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La Reina Dress

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To Do:


(probably two)




 Mochi preparing the fabric for me.


I was so very tempted to call this the Ave Maria! dress (those of you who have gotten frustrated with me changing plans all the time will appreciate the pun), but decided it might be best to stick with something a little more closely inspired by the dress itself. Not to mention the very confused people who would stumble upon my site through search engines. So, I've dubbed this chemise a la reine the Reina dress--adapting the French term to the more comfortable (for me) Spanish.

The Inspiration: Well, I'm not going to go too much into pictorial inspiration, since a chemise dress is a chemise dress for the most part. They were white with a colored sash and, otherwise, pretty plain. I have seen this picture that I like that adds the lace ruffle to the neckline, which I will do if I can find some decent lace; I also like how high the neckline is so that I won't have to fuss with a kerchief.

The primary inspiration, however, comes from friends and events. First, the GBACG is planning a Bastille Day picnic. I knew that I would not be able to finish my quilted petticoat in time for the July event, and wasn't motivated to finish the caraco to wear with a different petticoat as the whole ensemble is a bit early for the target date of this event (though entirely acceptable, as GBACG events don't typically pigeon-hole you into a narrow time span). As a result, I had been fishing around a bit for inspiration for a later gown.

Second, several friends on LiveJournal have been or will be making chemise dresses for Costume College this year. I absolutely adore costuming on a theme at these larger events, so when I realized that two purposes could converge in one gown, it was all over...resistence was futile. Of course, it didn't hurt that when I looked for a chemise dress pattern in The Cut of Women's Clothes, I suddenly realized that this dress would take all of about two hours! It is so incredibly simple. The only challenge will be wrangling that large a piece of fabric.

So, while I still have much to do to finish my Beth dress in time for the Little Women picnic in May, this has now become my next project. Now, on to the details.

Patterns: Obviously, I'll be using the pattern in The Cut of Women's Clothes for the general guideline for the dress. For the hat, I'll need to finally get around to copying Kendra's bonnet/hat pattern that we got in a workshop at Costume College years ago. (I managed to lose my copy in one of my many moves since then. The weird thing is that my sewing room never moved--that stuff always stayed at my parents' house--but I lost stuff nonetheless.)

Fabric: I've got a whole roll of white cotton voile that I got from Dharma Trading Co. a few years ago that I had intended for an early bustle dress. Seeing as how that bustle dress still hasn't been made, and I can always buy more from Dharma, which is right across the bay from me, I think I can give myself permission to claim the fabric for this project.

For the sash, I've got a blue and (maybe) pink shot silk shantung that is just screaming to be the sash for this dress, that is if I'm remembering correctly. If not, I know I have a pale blue of the same material that will do nearly as well.

Marking the neckline and armscyes on the dressform.

As you can see, my casings aren't entirely straight. The result is that the voile puckers a bit. It almost bothers me enough to change it. We'll see if I do.



I suppose I had better post an update now that I'm halfway through making the dress. Yikes!

First off, I did not end up needing to make a bumroll since, in the whole to-do of moving, I found my Renaissance bumroll. At the moment, it seems a little on the large side for this particular dress, but that may be because I don't have any petticoats made yet to soften the line of it. (With the dress on, it looks more like a shelf sitting on my bum.) I won't make a final decision on the bumroll until after I've made a couple of petticoats.

Well, I was anxious to get the dress itself done, so I postponed petticoats until after the dress. Weird, I know, but sometimes you just want to get to the fun stuff, right?

So, the dress started out as one giant tube--kind of. I sewed six panels of fabric together, but didn't join the final side, as the pattern I'm using calls for the front to be open. I ran three gathering stitches across the top edge, two only an inch apart and a third about three inches down from that set. The next step required my dressform. I gathered up all the fabric and draped it around the shoulders, pinning the fabric to the dressform when I had the gathers spaced fairly evenly. I stitched a length of fabric across the back to set the gathers and around the under part of the armscye. After fiddling around with where shoulder straps should go and at what angle, I marked the placement, unpinned the dress from the dressform, and then sewed on my straps.

At this point, it was time for the scariest part of the entire endeavor--cutting away the excess fabric in the armscye. This was the point of no return but necessary in order to try everything on. I did a fitting with all the gathering threads still in place. My mom and I realized that the back wasn't tight enough (one of the hazards of working with a dressform that can only approximate my size), so she marked that for me and we pinned it tighter for the fitting. We also pinned the front edge of the neckline in place. We then used long shoe laces (which I specifically keep around for costuming--you never know when a really long shoe lace will come in handy) to tie around my underbust and waist in order to mark the placement of those drawstring casings.

Once the fitting was done, I removed the strip of fabric that was holding the back gathers in place, so that I could regather that section a bit tighter. I also removed all of the old gathering stitches. (I panicked for a moment because the holes were still visible, but then I remembered that once the fabric was gathered up to wear, no one would see the holes. Besides, I'm sure they will disappear with washing.) After making some double fold bias strips out of the voile, I used a piece of this to bind the neckline, leaving the front sections ungathered, going around the inside of the shoulder strap, and holding the back gathering in place. Before hand finishing the binding, I cut two lengths of cord for the front drawstring, attaching one end of each to the front shoulder strap seam. After that, all I had to do was hand stitch the casings, enclosing the drawstrings in the front.

