A flower hat for my chemise a la reine

I figured I needed a hat when I frolick in the sun for my chemise a la reine photoshoot. (Any weekend now…, really.)

But since the gown is so color-neutral and I didn’t want to stick white silk on a altered 5 dollar hat for an all cotton costume, I let myself be inspired by this particular hat:

Elisabeth of France, Vigee-Lebrun

Élisabeth Louise Vigée-Lebrun. Detail from Madame Elisabeth, 1782.

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The Chemise a la reine is finished

IMG_0090 First I finished the front-lacing stays. They are entirely stiffened with plastic boning, bound by hand in linen bias tape and lined with cotton after the binding. All lacing holes were with hand-stitching. So hypothetically, it should by entirely washable since there is nothing that could possible rust. Drying might be take a while though… IMG_0098 I abonded the  backlacing when I realized that I would lace it edge to edge in the back anyway. This is by the way period, even though rare but not unheard of in surviving stays. IMG_0103 I also finished my organza petticoat (not pictured.) So the chemise itself… I ran into some problems there. The whole sleeves/back/shoulder strap part of the dress is closely fitted. Any actual chemise I might want to wear under it has to be very fine. And in fact, the sleeves had to be pieced with a third part to make them wider. (The addition goes from the shoulder pit to the inner wrist, so it’s practically invisible.)

That stays’ strap is actually not supposed to show….

That stays’ strap is actually not supposed to show….

I pretty much used up all my fabric but enough remained to make the sash out the same fabric and self-fabric buttons. There were never any plans to make a ruffled collar anyway even though it would cover a few sins. I tempted to make one to see if it really sucks as much as I think it would but that would be just weird, right? IMG_0093 All visible stitiching was made by hand, everything else by machine. I did take the comment to heart that the Manchester Art Gallery Chemise has hardly seam allowance (which considering the sheerness of the fabric makes sense), so gave all my fabric pieces rolled hems (by machine obviously) before stitching them together as close to the hem edge as possible.  What I totally failed at is photographing myself in appropriate surrounding. This will come later… as usual.


This is what happens when you miss the golden hour and end up with a night shoot….

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….)