Finished Project: The Polonaise Jacket Ensemble

This weekend my husband and I went to the Colonial Faire at Riley’s Farm in Oak Glen, CA.  We had been looking for an excuse to make ourselves 18th century costumes to wear there, so it was really exciting to finally have an excuse!  These were started months ago (between his and mine), but we finished them up the day before the event.  Phew!  It’s hard to fit in BIG PROJECTS lately, but I’m so glad we did!

There’s some debate about 18th century polonaises, and I don’t really want to get into that on my blog, since I’m by no means an expert.  What I mean when I say “polonaise” jacket is that I did a jacket the fell loosely from the front, with no waist seam anywhere.  That means I tucked and pleated my way to a fit I liked.  It was quite an interesting concept, and one I had not attempted before.  In fact, I’ve only done a handful of 18th century costumes before this, and most of them were more dependent on “style” than accuracy. So this was new territory for me!

First I made a Pinterest board for Polonaises.


1785 Musee Galliera

And then I made a Pinterest board for 18th century jackets.

dff11da99e9dc6110946e12094759678 Gallerie des Modes, 1780.

I kind of smashed the two ideas together, and that’s what I used as my idea for my outfit.


My idea was also strongly based upon an image from the Modes en Miroir exhibition catalog from the Musee Galliera, which showed clever pleating/tucks as a way to obtain shape in the front of the jacket, without the addition of a waist seam.

The reason I chose a jacket was because I was very limited with my fabric.  I obtained a few cotton indienne print style curtains from a Facebook vintage fabric group from Marilyn in Monroe Vintage Clothing.  I was SO excited when they got here and I started tearing them apart to soak, because they were actually by Shumacher!  Exciting!  They were super dirty, though, so needed a good long soak.


They cleaned up very well, though!  I used Restoration soak.  (make sure it’s color fast! I just kind of ruined another vintage interior fabric by not checking first).


Next, the mad cutting.  I didn’t make a mock up at all, since I knew my 18th century Gala dress still fit well.  I based it upon that, and laid it out like this, referencing the Cut of Women’s Clothes for layout.


And then I started seaming it together.  Can you believe that matching?  Check out the way I cut it out, above, and you’ll see that was entirely an accident.  Awesome!


And more piecing with the lining (and a kitty)


And a few nights later, it looked something like this.


While on the form, I smoothed and tucked, and smoothed and tucked.  Then pulled it all out and started over.  And then did it again.  I finally got something I liked, and then I stitched it down by hand (not catching the center front bodice, of course!  This was meant to fall free from the body.  It’s not the most figure flattering style out there).


And then it got straps and sleeves, and I fiddled with the sleeve pleats.  I’m SO GLAD I had already figured this out when I made my gala dress, because it was a lot faster the second time around.


And then I roughly figured out how short I wanted the jacket, and chopped all the excess length off!  That length became the ruffles.


So I ruffled and ruffled and ruffled.  About this time I gave up hemming everything that showed by hand, because I was running out of time!


And then I pinned on the trim, readjusted.  Looked at it, walked away.  Pinned it again and eventually settled on it, and the next few nights after work were spent hand sewing trim on, and adding the tucks to my bodice sleeves.

I finished up the skirt (It was too short! Wah!  I’ll have to see if I have enough for a few inches of ruffles), and it was done!



You can kind of see how the “polonaise” cut makes it not fit very close at the sides.  That’s intentional and comes with the territory of this style.  But I’m proud of my pleating :)


I wore a hat I bought at one of the very first Costume Colleges I attended, back in the early 2000’s.  This was my first time wearing it!  I knew I’d get around to doing an 18th century dress that would match it eventually :)


And I wore my antique cameo that I thrifted with it.  You can also catch a glimpse of the little buttons I covered to accent the front.


It’s really fun to wear, and I’m sure I’ll bring it to Costume College with me.  I’ll just try to add a few inches in ruffled hem before then, if I have enough fabric :)

This meets a challenge for The Historical Sew Fortnightly, so here’s the info:

What the item is (and why it was out of your comfort zone): 18th century polonaise jacket ensemble

The Challenge: #6- Out of Your Comfort Zone

Fabric:vintage cotton curtains.

Pattern: my own

Year: 1780s

Notions: rings for covered buttons

How historically accurate is it? I’m not sure- it has machine sewing in some parts and most of it was my own invention, so we’ll say it looks period from a distance, but I probably wouldn’t pass a close accuracy inspection ;)

Hours to complete:too many!  Seriously, probably 25+

First worn: July 11, 2015 to Riley’s Farm Colonial Faire :)

Total cost: about $35 for the curtains + shipping, and a few odd bits that were in the stash

4 Comments on Finished Project: The Polonaise Jacket Ensemble

  1. Stacey Rizzo
    July 13, 2015 at 2:12 pm (6 years ago)

    I am beyond impressed!!! Speechless actually!!! This is soooooooo fabulous….and to think it all started with vintage drapes I saved! Who would’ve ever imagined?

  2. eimear
    July 14, 2015 at 1:52 am (6 years ago)

    gosh you have been busy, i only just finished reading your other post………..that was amazing and now this fabulous creation!, the fabric is perfect (i adore the photo with hat). amazing. i am definitely taking norah waugh of the bookshelf later

  3. bonita
    July 17, 2015 at 10:12 pm (6 years ago)

    Oooh, so pretty! Every time I see your amazing outfits I am seriously impressed by not only how much work goes into historical costuming, but also how elegant and beautiful your outfits look in the end. Such a fantastic fabric, and I think the polonaise looks great on you, it’s a very stunning piece of work. ❤

    bonita of Lavender & Twill

  4. brigidboyer
    July 21, 2015 at 10:20 am (6 years ago)

    This is such a beautiful ensemble Lauren! Just gorgeous!