18th Century Court Ensembles Project

IMPORTANT NOTE! Most of us who stuck through this project completed our ensembles in 2014 and 2015. Therefore, I’m not going to add anyone else to this page. There is a Facebook group for this project, and a few people are still planning their dresses, so you may want to join there if you’d like to play along!

Want an over-the-top, crazy/huge/fabulous 18th century ensemble?  Who doesn’t!  Well, I’m making one for the Costume College 2014 2015 gala, and you’re invited to join me!

How It Worked

Make a court ensemble — men’s or women’s, doesn’t matter — from any country, from any period of the 18th century.  It can be historically accurate or complete fantasy, you decide!

Want to Play?

Make an 18th century court ensemble!  The deadline is Costume College 2014 2015, but you don’t need to attend Costume College to play!  Just post photos and information on your outfit on your blog, Facebook, Flickr, wherever by then!  I’ll do a round-up post on all the finished outfits, and also let people know if you’re blogging about your project as you go.

If you’re coming to Costume College 2014 2015, then it’s court dresses for the Gala, baby!

To make sure we don’t end up duplicating each other, send me an email if you’d like to stake a claim to a particular outfit, whether it be extant or in a painting/fashion plate/whatever.

Participants & Claimed Outfits


I’ll be blogging about 18th century French court dress over the coming year.  In addition, check out:

Fastes de cour et ceremonies royales (French Edition)
The Cut of Women’s Clothes: 1600-1930
Dressed to Rule: Royal and Court Costume from Louis XIV to Elizabeth II
Magnificence of the Tsars: Ceremonial Men’s Dress of the Imperial Russian Court 1721-1917
Court dress collection: Kensington Palace
Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution
Mrs. Delany and Her Circle (Yale Center for British Art)

Participating Bloggers



  • Reply Trystan August 9, 2013 at 12:22 pm


    But in purple & black with bats & skulls ‘n stuff. Just trust me on this. Yeah, planning ahead for Carnevale ;)

  • Reply Carly W. August 9, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    I’ve claimed one as well on my LJ! :) SO excited for this!

  • Reply kendra August 9, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    You know I have faith! Can’t wait to see it!

  • Reply Aurora Celeste August 9, 2013 at 2:13 pm

    I’ve always wanted to do one of those regency-with-panniers court dress atrocities, maybe I’ll do it for this year and almost match y’all!

    • Reply kendra August 9, 2013 at 2:32 pm

      Hey, 1790s versions are 18th century!

  • Reply Aurora Celeste August 9, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    That’s true, and this one is calling to me: http://candicehern.com/regencyworld/court-dress-june-1799/ I’m still in the ‘maybe’ category, though, with a strong lean towards ‘probably’.

  • Reply Saraquill August 9, 2013 at 5:00 pm

    Where do uniforms (as mentioned in Dressed to Rule) fit? Do they qualify as court wear, or not?

    If so, then I choose

  • Reply Saraquill August 9, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    Please disregard my previous post. I misread the rules. *resumes the hunt*

  • Reply Loren August 9, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    Ooo, I think I might want this one if it’s not claimed but in jewel tones.


    If some ingenue wants the pale version I won’t object… ;)

  • Reply kendra August 9, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    Sara: uniforms are court wear! That’s why I’m calling it “court ensembles” — I’m hoping we might get some boys to play!

  • Reply mdb August 9, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    Big Ass Silver gown! It gets some silver twill out of my stash as I have no clue what to do with it otherwise. It’s not a natural fibre but hey.

    There are at least three in Sweden and a few in Russia….. so I’ll see if I have enough for Louise Ulrika’s as I have the pattern already (Payne’s History of Costume) :) And have made the pannier pattern before tough hacked down to more modest size ;)

    No claimsies! I can swap to another Big Ass Silver Frock. It would also work for a silly Guarda Infanta as well ;)

  • Reply mdb August 9, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    Also will forward to my site and see if I can get a mini Kiwi not-CoCo group to skype or something at the same time :)

  • Reply Caroline August 9, 2013 at 8:17 pm

    Ahhhh! This is the best idea! I love it :)


  • Reply Loren August 9, 2013 at 9:59 pm

    Trystan – it looks like a freakin’ spiderweb, that’s what I call ripe for the gothifying!

  • Reply Isabella August 9, 2013 at 10:24 pm

    Claiming a purple gown:

  • Reply Erin C August 9, 2013 at 11:42 pm

    Quick question for anyone: Are there examples of a la Anglaise court gowns, or were they all a la Francaise? Most of the examples only show the front, so I have been unable to tell for sure.

    • Reply kendra August 10, 2013 at 8:49 am

      The only thing I can think of that’s a maybe is what we now call the robe paree, a heavily embroidered dress from the 1780s. The prototypical court dress has a bodice cut like stays, essentially. Then in the 1780s the francaise came in for slightly less formal court events. That’s all France of course — you might look into the English court mantua.

