Late 1780s Robe en Chemise Costume

1780s Chemise a la reine

When I tell people I like making historical costumes they always ask me, “Where are you going to wear that?” Well, guess what? I finally wore a costume to an event! I went to Dallas for the DFW Costumer’s Guild‘s annual Georgian Picnic. It’s a gathering of costuming enthusiasts where we dress up in 18th-century through Regency era clothes, eat, play games, socialize, and generally have a fun time.

22918496420_25d49b55c0_k(from Festive Attyre’s Flickr album)

Here’s everyone at the picnic arranged in a general timeline – earlier styles on the left, later on the right. I’m right in the middle.

Normally autumn weather in Texas is mild but this year the day turned out to be quite chilly. Unfortunately the costume I chose to make and wear was more of a summer dress: the soft, breezy, classic white Robe en Chemise (or chemise dress or chemise a la reine).


A quick history lesson: when the French public first saw this portrait of Marie Antoinette by Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun in the early 1780s it caused quite a scandal. People thought she was in her underwear because the fluffy white dress resembled a chemise (hence the name “the queen’s chemise”).

But the style caught on — with variations of course. The earliest incarnations consisted of long rectangles of cotton muslin gathered on drawstrings and tied with a sash or ribbon belt. Later they often had fixed gathers into a waistband, long slim sleeves, a structured back bodice, and sometimes they were made in other fabrics like silk or stripes.


The chemise dress was transitional style between the time of the extreme rococo dresses earlier in the century and the sleek, columnar dresses post-French revolution.

If you’d like to see some examples check out my Pinterest board.

My Dress:

1780s Chemise a la reine

I used the Robe en Chemise pattern from Laughing Moon Mercantile.

The fabric is some cheap cotton I bought from Fabric Wholesale Direct. It’s certainly not the best quality but it is light, loosely woven, and semi-sheer.

I made the version with the full gathers in front and back, low neckline, long sleeves, and no train. I added double ruffles at the neckline for maximum floofiness.

It is mostly machine sewn with the exception of hand blind hems on the sleeves and skirt, and rolled hems on the ruffles.

I bought some taffeta from Pure Silks that I ripped it into 6in wide strips and sewed a sash that’s about 5 yards long.

Under layers:

Underneath the dress I’m wearing two 18th century style white muslin petticoats (like the middle one I’m wearing here).

1780s Chemise a la reine

Below that are my 18th-century strapless stays and my regency era chemise.


I made a short, coral bead necklace — a popular accessory in the late 18th/early 19th century.

1780s Chemise a la reine

I also have on ivory silk stockings and these American Duchess shoes with buckles.

1780s Chemise a la reine

I had decorated a cheap straw hat to go with the outfit, but I don’t love it. It’s too heavy and limp to keep its shape and because of the windy weather, the feathers kept falling out even though I had stitched down both them and the matching blue sash. I ditched it for most of the picnic.

Hair and make-up:

1780s Chemise a la reine

I bought a wonderful cosmetic “starter set” from Litttle Bits on Etsy. They recreate actual cosmetic recipes from the era.

For hair, I attempted to do a “hedgehog” style which is basically an 18th-century white girl afro. I slept in foam rollers to curl my hair, then teased the hell out of it. I used the Litttle Bits pomatum and powder to add texture and lighten the color, pinned my hair up in back a bit, and doused my whole head in enough hairspray to light a house on fire.

1780s Chemise a la reine

It’s not as big as I would like. For once my hair is actually a little too long to do a historical hairstyle properly.

Well, this post is long enough so I’ll wrap it up. Thanks to all the DFWCG people who were so nice and welcoming to me. I had a great time and I’m already looking forward to future events.

Floral Circle Skirt and Cropped Sweatshirt

Self Drafted Circle Skirt and Raglan Sweatshirt
This post is a two-fer! A whole me-made coordinating outfit. I’m teaching a bunch of sewing classes these days at a local Austin store, including a circle skirt class. I made this skirt as an example based on my measurements.

I found this great big floral stretch cotton at Joann Fabrics. I loved the graphic look of the roses and the colors. It had a very 50s vibe so what better use for it than a circle skirt?

Self Drafted Circle Skirt and Raglan Sweatshirt

I saw this fabric about a week before I bought it and decided not to get it during that trip. The next time I went to the store there wasn’t much left on the bolt. In fact it was just enough to make the circle skirt. I had to piece together the waistband.

Only problem – the fabric had a misprint – streaks of white running down the center fold along the grainline. Luckily, I saw it and was able to get the fabric at a big discount.

I did a pretty good job of hiding the unprinted areas in the back seam. Only a couple streaks show but they’re not noticeable.

Self Drafted Circle Skirt and Raglan Sweatshirt

(obligatory twirl shot)

I used a center back invisible zipper for the closure and made a narrow 1″ waistband (hidden by my shirt).

