Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Wednesday Weekly Wishlist: Robe à la Française

I love 18th century fashion. I know it's no news to you, my faithful readers, as I have a tendency to repeat myself, but doing all that research for my Venice Carnival post last Saturday got me thinking of Georgian fashion once more.

On my ever growing
Wishlist is a Robe à la Française, staple of any noble lady of the time.

Robe à la Française, mid-18th century, French, Patterned light blue ribbed silk, brocaded in polychrome silks, metallic gold, and silver, Metropolitan Museum of Art

What is a Robe à la Française? It is a type of dress that has fabric arranged in box pleats at the shoulders, which then fall to the floor in a slight train. The skirt of the dress s opened in the front to reveal the petticoat (skirt).

For the one I wish to make, my dream would be to use light blue Dupioni silk for both the dress and petticoat. I saw one once and it was magnificent.

Mrs. Nathaniel (Sally Sayward) Barrell wears a double strand pearl necklace with a blue silk sacque gown for her 1761 portrait by Joseph Blackburn

You have to admit, it would look fabulous.

As far as trims and decoration goes, I like the look of this Yellow dress from the Royal Ontario Museum.

Yellow Robe à la Française, Silk extended tabby (Gros de Tours) with liseré self-patterning and brocading in silver lamella and filé, England (Spitalfields), Rococo, 1750s, Royal Ontario Museum, ROM2004_1034_6

It's the way the trim sways on the skirt of the dress and its glittery effect. As I have learned by reading Gail Marsh's book (see Costume Book Review: 18th Century Embroidery Techniques by Gail Marsh) sequins are period for 18th century embellishment.

Pattern wise, this is one case where I don't think I'll let my natural laziness get the best of me. You see, the commercial pattern I own for a Sack-back dress (Simplicity 3637) asks for 18.70 metres of fabric 115 cm wide (that is 20 1/2 yards of 45" wide material). Considering I can rarely find Dupioni silk for less than 20$ a metre at my local fabric store (sometimes it comes down to 10$ after Christmas, but maybe I could buy it on-line instead and save), I really doubt I could ever afford to make it. If on the other hand I drape the pattern myself (full instructions can be found on La Couturière Parisienne - How to make a Contouche), I could get away with using only 8 to 10 metres (on sale, I could budget 100$ and be okay). I still think I'll practice on muslin first.

I'll aim to make it for when I go to the Venice Carnival, how about that?

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