Dear Ladies and Masters of the Wardrobe, my name is Karin, I`m from Germany and 28 years old. I would like to present my creation "Jeune Dame de Qualité" for this year`s costume competition. When I first stumbled across a postcard of this gorgeous young lady on a tour at Versailles I completely fell in love with her and the dress she was wearing. My first attempt at creating something resembling a 1750s gown was hanging at home looking a bit like a potato sack and here I was, staring at this way over the top dress and thinking "one day I want a dress just like that!"
This was five years ago.
And as I am quite realistic and a bit restrained when it comes to honouring my own sewing skills, I knew that five years ago was not the time to try a major project like that gown.
The years passed, I improved my skills and created several dresses from the period. I am completely self-trained and such a project seemed far to daunting to attempt. And still... she was always lurking in the back of my mind, whispering in the shadows and waiting for her day to come. And then you finally gave me an opportunity to let her "step out of her picture".
I guess the competition`s motto was just the little push I needed to overcome my fear of not being up to the challenge and just try it.
I started browsing through the internet, looking for different colour schemes, possible (affordable) materials and finding ways of recreating all that fantastic decoration of the dress. I finally found a website offering affordable silk and settled on the beautiful cobalt blue colour you can see in the pictures. The fabric is not the silk sateen which would be correct for the period but a dupioni with very little slub. I had to find a compromise here between historical correctness, my colour preferences and my purse. As I am sure that most of us have had the same problem during the course of a project, I hope you can forgive the not perfectly historical choice of fabric.
I decided to cut the dress as a robe à la francaise for I simply love the pleats in the back. This is also the reason why I ommited the line of little poufs running around her waist (this and the fact that my waist is considerably wider than hers....)
The gown and all of the decoration is handsewn (with the exception of the long side seams of the skirt). Each of the small rolls was sewn separatedly, stuffed with craft fibers and tacked onto a cotton base before it was added to the dress. I dissembled an old straw hat and a garland for the silk flowers and put the onto the dress according to their placement in the picture.
The white panels are made from sheer white cotton. All in all I used about twenty yards of fabric for the dress.
To finish the right look, I also made the hoop skirt (check out the article on panniers on ywu, it was a great help) and the wig. This "little, hairy monster" is about 0,5 m high if you add the pouf... so I can`t even blame my brother (who took the photos) for sometimes cutting of the top of my hair. This sewing project has been my companion since September and I can`t tell you how glad I am that I found the courage to try it. YWU is not only my source of inspiration but also of encouragement and I already consider myself a winner for being able to enter this costume into the competition. Thank you so much for your website and the community! I hope that you all enjoy my creation.