June 23, 2016

Short Gown Studies IV: La Blanchisseuse

They that wash on Monday
Have all the week to dry;
They that wash on Tuesday
Are not so much awry;
They that wash on Wednesday
Are not so much to blame;
They that wash on Thursday,
Wash for very shame;
They that wash on Friday,
Must only wash in need;
And they that wash on Saturday,
Are lazy folks indeed.

 La Blanchisseuse, or the washerwoman.

Take a look at our first completed sewing project and photo shoot of the summer!  Early in June, Maria, my sister and photographer, agreed to photograph my newest, golden yellow short gown, intended for wear in the village down at Kieffer's Kabine.  (You'll find me interpreting there every other Saturday, so come out and say hello!)

It was hot, it was humid, and very itchy no thanks to the hordes of mosquitoes, but we persisted.  And, I can truly say that Maria's results never fail to amaze - she has such an eye for detail, composition and, best of all, is my sister.  We hope you enjoy the results!  

Washerwomen by Paul Sandby, ca.1790-1805.
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.
(Image via: Yale Center for British Art, B1977.14.5133)

Completed Project Shots

*All photographs courtesy of the one and only Maria Meck*  

Since a short gown is a garment intended for work, I though it might be fun to stage a laundress impression for the shoot.  My photographer agreed, and the picturesque location of the "dragonfly bridge" and creek at Ellison Park was selected.  

You might even recognize some of the laundry from previous short gown studies!  (Short Gown Study I, Study II, Study III

On the subject of laundry, Thomas Roscoe's The Works of Jonathan Swift: Containing Interesting and Valuable Papers, Volume 2, published in 1843, offers some interesting directions to servants.  

In Chapter XIV: Directions to the Laundress, it is suggested that: 
"If you singe the linen with the iron, rub the place with flour, chalk, or white powder; and if nothing will do, wash it so long till it be either not to be seen, or torn to rags.  
"About tearing linen in washing: -- 
"When your linen is pinned on the line, or on a hedge, and it rains, whip it off, although you tear it, &c.  But the place for hanging them is on young fruit-trees, especially in blossom; the linen cannot be torn, and the trees give them a fine smell." 
~ Excerpt from Roscoe's The Works of Jonathan Swift, Volume 2
Digitized by Google Books

There is also a fantastic article on 18th century laundry - 
Laundering Clothing in the 18th Century - that contains excerpts from letters, laundry instructions from period resources, and a very long list of washing, drying and ironing depictions.  I highly recommend it as a starting point to anyone interested in forming a laundress impression for 18th century (of course) and early 19th century reenactments.

Fun with filters!

A note on the short gown itself:  Mostly hand stitched (only the two long inside seams are machine stitched).  The box pleated trim featured on the sleeves and neckline were rolled hemmed to prevent future fraying.  Finally, a small, contrasting hem facing was applied.  (My tradition is catching on at GCV!)  

Short gown details - interior casing, hem facing & box pleated trim.

Thank you for stopping by!


  1. I know you're always oohing and ahing over my work, but I'm always amazed by your work! It's SO beautiful!!!

    1. Sorry it's taken me so long to reply to your lovely comment...why thank you! You just officially made my day :)

  2. Splendid job!! Your fine work and that charming box pleat trim turn what could be considered a utilitarian garment into something lovely! I also really like that laundry poem at the beginning of your post :)

    1. Sorry it's taken me so long to reply to your lovely comment...thank you so much, Michaela! Your comment means a lot to me. I've seen several variations of the "They that wash..." poem, and I thought it would make a fun introduction! I'm glad you like it :)

  3. Oh my word! All the colors! All the clothes! I am so loving this post with all the eye candy! What a fun project and your sister did a most splendid job on the photography!

    1. Sorry it's taken me so long to reply to your lovely comment...Wow! Thank you for all of your kind words, Gina!! I can't wait to share your comment with the sister! You're always so supportive of our projects - a great, big thank you :)