Monday, July 23, 2012

black chemise - sneak peek


I finished my black chemise gown yesterday, so I decided to put it on a manikin and share a few pics showing the construction.   It is so hard to see details on an all black dress in most photos, so I have adjusted the exposure so you can see everything more clearly.

The gown is made of synthetic striped chiffon, and it is lined with black cotton voile.  The fabric was originally crinkle chiffon, and I have spent countless hours trying to iron it flat.  It got pretty close, but you can see that some of the crinkles still remain.  But I had my heart set on having a striped chemise dress like the one seen in this portrait, and this fabric was the only sheer black striped fabric that I could find.

I based much of the construction for my dress on this green silk chemise gown from the 1790's.  I was SO thrilled to finally see a back view of a fitted-back chemise gown, so I tried to make my own gown have a similar back. My pattern mimics the bodice seamlines, waist shape, and skirt pleating, although some changes still had to be made due to my tighter sleeves and the high back of my corset.


Many other elements of my dress were inspired by this chemise gown from the late 1780's, posted by Heileen of the Costume Hysteric blog. Like this example, my dress has tight sleeves with buttons at the cuff, a triple row of drawstrings across the torso, and a ruffle at the hem.

To dress up the ruffle a little, I pinked the edges with some scalloped pinking sheers, and I really like the effect, but I'm not sure how well it would hold up if this dress was going to get a lot of wear and tear.  My chiffon likes to ravel.

I have seen several theories about how these fitted chemise gowns were closed (I wish the museums included this information!), but my personal theory is that most of them have a front slit that is concealed by the gathers in the fabric.  There is a gathered-front jacket on the Abiti Antichi website that shows this type of construction especially well since one side of the gathered front is missing.  My bodice has a fitted under-layer that is pinned closed at the center front, and then the gathered outer layer has a opening that extends a little past the waist.  The drawstrings tie in the center and just get tucked under the gathered outer layer.  There is so much fabric there that you really can't see the opening once it is tied.

I recently had a very interesting discussion with some friends about the difference between dresses made for historical reenactment purposes and "pretty-pretty-princess" dresses.  Although I have tried to base my design on good historical research, the materials and construction of this outfit are 100% precent pretty-pretty-princess... and I'm totally okay with that!  It was a welcome change of pace to make something where I didn't obsess over natural fibers or period construction techniques or try to do tons of hand-sewing.   I think it will be a lot of fun to wear, and sometimes that's all that really matters.


Liann said...

beautiful work :)

Trystan L. Bass said...

Quite lovely! And coincidentally, I guessed very similar construction on something I'm working on. Not that I'll ever finish it, but I just did the the front closure last weekend, & clearly we were on the same wavelength :-)

Lauren Stowell said...

absolutely stunning! thank you for sharing the closure technique. It has baffled me as well, and this helps a lot in forming ideas for a future gown I'm musing on. I think your fabric is delicious, and hoorah! for pretty-pretty-princess dresses. :-)

bauhausfrau said...

I really love how this turned out. It LOOKS so close to your inspiration pictures and thanks for sharing your construction process, it always helps me to see how other costumers did something.

Anonymous said...

fake fabric or not- it is gorgeous! And if it fits you half as well as it fits your mannequin, it is an unqualified success! I did basically the same closure when I reproduced the green gown in a purple wool- nice to have someone else come to the same conclusion :)

Maggie said...

That's gorgeous! I did a front closure on my chemise gown and it worked out really well!

Lauren said...

Oh my gosh, this is SO awesome!

Time Traveling in Costume said...

Works for me! Its beautiful, and I love your fabric.

Sandrine said...

LOVE it!!

Angela said...

So love this! Fantastic results! Thanks for sharing your closure construction. I did something similar. Cheers.

Kendra said...

Beautiful!!! I am all for making some projects about super nerd historical accuracy, and others about banging out a new pretty dress!!!

Kleidung um 1800 said...

Beautifully made! Will you still add the ruffle on the collar like in the original painting? (Cause I think that detail looks so cute!)


Lucy said...

Looks fantastic ! Really love the stripes!
Good choice and very good work.

Anonymous said...

That is gorgeous and so close to the portrait. Sometimes one has to make compromises. A silk chiffon with a stripe would be really expensive but some polyesters are absolutely convincing. I found a polyester taffeta that I SWEAR was a silk - until I did the burn test! It melted. It was perfect for my niece's 1920s inspired dress for her textiles coursework! Even though I KNOW its poly, it has the sheen, feel and drape of a silk taffeta.

Cynthia Griffith said...

So pretty! I love the stripes :D Can't wait to see it on you, as I'm sure you'll look picture-perfect, as always!

And definitely nothing wrong with pretty-pretty-princess. Everyone has different goals and needs. :)

Cynthia Griffith said...

I also just wanted to say thanks for showing the front opening. Fascinating!

Anonymous said...

Looks great, and thank you so much for showing the bodice construction! I have a complete mental block with chemise dresses, but your post helps a ton.

Anonymous said...

Looks amazing! I love it.

heileen said...

all right. I've waited long enough. I though the comment on the pinterest page would be a subtle poke and remainder and that it would down on you that something is OBVIOUSLY missing ont this page, especially as everybody, these days, is doing blogposts about internet ethic. I thought that if I gave you time... but I was wrong.
But I have come to understand that this ethic everybody is professing is, actually, not followed by acts, and that angered me.
To be clear, this picture of the white dress is MINE and I decide that I DO NOT accept twice remove vague linking through Pinterest. So now : you remove it.

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