Dolly Eyland, by Alexander Keith, 1808. (c) The New Art Gallery Walsall; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
I like Dolly. The colors, the textures, the style of her gown, shawl and cap all please me. She’s rocking some serious class for a woman headed towards a certain age. And she’s wearing a cross-front gown, which is what I settled on for my Quaker costume.
Taffeta dress, ca.1800-1810, Originally found on Villa Rosemaine site, where it does not appear now.
The trouble with making a gown based on an artistic sketch in a book is that you don’t have the most complete sense of what that garment looks like, or how it goes together.
Not to worry, I went ahead anyway, because this is as close to Everest as I will ever get.
But I wanted comparable garments to help guide me. Ages ago I found the gown at left on a French costume site. That’s helpful, in that it explains the trickiness of assembling and wearing this style of garment. Three pieces coming together in the front may be one piece too many.
In making up my pattern, I used the pattern for the Spencer as a starting place because I knew that the set of the sleeves and arm scye were what I wanted. No reason to re-invent that process!
That left me with the luxury of concentrating on the neckline.
That took a few goes with the tracing paper and muslin: I did lose count after a while. There may have been tears, there definitely was swearing. Mr S at one point made jokes about this process appearing on the Discovery Channel’s “How it’s Made” as “the Quaker dress.” He’s really very patient, and I do understand the selective deafness he’s had to develop as a defense against the dark arts of sewing historic clothing.
Thank you, Cassidy, for the chemisette!
Eventually, I had a decent lining and even some silk bodice fronts. I fiddled with the fronts, and settled on gathers instead of pleats, but couldn’t quite figure out where the casing went. Some days I can process drawings into objects, some days I can’t. I’d just about reached the point of cutting it all up into the gown I always make when I discovered that the excellent women of the 19th US had patterned the gown from the drawing, too. (If you don’t already use this site, I highly recommend it. Excellent work.) Those pattern pieces look like my pattern pieces, so I decided it was worth carrying on with what I have.