Category: Versailles

French 18th Century court dress – Part 4

Once the bodice was done, I was in the home stretch for the gown!

Firstly, it needed more support in the undergarments. I changed the petticoat to have quilted panels down the bottom to better support the weight of the skirt. The quilted fabric I got from the charity fabric shop, it reeked heavily of mothballs and had to be washed thoroughly to get the smell out.

After that I managed to finish the dress relatively quickly once I got the fabric, all in all I estimate about 15 metres of jacquard fabric went into this dress!

At this stage I still have a little way to go, need some more metallic trim and I need the proper stays (corset) to properly finish it off. I will post more when I have more updates about the construction of the stays.



French 18th Century Court Dress – part 3

I found some lovely silver trim at a charity fabric shop near me, unfortunately it meant that it would be impossible to get more. The trim did a very good job of hiding the overlocker stitching as well as breaking up the fabric pattern. This was all hand-stitching with invisible thread.

Then had the problem of finding more trim that was similar, not an easy task! I managed to locate some in the UK through Ebay, it wasn’t exactly alike but I thought it was about as good as I was going to get.

The next task was to do the bodice, which I had to do some modifications. Firstly, it did not seem to be made for particularly big busted people so I would need to make it bigger. Secondly, I wanted to make it more authentic by having the stomacher detatchable.

The first one was fairly simply, I cut pattern pieces out of some fabric scraps and used my mannequin to construct the rest as I would need it. I highly recommend getting one if you are a costumer! It is so good to be able to see your work as it will look on you!

After that the bodice was easy to create.

To make the stomacher detatchable was even simpler. I cut two of the pattern piece in calico and used American Duchess’ suggestion of cable ties for boning. I know there are other things you can use that are more authentic, but you can get these very long and very easily.

Once it was covered with my fabric, I added the trims and some ties so it can be pinned on.

So, here it is all together!

Next time, finishing it all up!

French 18th Century court dress – Part 2

What I love about the 18th century fashions is all the little details that make up the whole garment. This means trims and for this dress, lot and lots of box pleats.

This tutorial was very helpful in working out the box pleats. In the end all I needed was a ruler, a pencil, a hot iron and a lot of pins. To get the right amount of fabric for the pleats I went from a ration from 1:3. This meant I had to cut, baste and overlock about six metres of fabric all up so there would be enough for the pleats.


This first set of pleats were 5cm wide. They were, mostly, to cover the stitches of the extra panel I had added to the hem. But when I attached them I liked how they looked so much that I decided to add some more smaller ones for the very bottom of the skirt.


This next set of pleats I made smaller. Only 2cm wide. A bit more difficult to make them smaller, but it was good practice as I do plan to make some more of the same size for the overskirt.


Attaching the pleated trim to the skirt gave it a weight and drape that I really liked. It also made it clear that the skirt needed more support than it had from the fairly lightweight petticoat. More petticoats was the answer, probably.versaillles_dress8versaillles_dress9

Next up, some metallic trim to hide those ugly overlocking edges!

French 18th Century court dress – part 1

My first big project may be a bit more than I can take, but I have been learning things on the way so that may make it worthwhile.

To start this my inspiration was this 18th century dress from the Met collection. Fortunately the website also does high-quality images to get right down to fine details.

The pattern I am basing this on is Simplicity 4092, it does have a zipper to close at the back which isn’t very accurate (zippers being invented around the 1940s), but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. The dress pattern also comes with a pattern for the pocket hoop panniers, but I decided to start a bit simpler with these colonial hip pillows I purchased from Ebay.


For fabric, I went to the furnishing section of Spotlight and purchased some tapestry Jacquard. Six metres all up (initially I purchased only three metres then had to go back the other day to get another three metres as I ran out that night).versailles_materialI used the instructions from American Duchess to make a petticoat to fit over the panniers. For fabric I used an old pair of curtains that had never been used. They had the necessary length and width to fit over the panniers and still have plenty of fabric left to be full.


I was making the skirt on a bit of a time limit and I followed the instructions to just make the underskirt which secured at the back. This did make it rather heavy to wear and did come down when I wore it at our costumed event. The hem was also very short and curled up.


So I used the same method for the underskirt as I used for the petticoat. Two ties securing the waist rather than just one. This made the skirt sit a lot better and looked more authentic. I also added a panel to the front to give it length and weight.


That done, it was onto trimming and decorating!