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How to Sew a Marie Antoinette Dress: Part 2

Updated on October 30, 2011

This is Part 2 of Making an 18th Century Marie Antoinette Costume Dress

Thanks for hanging around for Part 2 of Making a Marie Antoinette dress using Simplicity sewing pattern 3637.

If you landed here first, you can go back to part one to see how this project started. For the short story - my daughter simply loved the dress and we are working on making it. The pattern is from Simplicity and this Part 2 is steps 10 -??? (I'll fill that in eventually).

We aren't using this dress for Halloween, but my daughter says she does want to wear it out. Downtown to be exact, amongst the tourist areas (we live in St. Augustine, Florida) although we are having a hard time trying to connect Marie Antoinette with anything historical about our city. St. Augustine has LOTS of history, but no French (or Austrian) history to our knowledge. Oh well, in any event, I hope she DOES have the opportunity to wear it somewhere. She loves it!

Attaching Grommets
Attaching Grommets

Steps 10 & 11

The Bodice Back Lining

I missed taking some photos - shown here is the END of Step 11. The trickiest part here is figuring out how to turn the lining right side out after you stitch it. We practiced first with 2 sheets of paper rough cut to the same shape. We finally figured it out.

The photo here is at the end of step 11. As you can see, we again veered from the pattern. It calls for working these eyelets by hand, but we decided to buy a simple grommet tool and hammered these grommets in place. We cut a long narrow piece of interfacing and sandwiched it in between the lining layers go give the grommets something to hold on to. So the grommets are holding together lining, interfacing and lining. It isn't perfect, but for us this will work. My daughter is still going to sew these grommets in place (even though they are hammered it) by looping around the grommet then back through the middle over and over again.

Pressing under the shoulder seam
Pressing under the shoulder seam

Step 12 - A Doozy

Step 12 is actually several steps. This is where you baste the interfacing to the bodice side front lining and press under the shoulder seam (seen here). Then you stitch the side front lining to the back lining at the side seams and press lower edge.

I wish I had another picture for this part. My apologies.

Step 13

Either I forgot to take pictures of this step, or I simply can't find them. The one thing I want to mention is that I really messed up at this step on the practice bodice. I thought the instructions said to stitch the shoulder seams, but NO. It's just the long front edge.

Step 14 - Attaching lining to dress - back and side front (around arms)

Attaching lining to bodice/dress
Attaching lining to bodice/dress

This is when things start to look right. Instructions say to baste raw edges together. Well, the instruction diagram only shows basting along the upper edge so that is what we did. We did not baste the bottom edges of the bodice. I hope we did it right.

Step 15 - Adding the Binding

For some reason, I never could wrap my mind around this step. I read the directions about 20 times and they never made sense to me. So I cannot guarantee that this is 100% the right way. I *think* it is, but I'm not sure. I took pictures of the steps as we did them. I know this should have been simple, they the wording on the directions was confusing.

The instructions said to trim a seam, but I never could figure out which seam they were talking about, so we didn't do that.

Step 16

Attach shoulders to gown back

It was hard for us to see exactly how to line this up and stitch it. There's not a good defined place to show where exactly to stitch it (in my opinion) and the notches we cut in the bodice shoulders ended up inside our pleats at the shoulders so we couldn't see them very well.

I think it will be OK.

We had to stop and take a photo of it on Savannah.

Aaaaaack!

We just went to Hobby Lobby to buy the Panniers (Hoop Skirt) pattern #3635 and they NO LONGER CARRY IT!!!! There wasn't even a cardboard divider with the pattern number and the associate said if there's no card, there's no more patterns. Sooooo I ordered it from Amazon (being sure we got the right size 8-14). I have the links on page one for the patterns.

Skirt Front Edge
Skirt Front Edge

Step 17 of the Marie Antoinette Sewing Pattern

Pretty easy this one is

This step is simply finishing the front edges of the skirt. Basically all you do is press under the front edges 2.5 inches and hand sew them (invisibly) in place to have a nice finished edge. I sewed one and Savannah sewed the other.

