For my daughter’s last day of school before winter break back when she was four, I made this nightgown and robe. It was pajama day, so of course…. Every year for her birthday I make her a nightgown anyway, and decided to make a robe to go with it this time.
The gown is a sweet bunny print flannel with elastic at the neck, waist, and sleeves, and a strip of lavender at the bottom as well as neck, waist, and bottom of the sleeves. The back has buttons, but they are only decorative. I did fold the fabric in back to mimic a button closure.
The robe is her favorite part of this. It’s shorter in the front than the nightgown, and sweeps into a slight train. It’s edged entirely in lavender floral Venice lace (this trim was somewhat pricy at $22 for how much was needed), and closes in the front with a big decorative hook. I also made the hair clips she’s wearing over each pig tail.
Little girl nightgowns are the best bang for the buck. These gowns will last through years of washing and wearing. All seams are at least double-sewn (I do NOT use a double needle, which would use the same thread for both rows on the bottom, and just isn’t as secure as separately sewing each), and some triple. A day gown wouldn’t look so nice with so much stitching, but night things are different, and night things get worn more often than a day dress. She’s seven now, and though this robe is snug and short, she still wears it sometimes.
Several more pictures of this robe and gown are on this Facebook page, including without the robe and some detail shots.
This gown is entirely hand-sewn, every last stitch! I made this gown out of silk taffeta. While my mock-up was closer to the original gown, I wanted this one to appear slimmer from the front and to have a more fitted bodice.
The original is in the Greene Collection at the Genesee Country Village & Museum. Known information is that the skirt has three panels with slight gathering on the front and pleating in the back. The sleeves and bodice top each have two tucks. The wonderful pointed cap sleeves have what would have been white silk ribbon bows. The sleeves are long enough that they would have to be pushed up on the arms to use the hands. I’m not sure what’s going on on the bottom, if that’s trim or discoloration, but I made tucks, and closed this gown with buttons. Buttons weren’t common, but I used them anyway.
The VanDyke points around the neckline have been used a lot on old quilts. It’s the same technique, and it’s lovely. I’ve matched these details in this replica. This gown has the same tucks on the sleeves and neck, the same number of Van Dyke points across the front, and four tucks on the bottom. The long under-sleeves are detachable so this can be worn as a ball gown!
I made this gown for an Indiana stage production of Beauty and the Beast. This gown managed to steal my heart as I made it. The ric-rac around the bottom was a design suggestion my daughter made, and Sheree liked it. And sew…it was sew. *ducks from the tomatoes*
I used a mottled blue instead of a solid blue. Something about a solid looks like a costume. Perhaps that’s because a young lady living her life in that time in France wouldn’t stay so spotless. Of course animating smudges isn’t feasible for a hand-drawn film, but on a real person, it needs some variation for this type of dress to not look like a costume meant to represent a rich young lady. This gorgeous blue, which at first seemed an iffy choice, was perfect!
The overgown is two pieces for–what else?–versatility. The bodice is boned and closes in the back with a zipper (lacing is also possible, but zipping is faster for stage). This bodice can definitely be worn on its own with a pair of jeans or something else. The skirt closes with a large hook and eye. Between a couple rows of ric-rac on the skirt, in a thread color meant to be invisible from a distance, is a message from Beast to his Beauty. It’s embroidered upside down to someone looking straight on, but it’s not meant for you. It’s meant for Belle to see when she sits and looks at her skirt, and this was a surprise this Beauty didn’t know about. Sometimes a lady needs to be reminded that, no matter what anyone mean says, she it beautiful.
The skirt can be worn over or under the bodice, and the skirt can go over the bodice while the skirt is under, under the bodice, etc.
The blouse has dolman sleeves, buttons up the front, and to make it easier to pull on and off quickly, is both blousy (the blue shell controls that, and the sleeve cuffs have elastic (can be made with a standard cuff instead). The skirt is something I love, and I don’t know why, since it’s so simple. Two layers of white cotton, royal blue ric-rac, ribbon waist band. The skirt can be worn over or under the blue bodice, and the skirt can be worn over or under as well, with or without the skirt. The hair bow is on a clip, and included.
More photos and variations on how this ensemble can be worn is available in this Facebook album.
