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Wednesday, 24 February 2016

1790s Chemise en Robe

Sorry it's been a long time since I last posted - I've been very busy working on one of my first 18th Century costumes, a chemise en robe! I've always admired the summery, dreamy feel of those chemise dresses (so informal and delicate), paired with coloured satin or taffeta sashes and a huge, feathery hat - and thus, I have wanted to make one for a long time!

This dress is made from what feels like miles of gauzy, net-like muslin, which is very soft and delicate to the touch. It is also unbearably hard to work with, so for future chemise en robes (of which there shall be many) I may resort to using linen, silk taffeta, lawn or voile, depending on how period I want to go. It rips so easily and probably won't last long, especially with how much unpicking I have to do. :) Still, I think it looks very romantic and flowing.

At first I found this project very easy making up the bodice and lining, but then came the difficulties with the fabric, attaching the bodice to the waistband, and measuring the length for the skirt wrong (and therefore I had to add another ruffle to the hem, but that wasn't too much of a sacrifice to make). The ruffle was something my grandmother thought up, to create a channel and feed some tape through to gather it; it was very long-winded gathering four and a half meters of muslin and then sewing it three times, but in the end I think it's worth the hassle.

I was also unsure what feel I wanted to give the dress. My pattern from Laughing Moon was for 1790-1800, and what I really desired was a mid-18th Century chemise en robe, not something more Regency in feel. I do like the Regency period, but the frippery, dresses and fun of the 18th Century is where my heart is; so, I wanted to make something that looked like it came from an earlier period. I think I may have managed that with the puffed sleeves and ribbons, but perhaps the empire waist and bust-line makes it clearly early Regency.
Either way, I love how it has all come together! My first costume! When I've had a bit more practice and built up a portfolio, it is my dream to open an online store selling bespoke historical garments from Medieval times to the 1950s - that, along with writing my books. :)

My grandmother helped me making this dress, so I'm very thankful for her help. It would have been very difficult to tackle without her!

I added a black taffeta sash that I made earlier and a muslin fichu as accessories for these photos.

If you want to see my process of making the dress in more depth, see my LiveJournal sewing diary!


  1. In all honesty, I can't wait to see you in this:-) You'll be like a Princess! It made my heart flutter when I saw it. You poured such effort into it! It's so, so, so beautiful!
    But the thought of how fussy this fabric was as you say and how much work this all was makes me shudder and bow before your and your Grandma's patience...

    1. Thank you, as always, Rosa! *hugs* It's actually a bit too small in the bodice, as I found when it was a bit too late, so I may have to do some altering before I get to wear it, but someday I was thinking of taking some pictures of either myself or my sister (if she will cooperate, which is unlikely ;)) at Tatton Park in this dress.
      The fabric was a bit of a nightmare, especially with how fragile it is. Here's to hoping I don't rip a seam accidentally! XD