An 18th century shortgown

Happy 2019!

This year I have a lot happening – both reenactment and in my personal life. Many, many years of studying is coming to its end and this spring I will graduate with a Masters exam in Geology and start to work a normal day job. In fact, I’ve already been hired by a consultant company to work hours until my graduation, to then start working full time there. I’m very proud of myself, and excited for this year!

Reenactment-wise I will attend several events, with at least four different time periods. The usual 14th century with Carnis, with the big event being Battle of Wisby, hopefully 15th century at Glimmingehus again if the event will be on this year as well. Then, around autumn, it will be time for my first 17th century event. If I’m lucky I’ll even be going to Grolle in October.

Now, my first event of the year will be an 18th century pub-event called “Den Sprängda Husaren” – The Blasted Hussar. It is an event that I have wanted to attend the other times that it has been held, but never had the possibility to. This time around I decided that I would have to make it, and as it seems I will be going to the event now in February! Happy Andrea!

What do I want to wear for the evening? Something simple, something wooly – something that is not too far up on the social ladder. I already have stays, two skirts, half-mittens, a cap, and stockings. What I need for my outfit is something to wear as my outer layer on the upper body. I have some lovely striped wool that I’ve had for several years, without a project in mind for, which now presented itself when I was cleaning my sewing room. Looking through Pinterest for inspiration I found several Swedish short-gowns (tröja), many of them striped. I’m not entirely sure about translating the Swedish word tröja to short-gown – I’m not certain enough about the terms for this period, but I found the word translated to short-gown in a newsletter I linked below.

While striped fabrics are very poplular in the 18th century, the stripe in my wool isn’t really perfect. I have seen it here and there, in one or two fabric samples (e.g. in this sample book from 1771), so while it exists, it is not representative at all. I decided that it was okay for me, since this isn’t a time period that I really prioritise in my reenactment – though it is a beautiful period!

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A Swedish short-gown with a similar stripe as my gown. Now at Nordiska Museet. NM.0001390

According to the book “Möte med mode” by Berit Eldvik, the style of these short-gowns were in fashion at the high society during the middle of the 18th century, after which the style wandered down in levels to be popular among common people at the end of the century. The earlier gowns were made up of silk, and the later ones mostly of different kinds of wool or wool blends. Many of the Swedish short-gowns were quilted, but not all.

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What do you do with a not so fancy background? Remove it 😉

My short-gown is inspired in particular by two extant pieces. The pattern is taken from a printed cotton short-gown from Källfors, Sweden, and has been written about on the Durán Textiles Newsletter in 2007. It is made up of two pieces, with the sleeves cut as one with the body without shoulder seams. In the newsletter there is a drawing of the pattern of this short-gown, which I scaled up and made a toile of. Trying it on with my stays I realised that it was a perfect fit, but I still decided to add 1 cm to the width of the sleeves to get a little more room to move.

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A work-in-progress image from my Instagram from when I was scaling up the pattern.

The second short-gown that inspired my gown is featured in the same book as I wrote about before, Möte med mode, and it also features a simple construction. It had one feature in particular that I wanted to carry over to my gown – a printed cotton band sewn to the neckline of the gown. I had a long cut out piece of a printed cotton that I used to create a ball gown for my highschool graduation ball, that is a reprint from a late 18th century print block. This piece was perfect to put along the neckline of my gown.

 

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Swedish short-gown, c. 1750-1775. Now at Nordiska museet. NM.0090398

 

My gown has two layers, the striped wool and a plain linen tabby as lining. I stitched the three main seams on the machine after tacking the pieces together to be able to treat lining and outer fabric as one piece. After that I sewed the rest of the dress by hand. I trimmed the lining’s seam allowances and split and felled the wool over those, thereby covering the only machine seams in the garment. To attach the lining to the outer fabric at the hem and centre front, I used a technique that was used on the Källfors short-gown, hiding the raw edges by sewing the lining down with slanting stitches that left ‘dotted stitches’ at the right side. On the Källfors gown this technique also was used to finish the neckline, but I instead covered the raw edge with the cotton fabric as I sewed it to the neckline. This is the same way the cotton is attached to the striped woolen gown.

To finish everything up I needed four ties to be able to close the gown. I decided to use an orange silk from my stash that I dyed with madder a couple of years ago, and cut it with a special pair of scissors to get the zig-zag pattern (I pressume that those scissors have a specific name, but I don’t know it). To use cut strips of fabric rather than narrow ware, I based on another Swedish short-gown, which has white silk ties with this cut zig-zag pattern. Using orange silk I think looks very nice with my historical eyes, but my modern self must say that it is not the prettiest next to the burgundy red in the cotton print.

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Swedish short-gown, c. 1770-1790. Now at Nordiska Museet, NM.0158631

From start to finish this project took me about 9 hours. It was a very fun project and I’m very happy with the result! When I’m wearing the gown it very much reminds me of a painting of an 18th century girl called Smultronflickan (Smultron translates to  Wild Strawberries and flicka is girl, giving the English title of the Strawberry Girl). The stripes are different, but the way the gown falls is much the same.

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Smultronflickan, by Nils Schillmark, c.1782. Now at the Finnish museum Ateneum.

Now I can’t wait to wear it at the event, and get some nice photos of it! I still have some minor things to make for the outfit, like a new rump or a quilted petticoat, because the one I have now doesnt really give me the silhouette that I would want, but it should be no problem to finish it on time.

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2 thoughts on “An 18th century shortgown

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