Jenny La Fleur
Abeille d'Or - The Golden Bee - Jenny La Fleur
adventures in costuming
Abeille d'Or - The Golden Bee

The famed *secret project* is revealed! *throws confetti*</p>

My second ambitious project of the year is an embroidered Regency gown & robe. I've been planning and working on this for 6 months now, not that you would know from the progress I've made. I guess some projects just have to have a few stops and starts. :>

I'll be wearing this gown to Costume College, the James Madison Ball & the gown by itself to the RCHS Fall Tea.

the robe

The inspiration for the madness began with the red bee fabric. When I was given this gorgeous fabric I knew I had to come up with a project worthy of it. I quickly decided to make an Empire something. Bees are just so Napoleonic.

The fabric was far too heavy to be made into a gown of the period so a robe was the logical choice. I thought it would be a good use of the fabric, especially as will allow the underside of the fabric (which is equally pretty) to show a bit as I move. Besides I've always wanted a robe like Marianne's peach overdress in Sense & Sensibility. *wink*

I'll be using the pattern from Janet Arnold for my robe, or at least as the base for my toileing.

the gown

I've designed my gown to go with the robe but also so that it can stand up on it's own. Two costumes in one - I love it! *grin*

The gown will be made of silk twill from Dharma, in it’s natural color, and embroidered with cotton floss. Originally I was going to use silk floss and 5mm Habotai silk. I decided against the silk floss from purely a financial standpoint (besides the fact that it's hard to get ahold of locally) and against the 5mm Habotai because when I tested it it didn't hold up well. I decided I didn't want to invest at least 100 hours in embroidering in a gown that will prick and snag before I've even finished with it.

I had wanted a sheer silk but the three factors that mattered to me the most was having silk , being able to afford the silk and being able to do the embroidery. Also I love the color of Dharma's natural silk. So it won't be sheer but it will be everything else I want so I am content.

I'll be using patterns from Jean Hunnistt, namely the 1800 bodice and straight sleeve. This gown is sort of a re-visit of the Greensleeves gown I made a few years ago. There were several things I wasn't happy with about that one, mostly the fit, the fact I attached sleeves incorrectly and that I ran out of time to do the embroidery I had originally planned. With a few years experience and research under my belt I'm confident I can do a much better job this time around.

the embroidery

The dress will be embroidered with gold floss in a scrolled Greek design. The embroidery will run down the front, around the hem and around the sleeve bands.

The design is from "Costumes of the Greeks and Romans". I wanted something extremely neo-classical and this fit the bill perfectly. I know I should really be doing this white-on-white but I don’t want to so I’m not. So there. :P I have my heart set on gold, it’s so regal. I’ve been very inspired by the red gown in Williamsburg’s collection as well as David’s painting of the Coronation of Empress Josephine. See it's really all about the bees. :>

To make sure my design was proportional but not skimpy, I traced the design onto a length of muslin with a gold marker. After a few tries and enlargements I found a size I was happy. I have to say if the one dimensional version looks that good I can't wait to see the embroidered version! *grin*

Later I tested the design in stitched. I decided to use a stem stitch for the outlines, chain stitches for the insides and buttonhole stitches for the little center ditties. Simple stitches I know but the fancy things I tried didn’t look as nice. I simplified the design a bit too, taking out some of the flourishes. Again simplicity worked better.

the accessories

I have lots of accessories I want for this outfit but the one I'm most excited about is the diadem. Bridget has volunteered to make me a tiara for my outfit. I was originally going to make a tiara of coral or to resemble laurel leaves but then I found these napkin rings on clearance at Pier One. We will take them apart and use them along with some small gold bee pins I have. *rubs hands together* Have I mentioned that I'm really excited yet? *hee hee*

Feb 4
So I'm just waiting for my silk to come in from Dharma to start on this. I can do the front of the skirt without any frock toiles or patterning, all I need is an Empire waist to floor measurement. Neat, huh? :>

Oh yes I should probably decide on a color of embroidery floss too. I went to Jo-Ann's and bought a whole bunch of different shades. I'll corner B while she is home this weekend to help me pick one. She is very helpful with that sort of thing. :>


17 comments | comment?
eldawen345 From: eldawen345 Date: February 4th, 2006 04:53 pm (UTC) (link)
That is going to be so regal and pretty! I can't wait to see the finished dress. The napkin rings are such a neat idea :)
gilded_garb From: gilded_garb Date: February 4th, 2006 04:55 pm (UTC) (link)
Oh man! That is going to be one gorgeous gown. I can't wait to see it!
lmcbeth From: lmcbeth Date: February 4th, 2006 05:18 pm (UTC) (link)
Wow! The bee fabric and color is gorgeous! And the jewels are lovely!

