How I finished my robe à la française

The gown that inspired me, is described by its museum asthe apogee of the form [of the robe à la française].

That description alone made this gown such an ambitious project. It intimidated me and it still does. But it also challenged me. I am doing a court gown out of lampas silk for the same reason – if I spend so much time on a project… why not go all out?

 

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Unfortunately was the best front view photo the one with the dumbest facial expression.

 

So how was it made….

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An update on the Francaise

It’s been a while and I have been somewhat productive. I finished the sleeves, pinked 35 yards of trim armed with nothing but a pair of pinking scissors and fray check, re-did an element of the sleeves because it didn’t look right, and finally applied all that yardage to my gown. For obvious reasons – this took some serious time.

The result is that aside from the stomacher trim and the petticoat, there is nothing left to do. This sounds like “nearly finished” except the petticoat has some serious yardage of pinked trim and a few parts of the stomacher trim are strange enough that I am still not sure how to do them.

But in better news I finished my first death head button!

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Fun with a 1/2 inch button mould.

I used every trick in the book to make this one happen and it’s really nice. I am tempted to do these outside of 18th Century reenactment stuff to spruce up regular clothes but I think it would be helpful to finish the five I need for this before planning other things.

The Francaise, the Fifth

I took ages to finish the stomacher. Not only has this thing a hook and eye closure, it also turned out to be too large. This is weird since it was the same stomacher that I used on the pet en l’air. But I think the Francaise requires the stomacher to sit higher at the bottom and thus it sat way too high on my chest area.

Just to give you idea how much time I spend on that stomacher – I binged-listened to 8 episodes of 50-minutes-an-episode tv show. (Although that might have slowed me down a bit.)

I also did the ties that hold up the train if the terrain makes it necessary.

So basically I finished the base Francaise. What I have is entirely wearable if a bit too plain.

But to rectify this I have started on my sleeve ruffles and thus the first part of what I count as the dreaded trim.

But to be fair, the challenge with the trim is that all of it has a pinked “scallops within scallops” edge. Now I have a pinking iron but  – as previously mentioned on this blog – very little idea how I get it to work.

But I have found away around it, It involved pinking scissors with tiny scallops, drawing all the small scallops on the fabric and a lot of time.

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But the result is actually quite satisfying so far.

Another challenge was that my dream gown has weird sleeve ruffles. I have no idea how wide they really are but I suspect that they are very wide. That theory has led to altering Janet Arnold’s pattern quite interestingly:

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Yes, that is the top flounce which is about 31 inches wide now.

I have not put them together yet, so this might actually still turn out to be horrible (and a waste of fabric). We will see.

The Francaise, The Fourth

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I finished the sleeves and am currently working on the bottom hem. I decided to line this bottom hem with an additional strip of silk. I’ve seen in  plenty of existing Francaises and suspect that it’s some sort of hem/dirt protection since the bottom hem of an Francaise usually suffers the most abuse.

After that the stomacher (and I’ve forgotten what exactly I did with my pet en l’air there (so much about practice)) and after that the dreaded trim. But the whole thing is a bit weird because without the trim I would be *this* close to being finished. With the trim… Not even close.

La Francaise, the Third

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The good news is that I already have some that looks recognizably like a Francaise: I’ve finished the robings, the sides, the back. In front of me is some serious hemming and the sleeves. Somewhere in the distance is a stomacher calling my name.

The bad news is that I am looking at my trim (the thing after the stomacher) with serious dread. This is obviously the make-or-break element of my gown. If I don’t get it right, I am not getting my dream gown. And if I don’t – then this is all a bit pointless.

Funnily enough, this whole things has actually given me some serious respect for art forgers. Because my pet en l’air was practically free-style in comparison to this one. Just getting the width and shape of the robings right turned out to be a challenge and it’s just one among many others. I am so much slower although I am essentially just doing my pet en l’air again.  But getting it “just like that other gown” is so much more complicated than just doing my thing.

And sometimes it just gets more difficult on its own. Looking very closely for yet the millionth time I realized that the buttons on my dream gown are not made of self-fabric but rather single-color death head buttons. (In my defense, the pics are kinda low-res, so I am not even 100 percent sure on that.) The first try in that direction was a total failure (it is not helping that the buttons are domed and like 1/2 inch wide), so I tabled that until after I finished absolutely everything else. And with everything else I mean, I might actually apply temporary self-fabric buttons before I’ll try again.

La Francaise, the Second

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I have done the back pleats. And yes, it’s light baby blue.

But I have run into a problem. Common wisdom, aka my Janet Arnold pattern tells me boldly to sew all my back pleats down somewhere high on the upper back. My dream gown… and actually a few other  gowns as well (like this one) clearly do not have all the black pleats sown down. I think there has to be some sewing down in the hidden part of the back pleats but not on the visible part. Maybe it has just disappeared (eaten by time) leaving pleats that they are so crisp that you could cut cheese with them. But that would have left traces and I can’t find any.

I am just not sure if my iron has a “Will-last-2-centuries-pleat-without-ruining-the-fabric” setting.

The Blue Francaise, Part One

I am currently working on my first Francaise.

I finished the lining (bodice and sleeves), have the fabric and pattern prepared and am nearly ready to go.

There are just a few tiny issues… aside from the daunting task of doing a Francaise in the first place, I have an inspirational original. I want to have and wear (and squeeze it and call it Fluffy) one exactly like it, except in a different color. I have a few very good photos of my dream gown but as you can see in the blank space right besides this text… it’s an embarrassingly ambitious dream gown.

And it requires an unknown quantity of fabric in decorations. But before I commit seppuku over that, I’ll just get started and see where this takes me.