I then turned my attention to the other drawstring casings. I cut one inch strips of the voile on the grain for these, sewing together enough to get around the entire six panels of the gown. I pressed in the edges of these strips to look like single-fold bias tape, then sewed both edges down on top of my markings. (One thing I learned doing this is that you either need to use a good, bright color to mark these, or be sure to try the dress on inside out so that your markings are on the inside of the dress. I had a really tough time seeing the markings through the fabric, even though it's such a thin fabric.)

Next, I'll need to turn my attention to the sleeves...

This is actually a picture with both petticoats over the bumroll. Yay! No shelf-butt.

Mei Mei and Mochi love petticoats!


We have sleeves! The interesting thing is that a full width of fabric just doesn't look like much when you attach it to a dress that consists of six widths. I'm sure it will look just fine, though, once I get the drawstring into it. But let me back up a bit and explain my process.

I got an idea of how long I wanted the sleeves (real scientific here--I used my tape measure on my arm and puffed it a bit to approximate how long I'd need the fabric in order to acheive the puff I wanted). I added a bit for seam allowences and then cut myself two widths of fabric to my estimated lenght. I shaped the sleeve head ever so slightly, then marked the drawstring casing for the middle of the sleeve. I didn't want this to be a straight line, since the sleeve in my inspiration picture seems to dip down lower at the elbow. (Again, I was super scientific, this time using the span of my fingers to figure out that I'd want about six and a half inches at the front of the sleeve, but about nine and a half for the back on the lower puff. I then drew a line between the points, angling one direction toward the center and then back the other way to the selvege.)

This particular casing I wanted to put on the outside--I had to have an opening for the drawstring to come out of at the center of the sleeve, and I really didn't want to put a hole in my fabric for a buttonhole type opening. Once I had the casing sewn on, I sewed my gathering stitches at both the top and bottom of the sleeve. I finished the bottom edge first, gathering it up and binding the edge with a double fold bias strip of the voile. The sleeve head was then gathered up and sewn into the armscye--this is the part where the gathering looked a bit paltry, but I have yet to see the completed sleeve with the drawstring in it, which I suspect will look just fine.

I still need to finish the inside edge of the armscye seam with the binding that I sewed in to stabilize the underarm gathering, but I decided to skip that step for a moment and start on petticoats.

I had purchased some white cotton sateen to make a couple of petticoats out of, which I had already washed and folded. When I measured it to do my calculations as to how many panels I'd be able to cut out of it, I discovered that it was a full twelve inches shorter than what I'd paid for. Now, I realize that shrinkage could be a factor, but I also highly suspect that I was shorted a few inches to begin with. At any rate, I didn't have enough to get the two petticoats I wanted, at least not with the fullness that I'll need. So, I settled for one with four panels, and I'll just have to make another out of muslin.

I sewed my panels together, leaving a opening of about ten inches in two places (opposite sides). I also cut two three inch wide strips of fabric to use as ties/waistband, which I pressed as if to make double fold bias. I marked the center of each with a pin and then marked seven inches to either side of that pin. (I didn't want my finished waistband to be more than thirty inches, tops. Plus, I knew I'd need a bit of room for the knot.) I gathered up each half of the skirt (two panels for the front and two for the back, with the openings I'd left and reinforced on the sides) and attached them between the pins on the waistbands, making sure to match the middles. I then hand finished the waistbands, sewing the excess on either side to itself.

This morning, I tried the skirt on with my bumroll and my shoes in order to mark the hem, which I will do today. I didn't quite leave myself as much fabric for the hem as I'd hoped. I wanted a nice wide hem to give that part of the skirt more body/support. I'll have to make sure I do have enough for the muslin petticoat.


Okay, I finished this a last week, but with everything that's been going on, I haven't had time to post.

The hem on the petticoat turned out just fine, so I did nearly the exact same thing for the muslin petticoat. The one change I made was to add an extra panel to the back, since the muslin isn't quite so thick as the sateen.

Once both the petticoats were finished, I was ready to hem the gown. After double checking to make sure that my dressform really was the same hight as me, I put all the layers on her and then cut the bottom of the gown even with the floor. I then pressed the edge up twice and created a half-inch hem. I thought about making it even narrower, as in my inspiration picture, but I was afraid of making a mistake and not having enough left to lengthen or even things out. Even as it was, my hem turned out slightly uneven--very embarrassing, if anyone had noticed.

After the hem was finished, I pulled out a light blue silk dupioni from my stash and cut a sash and ties for the sleeves. I cut these strips with my scalloped pinking sheers, thinking I wouldn't need to turn under and sew the ends. I thought it would save me time. I now have tiny little bits of blue all over my white gown, and my ties have long threads hanging from them. I'm a bit disappointed. This may be a period technique, but I also remember reading somewhere that period fabrics were of a tighter weave than modern fabrics and so didn't frey quite so readily. I don't know, maybe they really did frey this much, but it looks sloppy to my modern eyes, so I really want to go back and finish those edges before Costume College. Anyway, for the sash, I sewed three widths of fabric together to get the proper length, but for the sleeve ties, I cut the width of fabric in half. Oh, and also for the sleeve ties, I finished the ends with aiglets that have been sitting around for ages--very cute if I do say so myself.

The finishing touch on the dress was the lace I finally found for the neckline. I sewed this on by hand, since I was concerned about catching the drawstring in front. This also meant that I had to hand pleat/gather the shoulders and back. Ultimately, this meant that the shoulders and back looked a bit better than the front; the amount of gathering that looked good for the voile made the lace simply too full. No biggy--it's not the kind of thing that's going to bother me.

Event Photos

I don't have many because my batteries died after just a few shots. But I'll share those that I have.


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