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The Chemise Dress

Or une "Chemise à la Reine"

Or à la Gaulle or Robe Chemise or Chemise-Dress or whatever :-))

The chemise dress has as many names as different looks. There are those with slim sleeves, going down to the wrist, there are those with short sleeves, some with big pouf sleeves etc. Some with a deep decollté some with a high neckline. Some with fitted backs, some with a mere drawstring fitting. Some have tubes for fitting, some not. Some come along with wonderful lace, some others with a fabric frill or without anything at all.
It's a dress form offering so many varieties as to fit every taste.

The name "Chemise à la Reine" apparently is a hommage to Marie-Antoinette, who set the trend for those dresses. If she invented them or not - opinions vary - but she helped to make them popular. I consider them a lovely counterweight to all the fitted robe à l'anglaise getting more and more popular. If stays are worn with it - I am in favour of, otherwise Mme de Lavoisier would bend differently. But then there is also pictoral evidence of women wearing those without her stays.

Mme du Barry - showing wide sleeves and a high neckline with lace

The Comtesse de Provence - rather high neckline, semi fitted sleeves with poufs

Mme Elisabeth, very high neckline

Gabrielle de Polastron, Duchesse de Polignac

Mme Lavoisier - with lace neckline, poufy sleeves and a very full skirt.

An original chemise dress, at Manchester. The additional drawstring at underbustlevel is rather fascinating, and was used again for the costumes in Eric Rohmers "l'Anglaise et le Duc"

Stills from "l'Anglaise et le Duc"

Apparently blue sashes were fashionable at a certain moment.

The construction of my choice was rather basic - a huge rectangle, gathered by a drawstring at the top. Two shoulder straps, and poufy sleeves (looking at them afterwards, they could also be a bit bigger). The material is cotton muslin, all handsewn (of course), by making french seams (a must with muslin)
The lace is a beautiful reproduction cotton tull lace, I bought from a dear friend.

The first time I wore the dress was at Nehelenias's Harvest ball - and to honour the taste of times past, with a blue sash:

The day after, the chemise dress came along with a small jacket:

I must say, I like the look of the white skirt with a jacket. Much more than the pure chemise-dress. I felt too much like a sugar candy. And altought wearing my stays, I felt unshaped. (layers: chemise, stays, two petticoats, dress)

Last winter I contemplated on those pictures - I didn't like the neckline, nor the fitting of the sleeves. I did some work at them, result - it's not really visible. But to please me, I worked on the wearing, added a new sash, redecorated my chapeau au grand pouf with red & white. I love the combination of red/white or red/black.

Pictures from Schwetzingen, we went for a garden tour last June. There are many more pictures of the outing, I just enclose those where my dress is seen. (I've been asked by a small girl if I am snow white... I had to decline)

30.9.08 12:38

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