This crossed barred (plaid) silk dress was based on the pink silk plaid gown at the Kyoto Costume Institute and featured in the Revolution in Fashion publication. Also in the Kyoto Costume Institute is a brown cross barred silk gown in a similar style. The elaborate swirls and serpentine curves in this gown reflect the style of the 1760s. The compere front has functional buttons and button holes. The shape and design of this compere is from an original in my personal collection. Colonial Williamsburg’s Mark Hutter and Janea Whittacre of the Margaret Hunter Millinery Shop first brought this fabric to my attention as a gown under construction in the shop.
This silk taffeta fabric is in a slightly different colorway and was found at Zimman’s in Hudson, Massachusetts and is an extremely light and smooth silk taffeta. Nine yards of 60 inch wide fabric were required. Silk thread was used primarily, except for attaching the sleeves to the body of the gown and the linen lining where white linen thread was used. The gown and petticoat are constructed using 18th century sewing and draping techniques. The bodice has a back lacing linen lining, the gown hem is faced with very lightweight cream colored silk for 5 inches above the hem. Period garments use a thin silk known as persian for this purpose. The silk is placed over the raw turned up edge of the gown hem and sewn atop the fold on the foldline, the raw edges of the facing are turned in towards the wrong side of the fabric and lightly tacked to the fashion fabric. This band of silk saves the fashion fabric from soiling at the hem. The petticoat ties at center back, eliminating bulky ties at the sides of the waist. From practical wearing experience the fastening of the petticoat at center back eliminates excess bulk at the sides where sometimes ties cause a less than perfect shape at the side waist. The petticoat hem is bound with cream silk ribbon, very lightweight, used in silk embroidery.
The serpentine curves of the decorative ruching on the bodice robings and skirt fronts are self fabric, pinked with a curved pinking tool, the tedious task goes quickly when multiple layers of fabric are pinked at the same time. These tools are available from Greenman Forge, two sizes of scalloped pinkers were used on the ruching, 1 inch and 1/2 inch.
The sleeve ruffle is a single layer, the plaid is cut and used to decorative effect. The regularity of the plaid was incorporated into the design of the gown whenever possible. Matching the plaid did not have the degree of difficulty that I expect, in fact the plaid was useful in measuring and balancing the placement of all gown decorations.
The petticoat flounces are placed using the original gown at the Kyoto as a guide. The petticoat is slightly shorter than the gown, and the gown has no train to allow for easier walking in crowds. This gown will be worn as undress, worn in less formal situations such as afternoon teas, visiting and shopping expeditions. From experience gowns with long trains are usually stepped upon with alarming frequency, so to minimize damage a long train was eliminated!