Portfolio: 1780s Indian chintz pet-en-l’aire

The Idea and Inspiration:

I found a vintage obi made from gorgeous block-printed silk in colours and designs that perfectly matched examples of fabrics imported to Europe from India in the 18th century.  That obi fabric was the impetus behind the entire project.

As it was such a small amount of fabric I was very limited in what I could make out of it, so I settled on a late 18th century pet-en-l’aire.  I felt that the back pleats would be the best way to show off the fabric, but that a jacket could still be worn with a non-matching petticoat, as I didn’t have enough fabric for a matching petticoat.  I based my pet off of a pet in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and one at the Manchester City Gallery, with a bit of input from one at the Kyoto Costume Institute.

Because I am getting more and more crazy about historical accuracy I’m hand-sewing most of the jacket.

Inspiration Gallery

Pet-en-l’aire, 18th century, Met Pet-en-l’aire, 1780-90, MCG Pet-en-l’aire, 1775-80, KCI

Fabric and Materials:

  • One vintage silk habotai obi with a block printed pattern of little flowers in red, black, white and sage green on yellow
  • Linen for the bodice support
  • Lightweight cotton muslin lining
  • German plastic boning

Block printed silk habotai from a vintage obi

The Undergarments & Accessoires:

The Dress Diary:

Research and helpful links:

  • Arnold, Janet. Patterns of Fashion: The Cut and Construction of Clothes for Men and Women, 1660-1860.
  • Hart, Averil and North, Susan. 17th and 18th Century Fashion in Detail, London: V & A Publishing.  2009.
  • Hunnisett, Jean. Period costume for stage & screen. Patterns for women’s dress, 1500-1800
  • Waugh, Norah.  The Cut of Women’s Clothes: 1600-1930.  Faber and Faber: London.  1968
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Meet the Dreamstress

Leimomi Oakes is the Dreamstress, a textile historian, seamstress, designer, speaker and museum professional. Leimomi is available for educational and entertaining presentations, textile and fashion advice, special commissions and events. Click to learn more

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