In an age before preprinted patterns, dressmakers would look at the illustration of a gown in a fashion plate or magazine and make a pattern based on the picture. If they were lucky, a fashion doll (not unlike Barbie,for so many of us!) would be available wearing a small representation of the fashionable style, which the seamstress could then study to better understand the construction of the gown. “Draping a Toile” was the term used when the seamstress created a pattern by simply draping and pinning inexpensive fabric to create a sample of the dress, from which the actual gown can be made. A “toile” was simply the mock up of the gown before it was finished.
The following pattern should be attempted only by experienced sewers. The illustration shows a blue and white striped silk gown with velvet appliqué. It is possible to make this with the included pattern– but only after enlarging it (click on the pattern to see it full size, and ready to print) to the size indicated…and “draping a toile”. So go ahead– what are you waiting for? Create a dress the way Jane Austen’s would have been made!
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