1770s cross barred gown

Nothing like the slimmest of reasons to finish a new dress! This particular one's been in the UFO (unfinished objects) bin for a year or so; I cut the back panel too narrow when I started it, and packed it away in annoyance. But my friends and I came across an 18thc market fair being held at Washington's Crossing, and I decided, a week out, that that was as good a reason as any to have a new dress!
Playing graces! This kept us amused for a very long time.

We were fortunate enough to have really lovely fall weather the day of the market fair, and I think we all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves! Just a really pleasant day to be outside.
My gown is what I like to call "not-plaid" - it is what we modernly call plaid, but plaid meant a different thing in the 18th century. This is cross barred. That link gives you a pretty good idea of what this type of pattern was used for, and there are a few surviving cross barred silk gowns out there. My dress is a little less solidly historically accurate, as you'll notice those gowns are silk...and mine is wool. I'm not a reenactor, though, and the pattern was too perfect to pass up when I saw this wool on sale a few years ago! Plus I really really like a nice wool. ;) This is a nice, lightweight one.
The most interesting thing about this dress is definitely the fabric; apart from that it's very much your standard 1770s closed-front/round gown. Worn over my 1770s stays and two petticoats. As usual, it pins shut in front. I know there are plenty of examples with hooks, and some people prefer them, but pins are SO much easier to me! The back is cut en forreau, with the fabric in one piece neck to hem and pleated to fit the lining.
The sleeve cuffs are a strip of self fabric knife-pleated down, and the linen ruffles are separate - just tacked in. (Also new, and finished way too late the night before.)
Stupid face! I'm really good at those.
I've learned to accept wrinkly sleeves in favor of having more arm movement, at least in everyday dresses! This proved useful while launching a hoop with sticks...
I made the apron new as well...I've been wanting a black silk apron for sewing for ages, so now I have one!
Pretty much as basic as you can get - a rectangle of silk taffeta gathered to a tape I made of the same black silk.
I did a respectable-if-not-perfect job of stripe-matching on the dress...it's very very fussy to worry about two sets of lines at once! As is usual for me for 18thc, this dress is 100% hand sewn, with 18thc construction techniques. I used silk thread, mainly because it's so nice to sew with! It took 6 days start to finish (not allowing for the work I'd already done last year, which was only a couple hours' worth at most), which isn't bad for me. I'm a slow sewer! My friends call it "meticulous." ;)

A couple of in-progress shots...I was thinking of doing a tutorial as sometimes en forreau backs can be confusing to people new to the 18thc, but then I decided this isn't the best fabric to demonstrate that with...
Back all pleated and sewn down
Spaced backstitch - my favorite stitch! Spaced backstitch ALL THE THINGS
Admire the not-quite-lined-up plaids
Topstitching the wool side-back pieces over the skirt pleats
Getting there! Front skirt panel's sewn on and pleated, just needs to be sewn to a tape here.
The linen lining's done a bit of "creeping" after just a few hours of wear, so I'll probably have to restitch the bodice fronts at the neckline at some point. But not right now. Other than that I'm very pleased with my new dress!
Being ungraceful at graces. ;)


  1. Spaced backstitch ALL THE THINGS

    yes!! It's my favourite stitch too :D Love this gown, it's so pretty :)

    1. Thank you! And hurray for spaced backstitch - The Best! :D

  2. What a lovely dress and setting! I hope that someday I can go out on the weekends to reenactments with friends like you do! :)

    1. Aww, thank you! I consider myself very fortunate both to have great costumer friends near me, and to live where there are so many historic sites!


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