Sunday, October 30, 2016

HSM '16: 10: Historical Heroes: Regency Open Robe

I had this fabric set aside for a specific project, and when it became time once again for the Regency ball(s) in Edmonton, it was also time to make it! It also happens to coincide perfectly with this month's HSM theme. Huzzah!

I've been wanting an open robe for awhile, after seeing some lovely versions around the internet and in person. My partner-in-crime Nicole made a beautiful one out of embroidered sari fabric last year:

And it's been on the to-do list ever since. I didn't have a pattern in mind at first, but as I spent more time working with patterns and drafting with them, I decided to make the open robe in Patterns of Fashion 1.

POF1 was one of the first historical costume sources I ever saw, so you could say that Janet Arnold is a historical hero :3 I still plan to make the gown that I first fell in love with. Some more of my historical heroes are the creators who stitch everything by hand, so aside from a few seams, this was constructed that way.

At the beginning of October, I started planning. I would use Laughing Moon 126 as the base of my robe. The pattern in POF was pretty close to my measurements, which made it easy to work with. I left the back alone, narrowed the straps a little, and modified the front to have a lower profile and more curved shape. Then I laid out my fabric and my pattern pieces and did some measuring, took a deep breath and started to cut. I had 4 metres of fabric, JUST enough to get the robe and sleeves cut out. For the sleeve, I used the sleeve from the swallowtail jacket in Costume Close-up, with some modifications. More on those later.

I didn't lay out my pattern quite right. The back side seams were off, so that made my pleats off :( But I had NO room for modifications, so I made it work. The lining was made from linen. I constructed all the long seams by machine, but most of the robe was stitched by hand. I polled my Facebook for options to make the front out of a different fabric. I had thought gold or green, to pick up in the boteh designs, but one lovely person suggested peacock blue or teal, and I just happened to have a scrap of teal JUST big enough. I wasn't sure on it at first, but forged ahead. Now I think it's the perfect accent.

It took a long time to get everything stitched down. By which I mean, it took half a season of Jessica Jones + a couple of movies. The pleats were draped on the mannequin and adjusted a million times. Sleeves had to be stitched in by hand because of the pleats. I didn't have closures done before the ball, so it was pinned closed, and I marked the overlap at the end of the night to add those later.


I had to put the sleeves in before I could totally finish the pleats over the shoulder. I only had enough fabric left to make them 3/4 length, and it was about this time that I noticed that the print was directional. So half of my robe is upside down! Oh well. Then the modifications I made to the pattern made it fit the armhole perfectly, buuuut it was too tight on the arm. It was hard to get the robe to sit right when the sleeves wouldn't rotate around my arm easily, but of course I discovered this after I'd already put them in. There's a 2" strip with a pointed end fitted in at the seam. I don't know if I like the shape (the front seam especially could use some tailoring), but as it was approximately 4 hours before the ball when I finished this, I chose not to worry about it. When I was at the ball, I didn't give it a single thought. I could move my arms, which was fantastic for playing cards.

At the end of the night, my lovely friends took some pictures (and I took some pictures of them). This was when I noticed that the front piece has a beautiful shape. I think I might take this pattern and use it for another dream gown...

Photo from University of Vermont.

The Challenge: #10 Heroes
Who your hero is and how the costume applies to them: Janet Arnold should be obvious! Also dedicated to long-time costumers who sew things by hand, share their processes, and have been inspiring me for far longer than they may know :) (in particular Katherine C-G and Jen Thompson. Links go to the gowns that inspire me!)
Fabric: cotton, linen, polyester
Pattern: Patterns of Fashion 1, Laughing Moon #126
Year: 1795ish
Notions: thread
How historically accurate is it?: Reasonably! The long back seam, lining, and side-back seams were done by machine, everything else stitched by hand. Poly sure wasn't period, and printed cotton would be a stretch for an evening robe, I think, but it looks fabulous!
Hours to complete: a season of Jessica Jones and 2 movies
First worn: October 22
Total cost: Free-to-me! For new materials at non-sale prices I would expect to pay $60-$80 for a cotton robe, and upwards of $120-$140 for a silk one.

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