18th c. Fichu – Corner Options

I’m working on the 18th c. fichu from the Met this weekend, designing a corner (or maybe two) and some engageantes to match the border and tapered end I created in August. This involves a bit of guesswork, since there is only one view of the fichu on the museum’s website, and no information about the exact shape or proportions of the original.

It’s long – long enough to wrap around to the back of the mannequin, at any rate, and that would take 60+ inches on my tiny dress form. I think it looks long and rectangular rather than triangular, but again, I’m really just guessing. It would have to be a full square folded in half in order for the two embroidered edges to be folded to the outside, so I would expect a lot of fullness through the shoulders. I’d also expect to see more of the fichu behind her arms, since that is where the bulk of the triangle would be. Instead, it seems similarly full around the bust and the waist, and not as sharply tapered as a triangle would be. Of course, there’s really no way to tell for sure without more photos.

For the 10′ long fichu I made for Costume College, I embroidered a long rectangle that was tapered at the ends, something like the sketch below. This reduced some bulk over my chest and around my waist, where I already have plenty of fluff. After wearing it, I’m not entirely convinced it’s the right shape, since I felt like it was tight around my shoulders and kept riding up in back. Perhaps the original was more curved? I have seen later period fichus in roughly this shape, so it could also just be that it needed to be longer for my size.

18th c. fichu with tapered ends


Regardless of how this exact fichu is shaped, there are plenty of examples with a square corner at center back, so that would be a perfectly reasonable choice for anyone making a reproduction 18th c. fichu today. However, without seeing the back, I have to guess at what that possible corner might look like. First off, it needs to repeat with the border design without looking awkward or overlapping too much. I’m currently playing with two ways of doing this.

One is a small corner, just big enough to squeeze between the flowers in the border, with a couple extra sprigs to fill in the space. This allows the direction of the border to turn the corner and keep going, which would be nice on a handkerchief or an apron.



Another option is to create a mirrored corner that would be a nice focal point for the back of a fichu. For this option, I built a central piece and reflected the border on each side of it.


So what do you think? Would you use the smaller corner or the larger corner? Both? Or something else I haven’t thought of? Now’s the time to let me know!

This design will also include the narrow tapered corner and a pair of engageantes, so you could make a matching set of 18th c. fichu, apron, handkerchief, and engageantes, or any combination of those.

This will be a custom order design, but I will only be able to take a limited number of long fichus or sets. I’m still thinking about those options, but I already know I want to offer one 10′ long beauty like I made for myself. Newsletter subscribers will get first dibs, so sign up now if you aren’t already on the list. Smaller items like handkerchiefs and engageantes will most likely be in the shop year round.

Please let me know when this design is in the shop! 

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