judicial, legal dress, sewing

⚖️ Can you Imagine Sewing a Lawyer’s Robe? (Pt 2)

This owl dolly barrister is mine & stands at about 17 inches tall. It is a vintage London Owl Company barrister. You can see he wears his pinstripe grey trousers & black waistcoat with watch chain. He is wearing court dress so has the white legal collar, ties or bands & the black robe or gown. Of course he needs his round spectacles.  The body is a wire frame with brown faux fur fabric. His face is made from real feathers around his eyes.



So, here we are, continuing on from Pt 1 – Can you Imagine Sewing a Lawyer’s Robe?

Sewing to Distraction




Time Stitch – Cartridge pleating


Stiffening the pleats via Snape Construction


Civic and Municipal Robes



An academic robe? Located this pattern for a gown suitable for an academic robe which could be adjusted as a barristers robe.

For a site brim full of designs and ideas on costuming check out The Costumers Manifesto. The Facebook page is worth a visit also.

A fabulously informative blog on historical garment making including complex design elements in legal gowns is Fondness for Frocks.



Fondness for Frocks – Ede and Ravenscroft





Cartridge Pleating – Fondness for Frocks


The finished Mayor’s robe


On the Mayor’s robes 128 cm worth of cloth is pleated into 32cm and then sewn to the yoke. I have been really excited to learn how to cartridge pleat because when you look at historic garments they so often have cartridge pleats on the waistline and so it is a valuable skill to learn.

Graham taught us that cartridge pleats are made by doing rows of running stitches that are an equal distance apart. When these are gathered you tie off the ends so they are tightly pleated. To make the pleats thicker we could experiment with wadding to bulk up the pleats.

To attach to the yoke you catch the edge of each pleat to he design line of the yoke. Each pleat will need 2 stitches to make it secure.

We calculated that 128cm of back fabric needs to be pleated onto 32cm of yoke. 128/32= 4. Therefore for every 1cm on the yoke we need to fit 4cm pleated in the back.





Intricate pleating and gathering.


Fondness for Frocks


The gathering and pleating used to make the cartridge pleat in historic garments is a fundamental design feature in the barristers robe. Looks like a type of smocking.





Constructing Toile – Fondness for Frocks


Here’s Fondness for Frocks’ Bibliography listing ongoing research into the robes and sources used throughout the project. Updated periodically.




More on historical costuming, ideas and inspiration here.


A History of Legal Dress in Europe Until End of Eighteenth Centuryby W.N. Hargreaves-Mawdsley(Author)

A companion to History of Academical Dress in Europe until the End of the 18th century by Hargreaves-Mawdsley, W. N. is his (1963) book A History of Legal Dress in Europe until the end of the 18th century Oxford: Clarendon Press. It covers subjects like: Judges — Clothing Lawyers — Clothing Lawyers — Costume Judges — Costume Lawyers — Clothing — Europe — History. As expected it’s out of print.








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