Incroyables and Merveilleuses
The 2014 Jane Austen Festival hosted by JASNA Louisville is approaching soon. I've already purchased my tickets. Have you?
Every year, in preparation for the festival, I try to either make a new gown or a new accessory to embellish a previously existing gown. Also every year, the sweltering, humid heat threatens to wilt me, and leaves me wishing that I could tear all of the layers of clothing off and run free in nothing but my skivvies....not that I would actually do that, mind you.
So, this year my genius friends, Natalie and Polly had the brilliant idea to wear as little as possible and still be historically accurate. How can we do that, you ask?
Well...let me introduce to you the Merveilleuses! The scandalously clad, fashionable, young(ish), punks of the French Directoire period. These were the Lady Gaga meets Helen of Troy types of the late 1790's.
The Incroyables were the Merveilleuses male counterparts. They were just as outlandish with their clothing, but I wouldn't want to wear the layers upon layers that they did in the middle of July!
During the Summer, most Merveilleuse wore not much more than a sheer, Greek-inspired, sleeveless gown of cotton lawn or voile.
Circle of Jacques-Louis David (French, 1748-1825). Portrait of a Young Woman in White, ca. 1798. Oil on canvas. 49 7/16 x 37 3/8 in. (125.5 x 95 cm). Chester Dale Collection. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
I happened to already have some gorgeous cotton voile in my stash, and when Natalie mentioned a couple of months ago what her fabulous, heat resistant plan was, the above portrait immediately came to mind. I think her gown is absolutely gorgeous in its simplicity. Of course, if you know me, there is no way I will be wondering around a festival full of hundreds of people with my nipples showing, so my gown will be rated PG-13, not rated R.
So...my plan was all laid out, and then I stumbled upon Merja's blog post, and lo-and-behold....she had done the exact same dress! If you haven't been acquainted yet with Merja's mad skills, then you should be. The woman is a costuming goddess! Her skills with fabric and thread are like none other. I'm humbled beyond belief every time I see one of her creations. So, you can imagine my intimidation...my total lack of confidence...my urge to up and run and say forget this project!!! And I almost did just that. But, in the end, I decided to go ahead and make the dress. Nothing I do will ever come close to what she makes, nor will my figure ever look as good as hers... so I proceed with caution, and ask you to be gentle and please don't compare. In the end, I sew for myself and no one else...nothing I ever do is a competition. I am my harshest critic, and I'm learning to love what I do simply because I'm doing it.
I'll leave you with pictures of my gown. When I took the pictures the hem wasn't finished. It is now. As always, everything is hand sewn using period technique. You will have to be satisfied with pictures of my mannequin wearing the gown. You will see the gown on me when I wear it to the Jane Austen Festival.
Cat photo bomb.