Unlike most seamstresses, I like to make the skirts of my ensembles before I make the bodices.
My skirt is 150″ wide. My research revealed that anything from 115″ to 150″ is period accurate, but I really feel that I needed to size-up, as modern bodies are bigger than 17th c bodies. Hunnissett recommends 140″, but I wanted my dress to be quite sumptuous, and even with a boned bodice, my waist is bigger than the average 1950s actress she was writing for!
I thought about having a train for the skirt, as many portraits show them, and there is a lot of information available on the sumptuary laws for trains in 17th c France. As Ninon wasn’t nobility, her legal train allowance would have been relatively short in any case. However, this turned out to be irrelevant as I’m a little tight on material, and want to be able to dance in the dress, so I’m skipping the train. My research suggested that even ladies of leisure only wore trains for the most formal occasions, so I’m satisfied with my choice.
I cheated and just cut one 150 long piece of material from the length of the fabric so I would only have to hand-stitch one skirt seam.
I’m using a yellow-gold cotton thread on the entire ensemble. Unfortunately I couldn’t find silk thread in the right colour, and already had the cotton in my stash.
For the seam, I used backstitching, and then finished off the raw edges with a sort of whipstitched rolled felled seam. I don’t have any proof that the later is period accurate, but the way the edges of the duchesse silk satin rolled in on each other made it the only practical way to finish them, and I don’t think that spending an extra two hours steaming and ironing to get a period finish would have been in period spirit! And there is some whipstitching on the Bath Dress.
I’m quite pleased with the backstitching – 6- 7 stitches per inch, and they are all quite beautiful and even.
The seam doesn’t look quite as beautiful as a machine seam from the right side, but it still makes me very happy. In fact, so happy that I heard angels sing again when I finished it. This project is awesome.
I just have to look at that seam and I feel euphoric. It’s like drugs for seamstresses!
My one seam goes up the centre back of the skirt, and then is open for the last 8 or so inches in order for the skirt to be put on.
With the seam sewn, I looked at how to gather my skirt into the waistband. I had a few options.
The gathering of the Bath dress has been described both as bound cartridge pleats, and as controlled knife pleats, which is kinda the same thing, and kinda not. They look more like knife pleats to me. Kendra says she thought the pleats of the Bath dress were at least 2″ deep, but I think they are much shallower.
So, cartridge pleats, or knife pleats? Deep or shallow?
Portraits of the era seem to show two options: narrow cartridge pleats, or wide, deep knife pleats. Unless the wide, deep knife pleats are actually deep cartridge pleats slightly sewn to one side, and held far apart by the stitches at the top…hmmm…
The pleating on this skirt looks nearly identical to that of the Bath skirt – narrow bound cartridge or controlled knife pleats.
Mary’s skirt is definitely tight, narrow cartridge pleats.
I’d say that Maria’s skirt, like Louise Henreittes, is wide knife pleats.
Louise Henriette’s skirt seems to be quite wide knife pleats.
And then what the heck is going on in
our anonymous lady’s Jeanne’s skirt? (Thanks Isis for identifying the painting!) They don’t lie flat like knife pleats, but they aren’t even and controlled like cartridge pleats?
With a plethora of options, I decided to sew big, wide cartridge pleats, and then to flatten them to one side, to form knife-pleats. See. Told you that bound cartridge pleats and controlled knife pleats were almost the same thing 😉
I used a strip of the duchesse silk satin for my waistband, backstitched it to the front of the pleats with right sides together, flipped it over, and then whipstitched the waistband to the inside.
From the outside my pleats look like deep knifepleats, but the cartridge stitches help control the way they hang.
The effect is very similar to what we see going on in the paintings.
I still need to bind or sew the back placket, and attach my double set of waist cords. The first set will come from either side of the flat space in front, and will tie around the waist before the bodice goes on. The second set will be sewn to either end of the back opening, and will tie the skirt closed after it goes over all the side tabs of the bodice
I hemmed the skirt with a simple double fold, whipstiched hem. My hem is exactly even all the way around, and I really hope I don’t run into problems where it drags on the ground in front because the front waist is dropped slightly. If so, I may try to take it up from the waistband, just folding the excess over as in 18th century petticoats.
And that’s what it looks like so far. I put it on Isabelle with my 18th c stays, to give a bit of the right body shape.
Darn. Now I wish I had done a train!