Gown FAQs

What measurements do I need to buy the pattern? 

Taking Your Measure
When deciding the correct pattern size, a few measurements while wearing stays are in order.  There are two sizes included in each pattern.  Have someone help you take your measures, these cannot be done accurately by yourself.
First the bust measurement.  It is simple, go around the fullest part of your bust at the top of the stays.  Not over the flesh, over the stays. IF your stays are so short that the biggest part of your bust is overflowing, then get the measure on the largest part of you. 
The next measure is your waist, which may end up in a different location while you are are wearing stays, than without.  You want to find the narrowest portion of your stayed figure. A good way to find this is to put a piece of elastic around your waist and move around a bit.  It will settle at your waist.
These two measures will enable you to determine the size you need to purchase.  If your waist is larger than your bust, go with the larger of the two measures when choosing a size.  The average differential between bust and waist in a woman wearing stays is generally 5 or 6 inches.

How long should my gown be?
It depends on the type of gown you are making and why you are making it.  A silk gown meant to be worn indoors can be long, almost reaching the floor if you would like in front and even longer in back.   A working class gown should be shorter, with the finished length at the top of the back of your shoe or even slightly shorter.  A gown meant to be worn out of doors should not reach the ground.  You will wick up moisture and the skirts of your gown will become a sodden, messy business. Look at period images to get an idea for your class of gown. 

Should my petticoat match my gown?
It is nice if you can to always buy enough fabric to make a matching petticoat. Putting both gown and petticoat together, automatically makes it a bit more formal in appearance, so if you want to dress your gown up a little you wear the matching petticoat.
It is not necessary to have the petticoat match, a contrasting petticoat can be worn, but the fabric of the petticoat should be in line with the class of the gown. A silk gown would look silly with a coarse woolen petticoat. 
Is this gown appropriate for Rev War?
Yes.  The stomacher front gown is still featured as the Dress of the Year as late as 1774, which means it was still high fashion.  The gown opening is narrowing, the stomacher is becoming smaller and eventually it disappears in high fashion beginning in 1775-6 but it takes a while even then.

One of the first sightings of a totally closed front gown, "Dress of the Year 1775". 

Can I use a sewing machine?  I don't sew by hand. 
There are a few long seams, such as the skirt and petticoat long seams that can be joined with a machine.  Many of the other seams, do require hand sewing, it would be awkward and counterproductive to try and sew these by machine.  Hand sewing is not the bear that many think it is, and we have diagrams for all the stitches requires.  Often in our gown workshops we have beginners, who can't even thread a needle and often they produce the best gown in the group.  

How much fabric does a gown take? 
The gown will require 4 to 5 yards of 54-60 inch wide fabric or 6 to 7 yards of 45 inch wide fabric. Unless you are really, really tall.  If you are over 5' 10 inches, then add a yard to that requirement. Additional yardage is needed for a petticoat.

How much lining fabric? 
Purchase one yard of lining fabric for sizes 34-39. Buy 1 and 1/2 yards for size 41-51.  Buy a nice sturdy linen, do not use the flotsam at the bottom of your stash. The lining supports the gown pleats and the skirt.  It needs to be a nice tightly woven weave, and white is the preferred color. Off white or natural is fine.