Tag Archives: Chemise a la Reine

Tall Ships & the Chemise a la Reine

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For my birthday this year, I decided to attend “Tall Ships” in Philadelphia, PA. I have long followed other costumers on LiveJournal (did you know that still exists??), and someone posted that she was attending this event in costume the weekend after my birthday. I immediately requested to join, to which she agreed. I have been wanting to get to know some of the other non-SCA East Coast costumers I follow on LJ, as they have an annual Francaise Dinner that I hope to someday attend, and I’d like to know someone there already. This was the perfect opportunity.

But first, I had to do some work on my chemise a la reine before I could wear it to the event. A week prior, I dug out all the bits and bobs, looked at my previous pictures of this dress for improvements, and made a list of the things that needed to happen, as well as the nice to haves.

Tighten chemise a la reine neckline
Redo chemise binding so it’s not visible beneath dress
Wash and restyle wig

Re-cover shoes
Finish about 12 inches of binding on stays
Stiffen sash
Make a bumpad
Make a petticoat
Make drawers
Make stockings

The stays were first, since they had the least work to be done. I have drastically improved my sewing skills and learned many tricks in the two years since I started and nearly completed these stays. It hurts to see how awful the binding looks, the bones are loose in the channels, the tabs are poorly shaped… But it works! It’s effective and feels great. I donned the layers all together and the stays are totally visible above the back neckline. So I won’t be wearing them, but someday, they will work for my Robe a la Francaise.

Then I had to re-cover my shoes. The rubber cement I had genius-ly decided to use when I initially covered them failed miserably. The fabric peeled itself off half way through the day when I wore this outfit, so I used Aleene’s tacky glue this time. Still not the recommended fabric glue, but it was what was handy. I still have enough fabric to re-cover these shoes several more times, if needed.


In case you forgot what they looked like

I spray-starched my sash and hung it up to dry, then moved on to the bumpad. Though a “rump” was optional, I really wanted one because I am lacking in that area and the pictures of my dress showed this fault clearly. I based my bumpad on Kendra Van Cleve’s article about 18th century skirt supports, #7. I was unable to find a better picture of the rump because the Manchester Galleries’ website is undergoing revision. So I made something vaguely crescent shaped, but only reaching as far as my side, unlike a 16th century bumroll, which gives bulk all the way around the waist (what I used in my previous wear of the chemise a la reine). The cool part about this item is I got to use my new flex ruler, one of those lead-filled ones that hold the shape, to pattern my waist exactly. I cut two layers of muslin, stitched it, filled it, then sewed a 1″ grosgrain ribbon to the inside of the waist. One problem I had with my 16th century bumroll was lack of comfort, and some of the alternate constructions I later read about suggested this solution.

I then spent several evenings pleating and repleating a petticoat. My waist measurements dictated that each half of the petticoat (2 yards per side) should be pleated down to a 13″” twill tape. IMPOSSIBLE. After at least 6 hours of guessing, then measuring, and still not getting it to work, I decided to use math! But I couldn’t find a tutorial I remembered reading once upon a time about figuring the correct pleat and return and all the math. So I had to create it from scratch, using a spreadsheet. I’m not great at math, but I am great at spreadsheets… I figured I could manage this. Well, after about an hour of googling for the tutorial, then two hours of Excel and repeated tests, I think I may have gotten the math right, finally. At least, the final test seemed like it would work. One of the major problems I encountered was measuring the pleats accurately, since the fabric had a slight stretch, meaning if I spread it *too* smooth, it changed the measurements! But in the end, I had necessities I had to get finished, so I never got back to the underskirt. However, I *must* finish it in the coming days so I can put it away, ready for next time.

Then I finally tackled the wig. Oh how I was dreading this part. The wig, in its previous hedgehog-ish incarnation, had gotten destroyed between airline travel and moving. I made the decision to reuse the wig, rather than throwing the rat’s nest away (next time, I’ll buy a cheaper wig and dispose of it when it is beyond repair). I washed it in shampoo, then conditioned it to try to give the artificial fibers some “slip” from the tangles. That part didn’t actually help. I ended up using children’s detangler and a wide toothed “wet” comb. Lots and lots of detangler. Between breakage, and later trimming a couple inches off the ends, I had enough hair to make a beret sized hair rat for my mother’s natural poof. Fortunately, the wig had plenty of hair, and all the breakage probably made styling easier than the first time. Or maybe that was the trimming it received. Either way, it was too long and too thick initially.

