{JennylaFleur: Dress Diaries}

18th century robe l'Anglaise

 

THE BIRTHDAY DRESS
a Robe Parée of the 1780s

Pattern:
draped by me

Fabric/Materials:
silk taffeta, cotton (lining),
embroidered net, cotton lace, sequins

Synopsis:
A robe Robe Parée cut in the style of
a robe à l'Anglaise. Because big birthdays
need lots of sequins and champagne.

Completed October 2014.

 

 

The Results:

 

March 2016
At the 2016 Française Dinner.
More pics from this event can be found here.

 

 

 

 

 

August 2015
At Costume College.
More pics from this event can be found here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

October 2014
At my Epic Birthday Party.
More pics from this event can be found here.

{photo courtesy of Kat

{photo courtesy of Sara

 

 

 

August 2014
At Costume College, Los Angelos CA

 

{photo courtesy of Sara

 {photo courtesy of Gina}

{photo courtesy of Megan}

The Dress Diary:

July 2 2014

So what do you do when you hit a significant birthday and you aren't ready for "that number"? You distract yourself by planning an Epic Costuming Birthday Weekend with your girlfriends! While I've been planning the party for almost a year now, my costume plans have only just come together in my mind.

I decided that I'm simply not in the head space of researching and charting new garment territory right now. I just want to dress-up with friends, live out a few Marie Antoinette moments and feel like a pretty, pretty princess. So instead of looking at outfits I'd never made from my dream list, I started looking at costumes I have loved wearing in the past. My plans came swiftly and vividly motivating after that.

So nothing new or innovative, Just a pretty dress based on something I have already made. The plan is to use the embellishment to set it apart. I have a very cunning plan for that - hopefully it works AND I have time to pull it off!

I've decided to kill two birds with one stone and make my birthday dress for the Costume College Gala this year. That way I'll have more resources to spend on it. I'm at a point in my costuming that I'd much rather have one really good gown than two thrown together things for the sake of variety. I don't know if I'll get all the embellishment done before CosCol (depends on how long my trimming supplies takes to arrive from China) but I know I can get the dress wearable for the Gala and that is enough. 

July 7 2014

My trimming fabric for my birthday gown has arrived!

SQUUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Seriously this dress is going to be amazing once it's done. My goal was to feel like a princess and I certainly will!!

June 12 2011

     

So the birthday/gala dress. I'm taking my inspiration from the Robe Parée dresses that have popped up online in the past few years. There is some confusion what that term actually means (literally translated it's "adorn, deck out, decorate" - there is a great article here about the term 'Robe Parée') but for my purposes, I'm going to define it as a 1780s gown that is highly embellished, primarily in the front of the gown & petticoat, with embroidery and spangles.

     

One of my original inspirations was the "Peacock Dress" the character of Marie Antoinette wears in the film Affair of the Necklace. However as much as I loved it I knew I would never have time to do this much embellishment before October, so when I found this close-up and realized it had been appliquéd, a light went off in my head. It's a movie cheat for sure (all the period examples I've found are embroidered straight on the fabric) but sometimes compromises have to be made.

After scouring the internet for an embroidered fabric I could use, I found a real beauty on Ebay. It arrived last week and is even more beautiful than I hoped! It wasn't cheap but I think it's going to be SO worth it!

 

SO PRETTY!! I'm super pleased that the embroidery looks like metal thread and the net is super fine, perfect for appliqué. I love the mix of small and smaller sequins too. I thought the color was going to be more salmon than copper (the risk on online fabric shopping!) but luckily this goes with my silk, my complexion and my October birthday date. Whew! That worked out well.

The dress itself will be simple, a green-taupe silk taffeta version of my green & rust stripe dress, which should be fast to make, unless of course my new stays have completely thrown off the fit. But I'm thinking happy thoughts and hoping I will have time to apply enough of the embellishment for the Gala that it won't be too boring!

My only really trouble is that I want some small copper sequins to used as filler on the bodice but my normal sources don't seem to have this shade. I do have some antique gold. If I add enough gold it shouldn't look too odd, right?

July 14 2014

So I've started toiling the gala/birthday dress. It's going... slow. As I feared my lovely new stays have made for some significant fitting issues, mostly in the shoulder area/bust area. Because I made my stays a little too big and can't lace down any further I'm having to enlarge my base pattern quite a bit too, especially in the bust. Merh.

     

The slow pace is a little deliberate, I want to think through what I'm doing and avoid what happened with my Purple Française where I rushed through the fitting and had to stop in the construction phase to re-fit the bodice. That was not fun. So I'm plodding along. The bodice is close to being done I think, another toile or two then come the sleeves. I've changed the armhole a lot so I'm expecting a lot of work on those. Moo.

