Making a Structured Chemise a la Reine, Part Two

The adventure of making a horribly inaccurate chemise a la reine continues! Part one shows the process of making the sleeves and skirt and can be read here.

Step one was making a pattern. I actually used the pattern for my “Glittery Gothic” dress as a base, then added seams and changed the neckline. I made a mock up of this before finalizing the pattern but still ended up running into problems with the fit.

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The bodice is made from two layers of polyester shantung, the lower layer serves as a base for the boning and doubles as lining. This is the lower layer, you can tell because all the channels are marked out in colored pencil!

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I made the boning channel from bias cut strips of shantung. This was a bad idea. At the time I had forgotten how much shantung puckers.

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Even after spending half an hour with my iron on the highest setting and a spray bottle of starch I couldn’t get all the puckers out. Such evil fabric.

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After I was done ironing I sewed the pieces together and pressed the seams open. Then I made marks one inch away from the neckline, these serve as a guide for getting an even half inch hem.

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The boning was inserted and each raw edge got pinned in place. I used a large running stitch to sew all the edges down.

I repeated this process with the top layer of fabric, but used much smaller stitches to secure the edges.

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Then I cut long strips of shantung and hemmed one edge – I used my sewing machine to hem this, which is quite the rarity for me these days! I gathered the top to create a long ruffle which eventually got sewn on to the bodice neckline.

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Then the lining was pinned in place. Since I did all the steps in the right order the lining covers the raw edge of the ruffles. I sewed the lining in with small whip stitches but made sure to leave the lower edge open.

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Look at how pretty it is!

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I embroidered eyelets up the back, then attached the sleeves. I used my usual method of combining the running stitch and whip stitch together to make sure they are really secure.

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Now that it had sleeves and eyelets I could try it on! At this point I realized the major fit issue, it’s too small at the shoulders and pulls in an uncomfortable way. It doesn’t look that bad, and I can deal with it, but i’m sad I didn’t notice it sooner.

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The ruffle on this dress was kind of crazy so I used long stitches to tack it down.

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Then it was time to add the skirt! I left the bottom of the bodice open intentionally so I could slip the skirt underneath the lining and keep things looking pretty. I sewed the skirt to the lining with a running stitch, then whip stitched it to the front and back.

It’s hard to explain but the end result looks nice!

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All the dress needed was a sash! I made this from a bias cut piece of silk taffeta. I did rolled hems on both edges and hand stitched them in place to avoid puckering.

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This is the finished dress on my dress form.

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And this is how it looks on me!

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I really love the shape of this dress, and aside from the problems with the shoulders i’m quite happy with it! I would still like to make a more accurate version at some point, but this definitely satisfied my urge to make a Chemise a la Reine.

I paired it with a black wig. I curled the wig with a 3/4″ curling iron, then recoiled most of the curls and secured them with bobby pins. I teased the front sections until I liked the volume and pinned them in place. I decorated the wig with fake flowers and things since I didn’t have enough fabric leftover for a headpiece.

I like the finished ensemble. The colors make me think of snow and wintery things!

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Thanks for reading!

Making a Structured Chemise a la Reine, Part One

Today i’m starting a new series. This series actually started on October 1st when I began working on this dress, I just haven’t talked about it until today.

I’ve come up with the idea to pair centuries of fashion with months, then focus on that time period all month long. This month is “18th Century October” and if all goes well I’ll try to do “19th Century November”

My goal for this month is to make two dresses. But i’m hoping to make a frock coat too.

Dress number one is a really inaccurate Chemise a la Reine. These are usually loose garments made from very lightweight muslin or cotton, they are built like chemises (made from large rectangles), and tie at the waist and sleeves to create body definition. They usually had a drawstring at the neck and ties up the front or back.

I’ve wanted to make one for a long time. Just because I like the story behind how they came to exist. Unfortunately I didn’t have the materials on hand, or the ability to get them any time soon – finding light enough weight muslin is surprisingly difficult!

So I decided to make a more structured version out of fabrics I had around. Structured versions of the Chemise a la Reine did exist, but certainly not to this extent. I am completely aware this is horribly inaccurate and i’m sorry to anyone who is offended by it! Hopefully I can make a more accurate version in the future.

For this dress i’m using five yards of white polyester shantung and a half yard of blue silk taffeta, which makes the overall cost for this project around $20.

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Today i’ll be talking about making the sleeves and skirt, a little backwards from how I usually do it but for this dress I actually started with the skirt and sleeves!

The skirt is one very large rectangle, it was 58″ by 126″.

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I originally did a half inch rolled hem. I decided on this because I thought this fabric was only 56″ wide which didn’t give me much room for a hem!

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Of course after I spent over two hours hemming it by hand I realized the mistake, my fabric was actually 58 inches wide! A few days later I stitched it up to be two and a half inches shorter.

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On another note, I have NEVER pricked myself so many times when working on a costume, even when hemming I kept jabbing my thumb! The same thing happened when I was sewing the lining in.

Of course this has nothing to do with my hand sewing ability, and everything to do with the fact I was working with white fabric. White fabric loves to get stained. I kept my workspace really clean to avoid any staining, which is why the fabric kept making me prick myself.

That’s just how white fabric works.

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Anyway! Then the skirt was gathered down to be twenty eight inches at the waist, I left one inch on each side free of gathers so I could do the back up with a french seam. Polyester shantung frays a lot so this was pretty much my only option.

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Here it is draped over my dress form. I used a small bumroll, a quilted petticoat (gathered at the top), and a tulle/cotton (a-line) petticoat to achieve this shape. I’m so happy with it, it’s got a lot of volume without being too much.

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That was pretty much it for the skirt, so it’s time to talk about the sleeves! I made a pattern that looks like this, it’s a slightly altered rectangle that is thirty three inches wide at the largest point.

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The fabric versions looked like this! I drew lines in the center where they had to be gathered down.

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The sleeves were also gathered at the wrist, and later on I’ll gather the tops. Once inch of material was left ungathered because i’ll also be sewing these up with a french seam.

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Once that was done I made the “ties” from blue taffeta. Since this is an inaccurate structured version these aren’t actually ties, they are sewn directly on.

Each one was cut to be one inch wide, then the edges were folded over and ironed down to create a half inch wide band.

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These got sewn on with tiny stitches, silk taffeta puckers like crazy, as you can see below. But when worn these bands look smooth and lovely!

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Then the tops of each sleeve were gathered.

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And then it was time to add the cuffs. These were made from two inch wide strips of shantung. I folded the raw edges towards the center, pressed them in place, then pressed the finished edges together. This created half inch wide strips with two finished edges…the same way double fold bias tape is made!

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These also got sewn on with very tiny stitches!

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The sleeves weren’t done yet, the tops were still pretty ugly and frayed a lot. To fix that I made more bias tape from shantung and sewed that on to hide the raw edge.

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All that was left was to sew up the seam! These were supposed to be french seams but I goofed up and sewed them like regular seams (right sides together) then trimmed the edge before realizing I had done it wrong.

Shantung frays too much for me to rip the stitches out, so I sewed another seam a half inch further in and covered the raw edge with bias tape.

And no one will ever have to know about the mistake….

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Here are the finished sleeves!

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Next week i’ll talk about making the bodice and stitching it all together.

Thanks for reading!