A Pretty Penny

So called the Pretty Penny Ball Gown due to the beautiful shining copper color of the fabric. This gown flew off the needle, taking only 2 days from cutting to completion.

Pattern: JP Ryan Robe a l'Anglaise. The same pattern used for my 1770 Polonaise.

Inspiration comes from various sources including, gown #2 in Fitting & Proper by Sharon Ann Burnston, Koshka the Cat's green & gold 1770 gown, endless image searches of the V&A archives and the National Portrait Gallery.

Fabric: 100% silk in an amazing copper color, possibly a mild dupioni or light taffeta. The slubs in the bodice became more apparent when the fabric was stretched (some appeared due to pins while fitting) but otherwise it's rather smooth with a lovely rustle. I purchased the fabric this time last year intending to make a 1690's mantua. In fact I had already cut out the basic shape of the mantua and assembled the main side seams & gores. In a very true to 18th century mentality, I ripped out the seams, laid the fabric flat & re-cut the yardage. I was able to fit all of the bodice & sleeve pieces on both the mantua's side gores. The remainder was used for the four skirt panels.

Trim: I cheated twice on the pleated trim for this gown. First, while I love the reproduction pinking tools I had neither the time, nor the money to acquire one. Instead I took advantage of my modern options & used a pinking blade in my rotary cutter. Second, for the lengths of the pleating I used the ruffle foot on my sewing machine. This leaves a visible machine stitching line down the center of the pleats. To eliminate that, without loosing the pleating, I used long-short backstitches to attach the trim to the gown, catching each pleat with the short stitch. All that was left was pulling out the machine sewing for perfect pleats & no machine sewing.

I realized while I was doing these cheats that it isn't, for me at least, an issue of "if they would have had it, they would have used it", a common reenactorism. For me it's an issue that "I have it, I *am* going to use it" (but I'm going to make it look like I didn't)

I have not yet added the loops for polonaising the skirts. I also still have to decide on a color for the petticoat. I do have a few pieces of the copper silk left over. However, it's long than it is wide. I could either run the join horizontally and place a ruffle over the join to hide it. Or I could attempt to hide the joins vertically in the pleats. The other option is some blue silk. It's very pretty but a very stubbly dupioni.

I'll be wearing this gown, with the usual adornments and possibly a new hat, at the Reenactorfest 4 (Chicago) ball on Saturday night. I'm looking forward to several period dances, although I will probably sit the modern dancing out.

This gown is up for the current Craftster challenge. My entry is way down at the bottom THE PRETTY PENNY BALL GOWN. If you're so inclined, feel free to vote for me.


  1. Oh LOVELY! I can't get over that color- you must look and sound amazing!

  2. okay so now I have been given the bravery to cut my own copper silk, thanks to you. The blue is so yummy, I hope that you do not mind that I am coping your inspiration. However mine is the fig leaf pattern, I will gladly post photos when I am done.

    Thank you so much for the inspiration.

  3. Stunning and the color is just gorgeous! YUM!


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