Thursday, June 9, 2016

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The Red Dress Project: 18th Century Robes de Cour

The next on my list of Big News to share with all of you is that, due to the popularity of the 18th century patterns inspired by "Outlander," Simplicity has asked me to do another 18th century pattern based on the incredible Red Dress from Outlander, Season 2.

If you're not familiar with this exquisite 1940s-meets-1740s piece of haute couture, here it is:

Terry Dresbach's incredible red dress for Outlander, Season 2, with hints of Dior. If you haven't seen Terry's blog, click through for more gorgeous photos.
In the "Outlander" books, Diana Gabaldon dresses Claire in a bold red court gown with an extremely low neckline. In the TV show, this dress was designed by Claire herself, merging her 20th century aesthetic with 18th century styles to create a truly unique creation that stood out from everything else at Versailles. I thought Terry Dresbach, costume designer for Outlander, did this fabulously (along with all of Claire's other Paris costumes inspired by Dior and Balenciaga).

The back of Claire's red dress, by Terry Dresbach, for Outlander Season 2. You can see it's back lacing and the skirt is incredibly full, cartridge-pleated to the waist. On her blog, Terry notes that this dress took 15 yards of duchess satin. Click through for more
I am facing some dilemmas about this project. The first is that I feel the red dress from the TV show is an original work of haute couture and shouldn't be reproduced like-for-like. There are details and elements of Terry's gown that will not be in my pattern. Instead, I'm starting with the original source material - extant 18th century court gowns - and interpreting the red dress from Dragonfly in Amber in my own way.

It will be red. It will have a low neckline. It will be appropriate for the court of Louis XV. Here's what I'm thinking:

Jean-Marc Nattier (artist)
Duchess Maria Anna Josepha of Bavaria - this Robe de Cour has the 3/4 sleeves with flounces too, different from the tiered ruffle sleeves on many.
Marie Antoinette in court dress - fashion plate - this is from the 1770s, but you can see how this style of gown is quite "fossilized."
Originally I though to make the gown front-closing, like most 18th century gowns, but when thinking about how to deal with the low neckline, especially if it's split down the CF, there was an issue with the stays showing. This lead me to the Robe de Cour, the formal French court dress worn for exactly the sort of occasion Claire attends at Versailles.

The Robe de Cour was a back-lacing, fully-boned bodice worn with a separate skirt over a broad foundation. Sometimes the ensemble had a separate train attached.

These bodices had wide, slightly off-the-shoulder necklines, very low, and sometimes had tabs at the waist like stays. They were constructed like stays, with the decorative fabric mounted on the outside of a fully boned lining. For those with tabs, the skirt went on under the front and back points of the bodice, but over the tabs at the sides, like 17th century gowns. If you recall, Claire's wedding gown in Season 1 was also a Robe de Cour.

Extant robe de cour of Sofia Magdalena of Sweden, 1766. The fluffy sleeves are still in tact on this one, and you can see the tabs at the waist.
Fascinating stuff,and completely doable, even though it looks complicated! My pattern will have very large pocket hoops, a single skirt, and the bodice. It will be closest to this:

Infanta Maria Josefa de Borbon by Giusseppe Bonito, 1758-59. This is a Robe de Cour with a single skirt, back0lacing bodice, and 3/4 sleeves with flounces.
Excited? Me too! Now I have *a lot* of work to do to get this all done by October, but I plan to share the progress along the way. Stay tuned!

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38 comments:

  1. Still haven't even started the other patterns, but I'm looking forward to seeing your take on the Red Dress!

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    1. I know, it seems really fast and crazy! Only crazy on this end, though, lol - the Red Dress pattern won't be out until Summer 2017, but I have to have the pattern and sample done by October.

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  2. Gracious, this is going to be a beautiful dress, and, I predict, very popular...bet you it gets used for wedding dresses, too. Congratulations on the popularity of the initial patterns!
    Very best,
    Natalie

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    1. I hope it does get used for wedding dresses! It's a beautiful style and won't require a separate corset, which I think makes it uniquely accessible to beginning costumers too.

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  3. I recently finished my robe de cour and I have to say that in case you look for a pattern, Janet Arnold actually made one for the first issue of Costume. It contains a few surprise, like people expect the boning layout to mirror the typical 1660s dress boning layout. But it's actually different and that makes a difference in the shape it creates.

