July 21, 2015

The Purple Pet en l'air: Part 1

So the pet en l'air I mentioned here, well- I started it today! I have been looking at different ways to pleat the back, as the extant examples seemed inconsistent. I mean inconsistent in the best way though, as I feel like I really can't go wrong! It seems as there were many way to pleat the back! The normal robe a la francaise pleats hanging from the back, narrower pleats, multiple smaller pleats, I have even found one that looks as if the back is gathered rather than pleated!

Labeled as a robe a la francaise, but the back looks gathered doesn't it? Too weird! From the MET
This one has narrower pleats that are sewn down flat for a few inches. From Villa Rosemaine.
This one has several small pleats rather than the normal two large box pleats! From Manchester City Galleries.
Since I assume regular robe a la francaise style box pleats were the more usual choice for a pet en l'air, I decided to go that route. Plus I have never made a francaise style gown and this will be good practice! A reminder of my simple sketch below...

As for the trimmings, I had long planned to do something ultra feminine with this light weight taffeta like the gown above from Marie Antoinette, the movie that started my 18th century obsession! I like the wider ruched sections in the center front but as the pet en l'air will have a stomacher in front, instead of the front edges meeting to close, I will have to do my trimmings a bit differently. I think lots of trimmings will show off how pretty the iridescence of the fabric is, and speaking of fabric, here is a photo of the two fabrics I am using...

A light blue linen (salvaged from an old petticoat), and a lightweight silk taffeta in bright purple with a teal-blue iridescence. I started today by making a ultra basic muslin of my usual 18th century bodice pattern and trying it on over my stays to see if it needed any updates. I added a bit of length to the side (1/2 inch) and added a tiny bit to the front neckline/strap area. Then I moved onto creating the pet en l'air pattern by tracing the normal bodice pattern and then making modifications like cutting the front center away for where there will be a separate stomacher. I began the real thing by cutting out the linen lining.

Then it was time to start pleating! I think the back is looking rather nice currently!

I have the back draped and pined, I will trim the sides to fit the lining side seam shape then sew the lining pieces together before reattaching this pleated back. I will be using a combination of machine and hand sewing for this project because, though I appreciate historically accurate methods, I know myself well enough to know I will be too impatient to hand sew everything! A combo is good enough for me :) I will have plenty of time to work on this project later this week, and I can't wait to do so! It feels good to be excited about a historical project this way again! I'll show you guys more progress soon!


  1. Resplendent design! And that fabric, I can't even...it's dazzling gorgeous!

    ♥ Jessica

  2. *Dazzlingly* - thank you, autocorrect! :)

    ♥ Jessica

    1. Thank you Jessica! I got to work on the pet en l'air some more today and so far it's going pretty well! The mistakes so far will end up covered by trim so I'm considering that a win!


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