Bodice mockup! I dug out some really random Joann's red tag cotton I have several yards of for reasons unknown, and cut pieces on whichever grainline they fit, which is why the sleeves aren't cut cross. The bodice fits perfectly! I tied my petticoats a little loose by accident, which is why there's a little bit of gaping at the waistline.
The sleeves, on the other hand, are a little too tight, and managed to be too long as well. To double check the length I just opened part of the seam to get the sleeve on, which is why it looks baggy here. The point of the dart wound up sitting well below my elbow. So I will redraft the sleeve with about 3/4" of an inch extra in width, and about two inches shorter above the elbow. The sleeve cap and below the elbow are fine, so I'll just make the angle down to the elbow a little less extreme.
Next I'm going to do the petticoat and gown skirts before bouncing back up to the bodice. The pleats will be the last step. The Denmark piemontaise appears to show the pleats are sewn at the shoulder. One of the piemontaises in the Imatex collection, on the other hand, clearly shows hooks and eyes where the pleats attach at the shoulder. I'm actually leaning more towards this kind of construction, because when I'm not wearing the robe, as will be the case 99.9% of the time, being able to detach the pleats from the shoulder will keep them from pulling the skirt and lower bodice up while being stored. And lends more weight to my belief that the pleats are sewn to the skirt below the waist. Why else would the top need to be detachable like this, if it was only a cape-like piece? Also, if you look at the outer pleats in the second picture, you can see where the edge rolls in, where to me it appears to connect back to the skirt below the waist.
Click on these for very lovely hi-res shots, with the hooks and eyes clearly visible at the top of the pleats!
For this pair I wanted that 1780s "prow" front shape, and put a long gusset in the middle. On the side shot you can see the forward curve of the stays. Making these was quite an adventure, as I used, quite literally, every single kind of boning I had in my house in these stays. The problem of working a) on a deadline, and b) while snowed in repeatedly. The center front and center back bones are 1/2" German plastic whalebone. The rest of it is a mix of 1/4" steel bones, cable ties, and for the longest channels where I didn't have anything else, the same cane I used in my other stays. I hadn't turned down the edges before trying them on, just to make sure everything would work and fit right, but after taking them off I've done the top edge. I'll get to the bottom at some point. I don't think I'll bind or line them before the dinner unless I have extra time at the end.
I also made myself a new rump yesterday to go under everything. I went by the article demode wrote for Foundations Revealed, about late 18th century skirt supports. It gives me both hip oomph as well as rear shape, so I'm happy with it.
(my mirror looks so dirty! Eek!)
The reason I'm going for the rounder look with this, rather than just using pocket hoops as the Denmark piemontaise appears to show, is because I really like the shape of this francaise in the Met's collection, and because having the back shape makes the pleats stand out even further, being further away from the body.
I'm trying to decide if I should press the pleats down to where they'll attach to the skirts. All of the existing piemontaises show flat pleats, but is that how they were originally made, or is that from storage? I'm not sure.
And to round out this post, yesterday I also draped the bodice pattern, based on the Denmark PDF. Either later today or tomorrow I will cut out a full bodice and sleeve in scrap to make sure it fits, then onto the silk!
(Yes, that was indeed worthy of sparkly text. Just because.)
According to "Dress in France in the Eighteenth Century" by Madeleine Delpierre,
The robe à la piémontaise, made fashionable at the time of the marriage of Princess Clotilde of France, sister of Louis XVI, to the Prince of Piedmont, was a variation on the robe à la française: the loose, flowing pleats at the back were added later to form a kind of cape attached behind. [source]
This indicates that the back pleats were attached only at the shoulder and left completely loose the rest of the way down. I'm working primarily from the extant robe à la piémontaise held in the collections of the National Museum in Denmark, which includes a pattern taken from their robe. Their pattern clearly shows where the back pleats rejoin the skirt, and there is a noted and marked seam in the skirt. See look, I drew on the diagram as proof. And to add to that, from the few others I've seen photographs of, if the back hem is visible, there doesn't seem to be a break in the hem in any of them that would indicate there is a separate piece where the pleat 'cape' overlaps the skirt back. More picture analysis and doodles to possibly come at a future date?
But anyway, my goal is to do as faithful a recreation of that dress as possible. I pinned a width of the silk (that will actually be the petticoat when I get to sewing) into the pleat configuration to get an idea of the look, just because, and here it is.
The Danish robe is very simple. with trim only along the center front of the bodice, and because my fabric is so bold on it's own, I don't intend to trim it more than that. The only thing I'm a bit unsure of is the sleeve cuffs. Should it have ruffles? I feel like there should be something there, even if it's a narrow lace frill. But that will be decided when I get closer to the end point, I think.
For now I need to focus on the under bits. The 1780s is more of a rounder silhouette than earlier, without the hoops, and more emphasis to the rear, which will make the gap between back and pleats stand out more, so I think I'll make a rump for this, one that adds some width to my hips as well, instead of the solely rear-heavy one I made for my linen round gown last year.
Stay tuned for more robe à la piémontaise progress! Since this is such a rare style, I intend to document as much of my process as possible.