Approximately 20 yards of fabric.
24 silk strawberries.
Countless hours of sewing.
And the loss of my sanity (atleast some of it!)
My gown was literally finished at the venue (and "finished" could be an overstatement). . . but. . .
I got us outfitted for the ball!
Fetes Historiques de Saint Louis to be exact!
We danced, and ate yummy deserts, socialized, and had a fantastic time!
Let’s back up a bit. . .
I bought the tickets for the ball about a year and a half ago, almost as soon as they were released for members of the Saint Louis Historical Sewing Society, but the plans for my gown started well before that. Actually, those plans began even before I met the handsome gentleman who attended the ball with me.
November of 2019 (according to a receipt found in my email) I bought 11 yards of stripped silk taffeta off somebody’s Instagram destash, specifically for the purpose of an elaborate, floofy, 100% handsewn, Robe a la Francaise (or Sacque).
Earlier that year I’d made my cotton, 100% machine sewn, sacque, and I’d been dreaming of an amazing silk gown ever since. When I found a gorgeous striped silk of the right amount for the right price, I snatched it up! And started day dreaming about the gown. . .
How would I trim it? What decade was I going for? Would I have enough fabric for all the ideas running through my head?
I spent hours on Pinterest narrowing down my ideas.
I quickly decided I wanted a sacque with buttons down the front of the stomacher - this is called a compare front - and it narrowed down my dates range. Compare fronts were in style in the 1770’s and 1780’s.
Why did I want the buttons? Well, first off, I just like the look of them. Second, I really don’t like pinning myself into gowns. I know a lot of people love the adjustability of pinning their 18th century gowns closed, but personally? I just find it to be a pain. Buttons I would have! (And yes, this is why there are buttons on my Pet en L'air and hooks and eyes down the front of my Caraco.)
|1775-1780 Robe a la Francaise
Metropolitan Museum of Art
With this decided, I started specifically looking at 1770's and 80's gowns and portraits on Pinterest and started a board to narrow down my ideas. I fell in love with the gowns trimmed in floofy sheer material.
|1770-1780 Robe a la Francaise
Cincinnati Art Museum
Thus, in June of 2020 (once again, according to the receipt I found in my email) I ordered 3 yards of floofy peach silk organza from Ensembles of the Past to trim this gown I would eventually be making.
And I kept browsing Pinterest for inspiration as I tried to mentally nail down my trim design. Then one day I happened upon it.
Thomas Gainsborough, circa 1781
The floof. The trim. The buttons on the stomacher. And were those pinecones dangling from her skirt?!?!?
I decided they were pinecones. And I fell in love!
This was the dress I would re-create for myself. . .
Only, rather than pinecones decorating the skirt, I would do strawberries!
Strawberries would be just the thing with the pinky red stripes in my fabric. I've always loved strawberries. In fact, I dressed up as a strawberry for Halloween when I was three. (Sorry, I don't have a picture to prove it, but my mom and grandma made the costume for me and I remember it vividly.)
Strawberries would be perfect!
It was all set in my mind, ready to go, about 3 years before the ball took place. . .
(Sadly, I learned in the intervening time that those were not, in fact, gold pinecones on Queen Charlotte's gown in the painting, they were tassels. Tassels! Way less exciting than pinecones. I would still be doing strawberries, regardless.)