{JennylaFleur: Dress Diaries}

1780s robe l'Anglaise ball gown

 {photo courtesy of Dennis}

Robe de Polignac
a ball gown of the 1780s in the English style

draped by me, based on
my basic robe anglaise pattern

poly faille, cotton (lining), trim, 4mm sequins

My first 18th century ball gown. I once heard a quote that poems are never finished, they are only abandoned - I think the same is true of costumes. I wore this gown several times and each time I added more trimming and detail.

Completed in 2005.
Revamped in 2006.


The Results:


December 2007
At Stratford Hall.
More photos from this event can be found here.

 {photo courtesy of Dennis}

 {photo courtesy of Dennis}

{photo courtesy of Stephanie}  

{photo courtesy of Linda} 


December 2006
At Stratford Hall.






October 2006
Going to see Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette.

 {photo courtesy of Loren}

 {photo courtesy of Loren}

 {photo courtesy of Loren}


October 2006
Going to see Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette.






January 2006
At our Twelfth Night Party. More photos from this event can be found here.






December 2005
At Stratford Hall.






December 2005
Phase one finished!






May 2005
At home.


 hosted on YouTube.com



The Dress Diary:

October 2005

I started work on my ball gown today. I have a short deadline so I'm trying to keep it as simple as possible. I'm using the same pattern as my red striped English Gown, with a better fitted back and sleeve flounces. Very simple indeed.

I cut out my lining today. I'll use that to fit the back and adjust the neckline before I cut out the green fabric. That is the plan anyway.

December 7 2005


I'm just taking a break from sewing (yes - don't faint I'm actually sewing!) so I thought I would check in here.

I'm finally getting around to working on the gown I'm wearing on the 10th. Yes, I'm insane, it's okay. I don't know why but my costumes either take 6 months or 36 hours to make. I can't seem to get my act together to sew in a more reasonable fashion. *sigh*

The fabric I'm using is a poly-something from the stash. It's not an ideal 18th century fabric as it's a bit thick and heavy but I think it will be pretty. The second fabric in the pic is the left over cotton sateen from my teens Cream Tea gown. You can't tell in pics but it's actually a light green, rather nice with the green ribbed fabric. This will be a petticoat if I have time (if not I'll just wear my cream linen one). I'll trim the neckline in a simple manner with the delicate gold trim for a hint of glamour. I'd like to add sleeve ruffles but not this week.

As I's mentioned before, I'm using the same pattern as my red striped English Gown, just tweaking the fit a bit. That is what I'm taking a break from at the moment. With Mom's help, it's looking pretty good. I have a little more to take up in the back and it should be good to go. Of course when I trimmed up the waist (which I shortened in the process of making the red stripe if you recall but never changed on the master pattern) I forgot to factor in a seam allowance so I have to recut the lining. Another reason to use inexpensive cotton for my linings.

Okay - back to work!

December 7 2005

I finished fitting the toile (ooh it looks so much better!), made a master pattern in interfacing and re-cut the lining. I decided to start with the back section, so I first sewed up the back lining. I added a length of Rigiline down the center back this time. I thought it was a good idea since my fabric has a bit of body but without any stiffness. So far it's working well.


I then cut a length of fabric for the back and began pleating. I used my red striped anglaise as a guide, creating three pleats (one towards the center and two facing out).

I did all the pleating flat on my ironing board (rather than trying to pleat on my own back or Narcissa) – it's so much easier this way and I haven't noticed a problem with the shape not being right on the shoulders.


Once it was all pinned, I hand stitched the pleats to the lining. Once I was done I basted along the edge of the lining piece and then cut the fabric to shape. I roughly cut the extra away – I'll probably trim some away when I get to the skirt.

I'm really happy with what I've accomplished today. If I keep up this pace I will definitely get this done in time, and with sleep involved. So tomorrow it's on to the rest of the bodice…

December 8 2005


*stretches* Okay, time for a break! May I just say it's been really fun to do nothing but sew the last two days. I haven't had a sewing marathon like this in way too long. I see still being slightly sickly has its advantages.


