Lavender Anglaise

Lavender Anglaise

Once upon a time in a far away land (Pennsylvania circa 2008) I was working as an indentured servant to the lady Joann. I noticed amongst her wares this lavender silk dupioni. Since it was of fairly low quality and left over from someone’s special order it languished, and languished, until finally she let the price go to something I could afford on my pitiful salary. I planned to make the lavender dress in Costume Close Up. Just as soon as I thought my skills would do it justice….


In the Colonial Williamsburg collection

Then I waited and waited till I achieved the mythical sewing mastery I was hoping for…………………………Finally Amanda asked if I would participate in a “dress in a day” style demo for a The Indian King Tavern where she volunteers, oh and did anyone have a dress length of silk?

When in doubt, if you don’t have the skill level to do your fabric justice? TRICK SOMEONE MORE TALENTED INTO IT!

We began with a linen lining cut to my 18th century body block. Amanda and Alice draped and pinned the en fourreau pleats.  For those NOT 18th century sewing nerds that means that those beautiful pleats going down the back start as one long piece of fabric from neck to floor and the pleats are shaped on the back and flare into the skirt. And when your friends have perfect tiny stitches the effect is quite beautiful. Adrienne worked on the petticoat. I stood there and looked helpful.


fun fact my left hip is higher, yay scoliosis! 

We got…maybe 2/3 of the dress finished at the demonstration. While we’ve done a dress in a day in the past and ended up with a lot more dress, it’s just slower when you’re enjoying chatting with the public.


I got the better end of the deal, it was 90 degrees in there, my undies WAY comfier                  Photo from the Friends of the IKT facebook page

Because we did not finish the dress in one day I took it home and did the finishing bits. It was much more pleasant to sew a fully fitted dress that I just had to hem and finish edges on. Oh and sleeves.


We thought we would visit the IKT the week later for their presentation on tea in the 18th century (which was excellent) and to show off the finished gown. I borrowed Amanda’s DELIGHTFUL cupcake hat. I cried a little when I gave it back.


Overall I’m really happy with this dress. I wore it polonaised like the original in the Colonial Williamsburg collection.  The silk is really poor quality so it put purple fluff fibers EVERYWHERE.

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We got asked a lot of questions about buttons and why didn’t women’s wear feature more buttons? And the best I can say (having not done a thesis on this) is that some women’s wear did have buttons, but experience has just told me how easy it is to adjust the fit on a pinned dress. Plus something with so little ease is hard to keep the buttons from pulling and rumpling.



So that’s a huge costume off my bucket list. What dresses are on YOUR bucket list? Do you have any perfect fabric stashed for a someday project when you feel brave enough?

Now who wants to help me distract Amanda so I can make off with her hat forever…


11 responses »

  1. If we share custody of the hat, count me in! 😉

    I sort of made my bucket list dress already, but of course there’s always another step to take towards The Perfect Version ™. I’ve got it pretty much in cotton, next up, something… more rustly. Some day.

    Quality of fabric aside, it’s gorgeous!


  2. This is beautiful! I love the color. I’m currently working on my under pinnings for a robe a la francaise but I am having one heck of a time finding period correct fabrics. I don’t want to use just anything. Do you have any suggestions for me?


    • For the underpinings? The shift would be linen, you don’t really find references to anything but white linen. Washable and bleachable in the sun. For stays the most accurate thing you can use now is a heavy linen or cotton with a fashion layer of silk, wool or linen. Personally I would advise against silk, mine are cause it was pretty and the result is they’re very hot. For boning I like the german plastic whalebone or duct ties. Lots of people like reed but it’s breakable. Burnley and Trowbridge are a great source for period fabrics, Dharma trading is where my shift linen is from. also has good linen but less fine than dharma….I could go on and on, gimmie more direction or I ramble.


      • I’m so sorry. I should have been more specific (was typing a quick comment while on a break at work). I’ve made my shift and my stays out of linen that I purchased from Burnley and Trowbridge. I used reed for the boning which I won’t do again in the future because it’s a huge pain. What I’m having issues with is finding fabrics for the gown. I’m shooting for a court inspired look.

        P.s. I don’t mind a good ramble and I can talk about this stuff all day. Once I get started, I can’t stop lol


      • Oh righto that makes more sense. Lets see for a Francaise gown you really see them in silk with the occasional chintz thrown in (someone step in here and prove me wrong). Silk really does lend itself the best to style as it billows and holds that shape. Unfortunately silk is freakin’ expensive these days. The cheapest place lately is Fabricmart when they do their sales. several times a year they’ve had $6 silks. B&T has some silks although I haven’t perused that lately. Renaissancefabrics and silkbaron also have amazing but expensive silk. I’m also personally not above a synthetic for things like that but go into it knowing most polyesters will fray like the devil so don’t plan on pinked trim. The trick with synthetics is that you get what you pay for, so you’re still in the $6-8 a yard range for anything halfway decent and there’s a huge range in quality that I prefer to buy that in person where I can feel it up. Leia of Bulldog and Baum can often source amazing things in NYC (she has an etsy store) if you msg her….ummm yeah see I ramble 😉


  3. Thank you so much! This is extremely helpful. I have gotten silk swatches from B&T and they are gorgeous. They have a couple stunning checked silks but I think that would make a rather odd looking francaise. I will check out these other places. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!


  4. Anyone in Massachusetts should go visit Sewfisticated in Framingham, they have all kinds of delicious silks for under $10/yd, some substantially under. I regularly get them for $5-$6, though of course some are jerseys or prints or otherwise unsuitable for period sewing. They do have solids and stripes and such, too.


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