Marie Antoinette Gown

Decorating my Robe a La Francaise

Bath costume exhibition

Bath costume exhibition

I am writing a new talk about Fashion and Queen Marie Antoinette.  I have already designed and made a number of garments for my new lecture which include period underwear, a Chemise a la Reine, a wig and I am now finishing my spectacular La Robe Francaise.  It is now fully constructed and only needs to be decorated. I thought it would be a good idea to visit the fabulous Fashion Museum at Bath to see some extant gowns before deciding on how to complete my dress.

It is a fabulous museum and there were a number of dresses similar to my gown to which I could look to for inspiration.They included a cream gown, a rust striped gown, a blue gown and a brightly coloured gown of painted silk. I have included pictures of the all the dresses however I really loved the cream silk robe.

Cream dress

Cream dress

It is a fabulous and very elegant silk gown with lovely embellishments so I decided to include a similar type of trimming for my dress to give it both an authentic and a very attractive look.The lightweight cream silk Robe a la Francaise (called a sacque back in England as it hangs in folds from the top of the shoulder) included a slight train.

Pale Blue Gown

Pale Blue Gown

Almost all the Francaise are silk and tend to come with stomacher and petticoat. As they were usually silk rather than linen (which was cheaper and re-used) they were saved through the years as an expensive artefact. They tended to have luscious trimmings, lace or furbelows and needed to use more fabric which adds to their importance. (My gown has already swallowed up 14 yards of rose pink pure silk brocade fabric).

Detail of cream dress skirt front showing furbelows

Detail of cream dress skirt front showing furbelows

The cream gown on display is cream striped silk brocade with a matching petticoat and an open front. The bosom is covered by a decoration mounted on a stomacher piece, or by a false front (a compere). The false front was decorated by a dressmaker – it is interesting to note that if it was embellished with ribbons it then came in the remit of a milliner! The stomacher has been decorated with a strip of fabric which is hemmed and box pleated then sewn down the centre with additional narrow curving trim on each side for decoration. A flat bow finishes the bottom edge of the stomacher.

Rust coloured striped Dress

Rust coloured striped Dress

The dress is decorated with Furbelows (strips of fabric hemmed, pinked or frayed which could be edged with narrow trim) – which are either gathered or box pleated and sewn to the dress. This dress has box pleated furbelows trimmed with narrow braid sewn down around the edges of the gown down the front and around the neck.

There are more strips of fabric in varying width gathered and box pleated curving down the sides of the gown.  If you look carefully you can see that there are also circles of fabric gathered and finished off with trim that are reminiscent of flowers – these are sewn to the front of the dress.

Pale Blue Gown

Pale Blue Gown

Treble flounces finish the sleeve – they are finished with a narrow hem or trimming then box pleated onto the sleeve. Ruffles of white embroidered lawn or lace are worn beneath them. The ruffles would have been tacked to the end of the sleeve so they could be removed for laundering.

Detail of cream dress skirt front showing furbelows

Detail of cream dress skirt front showing furbelows

The petticoat is designed in matching fabric and also decorated with two furbelows which have been gathered and box pleated. If you notice the wide Furbelows are sewn down the middle and the narrow ones only down the edges. I was unable to take a picture of the back of the cream silk gown so have included a photograph of the back of my pink silk dress which is similar in style. If you look closely you can see the pins attaching the neck trim – as this dress is still not finished!

My Pink Silk Marie Antoinette Gown

My Pink Silk Marie Antoinette Gown

When I have completed the gown I will include details of the construction of my gown from start to finish on my website.

This cream 18th Century Dress is a very attractive gown of the period and I am really looking forward to decorating my rose pink gown in this style!

 

 

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