As you can see I've finished up the bodice. I haven't finished the sleeves because I want them a little shorter. I have to try the gown on to determine the new length and I want to get the skirts on first (or at least that back section secured). I'm going to eat some dinner and then start work on the skirts. My goal is to get them pleated and attached before bedtime. That would leave only the hem and hooks & eyes tomorrow. *squee*

December 8 2005


Well I didn't get as much accomplished as I hoped tonight. I was hit with a massive headache during dinner (the kind where your whole face aches) so that has pretty much killed my momentum and zapped my energy. Pooh on the storm that caused it! *moo*

I started on the pleating, once the meds kicked in but it's going really slow and I think an early night is the best plan right now. My fabric, while lovely to work with on the bodice, doesn't like to be pleated when it comes to the skirt and is fighting me all the way. I'm just not up to dealing with it at the moment.

Good news is I will have plenty of fabric left over to apply some self-trimming to both the gown and petticoat. Not that I anticipate getting to that this weekend...


I think I have a plan for my hair, thanks to your suggestions and images. I was also directed to some images on the Williamsburg site by my friend Tina that have proved particularly helpful. (For the originals of the above, click here, click on the slide show "women in trades" and go to the wig maker's section.) I'm especially fond of the first one so that is probably what I will base my hair on, perhaps with some hanging sausage curls. I love bouncing curls.

I should write a note to myself to boil perm some of my fake hair tomorrow so I don't forget.

December 11 2005


The dress is done! *whoot*

Here are the last of the construction pics from yesterday, one of half the pleats pinned and one of the skirt attached to the bodice. You can tell I didn't take as much care on the right side, the pleats don't lie as flat as the left. Oh well.

I'm off to do my hair and depending on how well that goes I may have time to pop some trimming on the frock.

December 11 2005


My gown was finished in time for the event to night (sans trimming of course). Or as much as a costume can ever really be declared "finished". *grin* Tonight was really lovely. I was able to dance in the Great Hall of at Stratford Hall - something I've wanted to do (and never thought I would!) since I was a little girl.

The photos from Stratford, while lovely, don't show off my dress or hair terribly well however. My camera has a hard time with low lighting – silly thing! So I took some self timer pics before I got undressed this evening. I really need a tripod. Or family members that are awake when I get home.

I couldn't be happier with the way my frock turned out. Actually it was nice the way the whole outfit, accessories and hair went together too. It was all last minute of course but it just fitted together and worked with little effort – I must be getting good at this stuff!

Of course my gown was lacking trimming, a new petticoat and a hand-sewn hem (*sue me*) but I wasn't held together by tape or safety pins. In fact I arrived a half hour early!! Proof there are miracles.

I was happy with my hair too. It took a few tries but I came up with a decent style in the end. *sigh* I just don't have B's magic touch. It was all my own hair, hot curled, teased and hair sprayed to death - not a rat or roll to be seen. Impressive, huh? *ooohhh, aaaahhh*

December 12 2005


Thank you so much for your kind responses to my newest frock. You spoil me so! *curtsies humbly* I'm a bit in awe of how well it turned out. I keep looking at it on Narcissa and thinking “I really made that in 2½ days!”. It helped that this was the second time I'd made that exact dress (hence the better fit) but still.

Yesterday I attended another holiday gathering with RCHS, this time in Scotchtown - the home of Patrick Henry. I ended up sewing most of the evening, working on the trimming for my dress.

It took me a little while to work out what I wanted to do with the trim but in the end I lined my fabric strips (torn off my extra fabric about an 1¼” wide) with two rows of the gold trim. I then used those basting stitches as gathering stitches and gathered the trim up a bit. I pinned it on the frock last night to get the effect and I like it a lot. It's simple but it adds just enough glamour to work. The trim will go along the neck and sleeves.

December 13 2005
I came home today to find Narcissa sprawled on my bedroom floor and the length of gathered trim that I stayed up late last night working on and had pinned along the neckline or the dress (on Narcissa), in a tangled mess in Mom's room. Apparently on of the cats thought my trim was a play toy.

Not knowing which worthless furball did it I could happy kick them all in turn at the moment. *sigh* I should also add that the gathering stitches have been broken in several places so I know have to redo the entire piece. I'm not happy!