I'm so excited that we get to share your secret project now!
From: misscrabtree Date: February 4th, 2006 06:11 pm (UTC) (link)
Squeeeee I shall live vicariously through this sewing project while I toil away with Grad School. How lovely this will bee….opss be.

I so wish to be able to attend Costume College but I have three intense summer classes to take … oh the good and the bad.
lacomtesse From: lacomtesse Date: February 4th, 2006 06:14 pm (UTC) (link)
I loooove the bee fabric! It's going to be gorgeous AND sumptuous when you're all done!
girliegirl32786 From: girliegirl32786 Date: February 4th, 2006 07:57 pm (UTC) (link)
This will be one lovely gown! And I think that we much be costuming twins or something cause I'm going to make the open robe as well, expect mine is green. Once I can get everthing else out of the way that is. :)
ktlovely From: ktlovely Date: February 5th, 2006 09:31 am (UTC) (link)
Ooooh *drool* That's going to be amazing!
la_couteriere From: la_couteriere Date: February 5th, 2006 10:08 am (UTC) (link)
I am in love with that bee silk and the embroidery pattern you chose! I can't wait to see how it all turns out :)
delightdisorder From: delightdisorder Date: February 5th, 2006 12:38 pm (UTC) (link)


I am in love with this project! I can't wait to see how everything turns out. The embroidery sample looks just beautiful!
mala_14 From: mala_14 Date: February 5th, 2006 04:39 pm (UTC) (link)
That is going to be so gorgeous. What an amazing showpiece.
lady_spencer From: lady_spencer Date: February 6th, 2006 07:21 am (UTC) (link)


Oh my gosh, that is going to be SO gorgeous!! I've been wanting to make one of those robes since christmas! And I love the color red so much! I'm so excited about this project! ^_^
aure_ From: aure_ Date: February 6th, 2006 01:30 pm (UTC) (link)
That looks gorgeous!

Is it okay if I friend you? I would love to read more about your projects.
jennylafleur From: jennylafleur Date: February 7th, 2006 08:04 am (UTC) (link)
Please feel free to friend away - I never mind being friended! :>
From: (Anonymous) Date: February 7th, 2006 05:41 pm (UTC) (link)
It looks like it will be absolutely stunning. That fabric is just perfect!

I've had you on my friend's list for a while but I don't think I've every told you that both your website and your LJ inspire me so much and I've drooled over pictures of your costumes for a few years now.

Thanks for sharing them all (and this secret squirrel project) with us all!

Catherine M
jennylafleur From: jennylafleur Date: March 23rd, 2006 12:00 pm (UTC) (link)
Thanks and you are most welcome! :>
From: (Anonymous) Date: March 23rd, 2006 01:22 am (UTC) (link)

just want to say hi

my name is linda and have happened to run across your diary while doing some costume researching...your work is tremondous!!! since i live in katrina ravaged mississpppi costuming doesnt exist. but i do have a question...I want to really learn the craft, have sewed since i was 12 and that was a long time ago... Is there a costume college on the east coast or only out in la? I have visted ther site and its too far for me to go this year... Thanks and bright blessings always..You are very creative an should be teacching one of ther classes!!! linda morgan
jennylafleur From: jennylafleur Date: March 23rd, 2006 12:24 pm (UTC) (link)

Re: just want to say hi

Thanks so much! As far as I know Costume College is a unique thing. I haven't heard of anything like it on the East Coast.

To learn the craft I would say you are in the right place already - you're online. I've learned so much from the costumers and resources that are online. Really to learn the craft you need to just do it. I started costuming long before I was able to take formal classes, or even join a reenactment group. Invest in some good books (Arnold, Hunnisett etc) and don't be afraid to try new things and stretch yourself. I think sewing is about 15% skill and 85% practice so just go for it!

You may also want to check out the Costume Classroom. These are courses available online for nominal fees.

Good luck in your endeavors!
17 comments | comment?