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!