• Historical dress

    A Christmas Bustle Dress

    With the holidays upon us I haven’t made any further progress on the colonial dresses but I thought I would share some images of a bustle era dress that I made a few years ago. It was for a little “Yuletide” performance that I was involved in at a local historical house. This was my first venture into making a bustle dress and all things considered I think it turned out quite nice.

    I used a poly taffeta –which of course is NOT historically accurate but silk was out of the budget so I made do.


    Mind you I had no clue what I was doing but thankfully found some very good resources online. Most especially Jennifer Rosbrugh at Historical Sewing. Her bustle dress posts and bustle day dress class, were invaluable to me!

    The patterns I used were from Truly Victorian. The 1873 Polonaise (modified) for the top and the 1870s underskirt for the skirt.

    I truly enjoy making historical dresses. They can be challenging but also incredibly fun!


    As I was writing this post I realized that I don’t have a good photo of me actually WEARING the dress. I will have to work on that!



  • The Colonial Dress Project

    Colonial Dress Project update.

    This is the fabric I will be making our colonial dresses from. Isn’t it lovely! It’s a reproduction print from the era that I got from Colonial Williamsburg’s online shop. As lovely as it is it will be some time before I cut into it. The first thing to make are chemises or shifts. Those will be from linen as it is the most accurate to the time and the most comfortable. Given that we will be wearing these dresses on the 4th of July I’d say that comfort is important.

    Then I have to make stays. I haven’t gathered the supplies for those yet.

    Right now though I am playing around with my new serger and enjoying all the cool things it can do. I’ll post on some of the things I am making later.


    Are you working on any special projects for the upcoming holidays? I’d love to hear about them. Comment below and leave me a link to your blog if you have one!

  • The Colonial Dress Project

    1770’s Robe à l’Anglaise

    I got to see this beautiful 18th century extant (surviving original for those unfamiliar with the term) dress up close this week –albeit in a glass case– at Rockford Plantation.  It is of brocaded Spitalfields silk from London, and is believed to have belonged to Katherine Hand (General Edward Hand’s wife). It is possible that the dress was given to Katherine by Martha Washington but that is not known for certain.

    It seems likely that it would have been out of style by the time Katherine got it but you can imagine the scenario. An older woman has this beautiful dress that she can’t wear anymore so she passes it on to a younger woman with several daughters in hopes they can use it.

    This style of dress is called a Robe à l’Anglaise or English gown (I prefer the french term as it sounds more chic). This dress would have been worn with a shift or chemise and then stays ( which is a corset but they were called stays then). It is a ‘robe’ which closes in the front (with hooks and eyes) but is open over the skirt. The back of the bodice comes to a point and is sewn into the skirt. The petticoat underneath is separate and could be of matching fabric as shown here or something else as shown in these examples: 1784 Dress (Robe à l’Anglaise) Met Museum | Robe à l’anglaise, 1770-73 From the Chertsey Museum. Sleeve ruffles could be added or left off as shown here.

    Look at that hand stitching! No modern sewing machines when this beauty was made. It’s pretty amazing to think about all the work that went into a dress like this.

    The attention to detail is remarkable. Look how the flower placement on the sleeve matches so well to the dress.

    Notice how low the front neckline is. This is pre-Victorian and lower necklines were in. You could wear a fichu with it as shown here or opt to leave it off and show off some jewelry (among other things).


    As we were looking at the dress my 12 yr. old daughter asked if this was the style of dress I was making for her next. I said “You bet I am!”.


  • The Colonial Dress Project

    18th Century Hair Styling

    One of the key components to an authentic look is how you style your hair. When I did the Marie Antoinette dress for my daughter we tried to do a powdered hairstyle but I had no clue what I was doing and it ended up not working and almost becoming a big mess.

    But now I am thrilled to see that The American Duchess has come out with this book. My copy is due to arrive today!


    And I found this video this morning. Check it out. It’s fascinating!