Monday, August 17, 2015

A simple robe en chemise

There has been a long silence on the blog this year - but there's a good reason for that. I've had a permanent job since last year, which meant we could finally move out of our small apartment into a new home. Not going into detail but it was quite a long process so it kept me away from blogging over the first half of the year. I'm both relieved and happy to say life is now getting back to normal again. I did manage to make a new dress for a masquerade earlier this year by squeezing some sewing time in in the evenings and mornings here and there but it had to be a very simple dress so I could finish in time. And simple in the 18th century equals a chemise gown, right? :)

However, I did not choose the most simple design for this type of gown, which would of course be the very often recreated chemise gown from The Cut of Women's Clothes by Norah Waugh. I'm not a big fan of the poofy-ness of 1780s chemise gowns so naturally I'm drawn towards the more fitted types of this style so I made my gown with a fitted back and long tight sleeves. 

Interestingly, I noticed I could even wear this gown without any stays. Thanks to the heavy lining and the laced closure with bones on either side of it, it kind of works as a light pair of stays (or jumps). I'm not go into the subject of whether it's okay for "a lady" to wear it without stays or not but, having worn the blue floral robe à l'Anglaise to a picnic in sweltering heat a few years back, it definitely feels like a possibility for me, in case I ever go to some outdoor event during the hottest days in the summer again.

Even if the sheer fabric of this gown is lined with a sturdy lining the bodice is slightly see-through so choosing the white 1760s stays instead of my 1780s stays felt like a good idea. But of course that means the gown looks really flat in the front since the 1760s stays create a very straight silhouette and I'm not sure if I like how it looks now. Does that mean I have an excuse to make a new pair of 1780s stays with a white exterior material? Under the stays I'm wearing my short-sleeved shift, and with my 1780s bum pad with two white petticoats on top.

I also wasn't sure if it would be okay to wear the gown over as large a bum pad as mine since the majority of the reference images of chemise gowns that I pinned seemed to be worn without any bum enhancements, which makes sense given how informal style this is. However... Why not to make it look even a tiny bit less simple for a masquerade? I could always wear it without a bum pad next time. For the same reason I accessorized the gown with black to create a more dramatic look. What I'm loving about this gown is that it's quite versatile. I've got lots of ideas how it can be worn it differently to different occasions. More on that when an opportunity to wear this gown appears again. :)

My hedgehog hair-do was the artistry of Mia again. I really think she outdid herself this time! I think she already did such a good job last time she did my hair but this time it was just fabulous :) We even powdered my hair by layering a very light coat of white hair powder on top of a bit more grey.

And below are some sources of inspiration - and more can be found on my Pinterest board, as usual.

First there is a fashion plate from Cabinet des Modes. A very simple, early robe en chemise, tightened by a Belt of wide black velvet.

Cabinet des Modes, April 1786, via A Most Beguilling Accomplishment.

Then we also have the famous paining of Elizabeth Foster, wearing a white chemise gown that is actually very similar to the gown shown in the fashion plate, with a black sash and that straw hat that everybody wants. ;)

Lady Elizabeth Foster, 1786, by Angelica Kauffmann.

It looks like Comtesse de la Châtre isn't wearing a chemise gown in the painting below, but of course there's the black and white theme going on, along with the long sleeves. And again, we have a lady wearing a straw hat. I'm acutally thinking about making a straw hat like the one Duchesse de La Rochefoucauld is wearing in the image in the link. Notice it's very similar to Comtesse's hat, except with a poofy top, and that the painting is dated to the same year as well.

Comtesse de la Châtre, 1789, by Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun.

There are of course several inspirational chemise gowns made by some talented costumers out there. I'm admiring Lily's chemise gown with a Van Dyke collar and styled with such a fun head-dress. Caroline looked oh so elegant wearing her champagne colored chemise and who doesn't love Jen's mourning chemise or Kendra's gaulle à la Polignaq. Just to name a few.