As a surprise for my daughter, her father, grandmother, and I planned a trip to Disneyland. She knew nothing. She had no idea we were getting on a plane until we were at the airport, and we managed to conceal the reason for our trip until we were at the hotel (literally just across the street from the park) until we were in the room and I had her surprise gowns laid out. All five made in two weeks: Aurora, Ariel, Snow White, Belle, and Cinderella.
Here is a video of her finding everything out:
So on our fourth day, she was Belle! By a miracle, I managed to find nearly the same brocade as used on another Belle gown I made, and at the last moment, I found more of that bronze-gold organza, which works better than the yellow-gold I had bought when the bronze-gold was nowhere to be found. This one nearly goes without saying. I added straps of light gold to help the gown stay up. The skirt is tacked to the bodice, and so the weight needs more than the bodice boning on a child. The back laces, and the skirt is a full circle.
Despite the weight of the heavy brocade and crepe satin, the gown was cool to wear. The hoop under it helped with air circulation, and the bodice is, of course, sleeveless.
Hands down, the background characters’ costumes are stunning, as are the servants’ human costumes. Madame Garderobe’s blue gown even has scallop-pinked trimming! So much silk and damask and happy-sigh-worthy perfection.
Beast and Gaston... Until I get my hands on some photos of the opening scene to better analyze the prince’s costume (the ladies are pure rococo), I can’t say much on that, but otherwise, everything I said still stands with nothing else needing to be added aside from some speculation about Gaston. Gaston was called Captain, and he was a war veteran. This detail is actually put into his chamois leather coat. Chamois leather was used primarily for hunting and military. So this could potentially be a military coat.
Let’s see if we can figure out which war he fought in without giving away a plot point. The men’s costumes are very, very 1750-1760, though this movie couldn’t have taken place that late. (I’m not going to nitpick being a couple decades off though, especially if the exact year wasn’t specified to the costumer and Emma, who wouldn’t have cared anyway.) We have a better indication of the era though, and that indication comes from the movie by a specific event that really happened.
The event that we see Maurice fleeing with Baby Belle took place in 1720-1722 (this event is a running theme through the movie). The traumatized captain hopefully wasn’t a captain in any war around 1720, but Emma appears to be about 25. So this movie is in the area of 1740. War of the Polish Succession happened in 1733-1738. War of the Austrian Succession was 1740-1748. He wouldn’t have been to that one and back unless Emma is supposed to be playing a 30-year-old-or-older Belle. The Quadruple Alliance ended in 1720. So I suppose he was a veteran of the Polish Succession.
What I thought was one of her provincial ensembles wasn’t something that appeared together on screen. She wore the white floral apron at the castle, but not with the pockets or that particular bodice. She wore a blue and blue cross-over with that skirt and apron. There’s a peek of the rest just visible in this. So this display had some mixed up pieces. Despite the inaccuracies, both of these ensembles still work well for invoking the era.
There’s nothing transformative. Her makeup looks the same, her hair is down, but not different otherwise. She looks like she tossed on a yellow dress, and that’s it. A garment can change how a person carries themselves. She looks like, “Here I am, in a long dress.” She doesn’t elevate the dress, and the dress doesn’t elevate her. Something I’ve observed in my own daughter is when she’s in one of her ultra-fancy dresses, her carriage changes, as does her demeanor. Many people have noticed this. She’s not even aware she does it, but she goes from running around like a loon to holding her head higher and acting regal. That’s what a truly regal gown can do. It can affect how you feel about yourself, and that will show.
That yellow gown didn’t have that affect. It’s Emma in a yellow dress. Meanwhile, in the animated version, our hot-headed, yet introverted Belle who sometimes doubted herself on screen transformed into this giddy young woman in her gown. She fluffed up the skirt to show herself off, preened a bit, and she displayed an increase in confidence and joy. That Belle absolutely blossomed in that moment. Our rose had fully bloomed. We saw nothing of the sort with Emma’s version.
Now, it can be argued that the glitter is okay because the pattern was lifted from the floor and ceiling, as I’ve seen a few people mention, except for a couple things.
