Saturday, November 12, 2011

Chemise a la Reine

      I know I should've posted about this days ago, but homework and SATs and my 18th birthday got in the way. I didn't take any photos of the construction because I was rushing to finish the entire dress in two weeks (and don't forget I was making it while also juggling homework and practice for the Senior Play). I didn't use a pattern, but merely went with the vague directions I saw at other blogs, which basically were to sew a giant tube of fabric, and attach shoulder straps and sleeves with drawstring casings everywhere. So here I thought, oh this will be easy-peasy! I got the tube of fabric down and then it took me nearly a week to fiddle with the shoulder straps: since I don't own a dress form, I had to keep trying the dress on myself which considerably slowed me down.

      I made the tube part of this dress out of 4 yards of this wonderful fabric, which cost only $2 a yard. I got six yards of the fabric, and used the extra for making the sleeves. Which STILL had me with leftover fabric, so I can always attack this dress with ruffles or something. I actually made a neck ruffle for this dress but I wasn't crazy with how it turned out so I removed it.


The dress has two sleeve puffs, with a cuff made of double-fold bias tape on the last puff. The drawstring on the neckline is only in the front, as I tried to make the gathers in the back a little more fitted.  There is also a drawstring at the waist, and on the one sleeve puff. The dress has pocket slits in the side so that I can access my pockets. I hemmed it with a slight train in the back, although I wasn't accustomed to maneuvering crowded hallways without anyone putting their dirty paws on my train.

I also did my hair for this, not using a STRAND of hair that wasn't mine. I began by taking a shower the previous day, and braiding my hair into small braids all over except for an area in the back which was to become the curls. Halloween morning, I let out all the braids, then brushed them out. I took a piece of black netting, rolled it up, and pinned it above my hairline, then draped my hair over it. I continued to tease and drape and pin like a mad woman. Then I placed the ribbon in my hair (I made that too!), pinned it, and teased/ draped/ pinned the hair leftover from the sides over it. The trickiest part was making the curls, since I had to curl my hair with the curling iron and then carefully slide out the curl, trying to keep it intact while I pinned the living daylights out of it. I made two curls on each side, and this must've taken me the better part of an hour. Lastly, I stuck 3 black plumes in my 'do (these were from those wonky New Year's Eve tiaras) and two rosy artificial flowers. In these pictures I only have one flower, because the other fell off as I was walking to school.

My tousled hair after walking over a mile to and from school.

My black bra strap is showing...I worried that if I didn't wear a bra with this dress, I'd look like a shapeless marshmallow.

     Possibly the most frustrating thing is that the bolts of fabric at Wal-Mart are properly labeled, but the labels are covered by enormous orange price stickers! I mean really, you can't put the price sticker maybe a little to the side, so I can actually read this important information? No?

     I bought a yard of this GORGEOUS stiff pink satin for $2 to make the sash and the headband. I wasn't sure if the headband was period correct, but I did see similar matching headbands in some paintings.

Antoine Vestier, Portrait of a Lady with a Book, Next to a River Source, ca 1785

Vigée le Brun, Portrait of Izabela Lubomirska (Elzbieta Czartoryska) The Blue Marquise, 1782

     To make the sash, I cut from selvage to selvage twice, then sewed both lengths together, then folded and sewed again to make a tube, then sewed the edges inside to make it all clean and pretty. Maybe my masterpiece on Paint will clear it up for you:

Yeah...totally understandable right?
      I realized that I also needed another petticoat as multiple petticoats were the norm in the 18th century and because my dress needed more "poof". I bought a little more than a yard of this mystery fabric for about $2. I think in total I only spent $16 on fabric, then about $6 on trims. Talk about affordable! I made the second petticoat in the same manner I made my first, except by now I was all out of twill tape so I used some beige yarn I had leftover from another project as ties.

      I was a victim of the snowstorm that attacked the Northeast a few days before Halloween. Subsequently, our Town Halloween Parade was canceled (I wanted to compete in the costume contest!) and, most unfortunately, on Halloween, as I was walking to school in my costume, I slipped on a patch of black ice and fell onto my left elbow. My right hand was really scratched up, and it's only started scabbing now. I gathered all my books and papers, and crawled to the cars that were parked on the curb. For some reason, that whole area was covered in ice, even the cars. I held onto the icicled car door handles and kind of rag doll dragged myself for about half a block. I didn't even notice I was bleeding from my right hand until I saw red stains all over the pocket slits of my dress and all over my school papers. And what was worse, when I got to school, I had just missed the school's costume contest by a few minutes! And what was even worse than that but really not as bad, I realized I couldn't bend my left elbow. I guess when I landed on the ice, and when my books landed on my elbow, something inside moved. When I got to school I couldn't bend my arm up to fix my hair, nor could I straighten out my arm. Eventually I went to the school nurse for some ice and aspirin, but it took a whole week for my left arm to regain its bendability. Every time I tried to straighten out my arm, it felt like there was a rubber band inside that was super tense and couldn't stretch any more. But now its fine. I'm right-handed anyway.


  1. It's lovely!
    A quick and easy tip for determining fabric types: burn a clipping. Depending on the smell and ash you can get an idea of what it was.
    Obviously not ideal to do in the store, but when you get it home and need to know how to wash it, it's helpful. (although I did once freak a customer out when she asked me what a bolt from the bargain bin was and I asked "got a lighter?")

  2. Thank you very much!!
    I really appreciate your tip, it's really helpful! It seems that now I won't be left in that void of confusion hahaa. (:

  3. A beautiful 'a la reine', you look wonderful n it as well, great work. I agree with Terry re the burn test, though best to do outside the shop so that you don't set the fire alarms off :)

    That's awful about your fall and your elbow, ouch! So glad its better now.

  4. Made without a pattern! And it looks so good! Oh, I am dying to have sewing skills like yours!