There is a fantastic Venetian ball next month that I will be attending. I decided to make the gown of my dreams. The gown I have fantasized about since seeing Dangerous Liaisons in the movie theater circa 1988. I fell in love with the costumes and also with John Malkovich as Valmont. He was such a bastard, but I was completely captivated. What can I say, sometimes the bad guys are...well....you know...
The dream gown is this:
The Robe a' la' Francaise. I mean, who doesn't love this gown!
My initial planning had me making a black and gold brocade Francaise. The skirt and stomacher were going to be the gold and black brocade and the gown black silk taffeta.
Side note: My husband will be wearing a blush pink and gold brocade 18th century suit. I have it all made up for him and he is thrilled. Yes, the pink was his idea. He thought it would be nice if I wore pink too. Now, I am not much of a pink girl but there are a few shades I like. Blush pink being one of them. So the black and gold were shuttled away for now, and I happily went shopping for the right shade of pink. Found some beautiful taffeta online and made my purchase. Ooooooo I was so excited!
Once I had all my ducks in a row. Fabric ready, pattern cut (JP Ryan pattern), machine oiled. Time for fitting the under bodice. The outer gown attaches to a fitted under bodice. So that is your starting point. I made a couple muslins and really felt like I had the under bodice fitted very well.
The under bodice
The entire gown is meant to go over this. It will be attached around the neckline and down the front near the seams on the under bodice. Then a stomacher covers the lacing panels. The stomacher could be the same color as the gown or a contrasting fabric. Once it all comes together you have this lovely graceful gorgeous gown....
A few things went wrong. The first being I don't make a whole lot of 18th century gowns. The second was this particular gown was a bit more challenging in regards to fitting. Beyond my abilities.
On the plus side I put the whole gown together. No problem. The instructions were easy and the back pleating super easy. No issue with the pattern. But when I went to attach that gown to the under bodice it looked like a nightmare. The neckline was perfect, no issue there. But the body of the gown in the front was horrid. Drag lines everywhere. I followed the instructions and smoothed and pinned and smoothed and pinned some more. No Bueno. I even tried pinning the fitting lines on the back first, to see if I was just getting extra fabric spillage on the front. Nope. Actually the back looked great when I had it all pinned. I feel like the front of the gown bodice was too long and too wide for the under bodice. I had made one minor adjustment to the under bodice during fitting and I had made sure to copy it over to the gown pattern as well. I SHOULD have made a muslin of the gown too. Sigh...Nothing in the directions say to do this. Only to muslin the under bodice and copy over the changes to the gown also. ALL that beautiful pink fabric gone gone gone!! The fabric budget gone gone gone!!! Argggghhhhhhhhh!!
At some point this is all you can do. No I did not wad up the dress and toss it. It is laying to the side for now. I don't know that it can be salvaged. But I still need a dress for February. So I picked up all my shattered Dangerous Liaisons dreams and dug out my JP Ryan Robe a'l' Anglaise pattern. A tried and true. I made one in linen last year. Then off to my stash. I have some lovely chartreuse silk taffeta that I had purchased for a Belle Epoque dress project. Well, there was my gown and petticoat. Plus I have loads of blush pink scraps and selvedges for trimming the new gown. Green and pink are a nice 18th century color combo. I will be adding gold accents as well. This way husband and I will at least look somewhat similar at the ball.
Here is the new gown! The floral part is an under petticoat, so it will not be seen. The skirt of the dress will be the same green as the gown.
Before I sign off I have a few notes on the JP Ryan pattern:
1. Muslin the under bodice and the gown. At least the top part of the gown.
2. If it is your first Francaise maybe make the short version.
3. The sleeves are tight. Unless you have very thin arms make a muslin of these as well.
4. The construction of the dress IS NOT hard. Even the back pleats. But it is time consuming.
5. I honestly think a lot of people will need a fitting buddy for this dress. This is a hard style to fit on oneself.
6. Mark all your pleats clearly. I used a Frixon pen for mine. Be warned, Frixon pens will ghost on silk even after you have ironed the marks off. But I don't worry when the marks are buried into a pleat. Also the marks will completely come back if you are below freezing temp. FYI and the more you know.