After the detangling, I re-read Lauren of American Duchess’ tutorial and loosely followed the directions. However, I decided to start at the back this time. I realized I needed to plan ahead so I had enough hair for a few lovelocks. So I pinned all the hair upwards and curled sections at the back. I set my curling iron to low, but it still felt like it might be too hot, so I turned it off, then occasionally tested it. When I was no longer fearful of melting the wig, I curled heavily pomaded lock. No melting. Eventually, I found I didn’t need the iron to sit quite so long, and I could hold it for a 60 second count. Also, the locks seemed to curl better pomaded AND powdered. I then hair sprayed them to death, gently tucked them into a shower cap (pinned closed against the head form) and let down the rest of the hair down. I went all the way around the head and sectioned out a ring of hair. I then teased the center of the wig, then loosely smoothed the outer ring of hair over the rat’s nest, starting from the back, then the sides, then the front. I judiciously trimmed some length as I figured out what length was needed in which area. This solved the too-long problem that I, and Lauren, had with our long wigs. Everything was heavily pomaded and hair sprayed as I styled, holding it in place, but also allowing the baby powder to stick. Then a few more coats of hair spray were added. Prior to the final powder / hair spray steps, I freed the lovelocks, but for transport, I used flat hair styling clips to pin the curls up, then I put a shower cap over everything.

I also curled, powdered, sprayed and cut a lovelock from somewhere in the center to use for my mom’s hairstyle. It was transported the same as the ones on my wig, then bobby pinned into her natural hair, though it didn’t quite match. The loss from the wig was never noticeable!

The wig styling was accomplished the night before the event. I did not get to bind the chemise neckline, but it was under the gown anyway. I *did* attempt to gather the front edges of the gown neckline, but it did not make a significant enough difference in the near indecent way it revealed my cleavage. No point in trying again, as I will have to completely deconstruct and remake this dress if I am to wear it again due to problems with the initial construction, primarily the awful hems, from learning how to use a rolled hem presser foot on polyester voile.

Just before hitting the sack, I had to figure out what I was going to wear in place of the stays. My options were bra or breast binding. I believe I went with a strapless bra last time, and was displeased by the appearance of my large breasts. I tried on a product I had used once before as breast binding, Futuro Abdomen Support, size medium. I purchased it after researching my options prior to a 1920’s picnic where I wanted to minimize my DD as close to flat chested as possible. I bound the edges of the support with felt to prevent chafing, and wore it comfortably all day (under close supervision). It’s a stretchy elastic, but not the same material as an Ace bandage, which can cut off circulation because they are designed to tighten with movement. It’s actually similar to “breast binder” a post-op compression garment, in that it’s a stretch fabric with velcro at the end. Because the support is designed to be a certain measurement, it’s nearly impossible to tighten it past the max stretch of the elastic. If you managed to completely stretch the elastic out, you’d be past the velcro area for securing it. Anyway, I didn’t end up wearing that item, despite past success with it. I have a fresh belly piercing (also in celebration of my birthday) and it rubbed it uncomfortably.

So, another alternate method: I have a shapewear girdle (example) that I wear under dressy modern dresses. Inspiration struck and I slid it up so that the waist was around my chest. Success! It flattened without being too tight, and it was long enough to fully cover my piercing without rubbing. I wore it all day comfortably, though if it had been a *little* tighter, it would have had less slipping problems, but I will probably buy one especially for this purpose, instead of using one stretched out from proper use.

Finally, the fun part: pictures. We didn’t take many, and the group shots were taken after a couple people had left. I *hope* I remembered the names correctly.

Me and Mom

Me and Mom

Lunch was at City Tavern, which apparently has a cool history and delicious food.

Mandy and Robin

Mandy and Robin

Mom and Erin

Mom and Erin

Moms hat

It’s blurry, but I wanted to get a shot of Mom’s hat

All the girls!

All the girls!

Costumed girls

Just the costumed

We peeked in the Independence Seaport Museum, but weren’t particularly interested. We mostly needed cool air and bathrooms.

no comment

Uhh… no comment

Me and Erin

Me and Erin

Mom and I didn’t even make it onto a ship, as we got there after the others had their tour on the famous L’Hermione, but I wasn’t bothered. I came for the costumes and the friends!

Me and Erin

Also me and Erin

And for the 61 foot inflatable rubber ducky, who looked like this the entire time:

Mama Ducky

Mama Ducky – taken by Amanda

Sadness. After many efforts to fix her throughout the festival, she ended up with a 60 foot tear, and many bad puns in the news headlines. But I did get to see her baby, the 10 foot “Rocky the Baby Duck.”

Baby Ducky

Baby Ducky

So, I guess all was not lost.

Chemise a la reine

It’s been a long time (6 months at least) since I updated here. I have updates on several projects, but I will start with the earliest completed one, my chemise a la reine. I struggled to use a rolled hem foot, because it was a tiny hem, and ended up just finagling something like a hem. My dress, on the inside, is not the loveliest work, but it looks good from outside, so I am happy. I did make a second chemise a la reine for my friend Nicole, whom I visited in New Orleans for Bastille Day, the event we wore these gowns to. Her dress, which was my second try, came out much better, in terms of construction techniques. Nicole made the wonderful hats that we wore with our gowns.

