Thursday, August 22, 2013

Second Robe à la Polonaise - planning stage

I've got so many exciting projects coming up it's getting hard for me to pick which one I want to do first. As a lonely seamstress I've recently been easily tempted by online group costuming projects because that's the closest I can get to sewing together with friends right now. Before I start blogging about 18th Century Court Ensembles Project (hosted by Kendra of Démodé) there's at least one dress of my dreams to make.  Ever since I realized the purple robe à la polonaise isn't going to fit anymore I started visualizing a new robe à la polonaise. At the moment it's my favorite style of all 18th century gowns and now that I'm used to it, I even find the hanging front kind of appealing. My original idea was to make a pale blue robe à la Polonaise with either wide self-fabric or silk organza trimming and black bows. But by now I know there are at least two light blue robe à la Polonaise gowns made in the recent past by other seamstresses and I'm getting very concerned about the uniqueness of this dress. Or should I say, the lack of it. I'm pretty sure many of you have already seen photos of the recreation of the robe à la Polonaise worn by Madame Elisabeth of France in the painting below. In case you haven't, here's a link to the blog about that dress in particular.

Madame Élisabeth seated at her harp by Charles Leclercq, 1783

At the time I first saw photos of that dress on the net I had just decided to order ice blue silk taffeta from Renaissance Fabrics but had not yet done it. It felt like a really big drawback for me because it started to feel like I'm going to copy that recreation, careless of the fact that I already had had that design in my mind for a long time. Not precisely the same design, but close. So this is where I got stuck. After a short while, I also saw another very similar dress made by Les Corsets de Lola on facebook (also found on this website) and lost almost all will to make the whole dress. That made me ponder the possibility of mixing two dresses: a Spanish robe à la Polonaise from Museo del Traje with light blue robe à l'Anglaise from Abiti Antichi. But somehow I didn't feel as excited about it as I had felt about the original idea. With the two following prints featuring two totally cute robe à la Polonaise gowns, I'm still considering making it in light blue. I would also love to make the petticoat daringly short, with shoes and a hint of ankle covered by stockings showing.

Fashion Plate (1780) from Los Angeles Public Library

The straw hat and the walking stick really complete this pretty little outfit...

1870s print of French Baronesses from 1783

Talking about group costuming projects, some time ago Merja started writing about her thoughts on making a robe à la Polonaise on Livejournal so we thought it would be fun to make them at the same time and arrange a group photography session after we're both done with our dresses and it really brought back my inspiration for this project. I hadn't lost it completely but I guess I just needed something to push me forward. Because I love to draw quick sketches to clear my thoughts, here's the design I was thinking about back in March. And still am, with slight alterations.

And another sketch that was actually made right before the one above. I don't like this as much as the other, but I thought it might be nice to share it anyway. 

Currently I don't feel so well because I've probably caught a cold or something but as soon as I get back on my feet I will finish revamping the floral robe à l'Anglaise asap and then head to see what the local fabric stores have to offer and  then I really hope I will come to a conclusion so that this dream project can finally start coming true. And hopefully, I'll end up having a cute dress something like this in the end: 

Portrait d'une Jeune Dame de Qualité, 1777, by Jean Laurent Mosnier.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Revamping another floral robe à l'anglaise

First of all, I must introduce my new friend to all of you who aren't my friends on facebook. A while ago I found this nice dress dummy from a second hand store and even though she isn't exactly my size she can wear my dresses surprisingly well for a random find. I'm considering padding her at some point I but at the moment I'm feeling too lazy to do it. And I'm not yet sure if I want to do it anyhow because right now she can wear one of my friend's dresses (without stays) as well as mine (with stays).  

Currently I'm revamping yet another floral robe à l'anglaise that was made a few years ago. Basically it wasn't in desperate need of a revamp but it bothered me so much that something had to be done to it. I ended up taking it almost completely apart because it was badly machine sewn and because the lining was loose and made out of sheet so I had to cut new pieces for it from linen. At the moment the dress nearly completely reassembled, lacking only the sleeves and hooks and eyes. Eventually the skirt of the robe will be looped up with tapes on the inside of the dress. This is how it looks now:

Since this is an old gown, I'm starting to feel like it needs something new to it - to cheer it up a little bit. This is not my gown so the final decision lies in the hands of it's owner but I'd still love to hear your opinion about it. The original plan was to decorate the dress with self-fabric trim but after some research on the net I realized that none of the similar extant gowns had self-fabric trimming. Evidence can be seen on this Pinterest board

I know many costume makers just love to trim their dresses heavily with self-fabric and I sure love to do so as well. But now I feel like I really don't want to do it with this dress like I did with the earlier robe à l'anglaise that was already doomed to be historically inappropriate because of it's fabric. But this fabric looks much more historically appropriate so I wouldn't like to ruin it by decorating it in a way that isn't. So what do you think? Have you stumbled upon a floral robe à l'anglaise that is indeed decorated with self-fabric trim? Or any other kind of trim that I could use? Of course accessories will make the whole costume look a bit more interesting but I still feel like the robe itself needs something to it. Please let me know what you think!

And here's one more quick shot of the bodice...

This is what the gown used to look like when it was made.

I don't think I have quite enough fabric left to make a matching petticoat but I'm thinking about making either a light blue or a sheer white petticoat instead. Or maybe even both. The petticoat seen in the two old photos no longer exists.