Making a Robe à l’Anglaise: The Skirts, Sleeves and Trim

I wasn’t too happy with bodice, but I moved on to working with the skirts. I picked a contrasting colour, a soft blue, for the underskirt and the overskirt, connected to the bodice, is of the same fabric as the bodice.

I started with the underskirt and it was fairly straightforward. I used the width of the fabric as the length of the skirt, which means it was basically a very long rectangle. I used just under 4 meters for this. I hemmed it then pleated the top to my waist measurement. I’m terrible at pleating math (which screwed me over again later), so I spent a long time doing and redoing pleats. I loved the look of simple knife pleats, but I ended up having to include some box pleats in the beginning to take up more fabric.

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I was trying so hard to do everything neatly: finish all seams, sew straight, make it look nice and proper. So I was being super careful… until I came to the waistband. I had the iron on too high and burned a HOLE THROUGH IT.

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Thankfully that was the last hazard. I was too heartbroken to make it again (and by heartbroken I mean LAZY), so instead I strategically placed the hook and bar so that this bit was on the inside, hidden. Otherwise, I am so happy with it! I love it, it’s light and the pleats are ADORABLE.

After this, I started working on the sleeves. I used the same book, Creating Historical Clothes by Elizabeth Friendship, to draft the sleeves. The pattern looked like this:

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Then I cut it out of the fabric. I sewed the cuff dart and the tuck, then the side seams with french seams. I turned the lower edge inward twice, so that it hid the raw edges. They looked like really cute tubes!

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And the sleeves were done! Moving on to the overskirt. I had originally planned to do it exactly like the underskirt, but then remembered the fabric actually has a pattern, so I couldn’t use the width or the pattern would be sideways. So I cut three panels to measure up to about 4.5 meters. Then I hemmed it. I’ve been meaning to try cartridge pleating for a while now, and this seemed like a good chance. After digging around, I figured I still couldn’t figure out any pleat maths (I suck), so I just marked the fabric with dots, each 1/4 inch apart. This was marked on the folded top edge. I left an extra four inches at the top of the skirt, so I could fold it over and it would help support the pleats. I topstitched it down along the top edge, so that the fold would stay and it would be easier to pleat.

However, this didn’t work. I ended up with a full extra 10” inches over the desired waist measurement (since the skirt is opened at the front, this was 26” inches). At this point, the whole cartridge pleating process had taken something up to five hours, because it was my first time, I was slow, and the fabric was stiff and hard to sew through. It sucked, but I had to rip out those stitches and start again. I went for 1/2 inch pleats this time and it worked! I do hope I can figure out pleats math soon, cause otherwise I might lose it.

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Plus the 1/2 pleats looked much nicer

That settled, I attached it to the bodice by sewing through each pleat with extra strong thread. With the skirt finished, I moved on to attaching the sleeves. I set the extra bulk at the top by doing two small knife pleats, and then I covered the instead of the sleeves with bias tape, by hand.

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Then I wanted to figure out the trim. The dress looked pretty plain and boring, so I wanted to make some pleated trim out of the leftovers from the blue underskirt. I had plenty left. I bought a scalloped edge scissors and fray checked the edges. I played around with box pleats and knife pleats and ended up going with box pleats, since I think I’d seen more examples of this sort of trim in my Google searches.

After pleating all the trim and sewing the pleats down by machine, I used a small stem stitch in similar embroidery thread to hide the machine stitches. I’d originally wanted to bead it, but it felt like it wouldn’t fit in with the rest of the costume, so I went for embroidery instead. I’m happy with this result! I think it looks neat but still a little different.Then I tried it all together! I had made a little bum roll to go with this, but the cartridge pleating and the heavy fabric already raised my hips so much, I didn’t think the bum roll looked right (I’m still unclear about period silhouettes, so I can be very wrong!). I wore it over my 1770s corset from Norah Waugh’s Corsets and Crinolines, which was one of the first few things I made. Because it was one of the first few things I made, it doesn’t even have straps (I didn’t bother at the time). Since I drafted the bodice from instructions, the necklines don’t match up, so you can just see the stays popping up on the side edges. I might make another 18th century corset to compensate, but I’m not sure which pattern/style to go for.

Unfortunately, because I didn’t have any steel boning for the bodice, the back point of the bodice collapses a bit under the weight of the overskirt, which makes it look kind of… terrible. I don’t know what to do about that. After taking the following photos, I decided to add the same trim to the edges of the sleeves, since they looked a little short and boring.

The trim on the sleeves and a detail of the embroidery stitch on the trim.

And that concludes this costume! I hope to photoshoot it soon, somewhere pretty.

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I quite hate how the back looks
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