Pet-en-l'air or thé Robe à la Française?

I haven't been doing much sewing lately, mostly due to my job and being super tired and un-interested in doing much of anything except eating and sleeping after I get home. But when I do have enough energy, I like to look around Pinterest at 18th century silk dresses. Their beauty and construction is a huge shock and awe to me, especially the beautiful and very time consuming Robe à la Française, aka "the saque gown".

I recall at an event last year, where the saque gown was pretty popular. They looked so elegant and yet at the same time such a challenge to make for someone who has only sewing 101 under her belt, that I often thought whenever the opportunity to make the dress came up, that maybe I should set it aside for when I'm a little more skilled at sewing vintage or more complicated patterns like this. Or go to a workshop that teaches how to make one. But sadly, classes like that are in Colonial Williamsburg, and since I live in the Baltimore area, it's too far a trip. So, I'll have to learn as I go.

Anyway, I've decided to go with the J.P. Ryan pattern and with the advice from a few friends, I've picked the Pet-en-l'air or what I like to call the "mini Française." I feel that it'll be a little easier, and make great practice so I will get a good feel of the pattern, and eventually have enough experience and the confidence with making a full gown.

Fabric-wise, this is where I'm most torn. I am stuck on 3 options: 

  • Rose Pink silk taffeta, which is about $15 a yard from Burnley & Towbridge
  • My left over Waverley fabric from my curtain along last year
  • Cotton bedsheet set from Wal-Mart for $4

While the el-cheapo sheets from Wal-Mart may be a good start for this project (in the event I mess up on my first try), it wouldn't look natural like the dresses I've seen floating around Pinterest or at the 18th century balls I've attended. So, I think for now, I may just settle with using what's left of my Waverley fabric, and still get the silk taffeta and use it for when I'm finally ready for the full gown. 

I also would love to learn how to make the trim… my God, the detail on this!


  1. Use either the cotton bedsheet or the leftovers - You'll feel free to play a bit more with those than you would with the silk taffeta.

  2. I had a feeling that would be the best idea. I have so much of the leftover Waverley, that I don't mind using it up.


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