I’ve wanted a Chemise a la Reine or Robe en Chemise for a long time and had this fabric waiting for it in my stash for a while. I don’t even remember where I got it. Perhaps Fabric Fabric in LA or puresilks online. It’s a cotton voile white on white stripe.
A Chemise is basically a gathered sack-dress/nightgown made lovely by being made out of a very light weight, airy fabric and a sash at the waist to pull it in. It was an alternative to the heavier earlier structured dresses of the 18th century. You might recognize it from the famous painting of Marie Antoinette by Lebrun. This painting caused a huge scandal because of her casual form of dress.
You can see my reference board for Chemise a la Reine on pinterest, here.
I used Norah Waugh’s chemise pattern and simply blew it up to be appropriate to my height. I was pretty nervous about making it but it’s really not hard to make. My voile was about 58″ or so wide. I cut 4 panels and french seamed them together except for the center front seam (which I left open and hemmed). I cut a small dip in the front for the neckline and a dip for the armhole according to the Waugh pattern.
I turned over the top 1/4″ and then again to create a channel for the ribbon to gather the front and back. (No channel at the armhole area.) I secured the ribbon at one side of the back, gathered it to my rough back measurement and secured the other side of the ribbon. So the back is kind-of permanently gathered. Then I secured another ribbon at the edge of the front of the arm hole and pulled it through the front channel to the center front. This panel can be gathered as large or as small as needed.
I cut the shoulder plackets and tested them on me, and then made them a few inches longer since I’m tall. I tried on the garment loosely to see where the shoulder plackets needed to be. I basically gathered the front panels as they needed to be and then then loosely pinned the shoulder plackets. So the shoulder plackets inclose part of the back channel and part of the front channel.
Then I put in the sleeve. I put the gathered channel of the sleeve approximately where my elbow was, but if you look at reference, it could be anywhere or there could be multiple channels. I had some lovely French lace in my stash and I used that to trim the sleeve and then trim the “collar/trim” for the neck.
I basically made a long strip of left over voile. It was about four times the size of my neckline when it was gathered to fit me. I trimmed one side of the strip with the French lace and hemmed the other side. I then hand sewed it to my chemise neckline where I saw fit.
The sash was just hemmed up fabric. It’s about 18″ by 4 yards long. In retrospect, I would have made it 5 yards or more long, as it looks best if you wrap it around the waist twice. What was nice, though, is my petticoat used about 4 yards, and so the bottom of my 60″+ fabric that I cut off from my petticoat made a perfect sash. I think if I do it again I might make a 5 yard petticoat (with a left-over-fabric 5 yard long sash.)
I’m also wearing a cloud-shaped stuffed bum-roll, my modified Lioness wig, my JP Ryan half-boned stays and my “easy Lunardi” hat.