Updated: Jan 3, 2021
Now that we've gone through the underpinnings, let's get to the real Belle of the ball! ;D
Above, you'll find a sketch of my dress design. Those of you familiar with the Rococo fashions will recognize that quintessential wide hip of the period, though considerably smaller than some as Belle is a modest lady. As mentioned in my underpinnings post, I will be using a modest set of pocket hoops to create the wider hips and a split rump to support the robe that will be pulled up a la Polonaise. I will be making an Italian gown, or robe a l'Anglaise, which is a robe with a fitted bodice, that often closes at the center front and ends in a point in the back with an attached open skirt, seamed at the waist. "A la Polonaise" means to be looped up in the back and is used to reveal more of the decorative petticoat underneath (not to be confused with the Polonaise style gown, which is a continuous gown from bodice to skirt). In order to pull the dress up a la Polonaise, I will be making matching, detachable bands of silk with bows that will attach on this inside of the robe at the seam between the bodice and skirt of the robe, wrap under the skirt and attach on the outside at the same point as can be seen on the back sketch.
The entire dress will be made in a creamy golden yellow silk taffeta from Silk Baron (my favourite silk source) called "fondue". It has a lovely weight and drape and will be perfect for creating my Belle gown. I chose something a little more subtle than the bright yellow of Disney's classic dress because I wanted to keep my dress a little less cartoony and I think the colour compliments my cousins complexion very nicely
The front and sleeve hems will be trimmed in lace and braid and the sleeves will be finished with a common decorative detail of the time: engageante. Engageante are detachable layers of lace that decorate the ends of sleeves. They were detachable to be used with any gown a lady might have. I'm still debating whether or not I will be making this pieces detachable, as this is only a historically inspired piece, but I do feel inclined that way as it would be nice to make multiple use of these pieces, especially considering the gorgeous lace I bought for them from Lace to Love on Etsy. The lace will also be used for the 'v' flounce on the petticoat.
The braid trim and edge lace used around the sleeve hems will also be used down the front of robe from neckline to hem, as well as around the top of the pleated flounce. I will also be using the lace to finish off the top edge of the 'v' flounce and the edges of the cap sleeves. I'm hoping to find some round pearl beads to put in the centers of the loops on the braid, so there is going to be a lot of hand sewing in my future!
Both the over petticoat and under petticoat will be built in the same manner, with a yoke at the top and skirt attached in gathers to that yoke. This will help eliminate extra bulk at the waist, by moving it lower, which will then add extra fullness at the hips because the gathers will now be sitting on the sides of the hoops. As I said in my previous post, the under petticoat will have a pleated flounce at the bottom and the outer petticoat will also include this feature. Flounces, even matching ones, are great for adding visual interest to a garment as they add texture and movement to a piece, especially at the hem of a skirt.
I will be adding a feature that is common amongst other dress styles of the period, but not typically added to the Italian gown: a stomacher. I'm adding this piece mostly because I love them. Now, I could make a gown style that more often incorporated the stomacher, but I am also very partial to the seamed style of the Italian gown, so, since this is only a 'historically inspired' gown, I figure I can pick and choose the pieces that I like! A common decorative feature of stomachers are eschelles, or a column of bows decreasing in size from bustline to waist as seen in the photo from the Starlight Masquerade blog (I'm sure you recall the stunning teal panniers from the same creator in my undergarments post). I've decided to do one large bow at the top, as shown in my sketch and will be doing a lace overlay of the entire stomacher, using the lace above. Another, very clever feature that I will be incorporating is modern method of attachment. In a period gown, stomachers were pinned in the stays and then the robe was pinned over the sides, creating the illusion of a solid gown, but allowing stomachers (like engageante) to be used on multiple garments as these kinds of pieces could be incredibly expensive. I will be using snaps like in the image to make the piece removable.
I'm sure you're all starting to truly see the scope of this project! And with a little less than two months left before the February 1st deadline, I have much to do! This week, I'm diving right into my undergarments and have hopes to have my chemise, panniers and stays done by the end of the weekend. If all goes well, you'll be seeing those deep dive posts starting Sunday or Monday evening!
I'm also hoping to make some matching jewellery for this project, but I'll save those shenanigans for a deep dive post of their own!
As always, thank you for sticking with me and stay tuned!
xoxo Amara Ann; VVA