Sunday, April 20, 2014

HSF 8: UFOs (UnFinished Objects) - Cranberry Short Gown

I first started working on this back in November, thinking that I'd finish it in time for the last HSF challenge of 2013 - Celebrate.  I'd already completed every other item needed for a simple 18th century outfit, all I needed was the top.  Well, life being what it is, I got preoccupied making Christmas gifts and then investing everything that I had into the 1920s Batman villains group.  So, into the bottomless pit that is my WIP basket on the shelf.  Four months later, I finally found the few hours that I needed to finish the trim and stomacher.

So this gown is made from a single decorative shower curtain that I picked up at Goodwill for a whole $2.99.  I kid you not.  It may be polyester, but there's a small diamond pattern woven into the material and it's just worn enough that, from a few feet away it's kind of hard to tell.  I found that using stupid cheap materials helped me get over the freak out of trying something completely different.  Most of my historical sewing has been from the Victorian era onward, so the drastically different construction styles of the 1700s were a bit intimidating for me.  But with this, I found I could just let go of the stress over trying to get it 'right', since hey, it's an effing shower curtain.  It's already so far off of accurate that it's just not worth worrying about.

Pattern listed in this Duran Textiles newsletter, which I almost certainly came across on the HSF Facebook.

As you can see, I took some serious liberties with the pattern.  I had to sew two panels of the shower curtain together to get a piece of fabric wide enough, but then I cut the gown in one piece, just like the pattern said.  But when I tried it on I felt like I was wearing a sack.  While it's not intended to be a flattering piece, I kinda felt like it needed a little something more.  So I took in the side seams down to the waist, putting the rest of the skirt into an inverted box pleat.  There's a box pleat in the center back, which is top-stitched down to the waist, then left open in the skirt.  I also cut back the center fronts a couple of inches and had the gown close over a stomacher instead.

I took advantage of all of those pre-hemmed ruffles from the shower curtain to add ruching around the neckline and sleeve cuffs.  This was one of those things that sounded simple enough in my head, but ended up being awfully cumbersome in actuality.  While technically straightforward, hand gathering all of that trim felt like it took forever.  Seriously, 80% of the time spent on this had to be working on that trim.

The gown closes over a stomacher in the center front, but the front edges tuck under
the giant ruffle so that you can't see them.  It kinda makes it look like it's all one piece.

From the side, showing the box pleat that lets the skirt open up over the petticoats (that I'm not wearing).

It dips down low enough in the back that I shouldn't have any trouble tucking a fichu around the neck.

And the stomacher all on it's own.  There are six zip ties at 1 inch intervals sewn between
two layers of cotton canvas.  then the front and back were covered with cranberry fabric.  

What the items is: 18th Century Short Gown

The Challenge: #8 UFO

Fabric: one ruffly polyester shower curtain from the Goodwill

Pattern: modified from the one published in this Duran Textiles newsletter.

Year: mid- to late-18th century

Notions: polyester thread, zip ties.

How historically accurate is it?  Maybe 40% if I'm stretching it.  I took some liberties with the pattern and the materials are laughable for accuracy.

Hours to complete: 15+ (hand ruching only sounds simple in your head)

First worn: Figments and Filaments is coming up this weekend.  I'm thinking of breaking it out for that.

Total cost: $3 for the shower curtain, perhaps a $1 worth of interlining for the stomacher and a half dozen zip ties.

And to top it off, here are some of the extant garments that I used for inspiration:

18th c Cotton Caraco (Belgian), from the Met.

Caraco Jacketc 1760 (altered 1780), LACMA.

Silk Dress c 1778 (French), the Met

Plaid silk caraco jacket, c. 1770 listed by Whitaker Auctions.


  1. I hope it's OK to post this on this entry, I've been enjoying your blog and I nominated it for an award :D

    1. Oh, that's really flatting. Thank you! And good motivation for me to get in there and finish up the posts languishing in the drafts folder.

  2. Wow, what a transformation from a shower curtain. I love that cranberry colour, and how you made the stomacher is so clever :)