It’s exciting to see and hear how each of us are moving forward toward France in May!

I can’t decide whether to continue with the waist and frock coats or to switch back to the sacque gown. I guess you’ll have to see what happens next!

Until next time!

Constructing 18th Century Stays – Part 2

OK. 1 week has gone by, but so much has happened relative to these stays. I had some course corrections, but it all ended up well.

To begin with, measuring for a corset seems straightforward. 4 easy measurements, right? Bust, underbust, waist and hips…But what if model measures between two pattern sizes? What do you do then? Do you go up or down? The guidance on Redthreaded.com was if “you’re squishy”, then size down (mistake #1 – I didn’t listen, but that really isn’t new). So, in Part 1, I made a corset using the average of the sizes that we measured, basically sizing up because some of the measurements fit better into the larger size. I’ll come back to this in a minute…

Second – I made an error piecing the corset together and I want to correct that right away because I only caught it the second time around. I attached the front side to the back panel. Now, I’m not sure how important this is in the end and perhaps could be a non-issue, but it was remedied. Even the tops of the pieces seemed to fit together. Details….

Now back to the sizing of the corset. Below I will continue with the construction of the stays neglecting the sizing, but in the end, I had to remake the stays 2 sizes smaller than what I measured for and it turned out really good! Something to keep in mind. Not sure where I went wrong, but we remeasured and got the same numbers as the first time.

Construction Continued

With all of the boning channels added to the garment, and staystitching tabs stitched and reinforced, it was time to finally add the boning!

The general recommendation for good boning in stays is steel. If you order a kit from Redthreaded.com, it will come with all the boning you need to complete the stays. You can also purchase 1/4″ steel boning off of biasbespoke.com.

1. If cutting your own boning, measure each channel subtracting enough so that the boning does not go into the seam allowances. I used wire cutters and a metal file to smooth the ends. I also used some nail polish to cover the ends of the boning so minimize any possibility of the ends cutting the fabric.

2. Stitch the ends of the channels closed, making sure to reinforce with back stitching.

With the boning in, next up is the eyelets. On the back panels, there was about an inch marking for a fold. I decided to add a piece of boning at this marking. I then folded in the seams allowances and folded the extra fabric towards the boning.

3. On the back panels, fold in the seam allowances for the under fabric and the coutil/fashion fabric. Press with iron

4. Fold the fabric over the boning and stitch down.

5. To open the holes for eyelets, I used a small awl and couple of chopsticks to get the holes to the right size. For the stays, I chose a 1/4″ goldtone eyelet.

Of course, once the awl came out, I had plenty of help (LOL). No one was injured in the use of this pokey instrument!

To add some flexibility in sizing, I decided to add eyelets between the back and front sides. Not knowing how well the new stays would fit, this seemed like a good idea.

6. Fold in the seam allowances and stitch closed (just as on the back panels). This left just enough room for these eyelets

7. Clip around the staystitching tabs and slash with scissors to open the tabs up.

With all of the eyelets placed, I wanted to try it on before spending anymore time on this garment. Adding the bias tape around the unfinished edges is time consuming and I didn’t want to waste the ribbon!

Aaaand I can live with that! Great fit and looks amazing. Now onto finishing off the garment.

To finish off the raw edges, I selected a 1″ satin ribbon.

8. Stitch one side of the ribbon to the outer facing fabric about 1/4″ in. Take your time on this step and the results will be worth it

9. Fold the ribbon through to the other side and press if needed

10. Top stitch right next to the ribbon on the outer side of the garment

11. Finish the straps the same as with the rest of the garment

12. Add eyelets to the ends of the straps and near the top points on the front of the stays

So, in the end, the garment turned out pretty great from my perspective. If you count the first mock up in muslin, I ended up making three of these, but I learned a lot and now we have the foundations for an amazing robe a la française!

Stay tuned for the next post!