Welcome back to Costume Analytics. This week we’ll be looking at a beautiful example of a 1795 transitional garment known as a “gaulle,” painted by Jacques Louis David, worn by Emilie Seriziat. The gaulle is an interesting garment because it takes its cues from the Chemise a la Reine, a flowy “peasant” gown popularized by Marie Antoinette. Where the gaulle differs, though, is that it is fitted through the back, often has fitted, shaped sleeves, but retains the gathers in the front, and the full skirt. This garment set the stage for the ubiquitous bib-front or drop-front gown we know from the Regency. Let’s take a look:
The gaulle appears to be a simple garment, but it has its fair share of engineering. At first we see a gathered front, but fitted shoulders, fitted two-piece sleeves, and a full skirt. However, the gathered front is a “false” front, and beneath it is an under-bodice that laces (most likely) tightly closed across the front of Emilie’s stays. The gathered front of the bodice is attached at the waist, and when pulled up over the front of the chest, is secured to the shoulder straps, either with pins, hooks, or buttons.
The skirt appears to open at the sides, typical of 18th c. petticoats. This would allow Emilie to get into the gown in the first place, but also wear pockets. The mysterious part is the waist seam. Examples of gaulles we find in films and museum often don’t have a waist seam, and just cinch with the sash, so I suspect that this waist seam is false, and that the gown opens below the waist, then likely is secured at the waist with pins, hooks, or buttons, and again at the shoulders.
This kind of trickery can be seen in extant Regency garments:
|From”Vintage Textiles” website|
|From “Vintage Textiles” website.|
|The Duchess de Polignac, “Marie Antoinette” 2007|
|From “The Duchess,” a fine example in silk.|
|A good example from “The Duchess,” showing the
fitted back of the gown
* One more little mystery – what is going on up near the shoulder? There appears to be a standing collar that drapes down over the back of Emilie’s shoulder. Could the drop-front possibly have tied around the back of the bodice, covered by some sort of shawl collar thing? It’s a design we don’t commonly see on this kind of garment, but I wouldn’t put it past those crazy Marveilleuses!
Fabric & Trims
This sort of gown was popular in muslin as well as silk. Emilie’s version appears to be a thin muslin, and would be very tightly gathered at the front, and through the skirt, for maximum fullness. The gown would have been lined, probably in linen, and this lining separate at the front, where the placket laces. A cotton voile or batiste would be perfect for this gown – just get A LOT of it.
Emilie’s sash appears to be a pine green silk, possibly a taffeta, tied at the front. This matches the ribbons on her bonnet, as well. The only other decoration we see on the gown are the three self-covered buttons at the cuffs of the sleeves. Other than that, the gaulle was never supposed to be an extravagant garment, but instead a reflection of classical ideals, simplicity, pastoralness, a departure from the rococo sensibilities we see earlier in the century, or even just ten years before.
Emilie wears a “statement bonnet,” covered in large ribbons on both sides, and worn over a lacy mob cap. It’s an interesting juxtaposition given the simplicity of her gown. The bonnet is off a style we begin to see more of later, in the Regency – it’s straw, and a very open shape, with a deep crown. It’s tied loosely under her chin with a blue silk ribbon (interestingly enough this ribbon doesn’t match the green, so perhaps she re-trimmed the hat to match her sash that day?). For her hairstyle, Emilie wears a somewhat subdued hedgehog style with long tendrils hanging loose down her back. This may very well have been her real hair, or at least some of it.
Emilie also wears a fichu tucked into the front of her gown. This would have been a lightweight fabric – muslin, batiste, cotton voile.
|Transitional Stay, 1790s.|
Underpinnings – Emilie would have been wearing stays. They might have been full-length, or they might have been transitional stays. She also would have been wearing a chemise under her stays, and layers and layers of petticoats over them, to puff out her skirts. Her shoes would have been slippers with a very low “kitten” heel (we call it), and a pointed toe.
|From the Met, 1780-99|
Tips on Making This Costume
|Janet Arnold, Patterns of Fashion 1, bib-front Regency gown, pg 48|
- Unfortunately the gaulle is not a common pattern. Try Fig Leaf’s 1795 “work dress” pattern, or if you like the look, but are uncomfortable working off-pattern, try a Chemise a la Reine from Patterns of Time.
- Try altering a bib-front Regency gown by lowering the waistline to the natural waist. This will take some fitting and fiddling. Try the Lewis & Clark Empire gown, or Janet Arnold’s drop-front pattern from Patterns of Fashion 1, pg 48.
- Go for voile or batiste cotton – it’s cheap, it’s pretty. I recommend Dharma Trading Company. They carry fantastic cotton voile as well as silk voile. Get lots.
- For the bonnet, get crafty with a basic straw hat from your local craft store, or try a straw bonnet or large-brimmed hat from Top-Hats.com. Dress in ribbons matching your sash. Explore other hat styles of this period – there were many!