December 16
Not much on the costuming front happening these days. I have taken out all the broken stitching from the kitty toy that was my ball gown trim and started again.

Still not happy about that!

December 29 2005


I did mange to work a bit on my gown today. After much fussing, I finished pinning the trimming along the neck and one sleeve. I still have to make trim for the other sleeve and then tack it all down.

I popped into Hancock's today and picked up some sparkles for my ball gown as well. I just couldn't stand it! Since I couldn't find small (4mm) flat sequins by the packet I bought a length of trim to salvage. I even figured out a way to remove the sequins intact on their string! I'll use them lose on the ball gown (applying them here and there along the gold trimming) but the string of small sequins gives me evil ideas for other projects. *rubs hands together* Small sequins are so cool!

January 2 2006
Phase two of this dress is done - we have trim!! Yay! *throws confetti* See thephotos above .

October 20 2006
Looks like I will be going to see Marie Antoinette next weekend with Loren and some of her friends. We will all be in costume. Should be fun, the weekend of Halloween no less.

I'm going to wear my green ball gown with BIG hair. I need to add some more trimming (I think I'll make it a fake "zone front") and something at the sleeves. A new (and properly fancy) petticoat would be fun but I don't know that I will have time for that.

October 23 2006


I got started on my revamp of the green ball gown today. Yay a Sunday afternoon of sewing – such fun! I really need to do this more often. *wink*

I didn't realize until it was too late that I didn't have any of that little gold trim in my stash (I hate how everything closes early on Sunday) so I couldn't work on the new trimming scheme. *pouts* I pinned the one leftover scrap I have to get an idea of how it would look as a faux zone and I like it, I like it a lot! I moved the skirt edges back 1.5", un-picking the stitching, folding back the excess fabric and re stitching it for a better line for the zone front.

Then I started work on the petticoat. I found a cream fallie deep in the stash today. It was actually Mom's but she generously gave it to me (have I mentioned I have the best Mom?).

I'm almost finished with the petticoat - just have the hem to sew up and the ruffle to attach. And guess what? I have enough fabric left over for a jacket, so I can make a whole new outfit with it too. Ummmm…

October 24 2006


I made good progress on the ball gown yesterday. Ooh it's really looking like a ball gown now! I tacked down the zone trim and started on the one side of the skirt (any place you see sequins it's sewn). I need to make more trim obviously, to finish the bottom and the other side. I want to add a second band to the sleeves too, but only if I have time.


The petticoat is all done, except for some trimming. I have a little piece of the gold pinned on and that little bit seems enough to tie it into the gown. I don't want to go too wild on the petticoat as ultimately I want a different petticoat for the gown (a gold satin I think, or maybe a shot bronze taffeta or something like that). I also want to make a jacket ensemble with the cream and I don't know how I want to trim that yet. I'm not sure I'll have enough of the baby gold trim, I bought out JoAnns supply yesterday. I have some other gold trims laying about so I could just use one of them instead if need be.

October 27 2006
I finished sewing on the skirt trim last night (pics to come). I think it needs more but I don't have time - next time I wear it right? I have come up with a way to polonaise it that I like involving safety pins. I am so lazy.

So today I need to:
finish making cockades
trim petticoat
make sleeve ruffles
pad polonaise?

Looks like today will be costume day. The whole family are going to Halloween parties tomorrow night - all different ones. Well technically mine isn't "Halloween" but it's the only thing I'll be doing for the holiday so that is how I'm thinking of it.

October 27 2006

Here are some step by step pics of my trim making for your viewing pleasure. First the supplies. The sequins are small flat ones taken from a trim I found at Hancocks. I couldn't find them loose so I picked a trim that had a lot of them and tore it apart. If you pull the threads the right way most trims will just come part you know. The gold trim is 1/8" trim I found by-the-spool at Jo Anns, very simple stuff but cheap. The thread is Coats and Clark, also from my local Jo Anns. The fabric strips are made by tearing the fabric along the grain and allowing it to fray a bit on each side.


I attach the gold trim by hand, using the little holes as my guide. I just eyeball how far I want it from the edge; it doesn't have to be exact. As you can see from the underside I'm basically basting the trim on. Once the gold trim is attached I use the basting threads to gather the trim up.


