This dress was inspired by a painting of grand duchess Natalia Alexeevna by P.E.Falconet from 1773. The late 18thcentury has always been one of my favourite time periods and I decided that this year’s competition would be the perfect excuse to try and create a dress like that myself, even though I had no experience with it. When I saw this picture on the Internet I immediately wanted to recreate it, for the colours of the dress and the cut of it really jumped out at me.
Underwear: Since this is my very first 18th century dress, I had to start by making all the underwear needed for a dress like that. The shift is a very plain cotton shirt. The stays are demi-baleiné. They are based on a pattern from “Corsets and Crinolines” that I simplified a bit. Next come the pocket hoops that I based on a lobster bustle pattern that I already had. The last layer of underwear was a white petticoat that is gathered strongly to a waistband and which adds a bit of extra fullness to the skirt of the dress.
Main dress: I used a pattern that I found on the Internet that was based on an original gown. I added a pair of detachable sleeves, as I thought the sleeves shown in the picture might be detachable too. The fit of the dress turned out to be a major problem since I unfortunately did not have anyone who could help me mark hems or fit bodices and no experience on how to do it myself. So I ended up guesstimating a huge part of it, not knowing whether or not the dress would fit in the end. Another problem that occurred towards the end of the project was making the ruffles. I didn’t expect it to take so long to make all those ruffles, which meant that in order to be finished I time I ended up asking my mother to help me with that.
Accessories: I added a neckerchief, as seen in the original picture, and a hat that I made using an old straw hat. In addition I made some silk garters, but since they don’t want to stay up, I guess I’ll have to redo them again at some point.
Considering that this is my first 18th century dress I’m really happy with the outcome. I have learned so much by sewing this dress and hope that you enjoy the result too.