First prizeFit for a Queen

My inspiration for this Robe á la Français came from a gown I saw in The Kyoto Costume Institute's book 'FASHION A History from the 18th and 19th Century' (page 65). I fell in love with the detail and wanted to try to recreate that detail on a gown of my own.

I first made the pocket panniers out of linen and 1/2” (13mm) spring steel boning. I made the stays out of a cotton sateen, lined with cotton and used spiral boning. I read somewhere that leaving the straps off would be less constricting and decided to give it a try. In hindsight, straps would have been more period correct, as this gown would have been worn by someone of higher class, not by someone that would need easier movement to do labour. I also realize I prefer the look of straps.


The chemise is made out of linen. I have still yet to find the perfect lace trim to finish off the neckline. I found the chemise to bunch up underneath the arms when worn underneath the robe a la francaise, making it very uncomfortable. I chose not to wear it in the photos. I'm curious to know if others have had this issue. I'm planning on taking out the gussets and making them smaller to see if it will help.

I have used a steely-blue silk shantung for the robe á la française and the underskirt. The bodice is lined in cotton and has grommets and boning in the back lining to adjust the waist. I left both the underskirt and skirt unlined. The stomacher is fully-boned and attaches with hook and eye closures.

Bodice insides

My absolute favourite part of making this gown was all the embellishments! The detailed trim on the underskirt and lower skirt of the robe a la francaise was created using honeycomb smocking and the puffed areas are stuffed with polyfill batting.

Embellishment detail

I first did all the smocking by hand, a technique I got from 'The Art of Couture Sewing' by Zoya Nudelman. I then placed the smocking on lining that was already cut to the shapes I wanted and added the batting where I wanted it and pinned it in place. I basted it all together and then sewed the pieces to the skirts.

Bodice detail

I was lucky to find the perfect braid trim to finish it off in a Paris flea market called Les Puces de Saint-Ouen. The bodice embellishments were created with pinked strips of fabric that were either gathered or pleated. I hand-stitched in beautiful lace engageants to the sleeves (that could be removed if needed) and added bows for the finishing touch.

Finished gown Finished gown
Finished gown, rear view Finished gown, back detail



Your smocked trim on this gown took my breath away! And the color choice looks fabulous on you. Great job! I can totally relate to the bunchy chemise problem. To get around this, I use the thinnest batiste fabric I can find for Chemises, nice and soft. This cuts down on the bulkiness under the arms. Also a pattern with a short narrow sleeve helps as there is less of it to bunch up inside the sleeve. Check out the chemise pattern from Sense and Sensibility. It is technically Regency but the chemise is generic enough for 18th century:
Extraordinary Work
The hand smoking on this dress is absolutely beautiful. Your work is truly inspirational. Bravo!
AMAZING as always Rachel :)
stunnig trims and lovely cut!
It's fantastic!!!con gratulations!!! !
The trim is nicely done, but the cut of the gown looks very familiar. Simplicity pattern 3637?
The work is ''Absolutely Fabulous''.
Incredible Work!

You are really inspiring and open up great ideas!

The only thing left for me to do is a low bow!!

This is fantastic! I know exactly the dress you are talking about without having to look it up because it is a great match! You got the smocking and poofy detail spot on :)

Beautiful choice of colour for this dress too.


OH MY GOODNESS GRACIOUS!! This is one of the most exquisite things I've ever seen. That smocking is really what makes the gown, and you attention to detail is really flabbergasting. Congratulations on winning the competition!!

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