I then pin the trim on in whatever arrangement I want and use the loose sequins to secure the trim to the gown (you can see the sequin stitching on the underside of the bodice). I placed the sequins alternating about a 1/2" or so apart, depending on how tight the corners were and how much sparkle I wanted. :>

It's a bit of a cheat - if I ever take the trim off I will have to re-apply the sequins but it does save time in the short term. Ta da! Trim on a budget – what is not to love?!

October 29 2006


The Marie Antoinette excursion last night was so fun! I had too much fun working on my frock, way too much fun dressing up in it and too much fun watching the movie in costume and hanging with everyone. Too much fun! I wish we could have gotten better pics but we had to take them all inside, due to the gale force winds outside. Dratted weather.


This is the first time I've gone all out in late 1780s garb and now I'm wondering why it took me so long. It is my most favorite era afterall. *rolls eyes* I definitely felt like a pretty princess, especially after B did my hair. Isn't she fabulous?! *applauds* I showed her an pic in Revolution in Fashion and she just did it for me. The scarf in my hair is the last little scrap of my bee dress fabric, which was my brilliant idea.

Another of my brilliant ideas (which B did for me because she's talented that way) was my necklace. Do you recognize it? It's my Katherine of Aragon necklace with drop pearls wired on. It turned out to be the perfect touch, drawing in the cream petticoat and making everything work together instead. I need to get some nice glass or cultured drops to do it properly (the ones I used are cheap plastic ones I picked up ages ago and they look it) but it worked for the evening.


It's silly but one of my favorite parts of the evening was wearing the bum roll of doom, otherwise known as both my bum roll and false rum worn on top of each other. Driving in it was a bit of a challenge but worth it. I need to make a nice big false rump now because I loved wearing this more exaggerated style.

November 19 2006

I worked on my new ball gown petticoat today, it's mostly done. I have the waist band pinned on so just that, the hem and the ruffles to add. I ended up with a shot gold/bronze taffeta. It looks nice with the ball gown but isn't too matchy-matchy. Pretty!

December 2 2006

I have been sewing - yay! The bronze taffeta petticoat is done... sans ruffle for now. (Pictured with my red print Englist gown.)

December 8 2006

Last night I was again part of the Stratford Hall candlelight tour and got to dance, in candlelight, in the Great Hall. I did a bit of caroling downstairs but mostly danced all night. We did Rufty Tuffty and Childgrove over and over… I didn't mind though as Childgrove is my favorite dance.

I was so happy - my hair came out wonderfully! I don't have great pics unfortunately but it did look good, if I do say so myself. I washed, dried, hot curled and then teased it to death before pinning it back and adding feathers and a bow to embellish. Yep, it's all my own hair, no rats or hair pieces.

I once heard a quote that poems are never finished, they are only abandoned - I think the same is true of costumes. I worn this gown several times and each time I've added more trimming and detail.

I think it still needs somthing more though...

December 8 2007


Dancing at Stratford Hall was fun last night. The evening began with some bad attitudes floating around (mine included I'm sorry to say) but by the end I was having a good 'ole time. My hair came out well too, which made me happy. Yay for taking Kendra's class at Costume College!

Part of my poor attitude was that I just don't like my ball gown anymore. I mean it's pretty, or would be if I hadn't worn it for 3 years running, but it does have some fitting issues. Truth is it's never been the gown I wanted. It was the gown I had the skills and fabric to make at the time. I was going to put more trim on it to jazz it up more but I didn't like the effect so it's back to looking the same. (I did add some lace at the sleeves but not really much of a change.)

To be happy with this dress now I'd have todo some major alterations (as in take the whole thing apart and redo it) and frankly that is too much bother. I really just need a new gown. So I guess that is my mission for the Fabric District in LA in August this year - find a new fabric for a ball gown. 'Cause I am not wearing this one again if I can help it!

I know I'm being a bit of a brat, I mean I had to start somewhere with my 18th century costuming and the fact that my skills/expectations are better now is a good thing, but I hate feeling so "eh" about a frock right before an event, sucks all the fun out of dressing-up!



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