Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Chemise a la Reine Diary

To begin I must say I went into this completely unaware. Unaware of how completely sheer this bad boy is (or bad girl, since it's a dress), and unaware of how difficult it would turn out to be. I had thought "easy-peasy", a quick dress I could knock out in like a few days. Hmmm.....not so, not so. Not that it's like extremely hard, but it's not a bag with a drawstring. I mean it is a bag with a drawstring, but it's not that simple. :P

I picked the Chemise a la Reine as the dress for my grandma to wear to the home school ball. It's breezy (so she wouldn't get too hot), it's simple and elegant-not over the top, and it was worn by Marie Antoinette herself. Most importantly I thought it would be best for her since she will not be wearing stays. I figured this particular style would be more forgiving, and harder to tell about not wearing the stays. And I would have the opportunity to make the neckline higher than a typical gown! :)

Here are some pretty inspiration pictures for you to look at before I dive into all the details. :) I found them all on Google images, and do not have the links to the sites they were originally on. I'm sure you could find them if you search for them on Google images haha.

I know that was a lot of pictures but they were all so pretty, inspirational, and useful I just had to include them all :)

Now onto my dress. I am totally admitting here that I made this dress out of what I would assume to be cheesecloth. The store on ebay called it "butter muslin", and other things that led me to believe it was a very lightweight muslin. I'm not sure if this is the fabric you are supposed to use, but I think it worked out ok. It moves and looks as thin as other dresses I saw fellow costumers had made. Most used cotton voile, I'm not really sure what the difference of a lightweight voile and a lightweight muslin is.

There were two dress diaries in particular that I found helpful during this project. One is in Finnish, so I had to keep translating it paragraph by paragraph to read it. Her dress is stunning though, and I very much enjoyed it. Link one. Link two.

I did not have a pattern for this dress...and I do not have the book everyone else seems to have made their dress out of. But that's ok. The body of my Chemise a la Reine is made from 4 panels of 37". The muslin came in that length, and I opted to leave the selvages in instead of trimming the panels down to 31".  The length I used, un-hemmed was 56". The four pannels are sewn together to create a tube.
the fabric
the fabric
the fabric
I machine sewed the seams of the tube, but hand-sewed the flat felled seams.

Then I made a casing around the top, for a drawstring gather. This fabric is sooo open, I just was not seeing how gathering would have worked, plus it unravels like CRAZY. The casing is hand sewed.

Here it is, hanging on Madame.

I cut the sides where the armholes will go. These slit markings were in the center of the side panels.

Then I gathered it to a somewhat neckline so that I could cut the armholes.

For self fabric binding, I cut two strips 3 inches wide and 13 inches long.

Then I encased the front and back with the binding.

Then I pinned the dress at this stage to Madame, just to see the progress. :) The sash is temporary make do from a cravat.

Next was the shoulder "straps", the connecting pieces from front to back of the dress. Each piece is the thickness of three layers of fabric for durability, with rolled hems to finish off the edges. I fitted the dress on Mama, since after all, being Grandma's daughter they are similarly built :)
pinning the scrap fabric as the shoulder piece. 

cutting the armhole to proper size

the actual shoulder piece (hemmed)
The straps as I'll call them, then had one corner folded up, to accommodate the curve of the neckline. The below picture kind of shows what I'm talking about. 
For the sleeves, I wadded up some material down the length of my arm, and cut two of this size. I believe the length was like 26 inches, and the width of course was 37".

sleeve with seam and hem
For the top neck ruffle, I cut 4 strips, 37" long and 5 inches wide. For the bottom, I cut 3 strips, 37" long and ??? inches wide.  I flat felled the seams and hemmed them by hand. I used a running stitch because a whip stitch pulled and wouldn't hold.

ruffle strips
ruffle seam and hem 
And alas, I don't have but one finished dress picture! But never fear because I plan on wearing the dress myself soon, over my new white stays :). Great the about the chemise dress, it can fit multiple people! Which reminds me about the sash....

You can see in this photo that gma has a veeery narrow sash. Why? Well she broke a few of her ribs on a ladder, and so I wanted to get away with as little sash as possible so it wouldn't hurt her. She's doing great now, it's almost all healed up :)


1 comment:

  1. The Chemise turned out lovely Theresa! You Grandma looks fabulous in it too, though I can't wait to see how you style it.

    the Middle Sister and Singer