Saturday, July 6, 2013

Assembling a Shortgown: The Great Authenticity Decision Plays Out

Assembling a shortgown is not hard.

It's pretty much three steps.

First, you set in the pleats on the back to fit it.

Pleats pinned in the back of the lining, before stitching
Detail--pinned pleats.  The pleats are the only exciting detail in this garment.  
So I'm going to picture-whore them.

Stitched pleats, before pressing

Then, you fold it over and stitch down the inside of the sleeves, under the arms, and down the sides in one fell swoop.  (Well, two swoops.  One per side.)

The side seam.  Do this twice, and you've got yourself a shortgown.

You repeat this on for the lining, then you join the lining to the outer fabric.  Easy-stinkin'-peasy.

Of course, I had to overthink the whole thing.  And you have to hear about it.

Extant shortgowns are, of course, handsewn. First the pleats were sewn in, then the garment folded in half at the shoulders and the seam that runs from the wrist, down the length of the arm, under the arm, and down the sides of the shortgown were sewn.  Then the lining was sewn in by whipstitching.

So--the Great Authenticity Decision.  Do I handsew or machine sew?

It should be noted that I do enjoy handsewing.  The Sky Blue Gown, my most recent adventure, was handsewn.  Handsewing is awesome.  But let's be frank--it typically takes longer.  And then my decision making took another turn...

Depending on the project, handsewing may or may not impact authenticity to the same degree.  Of course no sewing machines existed in 1778--so any 100% accurate garment would be 100% handsewn--but there is a big difference between the shortgown and the gown I recently made in terms of how sewing technique affects construction, and ultimately authenticity (and fit).  The shortgown is sewn much more like a modern garment--interior seams on both shell and lining completed and then the lining is attached.  Wham, bam, finished shortgown, ma'am.  The gown, on the other hand, is draped and sewn in stages necessitating the involvement of both lining and outer fabric, so you can't just whip them both up and then smack them together like you can with the shortgown.  So while one sacrifices elements of fit and authentic methodology to sew a gown on machine, one really doesn't when one throws a shortgown together.  In short--the seams on the shortgown can be stitched by hand or by machine and the garment doesn't change.  On the gown, they do.

I decided to sew the interior seams of the shortgown on machine without a second thought, because this is entirely unseen.  I debated about the lining--this part is seen and noticeable if one machine sews with the usual "bag lining" modern method.  And I surprised myself by deciding to machine sew it.  Why?  For one, I wanted to finish quickly.  Yes, I caved on that point.  But on another point, I realized that I am more confident in my handsewing than in machine sewing--the idea of topstitching was freaking me out a little because I knew I might muck it up!  So I decided to accept the challenge, sacrifice a little authenticity, and get the project done in one afternoon of sewing instead of a week or so of handsewing after the baby was in bed.

And the fabric?

It's the infamous Curtain-Along Fabric!  I missed the excitement last fall (Believe it or not, I was a tad busy with a newborn) but when I saw this (on sale, no less) at JoAnns, I figured it's pretty much the best thing going mass-market for the price for a project like this.  Perfect? No.  A darn good representation?  Heck, yes.

The final project, on Felicity:

The blue thing in the background is a toy whale.  In case you were wondering.

A simple, utilitarian garment to throw on when needed.  Done and done.