Welcome to “Costume Analytics,” where we take a close look (or as close as possible) at scintillating costume pieces from portraits, movies, and museums, and break down what they’re made of, how they’re made, and how you and I can make them ourselves.
First in this series is the dove grey traveling costume from Marie Antoinette (movie). This ensemble appears at the very beginning of the film, as Marie Antoinette leaves Austria to travel to France.
Fabric and Trims
The jacket is made of velvet with a low nap, possibly velveteen, and very likely cotton velveteen. I might go as far to say that a medium-weight upholstery velvet would work well for this jacket. The lining looks like to be silk, possibly taffeta, and the same material as the skirt.
The trimmings on the jacket are metallic braid, with self-covered velvet buttons down the right front edge. The metallic braid trims around the high neck, down the front edges, and around the skirt of the jacket. The cuffs are also trimmed at just the hem, and very likely feature velvet buttons as well.
The skirt is the same color, and quilted from about the knees down, but appears to be a lighter fabric with some sheen, silk or taffeta. Here is a similar one from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston:
The jacket is closet to a riding habit, with the high neckline and long sleeves. The skirt is all of a piece with the bodice panels. There are no seams at the front of the bodice, and it appears only side-back seams and side seams, from which the inverted box pleats of the skirt emerge, at the waist. The front does not close with buttons, but with hooks and eyes. It resembles these extant garments from the V&A and Met:
|From the V&A|
|From the Met|
|From the Met|
|Janet Arnold’s riding habit, from her book Patterns of Fashion 1: 1660-1860|
|Reconstructing History’s pattern from their website.|
The skirt is worn over panniers and a petticoat, which are conveniently shown as Marie Antoinette dresses for her journey. The skirt likely ties at the sides with tapes, and is pleated with large-ish knife pleats, although any pleating style would work well for this. It is a walking-length skirt, and ends about the ankles instead of sweeping the floor.
Our heroine wears a lightweight shirt with a frilly collar, not unlike a jabot, at the neck. Her hair is loose and tied with a bow (is this historically accurate?). She wears brocade-covered shoes with a louie heel, and don’t forget her most important accessory: Mops the dog.
Suggestions on Making This Costume:
- Look for cotton velveteen in a pastel color.
- The skirt does not need to match the jacket. Synthetic taffeta or a silk with a dull sheen would be well-suited.
- For a little puff to the quilting on the skirt, back it with a layer of thin batting, or fleece, and quilt with either machine or by hand.
- Don’t forget to fit the jacket and the skirt over your full underpinnings -pocket hoops, a petticoat, and stays.
- Look for metallic braid or trims that are not too shiny. If you can’t find any, consider spray-painting a trim with silver paint (works wonders).
- For a different look, overlap the front edges and close with the velvet buttons.
- For a fuller skirt, double or triple the inverted box pleats at the back.
- Don’t forget the dog!
- Don’t forget your references: Patterns of Fashion 1: 1660-1860, Marie Antoinette, Fashion: The Collection of the Kyoto Costume Institute