Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Working It

My daughter calls me a workaholic, I just say idle hands are the devil's workshop.  The last few months have been devoted to pattern making, moving my work space to a new studio and more pattern making which led to mock up gown making. Since I am  almost at the end of this process I decided to blog about it.  It has been a very intense experience.


 First the gown that the pattern is based on is in my own collection of 18th century garments.  I don't need permission to copy it.  I have access to it day and night and can measure and photograph it to my heart's content.

My partner and I know how to make an 18th century gown.  Having examined in person hundreds of 18th century gowns over the last 15 years, there is an understanding of gown construction that can't be learned from a book or from looking at garments online.   The code has been broken.   The order of construction is clear from the clues left in the garment.

We have been conducting gown workshops with tons of different body types which has given an understanding of how the stayed body grows.  18th century gowns do not grow the way standard modern clothes grow, so a special grading system had to come into play.

Patterns were taken from two other gowns in my collection, those have been the foundation for the shapes used in our workshops.  So I know how to lift a pattern from an original gown.

Those are the advantages that I can think of right now, plenty of challenges too but more on that later.

The concept of the pattern is to allow anyone to make a truly representative 18th century gown that works from the 1760s thru 1770s.  No crazy modern sewing machine directions and a system to make an enfourreau back that even a beginner can do.  Changes to cuffs and sleeves turn a silk gown into a cotton or a linen gown, suitable for middlin' and lower class gowns.

These three gowns were made in the testing process of the gown pattern.  The purple gown is highly illustrated in the directions.  In color.   More on the challenges of creating a pattern next post.


  1. Dear Hallie,
    Have a feeling you are working some very late hours on this, 'specially if your family is terming you a workaholic!

    Really looking forward to the gown pattern; am finishing undergarments and so on so as to be ready to use it first thing!

    Very best,


  2. I love that you are approaching this with 18th c methods - definitely going to fill a niche!

  3. Ms Larkin, this is brilliant and wonderful. Thank you so much for offering these patterns and sharing your research findings and expertise! I am excited for when your gown pattern is ready and looking forward to trying some of your other patterns.

  4. Hi there, where do you run your workshops? Your Blog address is Uk but I get the feeling that you're in America??? Let me know - Thanksxxx