Because this fabric has some stretch in it, I worried that it would stretch out a bunch at the bias angles. It did. Good thing I let the skirt hang for about a week before I and trimmed the excess and hemmed it.

Self Drafted Circle Skirt and Raglan Sweatshirt

So after I finished my pretty new skirt I discovered nothing in my wardrobe went well with it. Time to sew a new shirt!

Self Drafted Circle Skirt and Raglan Sweatshirt

I had some criteria for this shirt:

  • Solid color: another print would just compete with the roses.
  • Cropped: I didn’t want to have to tuck a bunch of fabric into this skirt (I realize I could have made a Ginger Bodysuit, maybe next time).
  • Modern & vintage: rather than go all out feminine and 50s inspired, I wanted something more modern and even a little sporty. The raglan sleeves instantly read casual and I like the look of a sweatshirt mixed with an uber-girly skirt.

Self Drafted Circle Skirt and Raglan Sweatshirt

The shirt is drafted from an old raglan block. I simply changed the sleeves, made cuffs, narrowed the bodice, and added a waistband.

Self Drafted Circle Skirt and Raglan Sweatshirt

I found this fabric at Joann (I know right? Joann is really uppin’ their game lately…). It’s a heathered jersey with some kind of metalic-y fiber in it like the fabric I used for my Morris Blazer (although that was a ponte, not a jersey).

Self Drafted Circle Skirt and Raglan Sweatshirt

I’d call this outfit a success. Big ass roses 4evah!!!

Also, f you want to make your own circle skirt, By Hand London has a good tutorial (and an app!).

Deer and Doe and Grainline both have similar patterns as my shirt if you don’t want to draft one yourself.


Sparkle Ponte Grainline Morris Blazer

Grainline Morris Blazer

Sorry that some of these pics are a little blurry. It’s been raining all weekend so I was forced to do indoor photos. Black fabric is hard to photograph anyway.

Grainline Morris Blazer

The Pattern: I’m a little late on the bandwagon for Grainline’s Morris Blazer. Better late than never. I was drawn to this design ’cause it’s a simple, unlined jacket that I thought I could make quickly. I wasn’t wrong. This pattern came together in just a few hours.

Grainline Morris Blazer

The Fabric: Some weird rayon poly blend ponte with tiny metallic threads running through it. Bought it at Joann Fabrics which has been surprising me lately with some good fabric finds.

Grainline Morris Blazer

The Changes: I didn’t exactly follow the directions very well for the hem facing and that point where the lapel meets the hem facing had about 70 layers of fabric in there (and this fabric is thick). I tried to trim some of the seam allowance there but only ended up with raw edges sticking out at the point.

Grainline Morris Blazer

Then I kind of half-assed whip stitched the points down and now they look ok (you can’t see the hand stitching). Next time I’ll do it the correct way.

Grainline Morris Blazer
Also, I can’t really tell but I think I might need a small FBA on this jacket. The fabric wants to roll back on itself at the front shoulders.

Grainline Morris Blazer

The Results: I’m hooked on this pattern now. I gotta make, like, a dozen more. I don’t have many blazers that I wear regularly but I can already tell this is going to be a popular one this winter. Another Grainline winner for me!

Grainline Morris Blazer

Sleeveless Popover Archer

Sleeveless Grainline Archer

Taking a little break today from costume sewing (both historical and some cosplay) to share a quick shirt I made. Yet another variation on the Grainline Archer.

The Goal: I bought a yard of this fabric with the idea that I would use it for a different project but I never ended up making that other project. Instead I was left with only a small amount of fabric. What could I make…?

The Pattern: Ah, the ever popular Grainline Archer. It’s a well drafted pattern and I love it because no darts. Seriously, not having darts is the greatest thing.

Sleeveless Grainline Archer

The Fabric: Some metallic on white Kokka Japanese fabric from The Cloth Pocket. I think it’s a linen/cotton blend.

I didn’t have enough fabric for every piece so I cut the under collar, inside yok,e and arm hole bias binding from some plain white linen.

Buttons came from my stash.

Sleeveless Grainline Archer

The Changes: With limited fabric I couldn’t do a full length placket so I scraped together some leftover bits to make the half-placket.

Sleeveless Grainline Archer

I made one other popover Archer before so I thought I remembered how to do the placket technique. I was wrong. And messed up a couple times. Finally I reviewed the same tutorial I used last time which worked but the tip of the placket is a little wonky. It’s times like these that I have to ask myself: “do I care?” And usually the answer is “not enough.”

I also took Grainline’s advice and sliced off a bit from the shoulder area in order to make the pattern work better as a sleeveless design.

Sleeveless Grainline Archer

The Results: I’ve been doing so much costume related sewing lately which I enjoy, but with so much more detail and handwork, it seems like those projects are ever never finished. I rely so much on the motivation boost I get when I complete a garment, so  I it’s good sometimes to take a break and sew up something quickly.