Saturday, July 19, 2014

A grand ballgown for Le Grand Bal

I love ballgowns. Love them. And when I found out there's going to be a Grand Ball in January to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans, I knew I had to go. Then I found this.

This fabulous gown was worn by Princess Charlotte in 1817. It's a Russian jumper-style gown. She seemed to be rather fond of this style of gown, because she was painted wearing dresses like this several times.

And guess what? That blue dress still exists, too!

Anyway, I'm going to be recreating the gold and pearl gown, and thankfully, there are quite a few detail shots of the dress online, so I've been able to figure out the pattern pretty well. The only think I'm having trouble with is the beading pattern. The main motif was easy enough to draw out, and I managed a sketch of the basic shapes rather quickly.

The pattern is mirrored across the center front of the gown, and repeats seven times on each side. The part that is hard to decipher is the design at the hemline. There is no clear view of the side of the dress, and no view of the back at all. :-/ So, not only do I have no idea what the beading pattern looks like, I have no idea what the back bodice is like, either. However, there is an image of the back of Charlotte's blue dress.

But, I'm not entirely convinced that the back of the ballgown looks like this. On the ballgown, it looks like the sleeves and bit of lace peeking at the hem of the skirt are designed to look like a separate underlayer, but are actually built into the dress. And in this image, it looks like the neckline curves in the back much higher than the blue dress.

Unfortunately, I have no idea how the dress closes. I thought for a while that it was a bib-front dress, but I'm starting to rethink that. The blue dress doesn't seem to have a visible opening on either the front or the back, but, if you look really closely at the ballgown, it looks like there might be a little bit of white peeking out at the centre front of the dress. The blue dress, likewise, looks like it might open at the center front for about 8 or 9 inches, and closes with buttons. The buttons then continue down to the hem, even though the skirt is closed from that point on. So, my guess on the ballgown is hidden hooks and eyes down the center front.

I want to get started on this as soon as possible, because I have at least three other embroidery projects that need to be completed around the same time. Eep! Time to go into overdrive!


  1. Pretty sure you're right about the front opening. Also, that's some insane beadwork, looking forward to seeing it :)

    1. Thanks! I spent half a day trying to talk myself out of taking this on with so much else going on...but the shiny won. lol