     

Still I want it to be right and that takes time. Nothing worse than a gorgeous gown that doesn't fit right or isn't comfortable. That really is a waste of time.

   

July 15 2014

I am deep in the midst of sleevils. Oy.

Apparently my arm shape has really changed over the past few years (or maybe it's just all that blow drying this past year!) and the normal little tweaks don't seem to be doing the trick so last night I did a full out major re-draft/re-shaping of my basic sleeve pattern. I'm getting ready to try that on. Heavens I hope it works!

The bodice does look good though I think. These stays change my bust area quite a bit, so there was lots of fiddling with the front should straps and such but in the end I think it looks good. I'm really pleased with the neckline though and the 1780s is really all about the neckline...

July 15 2014

     

The toiling for my gala dress is officially done. After much procrastination and quite a bit of persnickety fussing on the evil sleeves, I'm feeling good about the end result.

   

The sleeves still aren't perfect but I'm to the "happy" stage so I'm stopping. One has to simply put one's pins & pens away at some point - otherwise I could be toiling sleeves until I board the plane for LA. And that would be bad.

So I have a master pattern to trace off and then I can start cutting silk. I can't start sewing silk until I break down and go the fabric store for thread though. And I think I'm out of Ridgeline boning for the bodice front. Which reminds me, I should check my hook and eye inventory before I go.

Ah the joys of a hobby with so many details...

July 15 2014

So in tracing out my master pattern I realized the one thing I forgot to double-check was the "zone front" part of the bodice. Opps! I traced it out onto the master pattern based on my green & rust dress pattern and photos of the toile (to figure out where it should end/the dress skirt begin) but now I'm wondering if I should do a quick toile to double check that it's right.

I also ended up adding quite a bit of length to the bodice (the toile came out a good 1.5" above the waist for some reason) which by necessity meant some re-shaping of the front dip-thingie (is there a word for this?). Maybe I should check that too...

So really I'm trying to decided what is the lesser of two evils, the possibility of a surprise opps in the finial result (I hate surprises in my costumes) or having to make/try on another toile. Ummm... I need to sleep on it I think. I was so ready to be done!

July 16 2012
Life was full of Real Life (tm) things today but I did get to Jo-Anns for supplies. I was also a good girl and made up then tried on another toile of the gala dress.

I'm glad I did, there were multiple things to fix (I swear the shoulder strap on this dress grows every time I put it on - grr), and the "zone" front wasn't right. So I marked changes and now need to make a new mock-up to double-check everything. I'll do it tomorrow, I am too out of it tonight.

July 18 2014

The past few days have been discouraging as I've messed about more with my mock-ups. I'm still not entirely happy with the shoulder area but it simply won't be fixed so I called a halt to the madness. I am much happier with the shape of the pointed back and the front waistline so I guess it was worth it but I'm feeling drained by the experience.

I finally was able to cut/rip into my silk taffeta last night with the result that both the lining and silk pieces all ready for assemblage.

I have to say it was incredibly weird to be cutting silk taffeta without cutting any form of self trimming. It's been a while since I did that! I keep having this feeling like I'm forgetting something. Maybe I'll put a little on the sleeve to make myself feel better about it.

The other good news is that without the self trimming and excessive ruffling I had originally intended for this project I have HEAPS of fabric left over. I need to measure it to see just how much. Its not enough for another whole 18th century dress I don't think but it looks more than enough for a ruffly, long-sleeved jacket and a few hats or something. Cool!

July 25 2014

I'm in that pre-Costume College place I didn't want to be in - utter overwhelming behindness. This arriving a few days early thing has really messed with my internal clock. The fact that I'm leaving THIS Tuesday really snuck up on me.

     

The petticoat just needs a hem, the bodice is done except for hooks and eyes and lace at the sleeves and neckline. The skirt is assembled and I started the laborious task of pleating right before bed last night. I'm my own worst enemy here since math doesn't work for me, only trial and error and I'm a huge perfectionist with the little pleats so this will take me HOURS. Then it has to be attached to the bodice (by hand) and hemmed. Then there is the embellishment which I'm thinking if there is going to be any will have to happen in LA, which I hate to do.

The only thing I can think of to do is put my head down and just keep going and try not to look at the calendar. Today I'm devoting to my gala dress. If I can get it to the "wearable" stage I'll be doing really well. Tomorrow and Sunday I HAVE to switch gears and work on hair. Whew!

