The Francaise

Here is it, you guys. The long awaited robe à la française!

I originally started this gown over five years ago, while I was in grad school. It was rather unceremoniously abandoned because, you know, grad school. It languished…until now! The fabric is a silk brocade from Pure Silks, and I was actually able to buy more of it over five years after the initial purchase when my cats spilled water on the skirt and it water spotted.

Good thing they are cute. 

The dress was really closely based on a gown from the Met, though I purposefully chose a different shape for the hoop.

I experimented with a larger panier hoop at first, but I haaaaated wearing it, and it looked bulky under the skirt. Not to mention I had no idea how to get it in my suitcase. I ended up making new linen pocket hoops following The Panier-Along instructions from The Dreamstress. The directions were super easy to follow and I was really happy with the results! I also made a quilted petticoat that I wore over the pocket hoops for some extra poof and to hide hoop lines.

Okay, so I apparently failed to actually get a picture of the quilted petticoat. But it’s literally a quilt from Walmart that I made into a skirt. It’s under there in the underskirt picture. 

I draped the pattern myself and most of it was hand sewn. The long skirt seams were done by machine, as were parts of the petticoat and the sleeve seams. Everything else, including the trim, was done by hand. I spent A LOT of time stitching the gold trim to the self fabric time and applying it to the gown, but it was absolutely worth the effort.

I ended up having a great time doing the wig for this one! I bought a super long wig for another project, but it ended up working perfectly for this. It was a mix of things I saw in portraits and instructions from Kendra’s book, 18th Century Hair & Wig Styling: History & Step-by-Step Techniques18th Century Hair & Wig Styling: History & Step-by-Step Techniques. Get her book, guys. It’s magic. I did some wigs in grad school, but it definitely wasn’t my strongest area. This came out just like I wanted, though! At some point I will try to touch it up and get some better pictures of it.

Finally, the shoes are an old thrift store pair I recovered with a bit of silk brocade I had in my stash. The buckles are the American Duchess Fleur style.

So, was it everything I dreamed it would be? Was I happy with this gown?

I have to admit that the answer is only “mostly.” Don’t get me wrong, am I very proud of my work, and I felt SO beautiful! But there are two little picky things I want to fix. The first thing is that I got the angle of the front skirt wrong. The problem is probably the angle of the waist pleats. It’s a small thing, but it hides most of the underskirt when it hangs naturally. It didn’t really look that way on the form, but that’s the problem when you are fitting things on yourself! This really would be an easy fix for the next time I want to wear it. The bodice, at least, fits just how I like it, so there are no complaints there.

Where did the underskirt go??

And I hope there will be another wearing, sooner rather than later. The other thing I didn’t care for is how this dress photographed. A really big part of it was the terrible hotel lighting, which is not at all the fault of my wife’s excellent photography skill! The fabric just looks so luscious and rich in person, but rather pale and sickly in most of the pictures. To my eye, at least. So, eventually, I’d like to find a lovely place to take some better pictures and really do this gown some justice!

For now, though, it’s lovely to have it finished and to think about how wonderful it felt to wear it and have a blast with my friends!

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One thought on “The Francaise

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  1. Your gown is beautiful! That fabric is such a great find, and it’s amazing that you were still able to buy more a few years later! And I love that you did a compère stomacher, almost no one seems to do those on modern francaise gowns. ❤

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