First the pics my friend Avery snapped at my house:

Now the pics from the event:


*And* we were filmed by the show “Adam Richmond’s Fandemonium” and made it into the show briefly:

Adam Richmond’s Fandemonium

Adam Richmond’s Fandemonium

More 18th Century

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I have been immersed in 18th century and loving it. I am in the process of making an set of stays from Butterick B4254, with a couple minor variations. I have lowered the back (although it may need to be lower still) and narrowed the straps, based on others’ review of the period accuracy of this pattern. One side is finished, barring a 5 inch piece of bias tape binding… One package almost bound the entire half. Oh, and the eyelets that are going to take forever to do.

In addition, my wig came in and has promptly been styled in a hedgehog poof. Or as close to a hedgehog as I could get it. I had initially purchased a Marie Antoinette wig, the blonde one with the pink bows, but it sucked. It had been squished flat into the package and I couldn’t regain the pretty look of the picture. I then ordered a 30 inch wavy brown Lacey wig from maxwigs.com and it was a very nice looking wig! I was almost sad to rat it to death. I would certainly order this wig again for other costumes and uses.

I used a combination of Demode‘s and American Duchess‘s tutorials to style my wig. I initially tried for a pouf, but didn’t leave enough hair in the front to smooth over the pouf so I switched to a hedgehog style halfway through. The pouf might have been a bit too early for my chemise a la reine anyway, and thus, out of fashion. I used a length of brown raw wool that I had laying around as a “rat” to give the style some height, and teased the 30 inch sections around the wig like crazy. I left a little curly/wavy piece for a lovelock.

I want to make a hat SOOOO badly, but my friend is making one for me, in exchange for her chemise a la reine. Maybe I should make one of those tiny crowned hats, that way I can make a hat, but it will be different…

18th Century-esque shoes

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My efforts to purchase a pair of 18th century style shoes involved much unsatisfied web browsing and *one* trip to Payless Shoes. I swear I find perfect costuming shoes every time I go there (1920s, 16th century and now 18th century). Anyway, they are ivory colored, and my chemise a la reine is white with yellow sash and ties, but I already planned to cover them in fabric. A quick purview of Joann Fabrics’ quilting cottons found me a cheery print, though probably not period.

original shoes

I draped a muslin to get a rough pattern piece for each side and then the toe, which I cut from the fashion fabric and rubber cemented to the shoe. The fabric of the shoe had a tendency to absorb the rubber cement so multiple coats were sometimes necessary. Once all the pieces were securely in place I glued a piece of single fold bias tape down the back seam, then glued double fold bias tape all the way around the edge. To secure the inside of the bias tape, I wore the shoes around with my pajamas for 15 minutes. 😉

I tried to get a picture of the dress and shoe together, but you can’t really tell, so here are the two side by side.

Chemise a la Reine

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I will be visiting New Orleans on Bastille Day, so I decided to dress in Marie Antoinette style clothing for their festivities. After a fruitless search for costumes that were relevant and not slutty, I remembered the chemise a la reine. I checked out images on google and several dress diaries (see below) and made my decision to make a chemise a la reine for myself and my friend Nicole.

Maggie’s Costume Site – has a link to Nora Waugh’s pattern
Pour la Victoire
CF Griffith
Jenny La Fleur

First, I threw together an under chemise using cotton muslin and Drea Leed’s smock pattern generator. I simply ignored the sleeves and created a sleeveless chemise.

For the chemise a la reine, I purchased some 60″ white polyester batiste from Joann’s, which feels texturally more like a natural fiber and not so slippery and shiny. I promptly sewed three panels together into a large tube using a french seam to completely encase the edges. I hemmed the bottom edge, rather poorly (I then bought a rolled hem foot for my machine), and sewed a drawstring channel in the top edge to gather the neckline. I bound the top edge with white double fold bias tape.

I then sewed two tubes of cotton muslin for straps and attached them to the neckline, and tada, a basic dress. I had some trouble trying to make the straps out of the batiste and knew the upcoming ruffle would cover the muslin.

I added a ruffle to the neckline out of scrap material and cut out sleeves roughly according to the Nora Waugh pattern linked above. Some single fold bias binding around the sleeves created a ruffle and two poufs. I found a lovely butter yellow satin that I made a sash out of and a matching pale yellow cord for the sleeve ties.

All in all, my methods did the job, but I will do many things differently as I start on Nicole’s dress next. Firstly, I would use 4 panels of 60″ fabric. Secondly, the french seam was too thick for the rolled hem. I would hem each piece first and then stitch them together. As Nicole’s will not have a ruffle at the neckline, I want to make the bias binding smoother. To do that, I will use the gathering foot on my machine about a half inch from the top edge, instead of the drawstring method. I also want to flare the shoulder straps slightly to give a rounded neckline instead of my squarish one. Lastly, the sleeves are not poofy enough for my tastes. I used a 24″ wide sleeve, next time I will use a 30″ wide sleeve.