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 first 18th century patterns (8161 and 8162), Simplicity has asked me to do another 18th century pattern.

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.

With Georgian and Rococo-inspired productions fueling pop-culture interest right now, it seemed the perfect time to do a bold, bright, fancy gown, something to contrast the more working-class designs we did last time.

A post shared by Jasmine Cephas Jones (@jazzy_joness) on

As usual, because it’s me, I want to do something a bit more on the historical side, so I’m starting with primary sources for Robes de Cour, then merging this with the needed cosplay references. The plan is to make our dress pattern do-able in all colors – red, pink, yellow, teal – and not too-specific, so that sewists can decorate (or not) to their heart’s content to emulate their favorite characters. Cosplay aside, the pattern will still be primarily drafted from original 18th century gowns. Made in metallic brocade with stacked lace on the sleeves, this pattern will make up into a gorgeous robe de cour too.

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.”
Infanta D. Barbara de Portugal, Princesa da Beira e Rainha da Espanha (1711 – 1758)

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

Queen Sofia Magdalena’s wedding gown – bodice interior photo and drawing, researching by Janet Arnold. Scanned image from Isis’ wardrobe.

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.

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.

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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