Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Queen of the Night Robe de Cour

I would like to say that I spent a lot of time on this dress, fiddling with every detail, making everything perfect, but that's totally not what happened. This dress came about entirely because I realized I would not have enough time to make my original gala gown for Costume College. Kendra's court gown group and the fact that I'm pretty comfortable making 18thC gowns quickly entirely guided my decision to dive into this project. That, and the fact that I could cannibalize an old costume for pieces, which greatly cut down on production time!

You've already seen the panniers and petticoats for the gown, so I'll just skip over those.

After making the gown petticoat, I had run out of taffeta, so I made an excursion to the warehouses in Dallas and picked up another 20 yards of fabric. (I totally overestimated how much I'd need, but there is always a use for black taffeta!) I had been staring at the original diagrams of court trains for a while, and, well, they're huge. Really huge. Way too huge.

This is half of a court train. Each section is 7/6 of an aune wide (so approximately 55" wide), and the entire train is 118" long! That is huge. I wrestled for a while with whether or not to make my train that large, but with the width of my panniers not really coming close to what was needed to pull off that much fabric, I decided to just go with two widths of 55" fabric, tapered toward the front like the diagram, and pleated to the waist. I'm definitely glad that I went with the smaller train, because holy hell this is a lot of fabric. Seriously, my train is still huge, and it took up a good chunk of the living room while I was working on it.

Once the thing was cut out and assembled, I added some black lace all around the hemline. To tie it in with the sparkle of the many, many rhinestones on the petticoat, I added a line of rhinestones around the hem, which also helped to disguise where the lace met the fabric.

The last bit to work on was the bodice. Court bodices are usually fully boned, like stays, with fashion fabric as an outer shell. I ended up using the 1704 court bodice in Corsets & Crinolines as my pattern. I sized it up while at work and didn't do a single mock up, so the fact that the thing fit me at all is a small miracle!

I used a duck canvas I had in my stash and a cheap muslin to make the interlining of the bodice. I didn't quite assemble them as you would a regular pair of stays, though. I first did the boning channels in each piece, then stitched them together on the machine before inserting my cable ties. If I'd had more time, I would have finished each piece individually and whip stitched each piece together, but I was in too much of a crunch. I did end up doing way more hand-sewing than I anticipated, though. I ended up whip stitching down all of the seam allowances by hand so they'd lay flat (the canvas meant they were too bulky to do so on their own), I bound all my eyelets by hand, I had to stitch in the eyelet tape by hand, I had to bind the edges by hand, and I had to stitch on the lace by hand, all because of the boning. Yeesh. So yeah, it took much longer than I thought. But, I did manage to finish it before our flight, so at least I didn't have to sew in the hotel room!

The last bit I had to finish before leaving was my sleeves. These were done really quickly and reeeeally dirty. They look fine once basted in and when I'm wearing them, but they're nowhere near what I envisioned. I ran out of lace and didn't have time to buy more (I was making them at midnight before our 6AM flight. o.o), so I had to just have a single line of lace at the bottom instead of the heavily pleated lace that I wanted. It still looks okay, but it's not really what I originally wanted. At this point, I have no idea if I'll wear this dress again, so I'm disinclined to go back and change them!

All and all, though, for a super rushed project, no mockups, no fittings, and a mad-dash sewing marathon at the end, I think it turned out pretty well! There are definitely some issues - the bodice comes up too high under the armpit, the bodice gaps in the back in an unflattering way, the sleeves aren't what I wanted, and the train has the tendency to slide backwards on one side, but they're all minor complaints. I felt like a pretty princess when I wore this dress, and that's all that counts, right?

I have to thank Jenny-Rose for these wonderful photos! (And Taylor for wrangling my train!) I couldn't have asked for better pictures! :D


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