First, the floor and ceiling weren’t glitter. In reality, the gold would have been gold leafing, which is thin sheets of real gold. In that era, and for a couple centuries afterward, fine strands of precious metals were woven into fabrics, and embroidered into fabrics. (Until just a handful of decades ago, lamé was made from thin ribbons of real gold or silver, and would tarnish.) It would have made more sense to have that gold leafing weave/embroider itself into the fabric. As it stand, as I said in my earlier post, the paint and glitter isn’t substantial enough, as embroidery would have been. This is actually from the movie:
Second, this gown’s “wow” factor is entirely in it’s spin-factor.
That can only last for so long though. We saw this gown for a remarkably short period of time during this scene. The cameras kept panning to the sets. The animated film did this too, but a a chance to show off some of the brand-new CGI abilities they were able to use in animating the ballroom. Watching a gown spin will only stay interesting for so long, especially when it lacks sparkle. Despite the glitter, this gown really didn’t sparkle much. It had some shine at times, but it lacked depth and substance.
It pains me to pick apart this gown when the overall design of it is my personal style (remember, I made myself a gown using almost the exact same skirt styling, just with four layers and without the waterfall effect in the back, which I joked should be made in yellow for Belle), but that doesn’t change my mind about the glitter and paint in place of embroidery (no, embroidery wouldn’t be too heavy as heavier embroidery didn’t, in any way, affect the floppiness and lightness of my “Emma” gown). It’s just does not have enough substance, and makes the gown look plainer and flatter than it should.
I’m going to close this post with a couple photos of my daughter in gowns I made her inspired by parts of the rococo era, as Tiny Marie Antoinette when she was three years old (later 18th century), and as Rococo Cinderella when she was four years old (more fantasy-based mid 18th century)…
At this moment, I am sitting in the theater waiting for the movie to start. Yes, with my computer. Really. Hi, everyone.
Coming in, I was more than a little perturbed at some articles I’d read yesterday that relate to costuming and, really, clothing in general, and as such, is very relevant to what I do. What we wear has always come with come degree of judgement and controversy. Dress in line with current fashions can be seen as following the crowd, while dressing the way one personally likes can be considered wanting to be a “snowflake” if it’s too different. In many ways, there’s no winning. My general belief is if you like it and it fits the occasion, wear it. Bikini at a formal restaurant or the opera? Uh, doesn’t fit the occasion. Bikini or burqini at the beach? Enjoy. Don’t let anyone tell your your body size, body hair, sex, gender, or anything else matters. If it’s for the occasion, then you do you, and be proud of having the strength to be you.
Now, as if there weren’t already some strong indicators to me that Emma, et. al. had a gross misunderstanding of Belle and the movie, I encountered some aggravating gems such as these:
In one, Emma said, “The actress was instrumental in giving the Disney princess a more feminist edge, insisting that certain aspects be changed so she feels more modern. “I was like, ‘The first shot of the movie cannot be Belle walking out of this quiet little town carrying a basket with a white napkin in it. We need to rev things up!’””
While I’m waiting, allow me a moment to address each of those two points (the second and third article quotes relate to each other for one point).
First, the opening scene of the animated movie had Belle walking into that little town with a basket as an instruction to her world. We learned, in one number, that her town is a relatively peaceful one that doesn’t accept her, that she has ambitions and dreams that reach far outside of it, that the town “good guy” is a brute who only cares about appearances, as well as the town’s pathetic reasons for not really liking or accepting her. Belle “walking out of this quiet little town carrying a basket with a white napkin in it” isn’t some pointless little scene. How sad that Emma couldn’t understand that.
Also Belle ISN’T a modern, 21st century woman, and this IS a historically-timed movie that is even dated by the inclusion of the 1720-1722 plague. Making Belle a modern woman and sticking her in a modern ball gown complete with glued-on glitter, LITERALLY, means taking Emma herself and sticking her in a time machine. If you want to play a 21st-century woman, then take roles featuring 21st-century women. Don’t take a role featuring an 18th-century heroine and make her be from the 21st century while insisting that the clothing real, strong, brave, hard-working women wore actually oppressed them. We want to see BELLE, not Emma, and Emma, unfortunately, doesn’t understand that she’s supposed to play the character rather than the character becoming herself.
