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JBs HousekeeperIt’s 1800. Do you know what your housekeeper is doing? I don’t. Or, more accurately, I can’t decide.
I’m hung up on stays, and not wanting to make another pair. I’m indecisive about style, and though Mrs Garnett has her charms, it’s her bonnet I love more than anything.

Here’s what I’ve found, in servant-land:

Note that this woman is, in the kitchen, wearing an open robe and quilted petticoat.The style of her bodice–which looks  like a cross-over bodice–and the train of the robe suggest the 1790s. Score one for style.

That open robe, where have I seen that before? Why, yes, Mr Sandby showed us that style for a nurserymaid. (It’s interesting, too, that both images show women with their hair quite visible under their caps, and not pulled up and out of sight.)

Why does “robe stye” matter? Because I only found 3 and a quarter yards of a brown fabric I like, and even with the most careful cutting, that’s unlikely to make a full gown. However, I have some lightweight black wool that will make a decent petticoat. The bodice style is a bit of a stumper, though: the wool has good drape, so it might work for something other than the usual bodice I make. I did consider whether a very smooth, edge-to-edge, front-closing style of the 1780s would be more appropriate, but I think that I can move the bodice style forward, style-wise, and be correct.


Brown gowns are a fine tradition in the sartorial habits of questionable servants. This young housemaid twirls her mop dry while wearing a brown gown over what could be a dark blue or a black quilted petticoat. The red “bandannoe” is a nice touch, though I don’t think I’ll wear one myself for this event.

In all this there is a compromise: using fabric I like, in a style I know I can make and document, perhaps even without having to make new stays. That would be ideal, because although it’s four weeks to the event, I’ll lose a week of sewing time to other commitments. Three weeks to pattern and hand sew a petticoat, gown, apron and cap seems just manageable.