A Dress from 1770

My 1770 polonaise, winner of Best in Novice Class, Recreation and Best in Show, Recreation, in the Historic Masquerade at Costume Con 22 in Atlanta.

The following description is the documentation I included with my entry

Pattern: A Polonaise with Detachable Embroidered Lawn Ruffles c. 1770-1785, p 37-39 Patterns of Fashion 1 c. 1660-1860 by Janet Arnold

Fabric: Changeable silk in green and gold. According to Textiles for Colonial Clothing by Sally Queen, "Changeables enjoyed great popularity in the 1770s." Bodice lined with white linen

Decoration: Self-fabric pinked ruchings. I took most of my inspiration from An Open Gown and Matching Petticoat c. 1775-85 from Patterns of Fashion pages 40-41. The dress has ruchings around the neckline and a wavy pattern down the front of the skirts. I doubled the wavy trim on the skirt to make a figure 8 pattern. A c. 1775 sacque back dress on page 70 of The Collection of the Kyoto Costume Institute: Fashion has a similar figure 8 trim. The two bands of ruchings on the sleeves are based on the c. 1780 dress on page 88 of the same book. I used straight pinking for the dress (I purchased a reproduction scalloped pinker, but was unable to get it to work). Examples of straight pinking can be seen on the c. 1760 dress on pages 50-51 of Fashion and the c. 1760-65 dress on pages 34-35 of Fashion in Detail by Avril Hart and Susan North. I decided that the irregularity of ruched trim would pick up the colors of the changeable silk better than box pleating. Examples of ruched trim can be seen on the gown and matching petticoat c. 1778 on page 13 of Eighteenth-Century Clothing at Williamsburg and page 8 of What Clothes Reveal both by Linda Baumgarten, the c. 1780 dress on page 88 of Fashion and the c. 1745-1760 Brocaded Silk Gown, Stomacher and Petticoat from the frontispiece of What Clothes Reveal.

Construction: The dress is completely hand sewn. I used the method from An Open Gown and Matching Petticoat, Patterns of Fashion pages 40-41. The lining was made first, then the silk layer mounted on top and backstitched into place. The sleeves are sewn in from the outside. The bodice armscye seam allowance is turned in, the sleeve inserted and backstitched into place. I used the bodice lining to cover the seam allowance. This technique is shown in Costume Close-Up by Linda Baumgarten and John Watson with Florine Carr on the jacket, c. 1775-1785, pages 39-42. The skirt is pleated. Excess fabric is turned inside as was done in the period to make future alterations easier. Like the c. 1770-1785 gown on page 23-28 of Costume Close-Up, the skirt is slipstitched to the bodice and the lining brought over the seam allowance. The skirt is hemmed with a narrow hem down the fronts and around the bottom, sewn with a running stitch. The dress closes in the center front with pins.

The Petticoat

Fabric: Top petticoat-striped gold, beige and green silk. Under petticoats-striped linen and natural linen.

Construction: The petticoats are hand sewn. I used 2 lengths of 60" fabric. Though fabrics this wide weren't available in the 18th century, I decided this was less of a compromise than tearing the fabric to period widths and seaming it. Two of the petticoats (the silk and striped) are hemmed with a narrow hem made with a running stitch; the other is bound with linen tape. All petticoats have 9" pocket slits in the seams and are pleated. Waist ties wrap around the waist for closures. The silk petticoat was made to fit over my bumroll (purchased from The Silly Sisters). It is longer in back than in front. I folded the fabric in front instead of cutting it. I did this since I felt cutting the fabric would be considered a waste since the fabric might be reused if this dress had been made in the 18th century.


Cap: The Sophie cap from the patterns by La Fleur de Lyse. Hand sewn from 2.8 oz handkerchief linen. I chose this cap because more hair because more hair was shown with nicer dresses. Trimmed with green silk ribbon.

Kerchief: A triangle of cotton voile, hemmed with a running stitch by hand. I chose to use voile because I wanted my kerchief to be very sheer, like in many period portraits, and voile was the sheerest fabric I could find.

Flounces: Made of 2.8 oz handkerchief linen. From the same pattern as the dress. Embroidered by hand in a simple flower and vine pattern. There are many single layer flounces in An Elegant Art edited by Edward Maeder.

Shoes and Stockings: Reproduction shoes from Fugawee. Tied with silk ribbons. Reproduction clocked stockings from Townsend and Sons.

Jewelry: Rose quartz necklace and earrings, designed and made by Kate Johnson. Her jewelry is based on antique pieces.

Hat: Straw covered with China silk and trimmed with pinked ruchings of dress silk and green ribbons. I made my fabric choices based on a conversation with Sally Queen at Costume College, August 2003. She suggested China silk. Examples of covered straw hats can be seen in Eighteenth-Century Clothing at Williamsburg page 42 and An Elegant Art page 217. My decorations ideas came from the portrait High Life Below Stairs by John Collet, 1763, p 42 of What Clothes Reveal

The Hat
The Masquerade

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