18th Century

The fully embellished 1780’s Indienne silk pet-en-l’aire

‘Tis done!  Fully and completely!

1770's Indienne silk pet-en-l'aire

Finally, after over a year, the pet-en-l’aire is fully sewn, fully embellished, the correct front ribbons sourced and custom dyed, and the insides finished to perfection (really, they are almost as pretty as the outsides).  Whew!

1770's Indienne silk pet-en-l'aire

I tried a number of options for the sleeve ruffles, and finally settled on a pattern that, while not historically documented, I felt was best in keeping with the overall aesthetic of the pet-en-l’aire.

1770's Indienne silk pet-en-l'aire

I found white silk cuffs too distracting, and engageates clashed horribly, and defeated the idea of fashion moving towards a more casual and informal aesthetic.  I did like the idea of a slight bit of volume at the edge of the sleeves, and so my pleating pattern released below the sleeve end, to balance the fullness of the side pleats and back of the pet-en-l’aire.

1770's Indienne silk pet-en-l'aire

Alas, I couldn’t find a historical example to back this pleating pattern up, but every step of this garment has had to be a balance between historical examples and modern fabrics.

1770's Indienne silk pet-en-l'aire

It’s been a lot of work, and a lot of pin-pricks and worn fingers, but in the end, I think it was worth it.  I love the garment, and think it is spectacular.  I hope you agree!

1770's Indienne silk pet-en-l'aire

I’m planning to do a photoshoot with it very soon, so you’ll get to see it in its full, accessorized, glory, on me (finally!).

The Challenge: #4 Embellish

Fabric: 3.3m x 37cm wide block printed obi silk, linen and cotton linings

Pattern:  My own, with reference to Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion and other sources

Year: 1780s

Notions: 4m rayon ribbon, custom dyed, plastic boning, lacing tape

How historically accurate is it?  Maybe 75%.  The pattern, construction, colour aesthetic, and sewing are all accurate, but the print of the fabric would have been on cotton, not silk (silk would have been hand-painted), and the trim patterns, while historically inspired, are not backed up by period examples.  The trim is also fully hemmed, rather than just being cut or cut and turned once.

Hours to complete:  12 on the trim alone.  12m of hand sewn rolled handkerchief hem, all pleated up, and sewn down by hand takes a long time!

First worn:  The un-trimmed pet has been worn three times, but I’ve yet to wear it trimmed.

Total cost:  $25 for the obi, + $5 for the ribbon, + $5 for the dye, +2 for lining = NZ$37.


  1. It’s beautiful! The colors and print are lovely, can’t wait to see your photoshoot with it!

  2. Lynne says

    Perfect! It is a little work of art – beautiful, and so beautifully made that with a little luck and good management people will still be looking at it and making cooing noises in three hundred years.


    • Lynne says

      And I had to laugh at the total cost. Hourly rate for highly skilled labour?

      • Erp. Yes! Cost to me, not what it would cost me to make it for someone else! Luckily I can ‘recoup’ some of my cost through talks, but I think it is important for people to know how long handwork actually takes!

  3. Kiyoshi Sugiyama says

    Wait, that’s obi silk??? So cool! I’;m surprised it was thin enough to be used in this way; I always assumed it would be stiffer because of the type of garment it is.
    The pet looks so great, by the way. I can’t wait to see it worn!
    Well, I suppose I should get back to sewing so that I can finally enter a challenge. 🙂
    (This durned internet, its so distracting! ;P)

    • Yes, it’s obi silk. Most obis (I’ve handled hundreds) aren’t made of stiff silk – they are made of thinner fabrics, but lined with a stiff material (often a starched cotton or linen in the ones I have picked apart) to give them the support. And there are different types of obi – very stiff, formal brocade ones, and softer, thinner, more informal ones, which is what this was.

      And thank you! Now off to sewing so you can enter a challenge! 😉

  4. Elise says


    I know that this is VERY unorthodox. The weather is ABQ is such that I would like to open all of my windows to air out my house, and put this on over my short-sleeves and camo pants. It looks so perfect for Spring weather.

  5. I love the ribbons particularly, though the whole thing is just beautiful. I hope you got some of that hand sewing down somewhere outside so you could enjoy the sunshine as you rolled hems etc?

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘0 which is not a hashcash value.

    • Thank you! I got hand sewing done everywhere: in the car while Mr D drove, sitting in my lovely sunny living room with its fantastic views, outside, in meetings. I’m an opportunistic hand sewer 😉

      • Elise says

        Ha! I’m imagining you sewing the way The Kids These Days are texting!

    • Thanks Theresa! Yes, I am proud, and thrilled, and so, so glad to have it off my unfinished pile! Yes, I’d love to have you try it on a second time – or you could try something new 😉

  6. MJ Ruisi says

    AMAZING!!!!!!!beautifully realized to completion……so Gorgeous! congratulations!

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