Thursday, March 25, 2010

Engageantes... the fancy term for the frothy, poufy, elaborate, and/or ruffle-splosion at the sleeve ends of eighteenth-century gowns. You're probably familiar with them: they're almost as ubiquitous as the wide-hipped paniers and the flowy pleates of the saque-back for indicating eighteenth-century-wear.

I've never been so fond of them. For one, that's a heck of a lot of fluff. I don't really do fluff. For another, I portray a middling sort--my best ballgown might have more frills, but on a daily basis I really don't need that much, well, fluff getting in the way. But I've been making nicer things lately, and nothing ups the ante of a gown quicker than adding a few choice details (and a bum roll). Over-the-top fluff is, of course, optional.

Plus, they're not all lace. I had associated them with flowing lace for so long that I'd overlooked the lovely whitework and plain linen versions. A few examples of variations on a theme:

Not, you understand, that I have a whole lot against lace. But I do have a mindset when it comes to eighteenth century clothing that, if I can't find a reasonable fascimile in reproduction/modern fabrics or notions, I shan't touch it at all. Lace is generally like this. Eighteenth-century lace was handmade with fine silk threads and has lovely drape, nothing like most modern lace, which is not only generally stiffly synthetic but also generally done in patterns not used in the eighteenth century. Like big, fat cabbage roses. But I digress.

I had avoided engageantes to avoid lace, and decided that there was no reason I couldn't spice up my latest caraco with simple pleated linen. Fruits of labor forthcoming--one double-layer linen engageante and the accomapanying printed cotton one that matches the gown is finished.

There's a bit of disparity over whether engeageantes are attached to shift sleeves or gown sleeves. I've decided that it's most likely, as is much else with fashion, a case of any, either, or both, with individuals doing what worked best for them. In my case, I don't want every gown having a cascade of ruffle, so I'll be attaching to this gown only. Making things like this detachable, of course, was a wise eighteenth-century move: you could pull the fancy bits off for laundering and not worry that you'd get your shift back from the laundress with froth detached.

Now to hem and pleat the second engageante, attach both to to the sleeves, and trim! Pictures soon...


Connie said...

Would they have had cotton lace? I've used cotton lace for baby things or my own blouses. It's so soft and drapes fairly well.

Can't wait to see the photos.

Lua said...

I’m definitely not a "fluff" kind of girl, but for some reason I LOVE Engageantes :) They look so elegant and super feminine…
I can’t wait for the pictures!

Rowenna said...

Good thought, Connie--I'll keep an eye out. It's also the challenge of finding "period correct" patterns...makes it fun :)

Lua--I know, right? Why do we not have things like that on modern clothes?