Thursday, 3 April 2014

Starting the gaulle

Today I set out to start the main gown, the gaulle, of the 1787 revolutionary dress. I'm going to use this portrait of Emilie Seriziat, painted by David, as my inspiration.
The portrait is from 1795, so a bit later than 1787, but I prefer this more shaped style compared to in the 1780s. I want to be comfortable when I'm wearing the gown on itself, and when I'm wearing the full outfit for the revolutionary costume then most of it will be hidden under the redingote and vest.

I'm going to use the drop front gown on page 48 of Patterns of Fashion 1 as my inspiration for the construction, but that is an extremely high waisted gown, and I want the waistline to be more natural. It was time to test the drafting instructions from Constructing historical clothing. It turned out to be quite easy to follow the step by step instructions. I used up all of my pattern paper though. I started with making the basic bodice pattern, then I went on to flatten the front, and to adjust the placement of the seams, according to the instructions for the 1800 bodice. I cut the neckline more or less free handed.

I'm really happy with the back, both the back side seam and the shoulder seam is where I want them to be. I can't really say how the front is though. My dressform is perfect for my body in modern underwear, but I can't adjust it to be close to my measurements when I'm wearing stays. The bust is simply too large, while my own bust gets squished up quite a bit in the stays. The front is also too short, but that is because I ran out of pattern paper.

I'm definitely happy enough with the pattern pieces that I'm going to try with fabric after this.

The pattern drafthing was definitely simple enough that I foresee using this book quite a lot for different eras. It took me about 1,5 hours to get a working pattern, starting from scratch. I did use up a lot of paper though, since I redrew the bodice for each step (basic-flat front-1800 bodice).

For the next step I drew the pattern on a piece of cotton sheeting that I had in my "toille heap" in the stash. When I started cutting into it I realized I had taken an antique sheet from my great grandmother's things. First I thought that was a shame to just cut it up, but then I thought that since I want to make this a really nice pattern that I'll be able to use over and over agan, then it will get a lot more use than when it's just in my stash.

 I drew the pattern with a 2 cm seam allowance, so that I would have a lot to work with if I needed to do changes, I also lengthened all the pieces downwards with about 7 cm, since I want the bodice to end at my natural waist. I knew that I added too much to the back and side pieces, but it's better to have excess material to cut off, than trying to piece together something because there's too little.

Then I laced myself into my stays, as mentioned previously the bust on my dressform is too big compared to me in my stays, so I wanted to make sure that I did the front fitting on myself. I had to take in another 4,5 cm on the side seams. I took 1,5 on each pattern piece at the side. I also marked out my natural waist with a pen while wearing the toille.

Here is the toille, with the one side I'm going to use as my pattern cut to the new waistline. When I took off the bodice I also realised why the bed sheet was in my stash. The fabric was really fragile, and started ripping apart, just through the perforations from the stitches. It would be impossible to make anything that would take a load of any kind out of the fabric.

With a good fit of the bodice it was time to start to get the armhole in a good shape. This is my big problem when fitting clothes. I have broad shoulder, and big overarms. Always when I sew and I follow commercial patterns I get sleeves that are too tight and uncomfortable. This time I wanted to make a pattern that would really be made to fit good. I took out my 18th century sleeve pattern I made last autumn. I knew that the sleeve fit well, now I only needed to make sure that the arm whole fit the sleeve. I didn't take any pictures of me pinning and testing the sleeve on me. In the end I cut out 1,5 cm all around the arm opening. The shape is still the same, it's just bigger now. This also means that there is no ease in the sleevehead, since the armhole is made to fit the sleeve perfectly.

Here is the new larger arm hole (yes, my overarms are that big).

At this point in the process I would normally rip the toille up and use it as the lining layer for the dress I'm doing. I want to be able to use this pattern for more gowns though, so instead I went over all the seams with a pen and marked them. Then I ripped the seams and cut them down where I had marked the seam lines. I also ripped the fabric on one place, it really was fragile. I have marked up all the pattern pieces and now I can pack them away until I'm going to start on the proper gown.

This is the finished bodice pattern for my gaulle. If the gown turns out well I'm going to be very happy over the fact that I have made a costume pattern from scratch, and not just altered a commercial pattern.


  1. That's one of my favourite portraits! Have you seen that Mode Historique is having 30 days of chemise posts right now?

    It's nice to have a basic 18th century bodice pattern. I have one and just change it to fit whatever styla I make.

    1. I've seen Mode Historique posts, which makes me happy that I'm going to work very slowly on this gown, so if I learn more things about it I will be able to incorporate it.