Step 18 - Pleat and Attach Skirt Pieces

A few steps in one

I'm still not sure why another pleat is needed here, but the pattern calls for making one pleat very close to the front finished edge we just sewed, so we did. This is also when you sew the skirt front to the skirt side back below the large dot. I wasn't sure why it said to sew only from the large dot and down, leaving things unattached up top, until I realized this would be the pocket.

Finishing the pocket edges - Simplicity pattern 3637
Finishing the pocket edges - Simplicity pattern 3637

Step 19 - Ahhh Step 18 Makes Sense Now

These are pocket openings

This forms a finished edge for the pocket opening. Pretty easy step.

The pockets themselves are actually in Simplicity Sewing Pattern 3635 - the panniers pattern. Looking at the back of the 3635 package, they look like two pocket pouches attached to a simple band tied around the waist. This will be interesting!

Step 20 - Making the Skirt Pleats - Take a Deep Breath

Pleats on the skirt - Major step
Pleats on the skirt - Major step

This took some time to figure out. The pleat lines are marked on the pattern, but getting them onto the fabric was a trick. I'm sure there are professional seamstresses who know the best way to do this, but we didn't. All we could think to do was slowly and carefully transfer the lines with chalk. You can see our chalk lines in the photo. It took the two of us and it took quite a while. My daughter kind of held the pattern in place and folded it back on the line while I sketched the position of the line with chalk. I'm positive there must be a quicker better way, but this is what we did. After we finished marking the lines, we slowly gathered them and pinned them along the way.

If you are making this dress, how are you going to mark the pleats onto the fabric? I'd like to know this for any future projects. Let me know in the guestbook please.

*A Work in Progress*

If you are at the end, this is as far as we've gotten! We will be adding photos, tips, our mistakes and any confusing instructions as we make this amazing dress. Stay tuned! I can't wait to change out the intro picture to one of my daughter wearing the finished product!

We are Finished!!! - The task is complete - 10 months worth!

Completed 18th Century Dress
Completed 18th Century Dress

It will take some time to upload the remainder of the progression of steps, but here are several pictures of the completed project. Savannah has worked on this dress on her own many days and with me (mom) and both grandmas many days too. I am soooo proud of her!!!

Finished Marie Antoinette Dress
Finished Marie Antoinette Dress

Please leave us a note about step 2 here: - Anyone can comment

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    • Elya Bloncourt profile image

      Elya Bloncourt 7 months ago

      Nice dresse finished! Félicitations!

      I have made three dresses of 18 ème century ,but it is my first: à La Française, with the "Watteau" pleats!

    • VirginiaLynne profile image

      Virginia Kearney 2 years ago from United States

      Terrific project to do with your daughter. I'm going to be making a classic cinderella dress with my 13 year old daughter and stopped by your hub for some ideas. Our dress will be much easier to do and I'm trying to figure out whether to make a hoop skirt or buy one. She will use it for cosplay but also for our Acteens mission group where we go to the Special Olympics and another center for adult special needs people and let them have pictures with Disney Princesses. It is a lot of fun!

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      wow tahts so great! how did you make the neckilne higher?

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      wow tahts so great! how did you make the neckilne higher?

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      You did a great job. I want to make this costume (plus size) but on a grander scale with finer fabrics to be completely true to period as it will be used in a national beauty pageant talent compettion.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Yeah, it ties around the waist indeed. It has a back, sides and front like a regular skirt.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      I just looked at the pattern over the weekend, and have a very basic question: Does the underskirt (petticoat) tie around the waist? The picture on the back of the evelope looks like a cape.

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      @puzzlerpaige: And I am back again! I read your question on how to make the pleating easier. Chalking is a good idea I think, but you can also mark the upper and lower points of the straight line with pins and then mark the upper+lower points of the dotted line. Of course you still have to fold the paper pattern. That is inevitable.

