Friday, 29 January 2016

Red chemise gown: Inspirations

On a crisp day in early fall, I was wandering through my local Fabricland when I happened upon the most wonderful bolt of red cotton voile in the bargain discount room. While red was a very unsuitable colour for any kind of chemise/shift undergarment sort of thing, it was still the perfect weight for something else: that perfectly scandalous upscaled outer-garment cousin to the chemise, the Chemise Gown!


More specifically, the idea of metres upon metres of red voile made me think of a pretty red 1791 gown featured in Hansen's Costume Cavalcade (which I swear was one of my favourite books when I was a kid). Some wonderful costumers on the 18th Century Sewing facebook page directed me to the original after which the illustration in the book was based. Here it is, the original fashion plate:

Journal de la Mode et du Go(u)t, 25 décembre, 1791-13ème cahier,
 in the collection of the Rijksmuseum.
 Displayed in glorious detail here, on their website.

The original source1 description of the gown:
"The coiffures en cheveux [hairstyles without a hat or pouf], having been for some time neglected, have returned more stylish than ever. Here is one in the new taste. It is formed all in large curls, and is trimmed with a garland of poppies. Gold earrings, totally round. Necklace made of a nakara [a shade of red] ribbon.

Kerchief of gauze or linen batiste, as you like, all plain.

Chemise gown, a la Coblentz, of nakara satin, trimmed along the bottom and on the amadis sleeves with black satin. We observe again, in passing, that the color of the gown is very striking in fabric, and one must not judge it by the illustration which necessarily renders it dead.

White gloves. Nakara shoes trimmed with black satin."
(Translation by Cassidy Percoco)


My cotton voile will obviously have to stand in for satin, which I don't have. I'll be writing updates on the progress made on this dress in later posts!

1 18th Century Sewing group also alerted me to the fact that you can also access the full magazine it came from (with the original French text) digitally, through Gallica BNF- the full magazine makes an interesting read too- there are book/theatre reviews, small anecdotes and even sheet music in some of these editions!

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