Monday, 16 November 2015

The "Landgravine" Anglaise - 1770s

(C) Stefan Winter
(C) Stefan Winter

Sometimes you just fall in love.

(C)Stefan Winter

(C) Stefan Winter

And so I did with this dress and this portrait...
I just had to make it.

This is the long story of the evolution of the sage green dress ("The Landgravine Dress").

that colour!!! wow!

Portrait Juliane von Hessen Philippsthal
more on this Lady here:

From National Trust. I LOVE the buttons!
Dress National Trust Snowshill Collection/Janet Arnold PoF 1 p. 41
(also in Nancy Bradfield's "Costume in Detail" pp 59)

I have to admit, this green fabric (silk taffeta) matured on my fabric stash for quite a while, until I finally started with it. I really really love the colour. First I thought I might make an interpretation of the portrait dress, but I wasn't really sure about all that gauze ruching and the long sleeves and the front of the dress... so... that leaves nothing really... but the colour is still great!

Then I remembered that dress from Patterns of Fashion (J. Arnold) (Vol 1, p 41) (=PoF1) (and it also happens to be on the front cover...) and decided I would go that direction and, if the amount of fabric allows it, would even make a gown with trimming. My trimmings are not exactly as they are in the original. I didn't use a pinked scalloped  edge (I used zig-zag scissors, which is also ok on Pinking on and I didn't make tiny box pleats but just ruched the strips of taffetta, because I think the zigzagged edge looked nicer ruched than pleated (I do think a box pleated scalloped edge is the bees-knees, though...!!)

I've always wanted to use the patterns from PoF just to try it and my first obstacle was how to enlarge those patterns.I first copied them on 1-inch-paper by hand. And because I like to try pleating in paper first before I actually do it with the fabric, I had a go at that - and totally failed the first times. So I thought I might have copied something wrong and it took me half of a day to find out how to digitalize and print those patterns.

In case you like to try it, this is how I did it:
I scanned the pattern page or part of the page from the PoF book and saved it as a jpeg. Then I used "inkscape" (freeware) to enlarge it to 800%. Then I saved that as a png. And then inserted it into a Word Excel file. And then I printed it on A4 pages with Excel. Worked a treat. If you enlarge the PoF you'll notice you don't exactly get a print-out that has 1 square = 1 inch, because it's not 100% accurate in the book either. But as is it rather unlikely that the patterns will be exactly our size, it doesn't really matter if you have 1 inch more or less. If you are perfectionist (or German, or both), you can play with the enlarging, maybe you need 810% or so. But you'll still have to do lots of fitting anyway.

So, with this newly and successfully printed out pattern I made lots and lots of folding experiments. After the first few tries I was convinced that Janet Arnold must have made a mistake in her diagramms (how very snobbishly arrogant of me...). I had another go at it again and tried lots of different things and all of a sudden it seemed to work. I think that seamstress did an extremly clever thing when she was doing those pleats.(Unless J.A. actually did make a mistake and this is just how it turns out...)

The main problem was, that the folding instructions in PoF were rudimentary, apart from the general direction ("it's a box pleat") it doesn't tell you much. And the drawing isn't really a  big help, either.

The same dress can also be seen in "Costume in Detail" by Nancy Bradfield, p.59. While trying and failing with those pleats I looked at PoF and CiD again and again for guidance, only to find that the description and drawings of the dress somewhat differ in the two books. I'd love to have a look at the original gown, really.
I've come up with a solution that works and looks nice, as I've not had the chance to look at the original dress I can't tell you whether it is right, but I am positive that it is entirely possible. :)

Pleating guide (xps file, easy to open in internet explorer)

After I had sussed out the pleating guide and I had enlarged the pattern anyway, I made a quick mock-up of the original pattern bodice. Of course it wasn't my size, the lady was a bit larger than me, especially in the shoulder area. And she was a good deal taller, too. Also I found that I didn't really like the look of the side seam (front to side back panel) so I got the pattern for my zone-gown out (basically a variation of JP Ryans Anglaise Pattern) and made a few changes to it. The back is four gored, but it is narrower/more parallel in the waist. The neckline is also a little lower. The front, obviously, is a "normal" Anglaise front. I didn't used hooks and eyes, i like to close the gowns with needles.

As an inspiration for the back panels I looked at this dress 

If you have the chance to browse throught Nancy Bradfield's "Costume in Detail" or just have a look at one of the large museums' online collections, you will see, that all sorts of back panel alignment solutions, grainline and sleeve insertions were used, it's really mad and exciting.

I also made light changes to the sleeves, but that's just positions of the pleats at the shoulder, dart at the elbow and a tad tighter around the elbow. I don't really like lots of pleats around the shoulder seam ("puffy sleeves) but at the same time I am moving around a lot (wildly gesticulating, obviously) and need the "space" there to feel comfortable. I didn't add wide trimming because I ran out of fabric and just added a small ruffle at the bottom edge of the sleeve.

To wear the Robe à l'Anglaise à la Polonaise I have attached 3 loops inside the Anglaise. Again, there are various ways of looping up the skirt, 2 or 3 ribbons, loops, ties, buttons....all sorts.
I don't mean the dress as a full proper "Polonaise", I want it mainly for pulling the skirt up for dancing.
I suppose loops inside with buttons outside would be easier to loop up for a spontaneous dance, but after initially contemplating about 2  buttons outside, i tried it and it sort of took the "ooomph" away from the back pleats. 

I also decided I needed  new hair with the dress...

The big hair tutorial here:

A word on my sources

To create this dress, I used 4 sources

- The portrait of Juliane von Hessen-Phillipsburg (for the colour mainly...)
- The picture of the original dress in the Snowshill collection (only 1 front view)
- Janet Arnold "Pattern of Fashion Vol. 1"
- Nancy Bradfield "Costume in Detail"

The portrait shows the overall appearance and proves the existance of the sage green colour. And the big hair.

The picture of the Original dress gives a feelin for the dress (albeit being a completely different colour) but there are no details or close-ups.

And here started the problems

Nancy Bradfield and Janet Arnold (both accredited authors and publications) had a close look at the same dress. Or so you would think.

- Janet Arnold suggests the dress would be worn "retroussee dans les poches" but there are no pocket slits where you could pull it through in the pattern. She also didn't mark or mention any loops for looping the dress up "a la Polonaise". She does indicate a front closure with hooks and eyes though. Her pattern shows the pleating of the dress in detail.

-Nancy Bradfield's beautiful drawings and descriptions somewhat differ from that. Her pleating guide for the skirt depicts just normal box pleats. She didn't observe any front closure or traces thereof. She does indicate where the dress was looped up to wear it "a la Polonaise".

Both mention that the sleeves show traces of a sleeve ruffle, but none of them indicate where ... they both suggest a broad ruffle though, so I suppose the traces of stitching must be wide.

this is just to state, what "research" would include. If I had intended to exactly reproduce the dress from the sources at hand I couldn't have done that, because they were contradictory (there are more details e.g. the size of the buttons, that aren't the same).

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