What she’s really getting at, though, is that a “modern” and “strong” woman can’t possibly take a quiet walk into town. To show how “modern” and “strong” she is, a woman needs to burst onto the scene! And being quiet means being old-fashioned and weak. That’s not a very empowering message to send to anyone.
The animated quiet Belle with a temper that could flash was strong for staying true to herself even when the town didn’t like it. The live-action…Emma…was altered to fit the requirements of other people (i.e. Emma) insist one must be to be strong, and the “rev[ing] things up a bit” hurtfully indicates that there’s something weak about being an introvert. That actually makes the live-action version a weaker one. The live-action one isn’t strong enough to be who the character was written to be in every other version of the story, from the original version in 1740 to the animated version in 1991.
Second, what on earth makes a gown feminist or not feminist? Feminism is about choice.
If a woman freely wants to wear a puffy froufrou thing, she can, and that’s feminism.
If a woman freely wants to wear edgy black and dark, she can, and that’s feminism.
If a woman freely wants to wear hijab, she can, and that’s feminism.
I find it absurd that someone would think that “being a pretty, princess-y kind of dress” works against being modern and strong. I’m not easily offended, and in fact, my sense of humor can go quite dark. But this? This is offensive. A woman can be EXTREMELY strong in EVERY way, and still enjoy dressing in flowyness and frills. Insinuating that these things are weak is actually anti-feminist as it’s dictating to us how we must dress to be seen as strong. Dictating what style of clothing must be worn to be seen as feminist, and dictating what style of clothing needs to be avoided to be seen as feminist, is overtly not feminist by any metric there is. It’s shaming women for making their own choices about their apparel, and this is disempowering.
Ladies and gents and non-binary folks, you can dress just as feminine or masculine or neutral as you like, and still be completely strong. You can be a quiet person, and still be strong. Don’t let anyone tell you, EVER, that you must dress a certain way to be a feminist, or that you have to be an extrovert to be strong. Feminism means, in small part, wearing what makes YOU comfortable, and strength, in large part, is remaining true to who YOU are and having enough left over to stand up for others in any way, big or small, whether your temper flares or you can maintain self control. You being you and helping other get to be themselves, and you wearing what you want and helping others get to wear that they want, is both strong AND feminist.
I really can’t wrap my head around how being explosive makes someone stronger, or this who idea of “a pretty, princess-y kind of dress” is inherently not feminist. That breaks my brain.
This blog post by Marzipan and Minutiae has some fantastic points as well, regarding historical women and examples of advancements and achievements made by women in corsets and huge sleeves and skirts. Their clothing didn’t stop them from being ahead of their time. Their clothing was decoration, not them.
It’s really not the clothing that makes a strong person. It’s the person within the skin. All else is just icing.
This ballgown ended up needing almost 40 yards of fabric, which is what happens when you have fabric over fabric over more fabric over a massive hoop! But it’s alway fun to play with so much fabric. I was in the middle of packing to move while making this gown, so please pardon my neglect of pressing the skirt properly before taking pictures.
I decided to base this skirt on the Belle skirt that was used for the Cinderellabration festivities at Disney World in 2005, though with different fabrics, and the top layer is a bit longer, and the bottom layer scalloped. Still, that’s where the general idea comes from.
The undermost layer isn’t exciting. Simple six-steel-hooped cage (aka “hoop skirt”). The skirt on top of that is rather heavy. The satin I used is a heavier satin, and, rather than eliminate weight by goring the skirts, I pleated tons of yards of satin to the waistband. The swagged layer has a cut that’s not circle, not gored, not exactly pleated or gathered. It’s something I devised for this gown. The top layer is a few layers of fabric, topped with a swirly vine organza to keep with the rose motif in the story. The satin swags at the bottom are a slightly darker gold. If I were to cut a bunch of threads, this layer would hang evenly all the way around. And, as you can see, at the top of each swag point, I placed a red rose. Golden fabric-covered buttons just wasn’t doing it. The skirt closes with a hook and eye, and has a series of hooks to connect it to the bodice.
