Part 1: Construction of Lily’s 18th Century Robe a la Francaise Princess Dress
Part 2: The Reveal of Lily’s 18th Century Robe a la Francaise Princess Dress!
Part 3: Questions & Answers
Part 4: Question & Answers Part 2
Wow! More questions from people! I was asked if I’d mind sharing how I made the patterns and/or the resources I used. I was going to add this to Part 1 or on the end of Part 3, but it’s really quite long, so I decided to put it in a new post.
What patterns or resources for patterns did you use for the various items?
I researched what an 18th century chemise looked like and pretty much just winged it by eyeballing the general shape and draping on “Rainbow Lily”. This particular image and website was of great help to me:
Lily’s chemise had her sleeve length match with the diagonal length of the under arm gore rather than being long sleeved, I also did the neckline with a drawstring, which you can see in this photo. If you look very carefully at the shoulder area on the left side of the photograph, you can see where I made my sewing mistake….the seam allowance for that side is out on the right side, rather than the wrong side. Oops. That’s what happens when you try to sew late at night when you really should just be in bed:
If you look at many 18th century paintings, you can see that the chemise often just peeked out from under the bodice and can be embellished with ruffles or lace around the neckline. You can see how it just peaks out from Lily’s costume in some of the photos.
I made an unboned stay for Lily, top stitched not only to make it look like it was boned, but to also fuse the fabrics together. I used three layers of fabric to give it a good thickness and foundation because I knew I’d be sewing the crescent waist pads on it and it had to hold the weight of the skirts.
While researching 18th century stays, I came across this blog and the mention of using a custom corset generator to create a base pattern for an Elizabethan era stay, which from there, she altered the base pattern to be along the shape of an 18th century stay.
So I fired up the custom corset generator:
And plugged in Lily’s measurements, and this is what I got:
Then I used this image from costume.org to make alterations to the base stay pattern to create the 18th century shape. I eliminated the tabs along the sides because honestly, gosh, I didn’t want to have to bind them! Haha! Plus, I was going to do the waist pads:
I honestly wasn’t thinking it through, and created more work for myself by sewing this the wrong side together and turning inside out. It made the binding much harder to sew through on my regular sewing machine, and I had to pull my vintage Singer out — which — completely saved the day and I ended up using it for the bulk of the costume. As for the crescent pads – I just eyeballed how big I thought they needed to be, then made them and sewed them on. I actually sewed them to the stay on the underside of the pad to help hold the pad up a little.
I used this fabulous tutorial from The Dreamstress:
I eyeballed off Lily roughly how wide I wanted her skirts to be with a piece of fabric and then worked out measurement wise from there. The boning I used was a thin, yet flexible plastic tubing found in the plumbing part of Home Depot. It was tightly coiled when I opened the package, so after measuring the boning channels and cutting the plastic tubing to length, I pulled out my hair dryer and ran the tubing under it slowly, but very carefully so nothing would catch fire. The heat of the hair dryer straightened out the tubing very quickly – then I was able to insert into the boning channels and have them curve perfectly.
Petticoat / Underskirt:
I used a combination of:
the only difference is that I really wanted to utilize the existing hems of the bed sheets rather than hemming them myself (I LOATHE HEMMING! haha!) and I wanted them to sit nice and straight – so from both of these photos you can see that I positioned the hem first:
and pleated around the waist. I actually pulled most of the pleats to either side of the skirt following how the Robe a la Francaise was pleated at the sides and kept the front relatively pleat free so it would sit nice and straight. I hand basted the pleats down, cut off the excess fabric and then sewed the waistbands on. I essentially followed the same process for both the petticoat and the underskirt.
Robe a la Francaise
In order to draft it to Lily’s size, I kind of cheated. I measured Lily from shoulder to floor, then in Photoshop, I created a print size document (300dpi) a few inches taller than the measurements I took from Lily and resized the pattern until the very front shoulder to floor part of the pattern matched Lily’s shoulder to floor measurements. Then I just printed out the top half of the body section (I had to copy/merge letter sized sections – paste them in new document, print them out, then match them up). It took me two resizes and three toiles until I was happy with the size. Luckily with the Robe a la Francaise- you don’t need to do an entire toile – you can just do it from the waist up. For my toile – I was using vintage muslin I had picked up from the thrift store – so I just used the entire width, which turned out to be just a few inches shorter than Lily’s measurements.
Once I had my pattern perfected, while the construction actually seemed really straight forward, I did find these blogs invaluable:
I reviewed a lot of different Robe a la Francaise and other 18th century dresses and fashion plates on Pinterest to get a rough idea. In particular, I did pay attention to those with a similar floral pattern and cotton and wanted to do a self trim with the floral fabric, however I ran out of the floral fabric and had to improvise. Researching indicated that there were instances of contrast trimmings, so I felt comfortable doing just that. As for the blue trim, these two particular sleeve flounces inspired me with my choice of the pom-pom gimp trim:
You may have noticed that I used my scallop pinking shears ALL OVER THE PLACE! While this definitely helped with saving a huge amount of time with hemming, it is also period correct and the reason why I did it. However, the pinking done on original garments was done using a different (and far more efficient, I might add) method with slightly different shapes and if I decide to continue with costuming, I think I need to get my mitts on one of these tools! Here are a few good examples:
At the end of the post – you can see a pinking tool in action:
Various examples of pinking:
I hope this was of use for some, and if you have any further questions that I haven’t covered, please don’t hesitate to ask!