1760s Robe a la Francaise – Finished + Video!

At last, at last! My Robe a la Bon Bon 1750 – 1770 sacque is complete!

I finished this gown a little while back but it’s taken me quite some time to get the energy up to film a dressing video and take some photos. You can watch the dressing video here:

I’m so proud of this project. I’m very pleased with the final result, but I’m perhaps more proud of myself for digging it out of the UFO pile and seeing it through to completion. It’s a rare thing to pick up an abandoned project and I often abandon them again, too, especially when they’re this long and tedious.

Party in the front – trim on top of trim with more trim and bows and trim and lace. Rococo-splosion!

The biggest take-away from making this gown is that the trimming takes much longer than expected, even when it’s pinked. There’s just so much of it. Robes a la Francaise are deceptive – you make the impressive back pleats early on in the process and so it feels like you’ve gotten somewhere very quickly. It feels like “I’m practically done with this!” Ah, but it’s a lie! There is so much to come after that, and it’s easy to lose motivation.

All business in the back – the cascading back pleats and fitted sides of the Robe a la Francaise are the hallmark of the style and so, so elegant.

Some tidbits about this gown –

I made this using Simplicity 8578 with some alterations, going by The American Duchess Guide to 18th Century Dressmaking rather than the pattern. Those alterations were:

  • I did a separate stomacher that pins at the sides rather than the center front hook closure.
  • I tweaked the length and hem curves of the sleeves.
  • I lengthened the skirt panels in front.
  • I sewed this gown entirely by hand using 18th century stitches and seams.

I’m looking forward to wearing this cupcake at future events at Versailles, Venice, and Colonial Williamsburg, perhaps in 2021 or 2022. Perhaps I’ll see you there!

You can see all of the posts for this project, start to finish, here.


  • The Quintessential Clothes Pen

    July 28, 2020 at 1:48 AM

    This turned out wonderfully! The overall color scheme lovely. It really does look like a lovely confection. Good for you for carrying through to the end.


  • janeilg

    July 29, 2020 at 11:16 PM

    Your "cupcake" of a Bon Bon dress is just lovely. The color, the trim-it's truly a confection. Hopefully the world returns to normal and you get to take her lots of delightful places soon!

  • Nancy Nichols

    July 30, 2020 at 10:31 PM

    Just so, so splendid! Mme. Merteuille, as I live and breathe!! This back pleats are to die for, and all the pinked bows!!! Mmmwah! One question,did they still have pockets worn under the side openings? Or did the panniers serve that purpose? If so, wouldn't a pocket book have weighed them down?

    • Lauren Stowell

      July 31, 2020 at 6:41 PM

      thank you! to answer your question, in this case the panniers are the pockets themselves – they have bottoms on them, and are the biggest and best pockets of all times. In my experience, it's actually a good thing for them to be weighed down because you don't want them to fold up when you sit down. The ties across the bottom of the hoops, the ones about top-of-knee level, help prevent that, but having some "ballast" is also good. I've carried my big Nikon dSLR, phone, wallet, keys, business cards, etc. in my pocket hoops and it worked a treat and wasn't unweildy or cumbersome at all. Very clever Georgians!

  • sam b

    August 1, 2020 at 4:43 PM

    Beautiful gown! I kept checking for progress on this one for the last two years (can't believe the book's been out that long, I swear it still feels like it's new!) and it's so great to see the finished project! I've been working on my under-pinnings and lining mock-ups, and decided my panniers need re-vamping–a tad bit over-large and very floppy. Do you have a post on how you made your pocket-hoops? The sneaky skirt-support-slash-stuff-carriers has intrigued me for years (since the Felicity doll got a set, TBH).

    • Lauren Stowell

      August 3, 2020 at 7:34 PM

      Hi Sam! I don't know if I posted about the pocket hoops but I made them a loooong time ago using the pattern in "Period Costume for Stage and Screen." There is also a pattern in "Patterns of Fashion 5". Basically you just make them just like the tied ones in our book, but you use a panel of fabric to make the arc, instead of the ties. Then I find the easiest way to put on the bottom is to trace the shape, add seam allowance, and then stitch it on by hand. Not gonna lie, it's a pain to get that bottom panel on, but so worth it because POCKETS!

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