  • Reply Sarah Lorraine August 10, 2013 at 11:45 am

    You know no one is going to be able to fit at the gala with all these big skirts! ;)

  • Reply Jenny-Rose August 10, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    Count me in! I’m probably not going to copy any dress in particular but rather combine a couple if my favorites. I’m so excited this style has been in my list for years!

  • Reply Melusine August 10, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    Since I have 15 meters of lavender and silver sari silk and GOK how much silver and white brocade, I’m in. I have no idea where I’m going to wear it, but if I have to, I’ll go for a walk in the park and scare the homeless.

  • Reply kendra August 10, 2013 at 5:12 pm

    Sarah — I’m thinking we all drop our hoops for the dinner and then put them back on! And I know my train is coming off once the dancing starts…

  • Reply kendra August 10, 2013 at 5:22 pm

    Melusine: great! LMK if you have a blog you want me to link, or a particular source image you want to claim.

  • Reply Saraquill August 11, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    After some careful consideration, I choose this outfit to recreate: http://www.iz2.or.jp/english/fukusyoku/kosode/index.htm

  • Reply kendra August 11, 2013 at 8:01 pm

    Saraquill: COOL! I love that someone’s doing non-European!

  • Reply Alyxx August 13, 2013 at 12:02 am

    Awwww, Victoria claimed the only one I’m crazy about. *pout* *pout* but that’s ok. I had my heart set on something else for next year. I guess you can count on me for court menswear – with a twist!

  • Reply Laura August 13, 2013 at 10:28 am

    I’d like to join in. Since I just made my version of Marie Antoinette (and I’d like to get in a big vote for Nora Waugh’s pattern being amazing to use), I think I am going to do a fantasy version, an Ice Queen variation on this dress, but made more 18th c. looking: http://pinterest.com/pin/81627811968388911/

  • Reply Quinn August 14, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    I had high hopes at first that I would hold out and not participate, since it’s incredibly unlikely I’ll be at costume college and I have no perceivable use for a court gown… but it’s too tempting! I’ve chosen this pink dress Maria Feodorovna is wearing (dibs!): http://pinterest.com/pin/19562579604497067/

  • Reply Isis August 15, 2013 at 9:32 am

    Aha, there is a whole project going on! (What one miss when one is on vacation.) Well, I guess I want to be counted in as well, as I have one to finish. Hmm, there is also the Swedish national gown, which looks vastly different, but where the proper formal court gown in Sweden after 1777, replacing the robe de cour
    . Would that count too?

  • Reply Melusine August 15, 2013 at 10:19 am

    No particular inspiration yet, but I’ll probably do something polonaise-ish/open front over the silver brocade, with large but not overwelming panniers. No website, but my LJ is http://corbaegirl.livejournal.com/ .

  • Reply kendra August 15, 2013 at 11:22 am

    Isis: Yes! Court dress is court dress! And you have to participate.

    Melusine: yay, I’ll link you!

  • Reply Isis August 15, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    I might possibly do two then… But, I have long had a craving for the gala version of Gustaf III’s national gown, which is in white with details in pale blue even if it looks exactly like the black version in cut, so I make a claim for that one. If not for anything else but to be able to match my husband who has the male version of it. No good pictures of it, though.



  • Reply Angela August 15, 2013 at 2:10 pm

    Is it okay to make a court ensemble for someone else? I have always always wanted to make my male friend a fully embroidered court suit. (Machine embroidery, natch. I can’t hand embroider my way out of a paper bag.) The years have steamrolled by and I have yet to make it happen. I’m thinking this year-long challenge will spur me into action?

    I don’t have any dibs on any particular design or color, but as it won’t be going to Costume College ((wah!)) it probably doesn’t matter.

    Thanks, Kendra!

    • Reply kendra August 15, 2013 at 2:30 pm


  • Reply Laura August 15, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    If anyone is thinking of doing this Marie Antoinette gown: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Marie-Antoinette;_koningin_der_Fransen.jpg, I just did a version of it, and hanging from all those bows are little gold cameos. (I had to blow up the photo a ton to figure it out.) I have remade my outfit into something else, and have 40-50 gold cameos with bails on them that are just sitting around. If anyone would like them I would be happy to send them to a new home.

  • Reply Angela August 15, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    Pink would be awesome! No doubt he would happily wear anything I handed to him, but I will likely not make him a pink one. We’ll see!

  • Reply Saraquill August 15, 2013 at 3:52 pm

    Eek, I posted the wrong links by accident in my post. I mean to do this outfit, http://www.iz2.or.jp/english/fukusyoku/kosode/15.htm and i”ll be posting about it in my other blog, http://bjdcouture.blogspot.com/

    I hope this mix up doesn’t cause too much trouble.

  • Reply Mistress of Disguise August 17, 2013 at 7:06 pm

    This one! I’m going to reproduce it as it is in the portrait, deep blue with silver/white embroidery and spangles.


