A fun thing I’ll probably never do again

I did finish a few things (stays, organza petticoat) so I started on the Chemise a la Reine.

But since I am not a fan of a voluminous back, I wanted a fitted one. The only extant 1780s Chemise gown that has that 1780s look and a fitted back is Madame Oberkampf’s in the Musée de la Toile de Jouy:

The only picture I could find of the back. It does not get bigger, no matter how much you stare.

The only picture I could find of the back. It does not get bigger, no matter how much you stare.

Of course it has an additional drawstring closure under the boobage area and a skirt flounce, both features I would call “optional”. Otherwise, I am also a huge fan of the sleeves, especially since the pattern is identical to Janet Arnold’s front zone gown pattern in Revolution in Fashion.

But let’s talk about the back.

It has the shape of a typical anglaise/polonaise/open gown except with a twenty more pleats thrown in.

So in order to have that shape and those pleats I figured that I might need a lining in the right shape upon which the pleats are pleated. So I made a lining based on a anglaise lining, keeping all hems and seam allowance nice and clean since my fashion fabric is so see-through that I have to wear the lining’s seams on the inside of the gown.

Then I cut my fashion fabric, adjusting the back – which is basically a widely-drawn version of my lining shape – and then rolled hemmed everything, to get the world smallest hems and seam allowances.

Then I started pinning the back.


I was super fond of that look, reminds me of a seashell.

And then I did the fun thing I’ll probably never do again which incidentally I have not seen anyone else doing either. I did look at other people’s chemise gowns and while there have been some fitted backs, no one has sewed down every single pleat with top stitching.


But then this is obviously what was done with Madame Oberkampf’s wedding dress – nothing else would get that look. I think – I am working on a hypothesis based on one crappy picture. Conjecture might be the word of the day.

Anyway, after a break I started on the front. I turned over the top hem to get the top casing channel:


Then I was puzzled on how to proceed. I drew my drawstring into the channel and then… surprise… gravity hit. I wanted a fairly equal distribution of the folds. Instead the fabric seemed to tend to the center which was both hyper-critical (it was a slight tendency!) and annoying.

(There is a point in doing this where I look at other people’s chemise gowns “just a bit of fabric and bit of string…” and wonder if I am over thinking this.)

I ended up doing a lot of things, none of which struck me as the most logical thing to do, just the only thing that seemed to work for me and then sewed down the top fold up to nearly the center:


But it starts to look like a real chemise gown, so something must be going right. (Except I already know where things will probably go pear-shaped….)

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