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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

· 1780s Chemise Dress ·

Well, this dress is a blast from the past!  I made it 5 years ago before a trip to England, where I intended to wear it in Greenwich.  Well, the dress was completed and packed but I never got around to wearing it there....  And it has had two whole outings since its completion.  Terribly embarrassing.

But, I had a good reason!  Or at least an effective one.  I couldn't come up with a good hair solution.  I am always so hair challenged- the thought of it paralyzes me like few other things can....  I eventually decided that a wig would make me happiest, since rag curling and then teasing my own hair would wreak more havoc upon it that I really was comfortable with (as well as taking a long time!) :-/

Aaaaand, then I had to work up the courage to actually purchase the wig....  I'm very good at procrastinating apparently!  I eventually did finally make the purchase, in conjunction with the "Accessories Challenge" and a Literary Ball we attended in March.  (speaking of the Accessories Challenge- did you forget that I was doing that?  Because judging by my lack of completed projects- apparently I did, too. :-P)

I ordered a Lioness wig in Chestnut and it ended up being a great color!  Whew.  It's darker than my natural hair color but matches my eyebrows perfectly, so it's probably better than getting my hair color would have been.

I wasn't exactly sure what to do with it once it arrived, but I ended up teasing it as tightly as I could (except for the very bottom portion), and trimming a bit off the ends that stuck out too far.  I'm still not sure I know what to do with it.  It's just so... BIG.  But I was judging by paintings, and I thought the proportion was just about right.  I think it might be getting a little bit of a trim before the next outing, but it's good enough for now. ;-)

And yes, I want to do something different with the back portion but ran out of time before the ball and, well, haven't gotten around to it since... ;-)

But on to the dress!  I desperately wanted a chemise gown, but I wanted the more fitted styles of the later years.  I used J.P. Ryan's basic dress pattern as my base, cutting it off straight around the waist and adding width at the front to gather up.  The sleeves were drafted from Jean Hunnisett's book "Period Costume for Stage and Screen".  The collar is drafted from Janet Arnold's "Patterns of Fashion".

The dress is a cotton voile and is worn over a short-sleeved shift, stays, an under petticoat, and my marseilles cloth petticoat.  There are no other skirt supports, but I was happy with the shape the marseilles cloth petticoat gave! :-)

The bodice is lined with cotton.  The front lining is free along the neck and waist edges and closes smoothly and pins shut; the voile has a drawstring at the neck and the waist for closure.  The sleeves and skirt are unlined and the sleeves are edged with narrow self-fabric ruffles.

I kept the accessories pretty simple- just a nosegay, neckerchief, sash, and ribbon choker.

My silk organza cap-thing was inspired by Vigee Le Brun paintings and is just a simple circle, edged and accented with a silk band and bow.

I LOVE this collar, and was so eager to use it on a project!  All the little pointy bits make me so happy! :-)

And nothing is just quite as crispy and shimmery as silk!

· Photos by Kathryn ·


  1. Beautiful! Do you have a link for that wig? I was leaning towards using my own hair for a hedgehog style, but this looks so good!

    1. Paige, it's the Lioness wig made by Wig America. It can be found many places online and in lots of color options. :-)

  2. This is so lovely! I love the idea of using white for the dress. For some reason I never think about white fabric!!
    I love the whole outfit! Lovely job!

  3. Any tips on making those sleeve seams so perfect?

    1. LOL, thanks! I'm not sure I have any great tips though. ;-) I double-stitched the seam because I was afraid the combination of sheer fabric and fitted sleeve might cause issues down the road. I sewed the second line about 3/16" from the original seam and then trimmed close to that stitching.

  4. I love this dress!! So feminine and beautiful. I'm still trying to adjust to seeing you with darker hair, though it does work on you. :D Wonderful job, as always. :-)

  5. I kind of drool a little bit whenever I see that sash. Siiiiiiiiiiilllllk.... :-) You can make me a dress like this in your spare time.

  6. My first thought was "Holy cow! That girl has a lot of hair!" Then " Oh! Its a wig." ;) Ooo I just love that collar too. & that sash is lovely. ^_^

  7. Thank you all so much!! :-)

  8. This is faaaabulous!! I love chemise dresses and yours is so beautiful and ethereal!!! Too wonderful!



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