Sunday, April 28, 2019

Actually Finishing and Wearing an 18th Century Gown

Well, I did it! I sewed until 3 a.m. Friday night/Saturday morning, and I actually finished my very first 18th century outfit in time to wear it to the Rococo Picnic I'd signed up to attend!

Photo Credit: Juanita

Last summer, while perusing Facebook, I discovered the "Saint Louis Georgian Sewing Society", a historical costuming group, primarily focused on 18th century, who gets together to sew and hold events within a few hours of me! It was very excited to find I was not the only person with this crazy hobby in my part of the country! Since discovering the group however, I've held back from actually attending the majority of the costume events because I haven't had anything from the correct century to wear.

Photo Credit: Ensambles of the Past

At the beginning of the year, this picnic was scheduled for April, and I decided I would absolutely be going.  There was enough time for me to make a gown (and the appropriate underpinnings) before the scheduled date, and an outdoor, costume-laden picnic on a pretty spring day sounded fabulous. 

Photo Credit: Jean

Of course, I'd intended to get started on my ensemble right away, but I procrastinated, as usual. I finally began my stays (the 18th century version of a corset, which has a completely different shape than a victorian corset) a month ago. I got those into a wearable state (wearable, but not completely finished, I'll blog about the stays themselves sometime.) and less than two weeks ago, I began my gown.

Photo Credit: Ensambles of the Past

The gown, all the way down to the hem, is pretty much entirely machine sewn. This was not my original plan (After all, I took forever to completely hand sew my shift which is hidden under the gown), but this is what I had time for - and I'm very pleased with the results despite the historically inaccurate construction method!

So, as aforementioned, I finished my gown, matching stomacher, petticoat, and all the trimmings at 3 a.m. Friday night/Saturday morning. I woke up the next morning, put everything on, was relieved it all fit and worked together well, then wedged myself in the truck to drive to St. Louis.

Let me take a moment to wax lyrical about my truck. I have driven quite a few vehicles in costume, wearing all manor of corsets, hoop skirts, and petticoats. My old Chevy pick-up is absolutely the most comfortable vehicle to drive while in costume (or even just ride in) that I have encountered. The seat back is at such an angle that you can comfortable sit all the way back in a corset. In most vehicles the seat leans too far back for that to be comfortable in the slightest. The truck is old enough, there are no headrests so that I can easily wear a hat or bonnet (yes, I realize this is a safety issue, and eventually I may replace my truck seat with a seat that has headrests for that reason). The seat is also a bench seat, so there's plenty of room to spread out skirts. (Driving or riding in a vehicle with a center console while wearing a hoop skirt is very inconvenient) And, to finish it all off, the truck seat sits higher off the floor board than a seat in a smaller car does, so your feet do not get tangled up in your petticoats while you work the pedals - a nice safety feature. So, all that to say, I made it to St. Louis just fine and comfortable.

Photo Credit: Anna

Unfortunately however, it was raining. So, rather than meet in the park as we'd intended to, we met at the art museum, and spent the next hour, until it was done raining, wandering around the museum, admiring the art work and one another's dresses. Thankfully, it stopped raining in the early afternoon so we ventured outside and enjoyed our picnic on the museum grounds.

We ate, we talked, we walked along the paths and took pictures. 

It really is wonderful to discover people in real life who have the same hobby as you!

I enjoyed it immensely, and loved swanning about in my gown!

I used Simplicity 8578 to make my 1760's sack-back gown, or Robe a la Francaise, from an 18th century inspired cotton I found at Hobby Lobby last fall.

Oh my word, this gown is ridiculously fun to wear! The way the pleats sail out behind you as you walk. . .

Photo Credit: Ensambles of the Past

I wore the gown over my shift, under petticoat, a pair of pocket hoops (constructed in an afternoon a week and a half ago. I'll do a blog post on them eventually, but they are awesome!), and a matching petticoat and stomacher. 

Photo Credit: Ensambles of the Past

On my head I wore a linen cap (finished a month ago) and the hat I made for my sister several years ago to go with her "Molly Pitcher" outfit.

Photo Credit: The Modern Marie Antoinette

The hat really finished off the whole look nicely, even though it wasn't made specifically for this outfit (and probably not what I would have chosen had I had time to make a new hat). It really is wonderful to have a substantial costume closet to pull things from! 

The whole outfit was finished off with my green American Duchess buckle shoes - I really am happy I bought them!

It was fun to see everyone else's shoes too - and to find I'm not the only one who appreciates green shoes!

It was most certainly worth it to hurry up and assemble a complete 18th century ensemble in under a month!

I greatly enjoyed meeting more people with the same crazy hobby as myself. And, I almost felt like I was in a dream, wearing this gown.

A Huge Thank You to those who allowed me to use photos they took in this post!!


  1. Your entire ensemble turned out gourgeous! You look very pretty!

  2. Absolutely beautiful! I look forward to future posts as I plan on sewing this same garment.

    1. Thanks! Hopefully I'll get a construction post written soon. This actually went together easier than I expected.

  3. Omg....just gorgeous, I love love love it, you are very talented! I adore dressing up, I would wear some kind of outrageous costume everyday if I could! Well done❤️

  4. I love this post. Your outfit is perfection & I liked reading about how you found more of "your people." It's fun to share hobbies done in isolation.

    1. Thank you! It is so much fun to find others in the same hobby as yourself!