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1786 Cream Wool Redingote - Inspiration and Construction

Several years ago, I saw a portrait by George Romney at The Huntington Library and Gardens, and I immediately knew I had to reproduce it one day. The sitter, Susannah (Miller) Lee Acton, is wearing a cream redingote with wide lapels and huge capes. She has a large gauzy cap and fichu, and her waist is accentuated by an aqua silk sash that matches the ribbons decorating her cap. How could I not instantly fall in love?
At that point, I knew my skills weren’t quite up to the task, but a couple of years and several tailoring projects later I felt ready to tackle a redingote. Serendipitously, Burnley and Trowbridge had the perfect fabric last year, a sheer wool accented with a satin stripe, and I knew it was time.
When I was figuring out how to pattern and construct my redingote, I found these links incredibly helpful:

Kendra’s Marie Antoinette Redigote dress diary
Katherine’s 1780s Redigote Tutorial
The LACMA Pattern Project – Woman’s Dress (Redigote) c. 1790

I started with a basic bodice fitted over my new pink linen stays and split rump. I roughly sketched the lapels onto the bodice shape, using the scaled pattern from LACMA and previous patterns I made as reference. Then I played with the shape on my dress form until I was happy with the proportions. I also draped a rough a pattern for the capes, but saved the final pattern refinements until I had the bodice constructed.

One of the hallmarks of a redingote seems to be the fact that the back bodice pieces are cut in one with the skirt. The LACMA pattern shows both the center back and side back pieces cut in one; however, I found a couple of extant examples that appear to have just the center back pieces connected to the skirt. To cut the back, I measured the approximate length of the panel on my form, folded it in half, and then laid the center back pattern piece about 2.5 inches from the fold. I cut out around the pattern piece, stopping 1.5 inches from the waist, and leaving 2.5 inches of excess about this on the side back seam side for pleating the skirt later.

Since my fabric was sheer and delicate, I flat lined each bodice piece in a lightweight linen. The linen was hand basted to each piece of wool and then the pieces were assembled, started with the back. The center back seam was sewn all the way down to the end of the lining, and the excess formed a box pleat behind the seam, and was tacked above the waist. Then the side back, and front pieces were attached, and the skirt portion of the back pleated in place. I added another panel to each side of the skirt, pleated it, and then leveled the skirt over the false rump.

To save wear and tear on my hands, each seam was sewed on the machine, the center back seam pressed open and the side seams pressed to each side. I then topstitched each seam by hand to give it a nice finish. A separate linen lining was assembled by machine as well and then attached to the bodice wrong sides together. The bottom edges of the bodice were turned under and the skirt pleats sandwiched between the bodice and the lining with a spaced backstitch.

For the lapels, I added an extra piece of linen for interfacing just in the lapel, and then padstitched them to give a nice shape. I added a facing of the wool, flat lined in more linen, and the edges were turned and pressed in towards each other and finished with a spaced backstitch.  The capes were constructed similarly; one layer of wool flat lined in linen, and faced with a lightweight silk taffeta. I chose silk to help keep them laying smoothly and to avoid any static or bunching.

 The sleeves have two part cuffs based on several examples, including the portrait, a fashion plates, and particularly this extant example. They have decorative self-fabric buttons that match the buttons on the bodice. I chose to close it with pins vs. actual buttonholes to leave myself some adjustability should my weight change or shift.

For Costume College, I'm wore the redingote over my pink linen stays, the split rump, two linen petticoats, a white taffeta petticoat, and a matching wool petticoat. To complete the look, I added a blue silk taffeta sash, plus a silk fichu and matching wrist ruffles. I also commissioned a fabulous new 1780s wig from the talented Jenny la Fleur.

 The week before Costume College, I made a cap using silk gauze from Burnley and Trowbridge, hand sewn with heirloom cotton thread. (I can’t praise this stuff enough when it comes to sewing sheer fabrics!) The cap pattern was based off my other caps I had previously made, which have been in turn based off the Kannik’s Korner pattern. It’s the same basic shapes, simply massively enlarged to make a giant confection of a cap.  And yes, I did use the selvedge edge for the ruffles because a) its pretty and b) I was on a time crunch. Since I had no ribbon to match my sash, I used more of the same taffeta to decorate the cap.

Posted: 9/1/2017 11:07:10 AM by Aubry | with comments
Filed under: 1780s
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1786 Cream Wool Redigote