Monday, August 27, 2018

The Fêtes Galantes at Versailles

This past May I was lucky enough to attend the Fêtes Galantes at Versailles. It has always been a dream of mine to go and I still can't believe it actually happened! For the occassion I made a new robe a la francaise out of sumptuous pale green silk satin and trimmed with white silk organza and over 200 paper roses. I also made new grand pannier and a new Coiffure a la Belle Poule. The entire ensemble was hand sewn by me. I could gush endlessly about how magical the night was but I'll let the pictures speak for themselves!





An Interlude at the Hotel

While I was in Paris I stayed at the wonderful Hotel Caron de Beaumarchais. I cannot say enough good things about this hotel! Decorated to look like an 18th-century Salon, it was my home away from home for a week and the most wonderful refuge from the craziness of being a tourist. My room and the lobby were so beautiful and the staff were delightful and friendly and even enjoyed having an eccentric American show up one morning in a robe a la francaise! I absolutely adored staying there and I can't wait to go back. If you love immersing yourself in history, do yourself a favor and stay at this hotel. I snapped these photos in the lobby before I left for the Journée Grand Siècle at Vaux le Vicomte. Some day I would love to do a proper photoshoot in the space. As you can see, it's absolutely gorgeous!



Journée Grand Siècle at Vaux le Vicomte

While I was in Paris I was also lucky enough to attend the Journée Grand Siècle at Vaux le Vicomte! I hadn't realized the event would coincide with my trip until after I arrived in Paris so I didn't have time to put together another costume. But that meant I got to wear my Versailles Francaise a second time! Hooray!


Photo by the wonderful Phillip Van Nostrand.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Tissot Dress: Day Dress Version

I have loved the pink dress in Too Early by James Tissot for years and have always wanted to make it. This dress of course also appears in many of Tissot's other paintings as well. This past autumn I made a huge step towards my goal and made a day dress version. I also have plans to make an evening bodice so I can recreate the painting exactly.

Making this dress was an enormous undertaking, and involved hand pleating over 80 yards of fabric. Click here to read all about the making of!

My initial inspiration is of course the painting in which the pink dress features the most prominently, Too Early.

James Tissot. Too Early. 1873. Oil on canvas. London: Guildhall Art Gallery.

For the day bodice I took some inspiration from The Ball on Shipboard. You can see it on the woman ascending the stairs in the lower right corner. However, I don't like the exact design of the day bodice in that painting so I took at as inspiration only and then went my own way with it.

Detail of The Ball on Shipboard by James Tissot. 1874. Oil on canvas. London: Tate Gallery.

And here is my own version!


The Tissot Dress: The Making Of

or, How Katy Lost Her Mind And Decided To Hand Pleat Over 80 Yards Of Fabric

I have loved the pink dress in Too Early by James Tissot for years and have always wanted to make it. This dress of course appears in many of Tissot's other paintings as well. This past autumn I made a huge step towards my goal and made a day dress version. It was a huge undertaking and I'm still amazed I managed to pull it off. This is actually the first Victorian dress I've ever made. It's so nice to start simple (har har)! As of now I only have a day bodice, but I also have plans to make an evening bodice so I can recreate the painting exactly. Click here to see the finished day dress!

My initial inspiration is of course the painting in which the pink dress features the most prominently, Too Early.

James Tissot. Too Early. 1873. Oil on canvas. London: Guildhall Art Gallery.

I made the dress out of a lovely pink sheer cotton lawn. The color of the fabric is a bit more intense than in the original painting but I liked the brightness of it. The dress was machine sewn because it's from the 1870s and they had sewing machines then, and because there was so much fabric that had I tried to hand sew everything it would have taken the rest of my life.

The main decoration on the skirt is the ruffles. While it would have been so much easier to gather the ruffles, I had my heart set on pleating them. I used a Perfect Pleater because I really wanted 1/4" pleats. The other thing I had to consider was the sheer quality of my fabric. If I had used the full 3/8" return of the pleater, the fabric would have consistently doubled up on itself and merged into one solid color which I didn't like. I wanted some differentiation in the color once the fabric was pleated, if that makes sense. So I marked a 1/8" measurement on an old credit card and used that to mark how deep the return should be in each pleat. It made the process much more time consuming but I'm so happy with the result.

Note how the fabric doesn't completely overlap under each pleat and there's two shades of pink based on where the fabric is and is not doubled.


Lavender Redingote

I was lucky enough to join a whole flock of my amazing historical costumer friends for a Holiday Promenade around Colonial Williamsburg in December 2017. Naturally I needed to make a new outfit for the occasion! I used some lovely lavender wool that had been in the stash for quite some time to make a 1790s redingote. I also made a new hat and a very very last-minute white silk broadcloth waistcoat (that will be remade!). Our Holiday Promenade was documented by the insanely talented Gloria and Mike from In The Long Run Designs. All photos are theirs unless otherwise noted.

Carolyn and I matched perfectly in our pastel redingotes! This is one of the few photos taken on my very sub-par phone that day.

Stripey Robe a l'Anglaise Retroussée

Around 2012 or 2013 I found this fantastic printed cotton that I knew would work perfectly for the late 18th century. I bought about five yards, began working on a Robe a l'Anglaise Retroussée, and then my poor dress languished in the UFO (UnFinished Outfit) pile for years and years. Then in April 2017 I finally finished it just in time to wear to the Big-Ass Hat Tea hosted by the wonderful Jenny La Fleur. I also made a new pink Gainsborough hat for the occasion, since a Big-Ass Hat Tea requires a Big-Ass Hat!

I used the yellow stripes in the pattern as a guide for making my pleats. As you can see from the bodice, there is quite a bit of space between each yellow stripe. Three full widths of fabric are pleated into the skirt.


The skirt sewn to the bodice as well as the bodice back. I worked really hard to get that pattern matching perfect!



The skirt draped up into the swags that transform this gown from a Robe a l'Anglaise to a Robe a l'Anglaise Retroussée.


Thursday, May 7, 2015

Francaise Dinner 2015

For the 2015 Francaise Dinner I wore my lavender robe a la francaise with a brand new stomacher and wig.

The stomacher was made gathered self fabric trim with fringed edges, on top of which I sewed a small chain of silk organza puffs covered in sequins.

The gathered self fabric trim and the beginnings of my organza chain.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Lavender Robe a la Francaise- The Making Of

My original inspiration came from the following three renderings for robes de cour (court gowns) by Charles-Germian de Saint-Aubin from 1785.

Les Arts Décoratifs, Paris Tous droits réservés

Les Arts Décoratifs, Paris Tous droits réservés

Les Arts Décoratifs, Paris Tous droits réservés

I then proceeded to drape the robe.

Draping the back pleats.
Draping the skirt.

Lavender Robe a la Francaise

I made this lavender robe a la francaise in early 2014 to be worn to the Third Annual Francaise Dinner put on by my unofficial costuming group, The Fabulosity Club. I was also hoping to wear it at the masquerade ball at the American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies conference, but sadly was unable to attend. BUT I had the most wonderful time at the Francaise dinner and am very happy with my new robe a la francaise. There are still a couple of things I want to fix and futz with, but overall it's one of my favorite costumes to date. I also wore it with my brand new wig, which sported blue ocean waves (made of feathers) and a model ship, the HMS Surprise. It was my first time styling a hairpiece of any kind (I have enough hair to do most styles just on its own!) and now that I'm more familiar with the process I'm going for an even bigger ship the next time around.