– Chemise a la reine pattern from Nora Waugh.
– Various websites online for tips such as, Koshka, Jenny La Fleur, Before the Automobile, and the Chemise Dress Livejournal Community (in other words, a huge Thank You! to those of you who shared your tips and progress online).
Other Materials Used:
– Blue ribbon from Joann Fabrics.
– White thread.
– 1/2″ single fold bias tape for drawstring channels.
– 1/4″ twill tape for drawstrings.
Mix of machine and hand sewing. (photos below text.)
I should have written a lot of this down as I worked on the project, but I barely remembered to take photos here and there. This CalR was based on the Lavoisier portrait (pictured above), although I made various changes. I originally wanted to try whiteworking the ruffles, but was not having much luck using the fabric for that style of needlework (or at least, learning on it). The main inspirations were that I love blue, and my hair is even longer than hers. A great excuse to work my own hair into a costume, and not worry about pinning it up to wear a wig.
The fabric itself, cotton voile, was not really a problem to work with. Where I’ve been discovering a little dislike of it is when I get hot or the fabric gets even remotely damp. It crumples up and doesn’t have that soft, frilly hold to it. I used it on a gray bustle bodice for ruffles around the collar and wrists, and that’s when I first realized it would do that. It’s still a lovely fabric, and works well enough for a CalR.
I machine sewed the connecting seams to create the tube panels. Flat felling those seams and hemming edges were all hand sewn. I also connected the sleeves and sewed the drawstring channels with a sewing machine. The ruffle around the neck was connected by hand using a gathered whipstitch (the first time I tried that). The arm ribbons were attached with a quick running stitch (outside stitches are small, and inside stitches were longer).
The concept seems easy enough, but I actually fretted about the main gown part all the way up to finally tying the sash on for the first time. I felt that if I didn’t get things just right, I would actually look puffy and messy instead of the way it should look. I also worried about the front opening — would I need to pin it? How do you make it “disappear” even with all the gathered fabric? My answer was the sash.
I’m glad I went with an extra long sash that was fairly wide. I do wish I’d made the sash half an inch to an inch narrower, but I like the length. I wanted it to wrap around my body enough to cover up the back drawstring channel and hold the garment flat to my waist. I originally intended to add the fringe at the ends, like in the inspiration portrait, but I ran out of time as well as made the sash a little too long. I wasn’t going to use the material of the sash itself, but attach knotted fringe made from matching embroidery floss. First the sash was too short, then I added a length and while worrying it would still be too short, it ended up too long to add the fringe. I can always go back and remove a little length if I want to add the fringe. The sash is an ice blue changeable silk taffeta (white and blue threads, but the color change is barely noticeable). I cut long lengths, double the intended width plus seam allowances. Sewed each length end to end, and then closed it up into a tube. This was pressed with vinegar and an iron to make it as crisp and flat as possible. When I realized the sash needed another length, I just matched up the new section as closely as possible, sewed it into a tube, and ripped open one end of the sash. I then slid the new length, still inside out, and both ends open, onto the part I wanted to attach it to. Sewed around, and then pulled it through and pressed it flat. Then I hand sewed the new end shut.
I fitted the bodice of the CalR onto my dressform (the tape duplicate of me wearing my 18th century stays). I knew there were some differences in the sizing of that dressform, but it also seemed like it threw off the waistlength. I felt the drawstring channel ended up too high on me, even though I tried to put it fairly low on the dressform itself. The wide sash helps with that problem.
The center front seam is closed from about hip-level or so down. The seam is left open from hip-level or so to the neckline for getting into. The back neckline is gathered to a band permanently, and the straps are attached to this. The front is drawstring-gathered and adjustable (at least as far as the ruffle allows).
I also ended up making the back neckline/shoulder straps section too low (which you attach separately to the gathered tube body). Fortunately, I’ve been making a lot of mistakes lately and have been piecing in sections on other garments, so I added more cotton voile to reshape everything the way I wanted.
The sleeves were very easy to figure out, and I lengthened them to include the end ruffle. I wanted a lot of poof, and only two gathered drawstring lines per sleeve, so that worked out smoothly.
The hemline is long, but short enough in front where I don’t constantly step on it. The sides transition smoothly to floor length and the back is trained. I probably could have gone longer with the train, but I wasn’t sure if it would annoy me. Hemming was just a matter of putting it on the dress form and pinning until I was happy. A quick check on myself made sure things worked out.
The uppermost petticoat is probably my favorite I’ve made so far. Since it would be visible through the voile of the CalR, I wanted it to look nice, and I also wanted it to be as close to the hemline of the CalR as well. I’m wearing one other petticoat underneath that, and it’s shorter — I figured I could wear it with other late 18th century costumes.
I’m also wearing a wig along with my real hair (the longest part in back). I will hopefully be making a page about that part of the outfit.
Photos (first are a few posed photos, and construction photos are after those. You can view the full Flickr album here):
And finally, a video showing how the fabric moves: