HSM Challenge 2 – Drawstring dress with pleats

My new drawstring, block-print, 1790s round gown is finished, and I’m very happy with it. My progress post from a few days ago explained my planning – an adaptation of the Sense and Sensibility drawstring dress pattern. I’d made a block-print dress last year from that pattern, without any adaptation, and wasn’t very happy with it. My main adaptations (more details below) were to 1) shorten the bodice front length; 2) make the bodice front significantly wider, for a gathered look: 3) significantly increase the skirt width, by using one full width in the front, and two full widths in the back – pleated tightly into the centre back. (HSM details a little further down the post).

First up, here’s a comparison of the two dresses – the 2015 one made from the pattern (in a slightly different block print), and my 2016 adaptation:

Firts block print gown - front

2015, pattern as is (daylight)


2016 adaptation (artificial light)

Here’s a comparison of the backs:

First block print gown - back

2015 – pattern as is

2016 - fuller, tightly pleated back

2016 – fuller, tightly pleated back

And a detail of all those stacked pleats in the centre back:
Stacked pleats in centre back

I’m definitely much happier with this dress than with the first version of the pattern. I think the proportions are much better on my short round body, and the fabric drapes much more elegantly. I will probably make another one in a different fabric.

For details about the changes I made to the pattern, see below under the HSM challenge information.

New version front view 20160317FrontClose

Historical Sew Monthly Challenge details:

The Challenge: Challenge #2: Tucks & Pleats

Material: Block-print cotton, purchased on ebay. About 6.5 metres

Pattern: Significant adaptation of the drawstring gown from Sense and Sensibility’s Elegant Lady’s Closet.

Year: mid 1790s

Notions: white cotton for front lining and bias binding.

How historically accurate is it? Reasonably – the bodice is entirely handsewn. I did machine sew the skirt seams and the main seam attaching the bodice to the skirt, but everything else is handsewn.

Hours to complete: I didn’t count

First worn: For photographs. Will be worn at Jane Austen Festival Australia in April.

Total cost: About $40 for the fabric.

S&S Drawstring gown alterations

• Shortened front bodice length – very gentle curve from sides.
• Added to bodice width – total width at bottom edge of bodice of 43in/109cm
• Added 1inch to centre back measurement, sloping to 1/2inch at sides

  • Added c. 1 inch to side back bodice piece at top where it joins with back piece, so that the seam matches better.

• Added 1.5 inches to sleeve at top of underarm, grading out from top of sleeve for added fullness there.

• Shortened sleeves by 1.5 inches.
Alteration of sleeve pattern piece

• Three widths of fabric; one matched to front bodice, two for back skirt
• Back skirt – two panels, stacked pleats at centre back (1 inch pleats, overlapped for all but about 1/4inch)

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