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    1. Is the Janet Arnold pattern in Patterns of Fashion? I recall the 17th c. bodice pattern in there, but I'll have to look again for the Robe de Cour (or is it a different book?)

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    2. It's in "Costume" the Journal of the Costume Society in the UK. Not readily commercially available, it's an academic journal. Go to your local university library, there's a good chance they'll have a subscription. Until her death in 1997 Janet Arnold (among her other articles) periodically published pattern drafts of extant garments that were not included in the Patterns of Fashion series. Warning - this journal (and its companion publication, "Textile History") is a whole, delightful rabbit-hole unto itself!

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    3. You can buy just the article in iteself if you go to Costume's webpage, though it isn't exactly cheap. I have it and used the pattern for my yet-to-be finished cour.

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  4. This is AWESOME!! I can't wait to see it as well.
    Are you going to be adding in the "nude" panel with lace overlay from the book's description (ie, possibly as a modesty panel for those who aren't quite so brave to go unsupported in the front?)

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    1. I'm thinking of having two neckline options - the straight across you see on the original gowns, and then a sweetheart neckline option. It won't be "down to her third rib" like is described, but a tasteful plunging neckline meeting at a center front seam that each sewist can leave open or sew up as they like.

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  5. Very exciting. Have you thought about having multiple sleeve options.? This is inspiring!!

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    1. There may not be room on the pattern tissue for sleeve options, but if we aren't able to fit them, then it's something we can "hack" later :-)

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  6. WOW! You certainly have your work cut out for you but I fully believe it will be wonderful when you get it all done. Good luck and get cracking!

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    1. Thank you! For this one my first task is to make some seriously big pocket hoops, lol. Luckily those are easy and quick :-)

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  7. Started the Outlander pattern 2 weeks ago and have followed your instructions on how to add more boning and am also handsewing the eyelets!! Cannot wait to get this pattern!

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  8. Oh God, this dress is absolutely FABULOUS! Good luck with your work, fingers crossed it goes smoothly!:-)

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    1. Thank you! I hope it goes smoothly too. Sometimes dresses want to be made...and sometimes they don't, lol!

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    2. Oh yes!!! That feeling sounds very familiar:-) Really, they seem to be living things sometimes, with minds of their own:-) One bonnet I'm working on now definitely feels that wayXD

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  9. I kinda wonder if it would work for a Period Lolita dress, to be honest, it's just so awesome... though the neckline would have to be higher:-D

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    1. Possibly. It's easy to raise the neckline a bit, too :-)

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  10. Will the pattern hack series require a larger fabric amount?

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    1. Anon, it depends on the changes you make. If you're adding a skirt to the bodice to make a jacket, for instance, then yes, you'll need more fabric.

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    2. Thank you. I am going fabric shopping this weekend and just wanted to know if I needed to get a bit more than the pattern said.

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    3. It's good to be on the safe side with a bit extra. Also, you will need extra for matching plaids.

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  11. Super excited about this. Can't wait!

    Jean

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  13. Are there any plans to do the "New Look/Bar Suit" ensemble or other costumes from season 2? I'm hoping I make some sort of sense!!!

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    1. Not as a pattern from me, but I do believe JP Ryan is working on a riding habit pattern that could be used for the bar suit jacket.

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  14. Good God, I wouldn't know where to start with something like this but oh, that red dress from Outlander!!! I am completely in love! I haven't seen any of this series yet but now I really, really want to. I will definitely follow your progress with awe. xx

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  15. Best of luck! It sounds like a wonderful project.

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  16. I think I've seen others make this request, but please consider a version that would allow for self-dressing! Thanks! PS, Have made and completed both the chemise, stays(with the extra boning) and gown from your first Outlander patterns. Very pleased with how they came together. Can't wait to do more with the hacks as you post them. Thanks!

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  17. OMG I love the gown of Henriette de France on the first painting <3

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  18. This si really exciting! Looking forward to this pattern, and your series on hacks, already!

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  19. Congratulations on your success with the previous pattern! It's really exciting that you get to make a court dress pattern. I think it can be a bit challenging but it's a really good idea to make it more authentic than the movie version!

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  20. That is really exciting you are making another pattern- and judging by your ideas here, it is going to be beautiful!
    The Artyologist

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