With my 1780s-90s stays advanced to the point where they’re ready for eyelets and bones, I decided to cut out the Laughing Moon pattern I was planning to use for the chemise a la Reine. On looking at the pattern pieces and the gown construction, I started thinking it was all so complicated. Before deciding on using this pattern, I’d been toying with the idea of adapting my early Regency gown pattern pieces for this project, especially since the long 2-piece sleeve for the Regency gown is exactly what I want for the chemise a la Reine.
Well, I’m going back to that idea. I’m sure I’ll use the Laughing Moon pattern at some point. It’s just that I’d have to do too many things to adapt it for the overall look and functionality that I want for the chemise a la Reine. It’s a very nice pattern, and a lovely design taken from an extant in the Laughing Moon designer’s collection; it’s just not close enough to the Oberkampf gown.
The more I examined the pattern, the more differences became apparent. 1) There’s a waistband; there’s no telling whether the Oberkampf gown has a waistband or is all in one piece or some other construction. 2) The sleeves end at the wrists and are a bit baggy, and while slightly shaped, they don’t have the very curved, close-fitting appearance of most late 18th-century long sleeves, including those shown in portraits of fitted-back chemise a la Reines; the Oberkampf gown sleeves are very fitted, extend over the hand with a flare, and they have a button placket opening. 3) It has a gathered back opening; the Oberkampf gown appears to open at center front, as the back panel is tucked and there’s no apparent opening. 4) And the low neckline is less scooped or squared than the Oberkampf gown.
My basic Regency gown pattern is quite adaptable, which is what I designed it for, and will give a much closer result with far less effort. And I think using this pattern, adapted, will cut down on the fabric requirements. My Regency gowns all depend on drawstrings for their closures, and being early Regency (or very late Georgian, if you prefer—1798-1810) they’re designed for lots of soft, flowing volume. It’s really just a bodice pattern with several sleeve options; my skirts are just tubes of fabric gathered and pleated to fit the bodices.
Here’s what I need to do to my Regency bodice pattern to make it fit the Oberkampf gown’s design and functionality:
- Lengthen the bodice pieces by probably 6 inches (including seam allowance). I’ll have to do a quick muslin to make sure the side and back pieces are shaped correctly once lengthened.
- Split the front bodice in two to give a center-front and a side-front piece. This will ensure the side front remains flat, while the center-front is gathered on drawstrings that terminate at the joining seam. I may actually join the side-front piece to the side-back piece to eliminate a seam.
- Position the slit opening for the closure at center front instead of center back.
- Adapt my undergown bodice pattern in the same ways to make a lining pattern, extending the center-front edges and cutting them off the fold so that they can overlap and pin or tie closed.
- I’ll need a solid 4 yards for the skirt; I usually make do with 3 for a Regency gown, but the chemise a la Reine will need more volume in the skirt front.
I think this will actually be a lot easier and faster than trying to fit the Laughing Moon pattern and then adapt it for the right look and construction. And as time is now running quickly away (April 30 drop-deadline), there’s not a moment to spare. So I quickly pulled out my Regency gown bodice pattern last night and made the changes. Now all I have to do is make a quick muslin to make sure the back and side-back are correct.
I can start muslining the chemise bodice while I’m finishing my stays. Luckily, most of the finishing work on the stays will be done by hand, so it’s more portable. I take projects like this to work with me and work on them in the last 30 minutes of my lunch break; a little every day for a week should be enough to complete the stay eyelets front and back and get a good start on the binding, after installing the bones at home.