V&A Open Robe: Decorative Work
I've been thinking the past couple of weeks about how to embellish my silk Open Robe. The original V&A robe is outlined in some sort of gold, braided rope. Even though I think gold, braided rope would look lovely against the gold-shot silk I used for my gown, I am not about to pay the price for a notion like that. Another option is fur...umm, that's out too. And then there's embroidery...not for me, I'm too heavy handed. I looked for fringe, but everything I found reminded me too much of upholstery. I thought about trimming my robe with ribbon in a contrasting color. That would be one way ladies of the day decorated their open robes. But, that would also cost a pretty penny if I were to purchase the silk, or velvet ribbon that is correct for an evening gown of the mid to late 1790's. After all, I would need at least 4 yards, maybe 5 yard of trim to complete my robe.
(An example of a mid 18th century gown with ruching. From the Kyoto Costume Institute )
In the end, I chose a "free," and I think delicately beautiful way of trimming my robe. Ruching. I say it's "free" because I used the scraps from my robe fabric. Obviously, I initially bought the fabric, I know...but, I used scraps that were either too small, or strangely shaped and couldn't be used for any kind of garment piece. I would have just thrown them away, so this was a way of recycling these bit of fabric. During most of the 18th century, ruching was a very common 18th century technique. Strips of fabric were cut into varying widths, pinked along the edges, pleated or gathered length ways and applied to the bodices and skirts of day and evening wear alike.
( I think that's ruching trim on the robe on the left. This image was found on Dames a la Mode. )
However, when the simplified, classical inspired fashions of the late Georgian or Regency era came along, heavy ruching went out of style. But there are examples of extant garments, and fashion plates of gowns (mostly evening wear or full dress) with delicately gathered, thin strips of fabric applied as trim.
Last Saturday, while enjoying a Harry Potter movie watching marathon with my dear friend Laura, I pinked tiny 1 inch wide strips of scrap fabric, and hand gathered them into bits of ruched trim. After a 9 hour movie watching marathon, I only had enough to trim about half of my gown. Not to despair, I have more scrap fabric. There is going to be a LOT of piecing involved. Thankfully, I have two weeks left until the Jane Austen Festival Ball where I will be wearing this robe. I'm going to be gathering bits of fabric every spare moment I have. I know my pinking shears aren't exactly the correct shape...they cut little triangles, rather than small scalloped shapes.... but they will have to do. I doubt the average person would be able to tell, right.
Anyway, besides the ruching, the robe is finished. Here's a small hint of what it looks like.