Making a Robe à l’Anglaise: Bodice

I had been meaning to embark on a true historic challenge for a while now, since I’ve been making so many undergarments and nothing to wear over them. After rewatching Marie Antoinette and getting an amazing deal on Plush Addict’s fabric sale, I settled on attempting a Robe à l’Anglaise. I dug around the corners of the internet and found a lot of useful information about it. While I also like the look of the Robe à la Française and the Robe à la Polanaise, they seemed more challenging for a first project.

Easily my favourite dress from the film, I think

I picked up both The Cut of Women’s Clothes by Norah Waugh and Creating Historical Clothes by Elizabeth Friendship. I’d used neither before, but I’d worked with Waugh’s patterns before from her Corsets and Crinolines. Now there’s just something about scaling up patterns that really gets me, but I find the process SO PAINFUL. Maths, eurgh. So instead I went with drafting my own paper pattern with Friendship’s instructions.

Then I made a mock-up for the bodice, which required a lot of alterations, and eventually a second mock-up. I had to add half an inch at side seams, at 3/4 at the back seam, add another half and inch to the front seam and half an inch to the waistline. I thought this was odd since I technically drafted it with my measurements, but I think I maybe forgot about adding ease and that screwed me over. But nevermind!

Mock up number two! It’s worn over my 1770s stays

I then used that pattern to cut out of the golden fabric to make the bodice and out of plain cotton drill for the lining. The lining will have the boning in, so I needed it to be a stiff fabric.

Then I flatlined the lining pieces by using long machine basting stitches, and then sewed on the boning channels. I pieced it all together and used most seams as boning channels.

I cut out pieces of boning I had at the time, which wasn’t much. I didn’t want to wait for delivery so I just went ahead and prayed for best. I used cable ties, as I had bought some of these with the intention to try to use them for the Simplicity Outlander corset, as American Duchess recommends in her pattern hack. I used some spiral steel as well, that I had leftover. I filed all the edges with sandpaper and covered them with zinc tape. Then I sewed half an inch along the top, which creates a stopper for the channels and a guideline for turning the edges over. I turned the top edge inwards by hand, but only once and not twice because I AM LAZY  the wrong side of the bodice will be put against the wrong side of the bodice so there won’t be any visible raw edges. I assembled all the seams of the fashion fabric too and then sewed it to the lining by matching it and whip stitching around all edges. Now, I don’t recommend this. It’s not the first time I’ve just attached the lining to the bodice through the edges and I’m not sure exactly what I’m doing wrong, but it always looks… floppy. I think I’ll start flatlining the fashion fabric to the lining after I’ve sewed the sewing channels and before assembly. I then added loads of hooks and eyes and it was done!

The inside of the bodice

Now to be honest, I’m not very happy with it. It still needs some good time with my iron but you can see some obvious issues in the photo below. It fits really well though and I’m quite happy with that. I also really enjoyed the fabric fashion, but it was too soft for this and it was also hard to hand sew through because it’s made of almost like velvet nap so every time it made a dent on the fabric. Oh well! Hopefully it’ll look better when it’s ironed, on a body with skirts. Oh and sleeves!

And finished!

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