Though boning channels aren’t visible, the bodice is fully boned and tight-laces as much as a stand-alone corset. I drafted a Victorian corset pattern to start with, raised the top, then cut the bottom up until I was satisfied with it. Rather than drafting a shorter pattern to begin with, I drafted what I know works for the top of it, and cut right into my fabrics. So cutting up the bottom happened on the actual bodice itself. Each panel has six, SIX, layers. Two layers together of a light cotton twill to line it, and the two layers of the same as interlining (that’s how I hid the bones), and then the satin and organza. Not including the binding, modesty panel, or shoulders, there are sixty, that’s 60, as in six-zero, pieces on the bodice. I debated whether or not to add gold trim on the seams, but ultimately decided against it. Sewing the inside of the bindings was interesting since it was two layers together. As I was doing it, I found myself unable to see what I was going half the time. Hard to explain, but let us just say that many swear words were uttered. The modesty panel in the back is different than usual. Rather than being only as long as the back, it’s several inches longer and is meant to of under the waist band. This gives a path of sorts for the bodice lacing to be fed down between the skirt and the hoops. And it’s all topped off with a bertha (the shoulder piece) made from the same swirled organza lined with golden plain organza, and another rose at the front.
Ah, Gaston. A character we love to hate because he’s so hatable, and yet the character at Disney parks is hilarious. He’s a frightening villain though, that man who claims to love someone, and shows it by trying to revoke her agency and force her into submission. When you remove the comedic relief in the character, the full force of how horrifying he is starts to come out. Unlike Maleficent or Ursula, he’s a human of the sort who actually exists. And because he’s attractive, it’s all too easy to fall under a spell with him.
To people like me, who love the art of fine costume and tailoring, his clothing is enough to cause the drooling though. Forget the face, forget the man. Just look at that ensemble (and don’t overlook that magnificent ceiling!).
It is glorious in all its scarlet beauty. At that time, wearing red was reserved for the wealthy. Red dye came from the the cochineal insect in Mexico. Getting that color was a difficult and very expensive task until synthetic dyes came into existence. Even without the red, his ensemble indicates a man of wealth and privilege.
Let’s break it down a bit.
That shirt contains an easy to see, yet easy to miss bit of detail. Those pintucks on the tops of his shoulders are a wonderful, period-correct touch, one not too often seen, yet not unknown. The sewn jabot and ruffles at the sleeves are very nice, and, again, correct. Gaston’s shirt looks a bit too smooth in the photos I’ve seen so far to be linen, though might be a linen cotton blend. The extant shirt shown on the dress form is linen.
Something I did spot on Gaston’s shirt is gussets under the sleeves. Gussets are a square of fabric set in like a diamond that give more room to move. The poofiness of the fabric make it hard to see though I can make out the seams.
Don’t roll your eyes at me, young man. It’s my job to look for these things, and if I happen to need to look at your pits, then I do.
His vest is a bit difficult to make out. It’s straight-cut across the bottom, buttons, and has a couple pockets. Red, possibly wool, perhaps cotton. I’d wager on wool. It’s lined with a yellow and red cotton. This is a really nice nod to his yellow collar in the animated film. I’m curious to see the back of this vest, and will post an update on Friday with observations on this and other costumes from the movie.
His breeches are difficult to see in any great detail in the pub scene photos. So I’ll jump to his breeches in another scene, which look to be the same pair. A man’s breeches were like our jeans. Wear ’em all the time, over and over again.
In the photo on his horse, the buttons are very centered. At the time, breeches were usually what’s known as fall-front. Scroll back to the photo at the top and check out the man on the table. The front of his breeches have a flap that buttons up to the waistband.
I’ve seen one pair of extant breeches from the era with buttons in the center. So it was done, though really not too common. These are definitely wool. His breeches do get a check in the “period-correct” column, though in the “very unusual” column.
His leather boots are definitely period. The width of the tan band is personal preference, but that two-tone was done. I double I’ll get a chance to study the bottom of his shoes to see if they were nailed or glued, but that point is really moot. There’s nothing more to say about his boots.
Let’s check out his scarlet coat some more.
The same information goes here as it does for the Beast’s ball coat. The buttons are certainly decorative. This coat is lined in a cream and tan striped fabric, probably a cotton. The back…
Nice, deep pleats, gold trimming at the edge of the split in the back (that split made it easier for a man to straddle his horse, and sometimes the flaps would be buttoned up), gold buttons at his waist.
