June 20, 2017

Inside & Out: Regency Half-Robe

Well hello there, long time, no post!  Today we'll be discussing the inspiration behind and the construction of the early-1800s half-robe and petticoat combination featured in our most recent photo shoot, here: Summer Sun.  The strapped, linen petticoat, made entirely from rectangles, also serves as my belated entry to the Historical Sew Monthly April Challenge - Circles, Squares & Rectangles!  

(Photograph courtesy of Maria M.)

The Inspiration

For those who have been reading my blog for a while, you may have noticed that I am quite fascinated by short gowns, and have reproduced several styles [see the tag "short gown"].  Per usual, the inspiration for this project comes from several extant garments and period fashion plates.  My pinterest board, 19th-Century Short Gowns, houses a growing collection of reference images as well as further resources if you're interested.

For this particular project, the fabric found me first!  Way back in February, I was sewing with Judy, the partner-in-crime, at her winter workplace, the Chestnut Bay Quilt Shop.  We took a break to "window shop" in the reproduction room (yes, an entire room!), when this simple print jumped out at us.  Long story short, I forced my friend, as she says, into what would become our "twin" gowns, matching half-robes and petticoats, as well as buying a beautiful red stripe that became her new 1850s dress.  Be warned, friends, fabric shopping with me may be hazardous for your pocket books!  Several of you can already personally attest to this I believe...

Anyways, after securing three yards of the brown print, I drew from two extant examples for the design.  This jacket from the Snowshill collection, with its pleated details and cross over front, spoke to me the most:

Dress Jacket, c.1790-1800
Snowshill Wade Costume Collection, UK
(Image via: National Trust Collections, 1348737.2)

This jacket, though dated later, is quite similar:

Printed Jacket, 1820s
"Jackets would have been worn during the day with
non matching skirts or petticoats for informal occasions"
(Image via: Meg Andrews)

Notice the higher back and pleated skirt details:  

Printed jacket, back, 1820s.
"Marvelous print and some lovely button and frill detail
including two thread work loops above the buttons
where the apron would thread through."
(Image via: Meg Andrews)

I also really liked the longer length of the morning robe on the left:  

Morning Dresses, May 1803
Fashion Plate, M.86.266.52
(Image via:  LACMA)

My version of a Regency half-robe.

The Half-Robe

Moving right along into the construction of the half-robe, to create the bodice, I began with the lining and cross-over bodice pieces from the Elegant Lady's Closet by Sense & Sensibility Patterns.  As patterned, the front is cut in four pieces: two of the printed cotton fashion fabric, and two of the plain, cotton muslin lining.

The cross-over bodice features three deep pleats on each side,
which were stitched to a waistband.

For visual interest, I added a pleated flounce along the neckline edges.  In the detail shot below, you can see how this was attached.  First, bias strips were folded in half and machine zig-zagged to save time.  Next, they were pleated and stitched to the neckline edge.  To keep the machine stitching from showing, I pressed the seam inside and hand whip stitched it to the inner edge or linings.  

The front of the cross-over is secured with two metal hooks and thread eyes.

Later, I added twill tape ties on the inside.

Note on the pattern & fit:  In the mock-up phase, the Elegant Lady's Closet cross-over bodice worked really well with a few adjustments on my friend, however, not so much on me.  The only adjustment I made to front was to trim two inches off the neckline edge, otherwise I kept the front lining and cross-over pieces the same.  If I were to do it again, I would have scrapped both, and drafted my own.  The fronts simply have too much fabric for my frame.  I should have shortened the width of both the fashion fabric and the lining, smoothing out the front and perhaps even eliminating the need for the pleats.  Though I did end up ditching the back pieces for my own, scooping the back of the neckline and raising the center back at the waistline for that gentle upward curve. 

For the bodice lining, I hemmed the top, side and bottom edges by hand, even though they don't show.  As a whole, I machine stitched more interior seams than usual, but made sure that any visible stitching was done by hand.  

The lining fronts are pinned closed when wearing.

I also lined the waistband to hide all of the raw edges with a strip of muslin.
Pressing both edges, I blind-stitched the lining in place.
Neat interiors make me happy!

