Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Engageantes? What are those?

I started backwards on the dress…

I didn’t jump in to the dress construction right away.  I started with the accessories. Huh?

“Why?” you may ask.

Well, thank you for asking.

I was kind of putting off doing the stays, which intimidated me. And I couldn’t do the dress until I made the stays.

So I started with the accessories.

First up:
Engageantes (or sleeve ruffles)

(Close up of a painting from the MET)

These sleeve ruffles were made of lace like this one from the MET:

or fine embroidered cotton like these from LACMA:

They were basted to the end of the sleeve and were removed for cleaning or switching to a new dress.

They are cut in a wavy pattern and the ends are stitched together. Then the top is gathered and basted to the end of the sleeve. The skinny part fits in the crook of the elbow. The long part hangs down in the back.

Most of the ones that I’ve seen on the museum web sites appear to be around 39-44” long and around 8-9 inches wide at the widest part. By the 1770s they had multiple layers, 2 or 3. I decided to make mine with 2 layers. A 9” wide one and a smaller one about 6-7” wide. 

I thought about getting a pre-embroidered cotton and making the ruffles out of that. But I *really* wanted lace. Such beautiful silk taffeta deserves it, but I figured that I’d never find a good enough lace for a price I could afford. The lace had to be at least 9” wide. And it had to be soft and drapey. Most lace today is stiff and scratchy. And I needed about 4-5 yards.

Then I decided to try searching for cotton lace on etsy and I found this:


Looks soft enough to gather.
Seller says it’s soft. Seller says it’s cotton (probably with a synthetic background, though). The pattern is a little heavier than most 18th century examples I’ve seen, but not outrageously so. I honestly know next to nothing about lace, but it looks good to me.

And it was only $12 for 2.5 yards.

So I took a chance and ordered 5 yards.

I waited for the shipping from China, tracking it all the way.

Then it finally came!

Wait…”that package is too small for that much lace” was my first thought.
But it wasn’t. The lace was just THAT soft and drapey that it was folded up into a very small envelope.

You just can’t believe how soft and flowy this stuff is!

Here's what it looked like finished.

The lace may not be exactly period, but aren’t they yummy?


  1. Beautiful! Did you use a pattern or just make your own?

  2. I just made my own pattern. I cut the pieces to the right length and then cut the top edge in a wave shape. I cut the ends to the smallest measurement (say 6") and curved it upward so that the longest measurement (9") was in the middle of the piece of lace. Then I sewed the small ends together & gathered the top edge. Did the same thing a second time, but made the wave 4" to 7" high. Hope that makes sense.

  3. By the way, thanks for the first comment ever on my costume blog! I really didn't expect anyone but my family to look at it. :)

  4. I'm going to have to make myself a pair of these here soon for the 18th century court-a-long dress. I've been checking out all the lacey fabrics in the bridal section, since regular lace was never going to be wide enough. I'd yet to find that perfect combination of thin enough, wide enough and not so glaringly synthetic. I hadn't thought about checking Etsy. Thanks for the tip.