I have not yet been able to find any close photos of his trimmings or buttons yet, though I may luck out in the theater. *ssshhhhhh*
Not many photos or stills of his other ensembles have become available yet, and the lack of his costumes on display make it difficult to share much information aside from general observations. His hunting coat looks to be a sort of sueded, perhaps chamois leather. His hair, of course, is pulled back with a small ribbon, as is Emma’s. (Rather than her large animated bow, they decided to show Belle as a not like other women by having her ribbon be more like the men’s.)
I think that says it. His tricorne hat is perfect aside from the direction of his velvet trim. The photos and paintings I’ve seen show top-down to be the way it was done rather than bottom-up. But not all of them had trim at all. Some had just pins or buttons. So. No worries about that being inaccurate. Also, this hat would have been called a cocked hat at the time, and it came to be known as a tricorne decades after it fell from fashion. Beaver hair felt was common, though wool felt was also pretty typical. I have no way to identify one fiber from the other.
There were actually two reasons for these hats to be pinned up, whether on one (such as LeFou’s), two, one all three sides. Gentlemen were expected to remove their hats when indoors. This practice had fallen by the wayside, but was alive and well into my own childhood. It made a lot of sense for a man to carry his own hat instead of whacking people with it as he turned. Ladies’ hats were often pinned on or worn at least partly for religious reasons having to do with covering one’s head, and so ladies kept theirs on. (Look at their massive skirts, and their hats are small in comparison anyway!).
The other is a bit more fun. In a time when gentlemen (and a great many ladies!) would very often wear elaborate wigs, this arrangement let them show off their faux-follicular (fauxllicular?) goods. Two portraits that show this are Catherine the Great (left) and Marie Antoinette (right).
The coat Gaston wears in promotional images has a big problem.
Those stag buttons are pretty awesome, an a nice and subtle touch to using antlers in all of his decorating, but that outerwear coat is leather, and not a chamois leather. I double-checked with a Georgian reproduction forum, and leather like this wasn’t used for outerwear. The methods of tanning weren’t so great, and the wearer could become quite fragrant in a short time. That flagrant fragrance would be fine when hunting or working on a ship, but would you really want to wander around town smelling like something the dogs dragged in? In the words of some people who know better the history of leather and menswear of the era, “leather was worn more by labourers and poorer people so none of it has survived” (or very, very little–one extant garment is known to exist in the Kyoto Museum, but even that’s chamois leather), “Breeches widely used for working classes apparently. But coats no/-it’s not an outerwear thing,” and “The leather tanning process back in the day did not lend itself to large scale items of clothing due to the tendency to be quite “fragrant”. It wasn’t until later when they figured out how to eliminate the odors left over from the process. It was also very difficult to split the hides into the thinner material needed for making clothing until the Industrial Revolution was further underway.” So the red leather coat is a big nope on fabric, though the design is the overall same as the chamois leather hunting coat
The white shirt he wears looks to be the same as the first one I covered, which makes sense this this is basically his version of a t-shirt. His waistcoat underneath also looks to be the same cut, though in chamois leather.
The color combination there is a fantastic nod to the ensemble he wears to propose to Belle.
It looks, to me, as if the costumer found or created a shirt, waistcoat, and breeches patterns that worked for him, and used them for each of these, and did the same with his hunting and mob jackets (very minor detail differences). There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s not like villagers would have been bothered with trying to obtain different patterns for every item of clothing they had. If you have a pattern that works for you at a time when your wardrobe might contain two regular daily outfits and a Sunday best, variety of design isn’t going to be your big concern. You’ll use the pattern you know works because fabric is too precious of a commodity to waste testing out new designs for each coat you have. It’s not like you could jump I the car and head on down to the local Joann’s for some cheap fabric to try again.
