The elaborate fashions that define 18th style are certainly a sight to behold, but far from practical for daily life. Fabric was expensive and the complicated styles of fashionable gowns had to be made by trained seamstresses, making them far too expensive for the average woman to own. That was just as well, since the average woman would have found it rather difficult to raise her large family, tend her small farm, and help her husband with his trade while wearing a fancy gown.
The mid-18th century saw the emergence of what we now refer to as the shortgown, a casual jacket-like garment that seems to have developed from the longer bedgown worn earlier in the century. It was generally cut out of one piece of fabric and then fitted to the body with pleats, drawstrings, or a combination of the two. They required minimal sewing skills, for contrary to popular thought, not every woman from this time period was an adept seamstress. Shortgowns were usually fastened in the front with pins or drawstrings, not buttons, and an apron tied on over it helped to keep it shut. Designed for comfort and economy, shortgowns were usually made from fabrics such as wool, linen, or linsey woolsy, which was a combination of the two fibers. More well-to-do women used hand printed cotton, an expensive luxury fabric at the time, and dressed up their shortgowns with extra pleats, cuffs, and trims to make them more elegant. Loose, comfortable, and economical, shortgowns were the denim shirts of the day - workhorses with a touch of class.
This PDF pattern by Thimbles and Acorns is perfect for beginning seamstresses as it requires only very basic sewing experience. It includes instructions for two styles of shortgowns, a petticoat, an apron, a neckerchief, and a cap. Each item is made from one pattern piece so it goes together quickly and easily. Even better, the design is a miniature history lesson as it is based on original 18th century designs. Once downloaded, it can be printed on standard 8-1/2" x 11" paper.
This pattern is available in four sizes that can be purchased individually for $8.99 or you can purchase this complete bundle for all four dolls - American Girl, Dress-a-Doll, A Girl For All Time, Gotz and Kidz n Cats Doll for $10.99.
Suggested Fabrics: Shortgown, Petticoat, and Apron in lightweight cotton, linen, silk, or wool. Plain or striped fabrics were most common. Choose soft muted tones because there were no chemical dyes in the 18th century bright colors were unavailable. Choose period prints with images no larger than 1-inch. Not suitable for knits. Cap and Neckerchief in lightweight cotton batiste, Swiss dot, voile, or handkerchief linen. Not suitable for knits.
View A & B Shortgown ~ 1/2 yard (1/2 m),
View A & B Shortgown Lining ~ 1/2 yard (1/2 m).
Petticoat ~ 1/3 yard (1/3 m).
Apron ~ 12-inch (30 cm) square piece.
Neckerchief ~ 15-inch (28 cm) square piece.
Cap ~ 12 x 8-inch (30 x 20 cm) piece.
Note: Fabric amounts are generous; most items can be cut from leftover pieces of fabric.
Notions: Thread. View A Shortgown ~ 2 yards 1/8-inch (3 mm) wide twill tape or ribbon. View B Shortgown ~ 2 small snaps. Petticoat ~ 1 yard 1/8-inch (3 mm) twill tape or ribbon. Apron ~ 2/3 yard (2/3 m) 1/8-inch (3 mm) twill tape or ribbon.
Skill Level: Beginner
What You Get: One 26 page sewing pattern that you digitally download as a PDF file so you can start your project immediately! The PDF sewing pattern provides digitally drawn step-by-step illustrated instructions and full size pattern pieces. A PDF reader is required to view and print the files (example: Adobe Reader or Preview for MAC). The download link is received immediately after the transaction is complete. Print copies are NOT available
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I have Made both versions numerous times and it is a great pattern. The only issue I have had is on version b I am nevery happy with how the pleat lies on the inside and there is no mention of it in the pattern.
Pattern was easy to follow and adaptable. My granddaughter and I finished the outfit in an afternoon and evening and dressed her American Girl doll for a school project due the following Monday. Thank you!
This is an excellent pattern for a beginner sewer. The pieces are easy to sew and don't require piecing or setting in of sleeves. There are 2 different options for closing the gown itself with a tie or with snaps. Many of the techniques learned in sewing this outfit can be used to make more difficult patterns.
I am very pleased everytime I see my daughter’s 18” American Girl doll dressed in her complete outfit from Pixie Faire’s Shortgown Bundled Pattern. There were definitely challenges along the way. Watch for Error: the list at the start of the pattern calls for 1/3 yd of ribbon for the cap, but Step 36 makes it clear that the cap requires 2/3 yd. Also be aware that the finished product has ties that do not appear in the photos. Perhaps the jackets in the photos use hook-and-eye closures instead of twill tape or ribbon. The jacket design also requires one to use a seam ripper to open several stitches in a number of places to allow for the passage of tape or ribbon through the casings. Unfortunately, my fabric didn’t like this and I found it impossible to locate the stitches. The result was that I cut the fabric instead of the stitches. My preference would’ve been not to sew over certain spots to begin with. Mostly this was a delightful project and I found the pattern easy to follow, despite being a novice at sewing.
Too costly for what you set in the pattern. I don't need the history lesson material to sew the dresses.