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Dress, cotton, United States, private collection; reproduction chemisette, private collection; coral necklace courtesy of Dames à la Mode.

I get ideas. And like a cat I once knew, once I have an idea, it’s hard to shake. Luckily for me, my judgement is better than the cat’s– he had a tendency to pounce without regard to results, and scars do show on furry white noses. But in this case, at least, there are no scars, just some pricked fingers.

Like so many of us early-Federal era obsessives, I fell in love with An Agreeable Tyrant, and demanded the book for Christmas. It’s not just the essays or images, it’s the patterns. Scaled patterns take at least some of the guess work out of recreating historic costumes, but not all of it. And never for me– if there’s something to mess up or guess wrong, I am right on top of it– which is to say, I learn to adapt my errors and adjust my methods to fit my materials.

Surplice-front gowns have teased and delighted me for years: My first foray was with the silk “Quaker” gown of three (!) years ago, a gown I based on digging into Quaker portraits and Nancy Bradford’s Costume in Detail. It worked well enough then– not brilliantly, but close enough for my purposes. But then the polka dot dream appears, and of course, I need one to fulfill my dream of living Persuasion and having a morning dress to breakfast in. Beats the heck out of what I eat breakfast in now, and perhaps the company would improve as well. (I’m looking at you,cats.)

Well, so, what to do? Attempt my own, of course, since I found some fabric that seemed plausible enough and matched the color my dried blood. It’s a sheer block print cotton from India, more sheer than the original fabric, but capturing the feel well enough– and better, I suspect, than the stiff quilting cottons one is likely to find with polka dot prints. Construction and patterning fun next time on “True Confessions of the Frivolously Fashion Obsessed.”