All in all, I’m very pleased with Gaston’s costumes. Unlike the yellow gown that is really only “Belle” in color, Gaston’s entire wardrobe so far is entirely in keeping with his character, the era, and the animated movie. Like Belle’s Provincial ensembles and Beast’s Ball ensemble, Gaston’s wardrobe shows wonderfully how a designer can take the clothing from an animated movie that was necessarily rife with inaccuracies (the more detailing, no matter how period correct, meant more for the animators to draw by hand hundreds of thousands of times, and to paint hundreds of thousands of times, which mean costumes had to be simplified), put them in the historical era, and get something that is incredibly true to character, source designs, and the period and location that a story took place.
I’ll close this post with a photo I took at Disneyland last September of Gaston swaggering off after telling a group of giggly ladies that we could “admits his…assets as [he] walked off.” I swear he’d be the most fun character to act at the park.
This may be the last bit of fun we see out of a character who looks to be the real beast in the upcoming movie. I will post a follow-up on Friday with observations from the movie, which I will be seeing Thursday evening.
Every stitch of this dress was hand-sewn, including the button holes. I used a printed cotton in a floral print that is modern rather than what would have been found in the mid-to-late 18th century.
The bodice, between the outer fabric and the lining, has 16 pieces, plus the lined two-part sleeves. The sleeves are each trimmed with yard of Venice lace. I carefully lined up the motifs on each so that, if pressed flat, the rose motifs are even. The unlined skirt has three rows of 1/4″ gimp trim that alternate in direction. The skirt has a very deep hem that covers the stitching on the backside that holds the trim in place. The neckline has 1/4″ gimp trim. Two pieces are used in opposite directions meeting in the middle. The waistline has 1/2″ gimp trim in the same fashion as the neckline so that the directions mirror each other. The neckline and waist both have crystal buttons in clear/white and black, and the six buttons on the back are large crystals.
I also made the silk floral hair piece, as well as the necklace and bracelet. The necklace and bracelet are genuine cultured pearls. These photos were taken in Buffalo, Missouri, on Easter 2012.
It is correct that this ensemble takes liberties with the era, but the general look of the era is there.
First off, in that era, women of Belle’s financial status wouldn’t have worn much blue. It was an expensive color. Earthen colors we far more common. Less-natural colors, such as blue, white, and black were signs of wealth. However, in the animated version, Belle was in blue to make it easier to track her through the village.
No matter where she is, she stands out among the greens and browns and pinks.
Now the printing on the fabrics is a correct detail. France pioneered much of the calico-printing in the 18th century. The accuracy of the prints themselves I won’t get into since they’re very passable and aren’t egregiously out of the era. Using pricier striped fabric (that looks to be woven) as wash rags…I can overlook that rather minor detail.
We have what appears to be a cotton bodice with a homespun wool detail on the front. I can’t make heads or tails of the purpose of this piece being a different fabric, but it seems to attempt to invoke an image of a stomacher, which was a fancy often-embroidered piece that would be pinned into the front of a lady’s gown. It doesn’t match anything I’ve seen for working-class women of the era, but this isn’t too surprising. They wore their dresses until they wore out, and then would rip them to make rags, rugs, or other things. Fashion magazines never really featured the clothing working-class women can afford, just like today. (One of the things I collect are the hand-painted “magazine” fashion prints from the late 1700’s onward, and only one very unusual one shows country-folk attire.)
That piece crosses over a red print flap. While you can just see a smidgeon of red, a photo farther down will clearly show the red flap.
The back of this has the higher cut one would expect, and if I strain my eyes, it looks like there are the correct drop-shoulder seams and back side seams, though I can’t tell for sure and have found or been provided with no better photos yet. This is something I will watch for, and update here as necessary.
Something I like is how the top-stitching at the waistband is in white. That gives this ensemble a hand-sewn finish. The apron has top-stitching in red, and with white, it’s clear to see some rougher stitching holding the pleats on the skirt in place. None of the pleats on either the skirt or apron are perfectly even, which is another wonderful detail. Imagine doing today’s wash-work and cooking without a water heater or anything electronic at all, and then work in making your own clothing, and being concerned about perfect pleats just plain isn’t important.
The cream and blue cloth is sewn to its own waistband, and tied on. The same photo below that will show the red bodice flap shows the rag band clearer. The red one has its own waistband, and is actually a pocket. Before pockets were set into skirt seams, women had pockets that they carried or tied on. The thicker red vertical stripe visible in some shots is the opening to her pocket. Awesome detail to add in.