July 25 2014

Today's goal? A wearable Gala dress. Mission accomplished! Its even got a proper hem and all its hand work done - whew! Now it just needs some embellishment.

The lace is only pinned on, still debating what I exactly I want to do with that...

July 26 2014

 

I'm feeling slightly less panicky today, which I'm not sure is a good or bad thing. I'm proud of the craftsmanship of my gala/birthday dress but its really just a plain shell. I pinned on some lace to the collar, which I liked until I started pinning appliqués on, now I'm not so sure I like the lace at all. So not sure what to do about that. It needs something there, just not sure what.

The appliqués are going to be as tricky as I feared. The challenge is going to be making them look expensive, because this whole sequined appliqué idea could easily go into a WTF "Dallas" moment if I'm not careful. Even though I'm using a movie cheat method I do want this to read as period correct. It's a fine line to balance!

Also adding to my difficulties is that I didn't think about the fact that my embroidered net is a repeat pattern - no mirrored sides - which makes placement awkward. (Curse the Georgian obsession for symmetry!) Also awkward is not being able to find matching copper sequins to fill in the gaps, I have the gold but I'll have to use a lot more of them to make it blend. Merh.

 

Bridget, aka the sequin wizard, has offered to help so there may be hope. We'll see. I'm almost afraid to start the embellishment in case I can't get enough of it done in time but I think this is an all or nothing project so I have to at least try.

August 14 2014

It should surprise none of my readers when I tell you the last few days before I boarded the plane for LA were utter madness. Those days were a rush to the finish and are now a complete blur in my memory. Bridget and I holed up in our shared office/workroom and spent long days and night sewing, styling and gluing while watching Star Trek TNG and Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes marathons. I only left the house to make Jo-Anns and Chick-fl-A runs. Madness really.

 

As soon as my gala dress construction was done I pinned the embroidered motifs on it and handed it over to Bridget so I could work on other Costume College related projects (ie wigs!). She promptly got lost in it and thanks to her skill and commitment I arrived in LA with a very blingy and special dress. My only new thing for CosCol and gorgeous to boot, I was SO excited to wear it!

 

{photo courtesy
of Sara

 {photo courtesy
of Gina}

Of course it wasn't/isn't actually finished but it was close enough to give the impression of richness and grandeur that I had envisioned. Before my birthday party we will add more along the side hem of the skirt and to the petticoat. Then it will get a scattering of gold and vintage copper sequins (thanks Loren!) to fill in and make it more blingy. My motto being that one can never have too many sequins on a frock, especially at a candlelit party.

I'm excited to see the finished result but also glad I have a bit of a sewing break - I'm a little crispy around the edges after all that!

August 24 2014

What do you do when you can't find enough sequins in the right color & size for your project? You cannibalize your scraps! Waste not, want not!

September 1 2014

I'm finally back to working my birthday dress! First the hem - Somehow the original hem was too long so I had to redo it - oppsie! Luckily I hadn't taken the appliquéd motif all the way to the floor and I was able to bring the hem up the couple of inches it needed, albeit by hand this time since it was right on the edge of some of the embroidery. That was close!

     

I have since pinned on the motifs to the skirt and petticoat and have handed it off to Bridget to work her embellishment magic. I'm sad not to work on it myself but so grateful to have an extra pair of hands so I can work on other Birthday Weekend projects.

September 3 2014

Adding some softness in the form of a narrow pleated lace edge at the neckline and deep gathered lace sleeve ruffles. I'm always a little afraid of lace, it's so easy to go from "period correct " to "cheap" I find. Maybe I'm just sensitive as a child of the "country/Victorian" 1980s. Hopefully I'm hitting the right balance with this!

October 6 2014

We are in the home-stretch! Bridget has been working long hours getting the appliqué done and now we are just adding scattered sequins to fill in "blank" spots in the bling and help blend all the motif piecing we been doing to make the embroidery seem solid.

   

I just finished pinning a crap ton of sequins to the bodice so Bridget can sew them for me. (So all those colored pinheads in the photo are all sequins!) I did let her glue the scattered sequins on the skirt/petticoat but the bodice has been declared stitched only territory!

October 18 2014

It's a rare and wonderful thing when a costume actually fulfills all your original visions
and comes out just as you wanted it to. This is one of those costumes.

{photo courtesy
of Kat

{photo courtesy
of Sara

 

It's everything I wanted, rich, blingy, flattering and so much fun to wear.
I felt like such a queen at my party, walking in yards of sparkling, swishing silk.

I couldn't have done it without the generous help and support of my sister.
She really is a marvel and I'm so lucky to call her mine. Thank you Dearest!

 

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