Friday, September 11, 2015

Thimbles and Acorns' Chemise a la Reine: Pattern Review

Today's blog post is brought to you by Marie Antoinette and Elisabeth Vigee Lebrun.

No, seriously.

I became obsessed with the idea of reproducing one of Marie Antoinette's most famous, or infamous gowns, the Chemise a la Reine. This dress was designed by Marie Antoinette's dressmaker, Rose Bertin. It appealed to Marie Antoinette, who was unhappy with the deep formality of the French court. She was painted wearing the dress by Elisabeth Vigee Lebrun.

This dress caused a huge scandal when it was exhibited in the Salon. People thought that the queen had been painted in her underwear. It broke all off the conventions for portraying a French monarch. Vigee Lebrun withdrew the painting from the Salon and replaced it with a more conventional portrait of the queen.

I was inspired in my project by the Thimbles and Acorns Chemise a la Reine pattern.

However, when I downloaded the pattern, I wasn't entirely satisfied with it for my project.  Vigee Lebrun's portrait of Marie Antoinette does not show a split skirt with a colored petticoat underneath, as the pattern has.

Furthermore, the pattern has the dress tie shut in the front. This is historically accurate for some chemise a la reine gowns, but I wasn't convinced that it was accurate for Marie Antoinette's gown. I wanted the gown to close in the back with velcro so a seven year old could take it on and off easily. I also wanted to sew the sash on so it can't get lost, which would not be possible with a  gown that closed in the front.

So I used the Thimbles and Acorn pattern as a base, and changed the pattern so that it could close in the back.

I also altered the sleeves to look more like the portrait.

For the sash, I actually used two ribbons. I found a gold, see through ribbon, which was similar to what Marie Antoinette wore, but it didn't provide much color at the waist. So I used a solid gold ribbon around the waist of the gown, and sewed the see-through ribbon over it, with extra at the back so it can be tied into a bow.

I am really pleased with the finished dress. It is beautiful.

For anyone interested, some of the sources I consulted in making this dress include Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution by Caroline Weber and Mode Historique.


  1. It's always interesting to see the possibilities of adapting patterns into a different piece of clothing. Nice work!

  2. I admire people who aren't afraid to alter and adapt patterns.

  3. Absolutely fantastic. I love reading about the journey :)

  4. I agree with you, the Thimbles and Acorns patterns does not resemble the true Chemise de la Reine in her portrait that caused so much scandal, though it does resemble her other gowns. I like how you altered it, it does look like her , all she needs is a rose in her hand!

    1. Thank you!
      She does have a rose in her hand in the last picture! It was in the park, so I couldn't pick the flowers, I just posed her as best as I could.


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