So she’s wearing, at least, a skirt, tied-on apron, tied-on cloth, and the red tied-on pocket over that.
I must say that that blue reminds me a great deal of some cotton I got at JoAnn Fabrics in about 2000 that I ended up giving away. I intended to make myself a Phantom of the Opera Wishing gown from it, but never did.
The piece beneath the blue bodice is a long-sleeved chemise, tied with a ribbon in a casing, which you can just see in the second photo from the top, and a fichu. A fichu is a simple square or triangle of fabric tucked into a neckline.
As a sock-lover, I love these socks. I have never seen a pair as elaborate as that for a mid-18th-century working woman, nor for upper-class people, for that matter. Clocked socks kept detail to the ankle. But this detail isn’t a glaring issue, and does add some period-inspired whimsy. Those shoes are fantastic, and it tickles me that they didn’t metal grommets to those lacing holes. They’re appropriately weathered. I do, however, question using leather lacing. That could have been added when this display was set up.
She does have another similar ensemble to the one above that is nearly identical.
Different skirt fabrics, different apron fabrics, and an added jacket. Otherwise, it’s the same. The underside of this skirt is bag-lined in a print. She occasionally tucks this skirt up into her waistband.
Not quite as scandalous as it may seem. Long, flowing skirts could get in the way of one’s work. If you want scandalous, well, there are things wealthy French ladies wore that would raise eyebrows even by today’s standards. I don’t know if her other skirt up top also has a printed bag lining, but the darker one with the navy and white windowpane apron does.
The next photo backs the blue and white cloth having its own waistband with the red and white pocket tied over that, as well as displays the red flap and the lacing.
The right fabric is connected to the bodice’s left side. The blue side crosses over and laces closed on the left. Again, a detail I have not seen, but certainly one that is very reasonable. It’s easier to lace one’s own corset than to tie off one’s own dress with back-lacing. It was very common for the edges of a bodice to meet in the middle and lace closed. A cross-over is within the realm of very reasonable. The different fabrics can even be explained away as making her bodice using scraps of other fabric on hand, even though that wouldn’t make a lot of sense. Belle and Maurice aren’t poor folks. Working class, certainly, but not poor. A woman with multiple decorated aprons could get enough fabric to make a bodice in the same fabric.
It is in that photo that one of my peeves grates on me.
If she just had to insist that corsets restricted women (they absolutely did not–they protected the bodies of working women similar to the back support braces many nurses and nursing aids wear even today [so much for the idea that these things restrict movement], as well as the hips of wealthier women who wore heavy skirts), could she not at least stand straight? I’ve seen several stills in different scenes of this slouching, as if she’s trying to make it even more apparent that she’s shunning a garment that was vital to the safety and well-being of 18th-century women who did hard, back-breaking work. Guess what restricted women more.
By the way, corsets of that era usually had many rows of flexible reeds, similar in movement to hemp cord, rather than expensive metal or whalebone. If you do heavy lifting and hard work, one of these suckers will give you some fantastic back support. The straps help so much. You might notice that the corset below doesn’t nip in at the waist much, and that the cut would force you into some fantastic posture, and take some of the work from your torso and back.
Let’s just say that there’s nothing anti-feminist about them, nothing oppressive…and men used to wear them too. Yeah…we don’t talk about that much. It was more for upper-class gentlemen who wanted to hold in their tummies rather than support their backs during work or supporting heavy gowns.
But I digress. Corsets and their history, including the fallacies around them, is a post for another time.
Back to the provincial gown at hand.
I do not yet know if there are other pieces in her provincial wardrobe. It makes sense for her wardrobe to have some mixing and matching, and I’m certainly glad to see that she has more than the one silk dress that Cinderella had. This set of costumes draws heavily from the rococo, or late baroque, era, as well as from the animated film. The blue, the white apron, looser sleeves with 3/4 cuffs, the look of a fichu… Yes, they very much lifted the animated gown and added to it rather than taking away, and kept to influences from the era. THIS gown says Belle, the Belle we all know and love from the animated movie, and THIS gown takes us out of the 21st century and drops us squarely in the mid-18th century in France.