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Making an 18th Century Dressing Gown | Pattern Drafting

Updated: Nov 2, 2021

I created this dressing gown to wear after the birth of my newest baby, in those early postpartum days when simply getting dressed takes a monumental effort. I thought it would be lovely to have a garment which is comfortable “pajama-wear” while still looking attractive.

Eighteenth Century Dressing Gown
My concept sketch


Earlier this year, my husband and I blazed through all five seasons of Poldark, a historical drama, and one of the characters on the show, which is set in the 18th century, wears a beautiful dressing gown in one of the scenes. This was my main inspiration for this garment. I also browsed Pinterest, where I found a gorgeous 18th century dressing gown on which I modelled most of the details of my version.

At the time of this writing, I am in fact holding my precious two-week old in my arms, so I will keep this article brief and to the point. 😊

The Bodice

Most of this pattern was drafted from Janet Arnold Patterns of Fashion Volume 1, and the bodice was no exception. In fact, the bodice pattern was taken straight from a jacket bodice, the same one I used for my “Modern 18th Century Jacket.” I go over everything in that article, so I won’t rehash it here, other than to say that I chose this particular bodice for its deep V neck opening, which was exactly what I wanted for my dressing gown. On the other hand, for my 18th Century Jacket, I changed the neckline to have a straight centre-front closure.

Eighteenth Century Sleeve Pattern
My sleeve draft

The Sleeves

I drafted the sleeve pattern from another Janet Arnold pattern for an actual dressing gown. The sleeves are elbow length, fairly wide, and have a decorative pleat and a cuff. The only change I made was to widen the sleeve to fit into the armsyce of the bodice, which I had enlarged to fit me.

The Skirt

The skirt was not drafted, as I simply used all the material I had left after cutting out the bodice and sleeves to make a huge rectangle which would be pleated down for a very full skirt. The skirt is open to about hip-level, then has a centre-front seam below that.

The Collar

For the collar, I simply measured how far around my neck I wanted it to sit, and how high I wanted it, and drew a rectangle based on those two measurements.

Eighteenth Century Dressing Gown
Trying on the mock-up

Fitting the Mock-Up

After sewing a mock-up of the bodice and sleeves, there were several adjustments that needed to be made. These were:

  • adding a significant amount of extra width to the back bodice piece, as I couldn’t even get the mock-up on.

  • Adding more width at the centre-front waist, to get the dressing gown closer to being able to close when tied.

  • Lowering the armsyces.

  • Adding a dart to either side of the collar to enable it to sit closely against my neck.

Stay tuned for Part 2, where I will go over the entire sewing process of this dressing gown!

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