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.
A detail of the top back.
I also began work on the trim. I wanted a spangled ruffle for the petticoat, so I took a 53 by 12.5 inch strip of silk organza and sewed on silver spangles spaced one inch apart. Each spangle was attached individually and the entire ruffle took over 25 hours to complete.

The finished ruffle, laid out on my rug.
And laid out on top of my petticoat.
I also added trim to my robe. The pattern was inspired by the trim on this robe a la francaise from the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Finished self fabric trim.
Detail shot.
As you can see from the close up, the edges of the trim are fringed. I did this simply by removing some of the warp threads from the fabric.

To harmonize with the silk organza ruffle on the petticoat, I added a strip of puffed silk organza to the skirts of the robe.

And then I spangled the puffs.

One of the major themes from my inspiration images is the use of flowers as decoration. I love this idea and wanted to incorporate flowers into my design. Here are all the silk flowers I gathered for the task, they turned my apartment floor into a beautiful meadow!

And here is my petticoat, with the organza ruffle and all the foliage.

Originally I had wanted to put sprigs of flowers extending from the puffs on the skirt of the robe, as can be seen in my first inspiration image. However, after testing it out, I decided I liked the robe better without the sprigs of flowers, so I left them off. The last thing to make was the stomacher. I originally wanted to continue the flower theme, and fell in love with the stomacher in this portrait.

Portrait of a Lady by François-Hubert Drouais, 1765

I got as far as embroidering the tree...

But after taking a break to test the flower placement, I decided I didn't like it after all. So I moved on to Plan B.

As it was a last minute change of plans, I'm not entirely happy with how the stomacher turned out. I think I want to space the strands of pearls closer together. To tie the stomacher in with the rest of my gown, I added three roses at the top.

The finished stomacher, looking a little lumpy.

The complete ensemble!

Many more pictures can be found here!

With my dress complete it was on to styling my wig! I don't have a head form yet so I had to make do with two boxes and two bowls stacked on top of each other.

The first thing I did was make a wire frame which I could mold the hair of the wig around and attach my ship. Here it is in progress:

I sadly don't have a picture of the finished frame, but it basically resembled a cage. After attaching it to the wig and attaching the ship to the frame, I draped the wig hair around it to create a giant beehive. Since my wig doesn't match my actual hair color, I draped my own hair all around it to hide the base. Here are a few pictures from me doing a preliminary hair test. My beehive base is still pretty messy. While the wig and my hair seem to match in these photos, in person or with flash photography you could tell they were different colors.

The beehive base attached to my head.
Cousin It does the 18th century.
With my hair pinned up.
As you can see, I did a bit of a messy and lopsided job. Turns out my hair was too tall for me to reach the top! But the point of this hair test was to make sure the wig and the ship would stay on my head. After I took the wig off again, I wrapped it up in a big hairnet so it was nice and neat and everything stayed in place. I also attached some strands of pearls to bobby pins and curled some light blue feathers to add decorations on the actual day. I almost bought a starfish to add to the 'do, but ended up deciding against it. On the night of the Francaise Dinner I had two of my friends drape my hair around the wig and they did an amazing job!

The finished result!

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.

The HMS Surprise found a battle to join!


A somewhat decent hair selfie.

And for the after hours........

You don't wear a ship on your head when you're going to sleep?

Halfway through taking my hair down.
I am also officially making this my entry for Demode's 18th Century Court Dress Challenge. No, my dress is not actually a robe de cour and therefore not technically a court dress. Neither is it the court dress I originally claimed. While I still fully intend to make that fantastic dress, a lack of funds and a move halfway across the country to start a new job and new life got in my way this time. But I'd like to have something to show for the challenge, so I submit this dress with the hopes that my original plans can be fulfilled next year!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Sea Foam Francaise

My first robe a la francaise, constructed in January 2012. I still have to take some nice pictures of this in good light.


Photo by Jenny La Fleur.

Photo by Jenny La Fleur.

These last two show me putting my opera training to work as I regaled everyone with an aria from Handel's early 18th century opera Rinaldo.

Photo by In The Long Run.
Photo by Jenny La Fleur.

The Tiffany's Regency

Another dress that borrowed inspiration from the colors of Tiffany's! This time it's an 1800s dress which I made in January 2012.

My inspiration. Image from Cora Ginsburg.

This AMAZING photo is courtesy of Jenny La Fleur!

Sea Foam 1920s Evening Dress

This dress was made in the summer of 2012 and is so much fun to dance in! Sadly I only have a couple good photos.

My inspiration.

And finally...
The image on the right is a photo I took when I was wearing this dress. The image on the left is my paternal grandmother. Isn't the resemblance uncanny?!