Sunday, December 14, 2008

Cut-away Gown History




Due to unforeseen events this weekend (my now fiance driving up from Charleston to surprise me, in costume, with a proposal at a ball) I don't have quite enough time to make a full post on my cutaway gown, but I will at least try to get a basic history section!
Here is the infamous portrait by Ducreux that shows a beautiful example of the style.  While this gown was most popular in the 1780s, it did actually show up in the colonies in the late 1770s and continued to be worn throughout the '90s as well.
Obviously, most of the gowns seen in portraits are made from silk taffeta, but a cotton print would be lovely as well.  For some reason, I seem adverse to linen, but I can't give a particular reason why.  Both solid colors and smaller stripes are acceptable.  The large 2 or 3" stripes seen earlier in the century would have been out of style by this point.  You can also choose a contrasting fabric for the leftover zone in front and even the petticoat.
In terms of the actual cut, there are a number of different looks to the front and to the sleeves.  At this point the back would have usually been quartered rather than an English style.  You could cut the CB pieces flat on bottom and connect them to the skirt to give that illusion of continuance without actually pleating the bodice if wanted.
Above you can see three examples of both front cut and sleeves.  Simplifying it, you can choose a straight angle or to curve it away.  From there, whether it will be a split zone piece or not.  And if it will be whether you fasten by pins, hooks, or buttons.  You can also add a tab, as I did, across the top of the front.  The sleeves can be the regular elbow length style, full length (you may choose to have the wrist area button since they're tightly fitted), or even cap sleeves over a contrasting long sleeve.  It gets more complicated when building, but that will come later.
The back, as talked about, is shown with two different styles of quartered backs.
Of course, in this period especially, accessorizing can make all of the difference.  Be it through a sash or ribbon around the waist, a crossed over kerchief, lace, or the ever popular hedgehog hair with ribbons, feathers, or over-the-top hat.  It's easy to see, from some of the portraits below how this style of gown evolved into the separate over-gown near the end of the century.

19 comments:

Élisabeth said...

So lovely!
This is certainly my favorite style of the 18th century...
Thank you for sharing!

Élisabeth said...

By tyhe way, if you want to see what I did, I can add you to read my blog (in French but with pictures!) "Lisette la Cousette". Just give me your email... ;-)

Marzipan said...

Hi!

Just wanted my followers to know that my new domain name is

mydecadeyear.blogspot.com

Thanks!
xoxo

ColeV said...

Elisabeth, I would love to read your blog! (would help me practice my french as well) My email is toile81185@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on the engagement!

-Rachael

Silverstah said...

Oh my goodness, your gown is stunning. Well done!

Kendra said...

This is really, really, really amazingly gorgeous. Wow.

Jenny-Rose said...

Absolutely stunning! And so inspiring! I discovered your blog today and have really enjoyed my browsing. I actually squealed with delight when I saw this frock - bravo! Thank you so much for sharing. :>

fuchsias18thcdress said...

I really love what you've created! I want to make something much like it in the future, maybe with two plain fabrics without pattern...
I'm mostly interested in the mid 18th century, but I love these designs from the 70's and 80's!
Right now I'm busy making the basics though - stays and such. And I've never hand sewn this much before so it's kind of consuming my life right now, hehe... ^^;

Great stuff you've got here anyways! Sure as heck gonna follow this blog! =D

Lauren said...

Question: On the first zone front drawing, the one that does not split away, how does the bodice connect? Is it with hooks and eyes along the edge? Thanks.

ColeV said...

Right, it fastens with hooks and thread eyes (bar tacks done with a buttonhole stitch over them). Just like regular stomacher gowns you stitch the left side closed and fasten the right. Or be brave and use straight pins (it still takes me too long to hide them well, I guess I need a maid!).

Lauren said...

Thanks so much! I keep telling my husband that I need a maid. It hasn't happened yet :-D

Katinka said...

I've always wondered about this, because I would love to one day model a dress after the one in the Fragonard painting you included... When you're not adding a split down the center of a zone-front, how does everything assemble? Is there a diamond-shaped stomacher? Or is it only attached at the very top and then pinned to stay in place where it nears the petticoat? Orrrr?

(Yours turned out beautifully, by the way.)

ColeV said...

It works the same way as a regular stomacher gown from earlier in the century. The stomacher is made separately (in this case a triangle with a saggy bottom) and pinned to the stays. Some stomachers even have ribbon tabs out to the side for easy pinning if the fabric is difficult (like taffeta). The gown is then pinned over it. *Hint* pin horizontally. If you don't have the time, ability, or stays to be able to pin, you can cheat and whip one side to the gown and add hooks/eyes to the other. Not really accurate, but better than poking yourself with pins all night.

Katinka said...

Thank you so much! That helps me a great deal... actually, your entire blog helps me a great deal.

Anonymous said...

hi! i have a question, is it somewhat accurate to have the cutaway and skirt be in two different fabrics? for example, the cutaway bodice and sleeves in black velvet and then the skirt black satin?

ColeV said...

I've never seen an example (outside of some very artful portraits) of an 18th century gown where the bodice is a different fabric than the skirt. Petticoats can be contrasting, or in the case of a cut-away the central zone can be. There is one particular type of gown that last only a few years that had short sleeves with an long under-sleeve of contrast, but bodice and skirt are the same (as shown above). If you have some fabric you really want to use, perhaps make a jacket instead. You do see cut-away jackets in the 1780s and 90s.

Anonymous said...

thank you! so what i have in mind is to do a creamy beige petticoat, the cutaway gown in black satin(with short sleeves of same fabric) and then the long under- sleeves in black velvet and a redingote type collar in black velvet, while having the central zone be the same fabric as the petticoat... does this seem to be accurate? thanks again, and your work is beautiful!

ColeV said...

I think it depends on how accurate. I haven't seen velvet undersleeves, added collars, or that much black being used outside of mourning or a few odd regions. However, cotton and silk velvet was very popular. You see them especially on men's coat collars, and I have some on my riding habit based on an original description. If you're aiming for late 1780s or early 90s that collar style is becoming very common and it isn't unbelievable to be on a cut-away garment. Depending on where you're planning on wearing this, it should be fine and all "supportable" to a certain extent. A group of re-enactors might ask if you were in half mourning though, unless you live on the Continent.