Thursday, June 18, 2009

1775 English Gown: The Pumpkin Coach Dress

1775-80 English Gown

I made another English Gown or Robe A l'anglaise from The Cut of Women's Clothes. This one is made from burnt orange cotton with the same color embroidery in a pinwheel floral design. The petticoat is a linen/rayon blend that is the exact color of the embroidery and just a step away from the gown fabric (it's affordable, and matched perfectly... also safe around fires).
Now pictured here are the wider green silk ribbon ties (that I finished last week), I have decided against the ruching on the sleeves, at least for now.

I have made pockets & a fichu and will make hip & bum pads to go with this gown. It seems to want them, unlike the white gown, which didn't really need them as it was made for a lady with a very full figure. I'll also make a pair of lightly boned stays... most likely in a cream color and a matching cap with one of those huge puffy tops and a green ribbon for accent.

I keep thinking of Cinderella's pumpkin coach when I look at this, which is why I wanted the green accents. In my head, I've shortened it to "the coach dress," though it really has nothing to do with travel.

The back can be worn down or bustled up A l'polonaise with 2 ties (see picture below), and can be worn with or without a fichu.
If you have a plain shift, wear a fichu with it.
If you have ruffles on your shift, let them show at the neckline and nix the modesty cloth.

It is for sale on my web site.
Bust: 38"
Waist: 30"
underarm - waist: 9" (with hip pads).

This dress would be lovely on a small lady with brown or gray eyes & dark or olive skin.
Someone with blue eyes or very pale skin would have to wear a modesty cloth to prevent the color of the gown being reflected on your face, but just about anyone could wear this without too much trouble. Very light blondes would have to take care not to be overwhelmed by the strong colors, but a honey-blonde would look fabulous in this.

Recap on the history of the English Gown:

This gown was worn throughout the 1700's. It started life as the Mantua in the late 1600's, and slowly evolved along-side the sack back gown into what we see here. As the century progressed, it becomes difficult to tell the difference between English & French gowns unless one can see the pleating in back. The Robe A l'anglaise finally disappeared in the early 1800's, being replaced by the Empire dress. It wasn't until the 1840's that a similar cut was seen again.

The English Gown changed very little through the century. The shape of the bodice evolved a little, and the bustling method & sleeve decoration changed with the times.

Early in the century the center front of the English Gown was deeply pointed, and later on it became more rounded and shallow.

Here you can see the 1730-40's styles, worn with aprons & modesty cloths. They can have rounded fronts, stomachers, open or closed skirts, sleeve flounces or cuffs (flounces were most popular through the century for wealthy ladies, cuffs were most popular for working-class, though both styles were worn by everyone).

Group Portrait of A Family By A Lake And A Classical Pavillion

The English Gown can have a V neck & stomacher, or a closed round bodice (both seen in The Polite Maccaroni). 1770's.

Both ladies here are wearing their gowns A l'polonaise, which means they have tied them up into various styles that increase the folds of the fabric, keep the skirts out of the mud and give them that "milk-maid" look that was so fashionable in the 1770's.

Both ladies also have contrasting petticoats, the wealthy one with a ruffle on hers, and the working girl with a quilted petticoat (most likely from a consignment shop).
Note that the wealthy woman's petticoats are longer and cover her ankles, while the working girl's petticoats are above the ankle to avoid draging in the mud.

*Flower sellers who worked for shops were not the dregs of society. They were usually working class daughters or young wives who needed extra coins. Occasionally they were prostitutes who used both jobs to earn their living.

At it's latest incarnation there was an inverted V from the bust to the waist with a contrasting color at the bottom front. (Mari Antoinette & Her Children, 1780's). There is another name for this gown... Turkish robe I think, but I'm not sure. It is the same cut as an English Gown of the times, the main difference is in the color contrast & double sleeves... you can see the red sleeve above the white.

The most common decorations on the English Gown were pleated cuffs, sleeve flounces, lace and ruffles. Ruching was used at the cuff & the center front of the skirts. Bows and puffs were also very common on all gowns.

Not all gowns were decorated. The more decoration, the higher the social class. (note the difference between the flower girl's dress & the lady next to her and then look at Mari Antoinette's gown).


Unknown said...

I love your gown, it looks great!! I adore the color. I believe that I have some here of a similar color that I just havn't had the chance to get around to sewing into anything... such is life.



Gail Kellogg Hope said...


I checked out your web site, and I love your clothes!

Before I cut, I had that debate of what to make from this fab fabric?

Riding habit? Spencer jacket and cream empire dress? English Gown? Pet en l'aire? Men's 1720 waistcoat?
It got down to a coin flip between the English gown & the Spencer/empire combo. The English Gown won.

This one took 6 yds, it can take 7 or more if there is a repeating pattern.

Gail Kellogg Hope said...

Dear Reader,
This gown does not have the proper petticoats under it, so it's not as full as it should be. Though the back can be bustled up, it shouldn't have the 1880's "bubble-butt bustle" look that it does in the pictures... it should be much fuller at the bottom, which it will be when worn on a real body with hip & bum pads rather than a model stand with 2x2's for legs.

Gail Kellogg Hope said...

I sold this to Jen & Paul form Poppin's moccasins. Paul came in the store shopping for his dear lady wife, saw the dress and said "I'll be right back with my wife."
He practically dragged her into the store, she tried it on, it fit her like it was made for her and she bought it.
She is a fair skinned blond with a stunning smile and a personality to match. I'll take pictures at the Eastern, but I have to say this was a near-perfect match of fair-lady and gown.

Unknown said...

Hi Rachel,
I was doing a search for Paul Poppen and Poppen Mocs, and you blog comments about Paul and his wife Jen.(July 2009)came up. I am not sure they are the same folks I knew in Gatlinburg Tenn 20+ years ago. If so I would love to know how to touch base with them. I am Nancie Laing now, but then my last name was Harris. Can you connect us? my email is Thanks

Gail Kellogg Hope said...


They are the same folks. I'll pass on your info. I know the girls better than their parents. I've got to call Jill about her dress anyway, and pass on some other information to Paul & Jen, so I'll add your e-mail in with the rest.

Bergymon said...

I am trying to reach Poppen for some moc resole work, but can't seem to get a response from letters. Does anyone have a curretn address, or a phone number, or an e mail address? Thanks,

Gail Kellogg Hope said...

No e-mail as far as I know. I'll try to get you a current address, I know they moved after the flood.

Have to send stuff to J. anyway.