My latest project was born from the necessity of wanting to wear a white gown with a train to an event that will involve walking out of doors and dancing at a ball. I knew from literary references that 19th century women also had to deal with trains. In Chapter 5 of Northanger Abbey author Jane Austen describes this very issue as she describes the closeness of friends Catherine and Isabella…
“They called each other by their Christian name, were always arm in arm when they walked, pinned up each other’s train for the dance, and were not to be divided in the set…”
I had worn this dress to a ball on a previous occasion and like Catherine and Isabella, I tried to pin up the bottom of the train to facilitate dancing, but it looked horrible, kept falling down, and made dancing difficult if not downright dangerous. I had to find another way to pin the train. I was discussing the issue with a friend and she suggested that I polonaise the gown.
The mistake I was making was that I was trying to pin from the bottom of the dress, when what I needed to do was gather and button the fabric higher up the back of the dress. The following pictures show how and where we pinned the train for a polonaise. It is important that as you pin the train up you make sure that the hem lines up evenly with the front of the dress.
Next I made 3 loops out of twill tape to use to button up the fabric.
Finally, I sewed the buttons and loops on the gown. I made sure that the thread was an exact match to the fabric so the stitching would be virtually invisible from the outside of the gown.
Here is the finished project, a polonaised train. I love how the fabric hangs in soft billowy folds, it adds a note of elegance to the gown.
And here is the gown unpinned with the train hanging loose.
Now I can leave my train down if I am not available to dance, and pin it up if I want to join in a set or go for a turn about the gardens.