Saturday, May 11, 2019

A Lady of the Knights of the Blended Rose, 1778: Part 2 Construction and Thoughts


Now on to the actual making of the gown!

I started with putting the petticoat together, which is something I usually do first with most of my projects these days. Not only is it usually the easiest part of an outfit, but I've accepted (after many years of not doing this) that it really is best to do fittings on the upper body over as many of the under layers as possible, which includes all of the petticoats you will be wearing. It just saves frustration and time because you know exactly where your waist is and how the petticoats and other layers affect the way the bodice will sit at the waist.

Once the petticoat was made and trimmed in the pink silk with fine silver lace, it was time to move on to the polonaise. I have no problem admitting this style of gown intimidates me, even though I made one last year for the Museum of the American Revolution. I also took a polonaise jacket workshop from Janea Whitacre back in 2014 so I wasn't going in to this completely unprepared. And since Brooke Welborn and Kendra VanCleave published their article on the "true" polonaise, other costumers have made beautiful polonaise gowns. But I was anxious about how this style would look on me and if I would absolutely hate it after putting all that work into it.

There are a few variations within the polonaise style, so bear in mind that what I chose to do is not the only way to do things, although every choice was made based on a period example.

The back of my polonaise is cut similarly to an English gown, with a pleat on either side of the center back seam. This was done on a beautiful polonaise in the Glasgow Museums collection.
 
Glasgow Museums

I cut the back of the polonaise first and stitched the pleats on either side of the center back seam. Then I cut the fronts of the polonaise, which flow from neckline to hem without a waistseam. There is extra fabric at the side back that is pleated to provide fullness to the skirts and draw the polonaise closer to the body, allowing the fronts to fall away from the center point. I chose to make an attached "waistcoat" or under-bodice that is stitched at the side-back seams and the arms. Other options are a completely separate waistcoat or a stomacher, but I liked that an attached waistcoat would mean fewer moving pieces and it would provide a more fitted look (again, I was really concerned about not liking how a looser gown would look on me). The waistcoat fronts are lined but the fronts of the polonaise are not.



A look at the inside of the gown. Here you can see the wrong side of one of the polonaise fronts including the two pleats that run along either side back. The attached waistcoat is to the right.
Once the waistcoat fronts are whipped in, the interior looks similar to an English gown. 

Because this style of gown doesn't have robings or a separate shoulder strap, I treated the polonaise and waistcoat fronts as one and backstitched the sleeve in all the way around. 

Here are a few views of the gown with the skirts left down.


(Wow... I need much better photo-taking equipment...)


The outfit got to make its debut at the Colonial Williamsbur Garden Party, and Eliza came dressed in her costume for the ladies of the Knights of the Burning Mountain!



I was sewing up to the very last minute so I ran out of time to make the turban and veil the way I wanted to and in a way that would better represent what the descriptions say. I also didn't get to spangle the stockings! But I am very much looking forward to wearing this outfit again, with all of the accessories fully finished.






What would I change? After talking to Brooke Welborn about my polonaise and getting her advice, I'm going to put a diagonal tuck in the polonaise fronts (which will be hidden behind the trim) which will eliminate the folds you see in the front and help the fronts cut away from the center of the body a bit more. I need to re-set the bottom of the sleeves to eliminate some excess fullness. And I want to see if I can do anything to make the cape lay more nicely and not wrinkle so much. But I'm also an incurable perfectionist! I really did love wearing and making this outfit and hope to find another event to which I can wear it!



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