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1780s Robe a la Piemontaise

After three years wearing my rust taffeta robe a la anglaise to the George Washington Ball in Williamsburg, I wanted a new dress. I love the robe a la piemontaise in the collection of the National Museum of Denmark for which they very kindly provide the pattern.

1780s Robe a la Piemontaise - Front

1780s Robe a la Piemontaise - Side

1780s Robe a la Piemontaise - Back

1780s Robe a la Piemontaise - Back Looped Up

Materials:
7 ¼ yd green and gold striped silk taffeta (from Denver Fabrics)
1 yd bleached cotton muslin (from JoAnn’s)
½ yd cream cotton broadcloth (from JoAnn’s)
3 yd 1” cotton twill tape (from Burnley and Trowbridge)
2 yd ¼” cotton twill tape (from Burnley and Trowbridge)

Patterns:
I used my 18th century bodice pattern draped by Carrie Midura at Dress U and modified it to follow the lines of the pattern given by the National Museum of Denmark.

Construction:
The gown and petticoat are made of green and gold striped silk taffeta using a combination of machine and hand-sewing. I ran up a few interior seams (like the skirt seams) on the machine, but other than that, it’s hand-sewn. The bodice and sleeves are lined with muslin, and the hem is faced with cream-colored broadcloth. The petticoat waistband is 1” cotton tape, and the ¼” tape is used for ties to loop up the gown skirt.

The bodice is assembled with spaced backstitches so that all edges are finished except for the armscyes. The sleeves actually worked as set-in sleeves so I made up the sleeves then set them with the machine.

I found conflicting information about the back drape for the piemontaise style of gown. Some websites indicated that the back drape ought to be entirely separate, and in fact, the only fashion plate I found implied that it was quite separate. On the other hand, the pattern for the Danish one really looks like the drape is sewn into the skirt seams, particularly since there are marks for matching on the pattern. It also looks like one continuous hem from the photographs. The two Spanish examples shown here don’t really look like the drape is separate either. I only found one reproduction online, and I didn’t find any kind of information about it, just pictures posted by Démodé. The long and short of it is that I decided to sew the drape into the skirt seams and am quite happy with how it looks.

The one thing I borrowed from the fashion plate is the idea of being able to loop the skirt up. I had intended this to be a bit longer than it ended up but still wanted to be able to wear it for dancing. Having read that sacques should be pulled up through the pockets rather than with ties, I had intended to do that, but then I forgot to leave pocket slits in the skirt. I didn’t want to redo my lovely ¼” pleats so I just put in tape ties.

Undergarments:
I wear this over a 1780’s chemise (based on Sharon Burnston’s research), c. 1780 stays (Corsets and Crinolines), 18th century pockets (Patterns of Fashion), a false rump, an 1847 knit bustle because the false rump is a little wimpy, 18th century stockings (Mara Riley), 1838 garters (The Workwoman’s Guide), and a muslin petticoat (Katherine’s Dress Page).


Thoughts after wearing:
I enjoyed wearing my dress very much. I particularly enjoyed the way it caught the air when walking rapidly. It moved well for dancing, and I only looped it up at the end of the evening. It hadn’t been stepped on much, but it was just enough that I had gotten a touch tired of it. It was quite easy to tie it up while wearing, which is a benefit. The only thing I found in the first wearing is that the shoulder straps are a trifle long and that the back drape has a tendency to pull down the back neck of the dress (probably due to a few tugs at the hem from my own or another pair of feet). I tried putting in a drawstring at the neck, which should solve the shoulder problem but doesn’t solve the back drape problem. Sewing down the bottom of the band seems to have taken care of that.

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