      I am almost done myself with the dress. Just the petticoat left and sewing in the sleeves. I embroidered the bodice/stomacher so that'll go in with hooks.

      What a hassle the instructions are!

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      Hi - you did a great job - FYI the French had a fort in the area near Jacksonville but before Queen Antoinette's time - still this dress would work for a colonial ball in St. Augustine when the Spanish governor was in residence!

    • puzzlerpaige profile image
      Author

      puzzlerpaige 5 years ago

      If you are following this guestbook, please stop by and see pictures of the finished project uploaded today 10/30/2011. The tutorial isn't finished and won't be for a while, but fast-forward...here's the dress!

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      Couple things, first you can get the undergarment pattern on the simplicity website for 5.99. second, i can't wait for you to post the rest of your tutorial. this looks like a complicated task and i have to finish the dress by November for a presentation, so any incite would be greatly appreacationed as the pattern isn't very clear on much of anything. thanks! can't wait to read the rest!

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      Hi! My name is Angelina and I'm 11 years old, and 4'8". Like your daughter, Savannah, I fell in love with the dress (after I read this, not the pattern)! I have been asking my mom if we could make this dress for several months. We are thinking of buying a pattern online because the new Simplicity pattern book doesn't have it anymore. We live in a small town in Colorado, where the only store is Wal-mart. Thank you for writing this story, we have really enjoyed it. We will keep following it. Thanks so much for the photos and the tips!

    • puzzlerpaige profile image
      Author

      puzzlerpaige 6 years ago

      @anonymous: Angelina,

      Thank you soooo much for your message. Savannah was excited to read it too. We are back on the dress after a long break. As I type, my daughter is beside herself because we are almost finished with the machine sewing. My mom (S's nana) is down for a visit and helping her. I've had to work most days and so they are doing the last parts just the two of them. I may have missed a few pics, but I'll update this article as soon as I can. We are on month #9! Although we have had lots and lots and lots of time off. It has been a challenge, BUT it has been very rewarding. Will post pics as soon as we can.

      Thanks again Angelina,

      Paige and Savannah

    • puzzlerpaige profile image
      Author

      puzzlerpaige 6 years ago

      @anonymous: Rachel,

      Sorry for the late reply.

      For us, yes it did take the 20 yards. BUT I know we will be cutting off a large piece once we check the length with the hoop skirt underneath. As it looks now, when she tries the dress on (not finished yet), there is a LOT of length of dress (skirt and gown back) laying on the floor in a pile around her feet. In other words, it is way toooo long. We wondered about this too....was there a way to not waste so much in the length, but since we are kinda new to such a massive project, we are following all directions as is.

      This dress takes a LOT of fabric!

      Thanks for stopping by Rachel!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Hi girls, I am using this pattern as well to make a Marie Antoinette gown. I'm starting with all the undergarments and then working my way up to the dress itself.

      Do you really need 20 yards for the dress? It seems an aweful lot to be honest... I heard from someone using this pattern that it took him less yardage. But I don't want to order less and find out that you do need 20 yards.

      What are your findings on this?

    • puzzlerpaige profile image
      Author

      puzzlerpaige 6 years ago

      @anonymous: Thanks Tonya,

      We've got quite a bit more done now and I'm trying to get time to update again. It's looking great. Might even have to add a page 3 and 4.

      This has been very hard to understand at times for us too. If we were to make another one I think it would be waaaaay easier and faster. Please let me know when you finish your project. I'd love to see a photo of it.

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      I ended up buying the undergarments for this dress. Couldn't find any patterns for it.

      Your doing a great job soo far and all directions and photos have really helped me with making mine. There were some parts of this pattern that were a real head scratcher and confused me. I have been sewing for many years and I still had to go ask some other more expericed seemstress for help. I had put my whole project aside till I saw your postings then I continued. Thanks again