1780'S Pink Linen Gown

For those who may or may not know, back in late February/early March I did a program for Black History Month where I portrayed Sally Hemings. I performed in front of an audience and gave a narrative about her life in Paris and at Monticello. Since then I have been networking with several people, doing collaborations, and working on doing performances at certain events. When I did my first performance, I portrayed her during the time of the early 1820's (this was during the late regency period). But this time, I've decided to scale back on the time period. . . Thus the pink linen gown.

I wanted the character I portray to emulate the late 1780's fashion. So I did a LOT of homework. What would a domestic servant, or a maid wear around that time, what fabrics would be used, etc. I also had to think about dressed up or dressed down I wanted the gown to be? I watched two movies based off of Sally Hemings, "Jefferson in Paris" with Thandie Newton, and "Sally Hemings: An American Scandal" with Carman Ejojo. I looked carefully at both outfits the actresses portraying Sally wore during that time. In Paris, both Carmen and Thandie wore gowns that were either silk or cotton, however looking at Newtons' round gown, it proves more versatile and was popular in both Paris and the United States at that time. . . so the round gown was the winner.

Below is a comparison of what I could find  

Jefferson in Paris (Round Gown)

Sally Hemings: An American Scandal (Chemise La Reine?)


2 yards of muslin,  4 yards of pink linen fabric, and a J.P.Ryan Robe L'anglaise pattern later, I decided to construct most the gown by hand. The only challenge I had was making the round gown itself. Eventually I buckled under the frustrations of not getting the gown to look right, and decided to stay in my comfort zone and make another english gown; to dress it up a bit, I added trim around the neckline, which I'll show later. 

In the end, I am really pleased with how it looks. I especially like how I can choose to either bustle it or leave the skirt of the gown hanging. Everything worked out, however when I tried it on, it felt a bit stiff (I'm thinking the linen wasn't relaxed), so I decided to take it for a test run and wear it for a day at Mount Vernon. Overall, I think it's ready for the next performance. But for now, it's staying in the garment bag. 


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