So what is a polonaise?
From Encyclopedia Britannica, Fashion Era, and the pattern company, Buckaroo Bobbins:
This item of clothing has changed in appearance and function over the years. It originally began as a coatlike dress worn by Polish women in 1770s and 1780s. As you can tell from the pattern above, the bodice is fitted and the dress has 2 skirts. A full skirt is connected to the fitted bodice and is draped in such a way to create 3 "loops." This is usually accomplished by draping the skirt from the waist and pulled up at the sides in back. The theory behind this draping technique was maids would pick up the sides of their skirt and tuck them into their pockets to allow them to complete their work easily. The underskirt is sometimes called a petticoat but it is often decorated and displayed prominently. The polonaise was revived in the 1870s and 1880s. The top skirt was very full in the rear and supported by a bustle, which sometimes looks like a crescent moon-shaped pillow situated over the rear. The full sides of the skirt are called paniers. The bodice is worn snugly over a corset or if you are a "loose" woman, no corset! (Shh, don't tell Nancy.)
Nancy's polonaise sent me on a hunt for fine fabrics in some of the lesser known fabric stores in Memphis. Sure, we've got Hancock's and JoAnn's but I need fine cottons and silks. We have TONS of home dec shops around here but very little in the way of fashion fabrics. An inexpensive option for silks would be to order from Thai Silks but Nancy doesn't want to mess with ordering fabric sight unseen. This is a worry as we need 11-15 yards for the polonaise and skirt. How often do you see 11 or more yards on a bolt in the store? The Memphis Yellow Pages that was recently delivered to my door was useful for once. Lace Cottage and A Frayed Knot sells fabrics for heirloom sewing, smocking, etc. More expensive than ordering online but the prices are fair and they both sell Fabric Finders, which is almost always 60-inches wide!
I trekked out to A Frayed Knot last week. For all those in Memphis looking for fine cottons, you don't want to skip this place. I didn't get to meet the owner because she had just stepped out but her husband was very helpful. You won't find this gem of a store in a shopping center. It occupies the back of the house but it is packed full of goodies from floor to ceiling. I found some great hand sewing needles that you can't find locally. I also found some Wash Away Wonder Tape, also hard to come by. Almost every bolt in her store is 60-inches wide and tons of yardage per bolt. Most of the nice cottons are $10-$15/yard. Some of the fine batistes were $20+/yard and all the silks start at $25/yard.
I liked Lace Cottage but don't see myself buying anything but an occasional trim from there. The fabrics are about $5 more per yard than A Frayed Knot. Also, they don't have as many fabrics. All their trims are hidden away in books but they do have quite a selection of lace trims (those are the only ones I asked to see). Again, the trims are pricey in my opinion; $6-$10/yard for most. I didn't see any sewing notions laying around either.
Nancy wants a blue, just about any blue for her polonaise dress. I was thinking of using a darker, solid blue until I found THE fabric. A light blue with 1/2-inch stripes of a darker blue just spoke to me. It hadn't even occurred to me use stripes but after a quick internet search of "striped polonaise dress," I was convinced.
My favorite example of a striped polonaise is from ModeHistorique.
Here are a few other examples:
- Stahlroses Robe a la Polonaise by HistoricCostume
- c. 1789 robe a la polonaise from a private collection
- Green striped polonaise at Tayloropolis
The skirt will be a darker blue. I would love to play with changing the direction of the stripes on the sleeves and on the finished edge of the polonaise.
I'm a little stuck on the buttons. There are 36-48 shank buttons, depending on which neckline you use. I'm leaning towards the V-neck.
I'd like to use something a little dressy but I can't find an example to get an idea. Picking out buttons has always been really tough for me. All the button examples I could find are covered buttons and there are only 10-20 of them.
Victorian 1882 Silk Wedding Gown
There are a ton of notions for this dress. Thankfully, Nancy is purchasing a bustle. One less thing to make.
This dress linked below is the only good example of a polonaise dress with lace but it's a bit difficult to see the lace. (Check out her other dresses. Very pretty!)
JulieGale.net Polonaise Dress c. 1880
Hmm.... Lots to think about.