demode plan2
18th century, 18th century court dress, court dress, projects

Robe de Cour Plans!

Now that this project is underway and the under-petticoat is done, I want to talk a bit about what I’m planning for my dress!

Here’s my source image, which is a preparatory drawing for a fashion plate:


The caption reads: “Robe [in] color of the King’s eyes, striped, robings [in] white gros de tours [a kind of silk], embroidered, or trimmed with Garlands of pearls, [something?] of olive branches, double border of pleated gauze, all the ribbons [in] English Lilac.”

And for reference, here’s the published fashion plate from Gallerie des Modes:


The caption reads: “Court robe pulled up on the right side, with a knot of ribbon, and ornamented with garlands; the left side falls ordinarily: it is trimmed and ornamented with pearls and laurels.”

Now, how I interpret the original drawing is that the dress could be trimmed EITHER way — either with the embroidery (and the overskirt pulled up) OR with the pearls and olive branches (note the caption specifically says “or”!). It’s interesting that the published plate makes it sounds more like it’s supposed to be worn as drawn, which seems weird to me. I’m going with my interpretation, and with the embroidered roses on both sides.

It’s also interesting that the color changed from “the eyes of the King” to green, but the fashion plate does highlight more that the fabric is striped.

So, here’s how I interpret things just in terms of the dress:

demode plan demode plan2


There isn’t even room to annotate everything, so here’s a list:

  • Overbodice, overskirt, and petticoat in striped blue-y purple fabric
  • White underbodice
  • White fabric bands at overskirt edges and sides, and petticoat hem, with embroidered roses
  • Train cut more like a francaise overskirt with train in back
  • One overskirt side is pinned up
  • Solid lilac bows at bodice CF, cuffs, pinned up overskirt, and where cutaway bodice hits waistline
  • White pleated gauze frills on everything: edging all of the embroidered panels, down CF of white underbodice, along neckline and front edges of overbodice
  • Short oversleeve (edged with pleated gauze?) and elbow-length undersleeve with white gauze cuffs
  • Unclear what’s going on at waistline, possibly more pleated gauze like in the published fashion plate

Things I’m still not sure about:

  • Exactly how much will be hand sewn
  • Whether the bodice should be a boned bodice, or unboned (more on this is another post). I’m leaning towards not, since it’s plausible and that embroidery is going to take a lot of time.
  • If the bodice ISN’T boned, then should I make it CF closing instead of CB like most court gowns? It’s clearly been influenced by the polonaise/turque/circassienne. It’s hard, this era is such a hybrid!
  • What the hell do the trained skirts look like when they’re pulled up? Anyone seen any images?

Decisions I have made:

  • Bought fabric, a long time ago!
  • The embroidery will be ribbon embroidery and will be done by hand
  • As much as I can do by hand I will

Now, before you have a heart attack on my behalf, know that I’m on my summer break and will be until the beginning of July. My plan is, now that I’m able to get things cut out, get cracking on the embroidery and see how quickly (OR NOT) that goes.

Oh fabric! Here’s what I’ve got. I had a hard time picking the main gown fabric. I really like the muted blue/purple color, even more so than the stripe, but this is a really hard shade to track down. There’s blue, and there’s purple, but they’re usually one or the other, or the color is too light, or too unsaturated. I finally found this microstripe purple silk taffeta in the LA garment district that had the right overall color effect, along with a solid lavender silk to use for the bows and to line the train (it was like $5 a yard, crazy right? I considered using the solid for the gown, but there wasn’t enough yardage). And, white silk taffeta for the embroidered panels and underbodice!


Solid lilac for the bows and train lining, white for the embroidery and underbodice, striped lilac for the main gown and petticoat.


One panel of the striped fabric laid on my dress form for effect. Now my sewing room smells like silk! Yay!


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  • Reply Johanna May 31, 2015 at 2:31 am

    A bit too early and a more common setting but here is a picture of dresses with the trains pulled up for dancing:

  • Reply Shan June 15, 2015 at 2:30 pm

    Very nice project :)

    About the “something” word in the french description, it’s “rattachant” : “guirlandes de perles rattachant des branches d’oliviers” >> “olive tree’s branchs are linked together buy garlands of pearls”

    • Reply kendra June 15, 2015 at 10:49 pm


      • Reply Shan June 17, 2015 at 12:01 am

        You’re welcome :) !

        18th century writing can sometimes be very confusing because most of the words are spelled like they are today but sometimes, and you don’t know why, some are written differently as if it was a mistake (letters missing, one letter for another etc.) even in very formal document. For earlier periods, spelling is somehow a big mess so it’s less a surprise to see unhabitual spelling and eyes are more cautious. But for the 18th century there’s always a moment of confusion because everything else is perfectly spelled and then you’ve got this word your eyes can’t recognize at first because they’re are not expecting a bad spelling :)

  • Reply Shan June 15, 2015 at 2:30 pm

    (by* not buy, sorry :'( )

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