Pink French & Diderot Stays

5/6/11 – Oh this outfit.  I had wanted a new outfit for CosCon 29, and I wanted it to be an 18th century French outfit.  Princess and I went shopping at SR Harris (the Mecca of Fabric in MN) and found a lovely pink silk dupioni with black shot through it. 

I was rather excited as I have not had a pink costume before, and this seemed like an excellent option. 

And then time got away from me and suddenly it was the night before Con and it was still a big pile of fabric.  After the Wench Posse left for the evening, I started cutting into the fabric around 10pm.  I finished up at 5am.  Insanity, I know.

I started with a muslin that I knew worked for the bodice.  I cut it out and finished the fronts with the robing and it looked great.  Then I took the back muslin piece and hung it from my mannequin (who is NOT my size, but is set for my height) and I started draping the pleats on the back using the instructions I had received from the Francaise class I took at Costume College in 2009 from Kendra at Demode

The pleats went together beautifully, and skirt draping at the front was lovely, and I put in the sleeves using an old sleeve pattern I had.  They seemed to be set back a little far (looked like I was downhill skiing in them when it was on me) and I resolved to remove them and put them back in while at Con, as well as sew down the neckline at the back of the neck.  What was one small fix when the rest was done, right?

I had run out of fabric when doing the petticoat, so I used another fabric for the back of the petticoat.  I pleated a band of fabric along the front hem and stitched it in place.  I covered the raw edge with a lovely gold and pink braided trim I had in my stash that matched the fabric surprisingly well.  I also put it along the robing and down the front edges of the gown, and in strips on the stomacher.  I had just enough left to put on the tricorn hat frame I was covering.  I brought along some black lace for the sleeves.  I had pocket hoops that I had previously made from a pattern in Jean Hunisett’s Period Costume for Stage & Screen to go underneath all of it. 

The fabric was HORRIBLE to work with.  I have never had silk shred so much when working with it.  There were little bits of filmy silk threads all over my luggage, my sewing space, and even the airplane seat where I stitched on the hat.  AWFUL.  It looked lovely and was easy to sew, but the shredding was extensive.  Various trim ideas I had come up with needed to be put aside due to the shredding issue.  I had also cut the gores that went between the pleats in back and the skirting in front sideways, so I had two darker stripes at the sides of the dress.  I figured I would say they were a design element.  Ah well, right?

Then I got to Con and finally the night before we were to wear them I tried it on with my new corset. 

I had used the Diderot Stays pattern that TOL (the Other Laura) had lent to me, and had drafted it up to fit me.  I used two layers of coutil that I had been saving and a layer of floral silk.  I grommeted the back because I like lacing through grommets. 

Front and Back:

As of this writing the corset is bound along the back edges and the top, but needs to have the bottom edges done.

So there I was, in my pretty new corset, putting on my pretty pink French outfit that I had made in 7 hours, feeling pretty smug.  Until I saw the view from the back of the dress.  I had a massive 18th century bubble butt.

It would appear that when I decided to drape the pleats onto the back piece that I had not taken into account the side seams.  My side seams were so far forward on the bottom that they were pulling the pleats forward.  If I moved the side seams back to where they needed to go I did not have enough fabric in front to cover the stomacher.  And on top of all that, I had put some craft interfacing in the stomacher (as I had done previously in other French style gowns) and discovered that it would not lie flat on my new corset as it had on my Elizabethan.  So a double fail for me.

After a small bout of whining and frustration, I decided that the only thing I could do was to turn it into a kind of anglaise.  I undid the shoulder and side seams.  I undid the skirting seams along the bodice.  And then I cut the big back pleated fabric piece along that waist seam.  I removed the gores and stitched the skirt back together. 

Then I took the old back piece and cut new pieces (with one center back seam) out of the leftover pleated back piece and the gores.  I sewed that to the front bodice pieces, and then repleated the skirt onto the bodice.  I wound up with a straight back skirt (no dip) because at that point I did not have the patience to handstitch down the point.  I also had to make sure to repleat the sides properly, as I didn’t want to have to hem it again, particularly since it was hemmed to go over the hoops.

Now I have never seen an anglaise worn with pocket hoops.  The only thing I have found is a sort of morning robe in Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion worn over pocket hoops that looked anything like my finished gown.  So I declared it to be “historically inspired” rather than “accurate” and called it a day.  I put the sleeves back in, and in order to keep the stomacher from buckling in the front I put a hotel washcloth underneath to give me the correct shape. 

The dress looked lovely until after I had dinner, when Arte pointed out some spots on my stomacher from where a flying piece of steak had left it’s mark.  TOL was kind enough to lend me a Victorian Cameo (my ancestor from the future) to cover it. 

Front view.

Back view.

Obviously guilty over something naughty I have done.

I finally was able to wear the lovely necklace that Princess had made for me two years ago from pieces from two vintage necklaces and some pearl drops and Gutermann gold beads.

For my hair I used two Fun Buns that I had purchased at Variety Beauty to make my poufed hairstyle.  I curled my hair all over with my Hot Tools Ribbon curler (this thing is AMAZING.  It curls my whole head in 10 min.).  Then I put one section of hair forward, and pinned the two fun buns in place on the top of my head.  I pulled the front section of hair back over the fun buns and pinned it in place.  Saharazara pulled the hair in back up over the buns and pinned that in place, also pinning the curls into some sort of order.  I left the two long curls hanging.  She also lent me a pink feather for my hair.  The earrings were from my Blue Courtesan.  My forehead is a bit high for this style (El Jefe calls it Five-Head) and so I am going to have to do some sort of alterations if I want to wear it this way again.

The lovely Chum the Librarian has fallen in love with the outfit (and it’s unfinished hat) and I think it is going to wind up being hers, which is fine.  It deserves someone that loves it.  Right now I am still mightily annoyed with it, even though the fault is all mine.

We looked pretty though!

4 thoughts on “Pink French & Diderot Stays

    • Laura says:

      Well, I needed to call you something! Hee. And thanks for the kudos on a dress that is going to sit in time out for a good long while…

  1. ReneeDj says:

    While the gown may have frustrated you beyond belief, it looked (and still looks) AMAZING! Your work is fabulous and sets the bar just a little bit higher for the rest of us by being around you. It’s good to give us all something to strive for. Can I be like you when I grow up (minus the sewing another gown until 5 am)?? 😉

    • Laura says:

      Aw. You make me sniffle. But I am only as good as my village, which is THE BEST VILLAGE EVER. And you are the best embroiderer ever.

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