Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Gold Galleon Gown - Planning Stages

This may be another case of me being way too ambitious with my costuming plans, but hey - nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?  And so I am endeavoring to make - in just over a month - my very first Francaise gown!  *excited/nervous squealing*

I hope to have it done in time to wear to the annual Francaise Dinner in March.  I had so much fun last year, and it'll be more difficult to attend next year when I will have an almost-one-year-old.  Plus I want to wear my maternity stays again.  (And give myself incentive to finish them properly.)  :p  But since I am pregnant, I cannot wear the gown I wore last year.  However, because a robe a la Francaise has internal ties at the center back, I figure it has some flexibility in the fit!  I shall endeavor to make it large enough to fit me now, but not so large that it doesn't fit me again after the baby comes.  Wish me luck!

The idea for this particular gown came about in August 2015 when I visited a very upscale thrift store called The Velvet Shoestring in Williamsburg.  I went because I had been told that they occasionally carry fabric, and I was curious.  Well, I didn't find any fabric, per se, but I did find six matching curtain panels that turned out to be 100% silk!  Needless to say I bought them all.  And they have been calling out to me to make them into a Francaise gown ever since, but I've been too intimidated by the prospect to get started.  However, now is the time!

Aren't they beautiful?

I know silk shantung is not historically accurate to the 18th Century, but I'm going to pretend it's taffeta.  It has such a lovely drape and sheen, and that color!  It's hard to capture in photos, but it's a gorgeous gold color.  I can just imagine how rich and decadent I'll feel wearing it!

For those who are curious, I paid $14.50 for each panel (though they might have been priced at $29 for a set of two; I don't remember) for a total of $92.22 with tax.  The panels were 50 x 84", but when I recently unpicked the hems on all four sides of one, the final measurement ended up being 52 x 92".  This gives me a total of 15 1/3 yards of 52" wide silk!  At $6/yard, I'd say that's a steal.

Also, bonus:

They're lined in 100% cotton!  And it's high-quality, too.  Check this out:

My hand doesn't even show through!  And it has just a hint of sheen on the right side, too.  So this will work very well for the lining of my Francaise, as well.  I have 14 yards total, since the lining is shorter than the outer fabric, but still!  14 yards of good polished cotton, essentially free!  I foresee it becoming the lining for many future gowns.

But back to the Francaise (which I've just now dubbed the Gold Galleon Gown).  Since this is my first attempt, I will be using a pattern.  Specifically, the J.P. Ryan Pet en L'air pattern.  I started with a mock-up, as instructed, and tried it on Elsa wearing my maternity stays over a padded belly approximating my current baby bump:

The stays are a bit off-center in these photos.  Pay them no mind.
Clearly the bodice needs some adjustment.  In the finished garment, these ties would be tightened to achieve the proper fit:

As you can see, I didn't even bother tying them because the fabric was already taut in between.  To create more room for pregnant me, I folded the bodice at the center back:

And cut a slit up the middle:

I ended the slit level with the tops of the bones, and zig-zagged the top inch or so to keep it from fraying:

Now I tried it on Elsa again, actually tying the ties this time:

And I got the center front edges to overlap enough to pin them together!

Fit looks good:

But I'm not going to rely on my dress form for fit.  I took the mock-up and the stays off of Elsa and put them both on myself:

Still a pretty good fit!  The wrinkles are mostly from holding my arms out to hold the camera.  I'm calling it good, as the center front edges will lace closed and be covered by the stomacher on the finished gown.  So that's another area where I have room to grow.

I took off the mock-up and laid it on my cutting table with the ties still tied, and measured the gap between the two fabric edges at the bottom edge:

To be generous, I'm going to give it a full two inches when I cut out the lining.  That's next!  I just wanted to share my excitement about this planned gown.  I don't think I've done anything of such an ambitious scale since my wedding dress!  Certainly that was the last time I worked with such a large amount of silk fabric.  But the creative juices are definitely flowing again.  Stay tuned for more progress!


  1. I love the fact that you're experimenting with so many things, like the maternity stays and making a dress which will accommodate your bump but still fit you afterwards - it's all fascinating to read!

    I'm sure the end result will be fabulous, looking forward to watching its progress.

  2. Best of luck with your fabulous francaise! I used the JP Ryan pattern to make my first francaise attempt last spring, and found it generally easy to put together except for the pleats, which I think were somewhat poorly explained. I used other bloggers' posts discussing their experiences to compensate, which was great :) I can't wait to see this when it is finished!

    1. Thanks, that's good to know! I know The Fashionable Past has an in-depth Francaise tutorial, so I'll check that out if I get stuck. Your gown is gorgeous, and I'm so jealous you got to wear it at Versailles!