After my divorce, I did very little sewing, except for a little hemming, repairing small holes and replacing buttons. I was sad, and little upsets like something not fitting exactly right, or sewing the wrong pieces together made me feel even worse. But then some friends of mine invited me to a masquerade in town and I knew I had to make something–I couldn’t–no, I wouldn’t–wear a store bought costume. That got my sewing mojo back in gear.
Marie Antoinette famously loved masquerade balls, so I decided to make a gown like something she might have worn, only out of polyester brocade and satin and machine-made lace. I could not afford real silk and handmade lace because I didn’t have the coffers of the French monarchy open to me.
Before beginning, I did some “research” by watching the 2006 film about her, starring Kirsten Dunst. It wasn’t a very good movie, although the cinematography was lovely and it rounded out my impression of this historic figure who generally is portrayed in an unfavorable and unsympathetic light.
She did not actually say, “Let them eat cake.”
She was clueless about the harsh lives of peasants, but she was also a girl forced into a foreign court and expected to play a certain role someone much older and wiser might have struggled with.
Back to sewing…
For my gown, I used Burda 2447, which is described on the envelope as a “Rococo dress with typical details, precious fabrics and playful bows and ribbons. The broad hips are supported by a special underskirt (side pocket panniers).”
The instructions were typical for Burda envelope patterns, i.e. very minimal, but adequate. Sometimes they required multiple read-throughs to understand. I would NOT recommend this for someone who hasn’t done a substantial amount of sewing, unless they are very patient/determined and have a good reference book at hand.
The pattern was perfect for the costume ball I had planned on attendeing. It produced a great dress with lots of frilly, over-the-top details. If you are looking for historical accuracy, this is not it. It uses a zipper in the back and the stomacher is merely a well-interfaced front to the gown. That was good for me, because my time was limited.
Fabric & Notions:
This dress required A LOT of fabric: 6 yards of the polyester brocade and just about the same amount of polyester satin. It also required lace fabric (The lace sleeve pieces were longer than my 5’10” tall son…), lace trim, and boning.
Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:
I had to redraft (added about 5/8″ to the length) the base of the side-pocket paniers so they would sew up properly. I also had to buy twice the amount of boning as was listed on the pattern envelope.
My hastily sewn toile of the bodice told me a couple of things: (1) my adjustments for fit worked (hurrah!); (2) none of my undergarments were suitable for this. It’s low cut. If I were to attempt historical accuracy, I would have made a corset, but I didn’t have sufficient time for that.
I was very happy with how the dress turned out. Sadly, I didn’t finish it in time for the ball. No little mice and birds showed up to help me put the finishing touches on it. However, the ball is an annual event, so I’ll get to go sometime!
Some photos of Versailles I took a few years ago…