Jenny La Fleur
Française Noir - 1, the seamstress - 0 - Jenny La Fleur — LiveJournal
adventures in costuming
Française Noir - 1, the seamstress - 0

And so it begins - a crazy couple of months filled with an overly ambitious list of dream garments. If you hear hysterical screams or despairing whimpering from the wilds of Virginia between now and April you will know why...


First up the Française Noir. I posted about this a few months ago but haven't done more than dream about it since. I did find a few more images of black gowns from the period, including a spectacularly fashionable one quite close to the vague notions of what I wanted in my head. Yay!


My new hero Aubry stayed on after the Regency Card Party to help me drape the front and back of the Française.


It was my first sewing day in my new sewing room and we had such fun, despite a very late start. Draping to Mozart while drinking pink champagne and eating chocolates is totally the way to go!


Aubry left me with a beautifully fitted pile of silk taffeta and pins, which on the dressform looked rather un-impressive and intimidating. It took a week to work up the courage to work on it again (yep I'll admit it I'm scared of this dress!).

So I found an interesting podcast about the book "Queen of Fashion" to listen to and got to work.


The first thing I worked on was sewing down the robings on the front. The pins were wanting to come out most there so I figured that was a good place to start. Interestingly Aubry didn't do a full pleat all the way to the edge so I came up with a way of creasing the taffeta with my fingers so I could see where to sew. Silk taffeta is great for this sort of thing!

There was also a little tuck taken under the robing, from about the bust to the waist. This adds just a bit of fullness to the front skirt, allowing the front to fall nicely. Clever!


As I went along I found using a pressing ham underneath helped me smooth and crease the robbing since it was fitted to me and I'm not flat!

Once I got the fronts all sewn down I decided to take the lining apart. I found working with the everything attached very awkward (this would have been less of a problem if I'd been about to work in a more methodical way but we had to get as much fitting done as possible in on day). I also fully intend to alter/re-fit this as I lose weight and to do that more easily I wanted the lining and fashion fabric lined up perfectly at the seams rather than over lapping. Saving myself some work down the road!

Also I had a mistake to fix and I thought it would be much easier to deal with flat. The mistake - this ladies and gentlemen is why you do not cut fabric late at night and/or in a rush or bad things can happen. Aubry made the cut but really it was my fault. I was entirely to blame for the late start, along with the slow sewing and drafting of the lining. When I originally saw the cut (after Aubry realized what she had done) I thought, no problem! It's under the arm and having done the exact same thing before my plan was to patch it and keep the secret to myself.

However seeing it in all it's bare and undisguised glory last night, I don't see how I can do that. The cut is much deeper and more ragged than I realized, and the top part of the lining is also uncovered. A patch is totally going to show right there. Merh.

That realization made me come to a complete stop. I stared at it for a couple of hours and have slept on it. I think the only thing I can do that I'm going to be happy with is redo the whole panel. I can use it as my guide for the fitting and robing, then use the fabric for my sleeves and/or trim. It's a bit discouraging as I spent several hours sewing down the bodice front, robing and tuck with pretty stitches - I really wish I had looked more closely at the mistake before I did all that. But I've come to the conclusion that I would rather redo the small stitches than have some ugly patch or silly looking faux seam on my bodice. Sigh.

Since I'm going to redo half the bodice anyway I'm wondering if I should just cut the bodice front separate from the front skirts (rather than the all one piece with a waist dart I was going with). Both seem to be completely valid ways of constructing this type of dress. Any opinions?

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16 comments | comment?
bauhausfrau From: bauhausfrau Date: February 10th, 2013 07:13 pm (UTC) (link)
Man but I hate things like that. I try to remind myself that things were pieced within an inch of their lives back then...but sometimes it does bug until something MUST be done.

Here's hoping that's that's the one and only big boo boo.

demode From: demode Date: February 10th, 2013 07:46 pm (UTC) (link)
What she said!

I vote separate skirt --you're gonna need to fuss with that a lot, it'll be easier if its a separate piece.
jennylafleur From: jennylafleur Date: February 11th, 2013 03:53 pm (UTC) (link)
Thanks! I noticed you've done both so I was really curious about your opinion - thanks so much!
jennylafleur From: jennylafleur Date: February 11th, 2013 03:50 pm (UTC) (link)
Normally I'm the same way about piecing and fudging but having really thought about it I know I'll always regret not redoing it this time.

Yep, I'm fine with this is the worst thing that happens on this project, because really it's not that horrible.
gilded_garb From: gilded_garb Date: February 10th, 2013 07:26 pm (UTC) (link)
I say separate front and skirt. That's how I'm doing mine. I think it's more intuitive and it'll save you some fabric.
jennylafleur From: jennylafleur Date: February 11th, 2013 03:54 pm (UTC) (link)
I don't know that it will save me much fabric in the end but I think you are right about it being more intuitive. It's got to be easy to wrangle as I futz around with the skirt.
girliegirl32786 From: girliegirl32786 Date: February 10th, 2013 07:46 pm (UTC) (link)
I am so, so sorry about that. I feel really horrible that I messed up your dress and caused you extra work.
jennylafleur From: jennylafleur Date: February 11th, 2013 03:57 pm (UTC) (link)
Please don't feel horrible, seriously I'm the one that made us sew so late and drape in a slight panic as we were getting tired. And I'm the one that sewed everything down before I looked at the issue so really I have only myself to blame. You are still my new hero. *hugs*
koshka_the_cat From: koshka_the_cat Date: February 10th, 2013 08:17 pm (UTC) (link)
I found the separate skirt to be the easier way to do it. It's accurate, so go for that!
jennylafleur From: jennylafleur Date: February 11th, 2013 03:57 pm (UTC) (link)
Cool - I was wondering... :>
From: silkfrocks Date: February 11th, 2013 01:44 pm (UTC) (link)
Aubry is such a good friend, and your sewing room is awesome! You must feel so liberated to have a dedicated room for your art.
jennylafleur From: jennylafleur Date: February 11th, 2013 03:58 pm (UTC) (link)
Thanks! I am so enjoying it. I can't even discribe how nice it is to leave everything out so I can ponder a problem rather than having to pack it all away so I can sleep!
mlsdesigns From: mlsdesigns Date: February 11th, 2013 06:15 pm (UTC) (link)
(I LOVE the portrait by the way!! I have a feeling I'm going to want to be stealing this dress too...)
I'd go with a separate skirt, I also think they're easier! would you be able to use the skirt part from of the damaged front?
jennylafleur From: jennylafleur Date: February 13th, 2013 04:20 pm (UTC) (link)
Don't even think about it missy! Mine!

I think so. If I can't use it on the dress skirt I can definitely use it for the under skirt...
From: the_aristocat Date: February 11th, 2013 09:03 pm (UTC) (link)
Redoing is a bummer. I'd do a separate skirt.

And I'm so excited about this project! Even if black wasn't your first choice, I don't think there's a better color for a Francaise. It's going to be so so stunning!
jennylafleur From: jennylafleur Date: February 13th, 2013 04:21 pm (UTC) (link)
Thanks so much! A separte skirt does seem to be the way to go!
16 comments | comment?