Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Proper robe à la polonaise: Inspiration and some research

It's been a long while since I posted anything but there's something that I've been working on for a month or so. The beginning of this post was written in late October and now I've already finished the dress I'm talking about here. I'm going to write another post with pictures of the whole outfit as soon as I can.

25th of October, 2011

After a couple of weeks of considering what to make out of the new fabric I bought just a while ago, I decided it's going to be a dress that some of you might call "a proper polonaise". For a long time I've been waiting for a chance to make something similar that was worn by Kirsten Dunst in the movie Marie Antoinette (look for photos of the particular dress at the end of this post) so now I've begun with it. The dress is going to be made out of dark purple taffeta - to mention, I've been looking for affordable dark purple taffeta for ages - with a white petticoat. So far I've drawn the pattern and fitted it for a couple of times and the cutting is next up, if lucky, already tomorrow.

This is the design I'm dealing with...

 First off, some examples of surviving 18th century garments:

Polonaise about 1775-1785

Here's a translation to what the museum has to say about this gown: 

"Polonaise in striped silk in salmon colour and decorations based on knitting applied to green silk taffeta. The neckline, round in the front and with folded neck. The sleeve, long and tight, closes on the wrist with 5 cylindrical buttons covered with silk thread. The seams are covered with braided cord that finishes at the waist and turns into a hanging cord and tassel. Neck, shoulders and cuffs are done in draped green silk.

This dress, known internationally as “robe à la polonaise”, was called “polonesa” in Spain, and it was fashionable during the reign of Charles III. The most characteristic feature of this dress was the skirt puffed in three parts by means of a sliding cord. The Spanish identity of this polonaise is given by the decorative elements as the draping on the shoulders that hide the shoulder seams."

Thanks to my friend who helped me with the translation!


Oringinal can be found at: Polonaise dress 1778, MET

Examples of polonaises in paintings: 

Princess Amalie of Preussen (1771) by Anna Dorothea Therbusch.

Portrait of an elderly lady with her daughter (1775).

Queen Charlotte by Benjamin West, 1776.

Unknown Woman (1779) by Jens Juel.

Jane, Duchess of Gordon and her Son, the Marquis of Huntly (1778) by George Romney. 

Portrait of the Comtesse d’Artois, Maria Teresa of Savoy (ca. 1780) by an unknown artist.
Examples of polonaises in movies:

This polonaise from Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette (2009) was my first and main inspiration for this type of dress. You can find more screenshots of this dress on one of my favorite webpages:  Marie Antoinette's Peach gown on Costumer's Guide


Seeing this fashion plate was the turning point when I finally decided it's going to be a dress of this sort!

At the end I left out the bows (see the design) and added a red velvet belt with a beautiful square buckle in the front... Stay tuned for photos in the near future! ;)