    This is also an excuse to make another Robe à l’allemande! XD

  • Reply Surrender! | The Quintessential Clothes Pen August 18, 2013 at 7:30 am

    […] but they’d already been claimed!) You can see what other people have picked and keep track of all the court gowns being made on Kendra’s blog: Demode Couture. There are at least 30 people participating so far and lots […]

  • Reply Kristy August 18, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    I would like to do this one :)

  • Reply Tomb Raider Reborn - Page 24 August 21, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    […] I may be naughty and sneak in some cutting… Or at least tracing Also totally obsessed by the 18thC Court Gown project (gooooo joiiin- I'm doing this one virtually anyway). TheLadyNerd said: MDB – I've been […]

  • Reply Kiyoshi August 22, 2013 at 6:18 am

    Hello I’m joining in! I sent a message to you, Kendra, but I didn’t put in my blog so I’m putting it here for all to see! And also I’m claiming my dress!
    It’s inspired by these two dresses (Mostly the first):

    I have a color version of the second, which is English(?) from the late 18thc or early 19th. I shamelessly copied it from a library book. As for my own design, I’ll color up the picture today and scan that as well, so that you all have the real design I’m doing.
    Also here is a link to my blog:
    I *just* made it yesterday so bear with me, there are very few posts. And I think that’s it, so… wish me luck, as I wish the rest of you luck in your dressmaking!

  • Reply Kiyoshi August 22, 2013 at 6:19 am

    Messed up, here’s the link for the first dress:

  • Reply Elizabeth September 2, 2013 at 6:24 pm

    I’m claiming Lady Willoughby’s gown…and her toddler’s gown too.

  • Reply Donna September 8, 2013 at 8:13 pm

    I would like to claim:
    or my pin:
    But I’m thinking of using more saturated colors and a twist. I’m pondering carousels.
    My journal can be found:

    Gulp! I’ve never done 18th century before.

  • Reply Lauren September 13, 2013 at 10:00 am


    I would love to participate- I am hoping to go to CoCo next year. Before coco, however, I am working on venetian Carnevale dresses so I need to get through that to see if I will 1. use what i have already made 2. so burnt out on 18th century or will alter what I have. Carnevale is in Feb so i *think* i still have soem time ….hopefully all the good dresses arent “taken”

  • Reply The Dreamstress September 18, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    Well pooh. I wasn’t going to join this, because I need to focus on finishing all of my UFOs next year, and none of them are what I would properly define as actual court dress, but now I look at that gallery, and the 1725 portrait of the Infanta Marianna Victoria, which is a project I’ve started and plan to have finished next year, counts (I wouldn’t consider it a robe de coer) and is claimed by Izodiea. Grrr-d-gryy!

    And I’m just about to finish arobe à la française a la Lady Innes by Gainsborough. Thwarted again! I’ll have to look at my sewing list a little more closely and see if anything else qualifies, as the guidelines are way more vague than I had originally thought!

  • Reply The Dreamstress September 23, 2013 at 10:43 pm

    Oh, what the heck, I’ll play! I’ll still have to finish the not-actually-a-robe-de-cour for Marianna Victoria PhD dress someday, and the 1680s robe de coer PhD but for now I’ve rummage in my stash and unearthed 6 metres of vintage silk drapery in dull gold which is a reasonable match for Bell’s double portrait of Marianna Victoria and Louis XV (because apparently I’m a sucker for MV) and should just be enough, because it’s rather wide.

    So I guess I have dibs on that – though actually, I think double-ups would be cool, because you could see how another person interpreted the same image.

    Ummm…and if I’m really ambitious I’ll make Louis XV’s outfit as well…but no promises!

  • Reply Anna September 24, 2013 at 10:28 am

    Ooh…are we allowed to modify any upper-class gown to a court ensemble? Because I really love http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/paintings/catherine-havers-37961 and have wanted an excuse to make it for a while now, only poufier and with some fly fringe and maybe flowers and embroidery and lace and who the heck knows what else. If that’s allowable, I’d love to join in! I just came across 14 yards of silk about the same color in the portrait and am dying to try it.

  • Reply Terminology: What is a robe de cour or grand habit? | The Dreamstress September 25, 2013 at 3:52 pm

    […] Synchronisity is an amazing thing.  I wrote this post in January of 2012, and got it completely finished all save one last quote from Queen of Fashion that I wanted to add, and then got distracted and never published it.  And then, at the beginning of August, I came across my not-published post, and went to the library to borrow Queen of Fashion, only to find it was out.  Literally two days later Kendra at Demode posted about making a robe de coer and started the 2014 18th Court Ensembles Project. […]

  • Reply Caroline September 26, 2013 at 8:03 am

    Ok… So I have changed my mind and it’s go big or go home. The dress I chose, though I adore it, is just not huge enough. I have some seriously sparkly silver fabric that is begging to be put over some huge panniers. I just wanted to let you know, as a courtesy, since I “claimed” a different gown. I can’t wait to start on this :) Too fun!


  • Reply Jennifer October 7, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    Hello! I am so new to historical sewing, but I would love to participate. I’d like to claim this dress: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/2001.472

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