The front lining when worn.

The back is cut in three pieces, with the fashion fabric and lining treated as one, unlike the front.  The skirt consists of three panels - two in the front, and one pleated in the back.  

Notice the gentle upwards curve at the center back.
I also balanced the skirt to have a slightly lower slope in the back than the front.

The shoulder seams also feature pleats to help control the fullness at the front, and provide a pretty detail.

Shoulder detail - notice the directional pleated trim and gathered sleeves.
Next time, I would add piping to the shoulder seam and armscye.

The lining is attached the the side, shoulder and armscye seams,
leaving the lining free at the front.

I added the same pleated flounces to the sleeve edges.  The only difference is that these were cut on the grain, rather than the bias, to follow the directional print.  

Wrist details, exterior and interior.

Last, but not least, to finish the skirt, I flat-felled the skirt seams by hand and added a small, contrasting calico hem for a pop of color!   

Hem facing, side hems and flat-felling by hand.

The Strapped Petticoat

Now with a new half-robe completed, surely I needed a new petticoat to wear it with!  Enter this lovely fashion plate:

Fashion plate by Georges Jacques Gatine
(Image via: Pinterest)

And this extant example of a strapped petticoat:

Petticoat or linen warp and wool weft, ca. 1825-35
(Image via: Nordiska Museum, NM.0001376)

I am very fortunate to have a friend who works at a quilt shop!  She procured several yards of a perfectly matching, light-weight caramel linen for our petticoats.

My version!

Constructing this petticoat was a breeze!  After taking a few measurements (underbust, underbust to floor, front, back, side, etc.), I ripped three narrow panels of the linen for a total circumference of about 85".  Seamed them together, turning under the allowances at the center back for the opening.  Pleated them to a waistband and added twill tape ties for straps.  

Petticoat features a flat front and knife pleats
with the fullness concentrated towards the back.

The petticoat closes with two metal hooks and thread eyes, and is finished with a printed cotton hem facing.  

Hem facing detail.

The finished strapped petticoat: 

Petticoat front.

Petticoat back.

Historical Sew Monthly Entry Details

The Challenge:  April: Circles, Squares & Rectangles – Many historical garments, and the costumes of many people around the world, use basic geometric shapes as their basis. In this challenge make a garment made entirely of squares, rectangles and circles.

My strapped petticoat meets this challenge as it was constructed entirely out of rectangles.  From the two skirt pieces, to the three hem facings, waistband, and even twill tape straps, every piece is a rectangle! 

Materials:  Lightweight caramel linen, printed cotton for the hem

Pattern:  None, I just measured and ripped right along the grain

Year:  Early-1800s

Notions:  1" twill tape for straps, thread, two metal hooks with thread eyes

How historically accurate is it?  The overall look achieved by the petticoat would be recognizable, however, the particulars of my construction may not be as historically accurate.  For instance, on a linen petticoat, they probably would have turned the hem rather than adding a facing.  Also, they would not have attached the straps by machine.  I cut a corner there, but did hand stitch and overcast everything else!  Maybe 75%?

Hours to complete:  Worked on and off over three days.

First worn:  Way back in April for pictures at the Stone-Tolan House.

Total cost:  Estimated $15

Now, off to blog about the next project...thanks for reading! 


  1. Lovely outfit! What keeps the straps staying on the shoulders on the strapped petticoat? I feel like those would want to fall right off me.

    1. Thank you! To be perfectly honest, they totally want to fall off my slopped shoulders too. I figure that they either have to be set just so with enough tension, or crossed over to stay up. Whenever I wear strapped petticoats for longer than a few pictures, I always (safety) pin them to my corset or chemise!

  2. Replies
    1. Hopefully these were thorough enough pictures and directions...you're going to look fabulous!

  3. $15....haha...not a bad deal!!! It turned out lovely.

    1. All thanks to my personal fabric enabler ;)

  4. That ruffle around the edge of the robe is the perfect touch. Makes me want to go make a ruffled robe now!

    1. Do it! One can never have too many ruffles!