Making an Open Robe

The top fabric


For cutting the top fabric, we have to re-use the lining pattern because the armscye and side seam are cut the same in lining and top. The cente back part requires very generous allowances at the top.

Let's start with the easiest part: The side back. As has been mentioned, it is cut on the same pattern as the lining, but only from the side seam to the dashed line. BTW, the dashed line also represents the selvedge of the top fabric side back. If you are unsure where that slanted line should sit on a lining that's been adjusted to your figure, mark it at 4.3 at the top and 1.8 at the bottom, as in the pattern. If you had to make the pattern larger, the pleats in the back should of course be wider so as to keep the proportion, but that only means that more of the side back vanishes under the pleats. If you had to make it smaller (rally?!), you only have millimetres to make the back smaller by because it's already pretty narrow at waist level.

So fold under the paper pattern along the dashed line, and place it onto the top fabric so that the folded-under edge of the paper lies along the selvedge ig the fabric. Mark, add seam allowances, cut two.

Now he front. Lower and side edge and armscye should lie as in the lining. Determining the front edge is more difficult. At the front edge of the lining, above the cutaway, the inner fold of the robings lies exactly on the folded-away allowance of the lining. As the robing pleat is 5.5 wide and 4 deep at the top, add ca. 9.5 cm horizontally to the measurement of your lining to get the front edge of the top fabric. At the waist end, the inner fold of the robings overlaps the lining edge by 2 cm. I.e. the lining doesn't go all the way to the front edge. The pattern for the front top fabric says that the robing pleat is 5.5 cm wide there, as at the shoulder, plus 2.5 cm to the inner fold plus 2 cm - so the top fabric is 10 cm wider than the lining at waist level. Almost the same as at the top, so just add 13-14 cm (allowances included) all along the front edge of your lining to get the pattern for the front top fabric.

So, place the lining pattern onto the fashion fabric about 13-14 cm from the selvedge and mark the lines of armscye, sideedge and lower edge. Complete the lower edge and armscye according to the measurements in the pattern and with a healthy dose of visual judgement.

Visual judgement is all important for the centre back part. If your back is wider than that of the original wearer, it would look strange if the back pleats were as nartrow as in the pattern. Take the width of your back from side seam to side seam and compare it to the corresponding measurement in the pattern, which is 36.6 cm. Let's assume your measurement is 42. 42 / 36.6 = 1.15 (rounded). Now multiply each width measurement of each back pleat with 1.15. The inner pleat would, therefore, be 4.6 cm wide rather than 4.0 cm at the top, and 1.7 instead of 1.5 at its lower end. Seems like too small a difference to bother, but that's just one measurement. They may well add up to a couple of centimetres.

Lengthening the back (remember that the original wearer was rather short) is done in the usual way: Cut horizontally, insert strip of paper... You know the drill. I did say this required advanced sewing skills, didn't I?

The pattern thus constructed is placed along the fold of the fabric, upper edge towards the cut end of the fabric because we'll have to extend it for the skirt. Mark the outline, but don't cut yet.

The side skirt measurement is the most suitable for finding out how long the skirt should be, because this is where the seam between bodice and skirt lies at the level of the natural waist, and the seam roughly at ground level or slightly above, but most certainly not longer. In the original dress that's 104 cm. The waist-to-ground measurement of a person of 160 cm height is about 98 cm; for someone as petite as the original wearer, it should be 90-95 cm max1.

The difference between front and side skirt length (9-14 cm, depending on whether we assume 90 or 95 cm for waist-to-ground) allows us to guess the size of the skirt support. In case of pocket hoops, for instance, the difference typically comes to 12 cm, give or take one. If we take the back skirt length (100) into account, we can deduce that there was no or only a small bum pad. This suggests that the dress was worn over pocket hoops or a small panier, which puts the creation date closer to 1760 than 1770. A small panier would have the benefit of supporting the centre back. In case of pocket hoops I recommend adding a small bum pad.

For reconstruction purposes you should find out your side skirt length over the skirt support of your choice and lengthen or shorten the skirt pattern by that measurement. Keep in mind, though, that the seam line is only an estimate. It would be safer to cut the skirt according to your max. skirt length all around, then have it adjusted by a helper after it's been sewn to the bodice.

The width of the original skirt parts was of course limited by the fabric width. I would leave out a seam or two if that gave me better fabric economy. If your waist measurement is larger than that of the original wearer, your skirt should accordingly be wider.Use the same arithmetic as for the width of the back pleats.


Next step: Mounting

1) The front edge of the front skirt part is 87.5 cm long, starting about 2 cm below waist level, adding up to 89.5. The hem-to-ground measurement of extant dresses tends to be 0-10 cm, but closer to 5.