Upcycled 1780’s Italian Gown



Heide P.

(click images to to enlarge)

Outline the story …

The inspiration behind my 1780's gown was really my old living room curtians! When I decided it was time for a decorating update, I realized the curtain fabric was still in good shape and since I have very large living room windows, I had a lot of fabric to work with! And since the 18th century loved their stylized floral prints, it seemed a prefect match for the compitition. As I researched the 18th century, trying to decide on what style dress to make, I fell in love with the 1780's pleated skirt of an example in the Met Musuem. I love the way the pleats seem to billow out over the bum pad! Of course, then the fun began of esembling the outfit!
I knew I wanted a blue petticoat to set of the curtian fabric. A rumage through the stash unearthed a taupe tablecloth with a lovely woven dot pattern. A bit of dye and it made the perfect petticoat. I contintued with my theme of using found matierals by also using scrap fabric from my stash for the stays, shift and bum pad.
The only fabric I ended up purchasing was the white cotton voile for the cap, handkerchief and sleeve ruffles. This was the first time I had made a late 18th century cap and I throughly enjoyed it's ridiculous frillyness!

Outline the construction…

I ended up having to grade up a size as I ordered the wrong size pattern Yikes! Because of the grading (and very small shoulders) the sleeve setting ended up the biggest challenge! I don't even know how many times I basted those sleeves in! In the end, I took a wedge out of the underarm seam area on the sleeve, trimmed height and width off the sleeve head and cut the armhole deeper Then like magic, the sleeve fit! At this point I was so past carring if I was using historical methods or not! Since I had basted the sleeve in the traditional way (sleeve and armhole right sides together), it wasn't coming out to be sewn in the historical way!
For the basic construction I used a modern sewing machine and modern techiques. I used French seams to sew the skirt panels together, I sewed up the bodice lining and bodice outer fabric seperately to achieve a more finished inside. The sleeves were also sewn together using the sewing machine. Then I finished the bodice edge and sleeve cuff the 18th century way by turning all raw edges in together and hand stitching. The skirt was also stitched on by hand in a historical method and the top portion left raw and pressed down. The hem was also stitched by hand. The kercheif and cap were entirely stitched by hand. I had fun seeing how small I could make my hems!



1 Comment

  1. Avatar Steffi Wee on May 9, 2023 at 1:14 pm

    So sorry you had such a problem with the sleeves (though, I think we can all relate) but the gown looks amazing. Also love how you used your curtain fabric 😂 I wouldn’t have guessed

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