Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Marie Antoinette Dress

Last November, when visiting the Fashioning Fashion exhibit at LACMA, this portrait:


was on display. I mentioned to Twila that I wanted to make a copy. I thought of it as some long off, future thing, but instead ended up making it for Costume Con and Under the Redcoat this year. I only wish I had studied it more closely in person

I don't have a lot of construction pictures, but I will share what I have. Like the riding habit, however, I'm just going to share pictures here, along with a brief explanation of what I did.

At first, I thought the zone was over a blue section, but if you look closely, you can see white puffings below her bow. I used this portrait of Marie Antoinette and her children as a guide of what to do. The color was an issue as well. The version we saw was very grey, but most reproductions of the portrait are more blue (is there more than one copy?). I decided to go with the more familiar color.

The dress is constructed as a zone front, with puffings of silk gauze sewn directly to the linen lining. These are gathered and basted to the lining. I then sewed the blue straps in on the sides and pin them on the opposite sides after pinning the lining. The blue shuts over that. Last, the ribbon pins on.

The back was going to be en forreau, but a cutting mistake and five failed hours of pleating had me change to a quartered back, which was increasingly common at the time. In the end, I rather like the quartered back. I'm not sure why my fourth en forreau was so difficult!

I don't know if this style dress was constructed like this, or if it was worn over another dress such as a chemise dress. Since it has a blue petticoat though, this does seem at least plausible!

The silk is from Pure Silks, the silk gauze is from Dharma Trading, and the linen lining is from Burnley and Trowbridge. The lace and ribbon are vintage.

When I wore this in Williamsburg, I decided I was too 'artistic' to worry about elaborate hair. At Costume Con, I did a closer to the portrait version of hair. I foresee quite a bit of artistic 1780s in my future! It felt much more me than my attempts at other styles.

Outside the King's Arms Outside the King's Arms

Outside the King's Arms Outside the King's Arms

Outside the King's Arms Outside the King's Arms

Outside the King's Arms

Outside the King's Arms

And here it is at Costume Con. I wish I had more pictures from there, but a combination of a cold, bad lighting and a too long travel day (4 1/2 hour delay!) before that made it a less than perfect time for pictures!

Costume Con

And I'm wearing it over my 1780s stays at Costume Con and 1770s stays at Williamsburg. Not something most people can do, but I'm really not too moldable when it comes to stays and corsets! I'm also wearing it over the below conjectured shape bumroll. I wanted to have that backwards movement that you start to see in the 1780s, and this did what I wanted. It's linen stuffed with wool.

Day 157 on 365 Project

The dress isn't an exact copy, but I do think--or at least hope--it captures the spirit of the original. I feel like a pretty, pretty princess in it though, and I think that has to count for something :)

This will be crossposted to my blog. Once Blogger is back up, I'll post the link! Not that it's not all here anyway :)


  1. I like your blue better than the portrait's and it is a truly adorable gown!

  2. So beautiful! I love the sky blue color. You always do such amazing work!

  3. I love this! Also, I'm inexpressably excited you buy stuff from Dharma Trading Co., which is located very close to where I live! I buy yarn there frequently. :)

  4. Thanks everyone :)

    And I wish I could shop at Dharma Trading in person--I love their things! At least we have internet shopping though, right?

  5. Love this gown! An excellent interpretation of the portrait (which is also lovely). And I especaially love the colour.
    I have myself been planning to by silk from puresilks but am a bit apprehensive of buying many yards of an expensive fabric of which color I can not be sure. I have ordered some samples but it will take some time before thay arrive in Finland. Threfore I would really like to know what the color is called and wheter you think it showed accurate on the monitor?