How to Sew a Marie Antoinette Dress
We are Sewing the Marie Antoinette Dress | Simplicity Pattern 3637 | Part 1
After much preparation (mental and physical!) we are ready to begin sewing Simplicity Pattern 3637, the Marie Antoinette Dress by Deborah Woodbridge. My daughter has asked for months if we could please make this 18th century style dress and we are finally ready to begin. We are not expert sewers, but both have experience and lots of ambition. Thankfully we do have family members who are experts, so if we need help we have lots of it.
If you've found this webpage you may be making this dress too. We are documenting the entire process (the good and the difficult) along with any executive decisions or changes we might make to make the process easier. If you have this pattern and are making the dress or have already made the dress, please drop us a note and let us know how it's going (or send words or encouragement! or helpful tips :-). Now on to the project...
This article is a work in progress. I'll be adding to it as we move along with our project. I may even have to break this into two separate articles. After all, making a Marie Antoinette Dress is not a small task! Update: So far I've added one more page and I imagine there will be at least one more after that too. There's a link at the bottom of the page for Part 2 of this Marie Antoinette sewing project.
Update: The dress is finished!!! As of 10/28/2011! See part 2 for the finished dress.
Lots to think about, supplies to gather and samples to make.
Here are the Patterns We Are Using - Note: We Are Starting on the Dress *First*
Alert: This pattern is now officially out of print, although you may still be able to find it at the links listed below (Amazon and Ebay). I found out about this when we finally went to purchase the hoop skirt (panniers) pattern. I ended up ordering it from Amazon. If you have to do this too, be sure to get the right size package. Sizes are 8-14 or 16-24.
Or...I see eBay has a few 3637 patterns listed too - Ebay might be the best bet in the months to come as others completely run out
Many of the products are "Buy it Now" and no bidding is involved.
We made a Practice Bodice FIRST to Check the Size
We were going to make a 10, but realized we needed to make a 12
Although my daughter was chomping at the bit to get started on the Marie Antoinette dress, she realized and agreed that making a practice run would be the very best thing. We needed to be absolutely sure that the size would be right. After all we don't won't to make a dress she can't wear and waste yards and yards of fabric! For our practice run, we used some leftover fabric from other projects and made the bodice (not the sleeves, not the skirt). This part is fitted and it's very important to be sure it fits correctly. As it turned out the size we thought would fit, a size 10, was too small and we decided to go with a size 12.
This took a LOT of work. Mostly because we couldn't cut up the original pattern sheets before we knew the size. Once it's cut - it's cut! What we had to do was trace all the size 10 pieces on regular paper and cut them out (leaving the original pattern intact and unused). Once we knew for sure which size we needed we would cut out the pieces and that's what we did.
Something Else We Did First
We Oiled the Sewing Machine!
Our household had two good working sewing machines up until 6 months ago. One broke, then (ugh!) the other broke. The good news is that our Grandmother gave us her old machine right in the nick of time. It's in wonderful shape, but hasn't been used in a long time. We oiled the machine thoroughly according to the directions in the instruction book (only about a million places). This is another thing that took some time and patience, but was well worth it.
The Fabric - What to Use? How Much will it Cost?
We Chose Costume Satin
The recommended fabrics for the Marie Antoinette dress (main gown) are: Brocade, Silk Shantung, Damask or Dupioni. We are using Costume Satin (which isn't on the list!). This pattern calls for 20 yards of fabric. That's a lot of fabric! Our budget requires something very affordable. We shopped at Joann's Fabrics and found 3 or 4 fabrics that we really liked. They ranged in price from 3.99 per yard to 24.99 per yard. Thankfully my daughter's favorite was the Costume Satin with a nice low price of 3.99 per yard. We also had a 40% coupon. So $3.99 x 20 yards = $79.80 with a 40% discount = $47.88. BUT, they didn't have 20 yards. They only had 10 yards at the store. We bought all 10 yards and are ordering the rest from Joanns. There's a slight concern that the remaining 10 yards could be a slightly different color because of the dye lot. Some fabric colors can vary a little if the bolts are not from a consecutive run. We could have ordered it while at the store, but for lots of reasons we didn't do this.
Will the Costume Satin Ravel?
The costume satin looks like it's going to ravel pretty badly. We've decided to use pinking shears to cut the fabric pattern pieces to help with the raveling. Unfortunately we've forgotten to grab them a couple of times (like cutting the lining and trimming some seams).
The Marie Antoinette Dress *Lining* - Pattern calls for Linen - We Didn't do that Either
*We aren't to the lining part quite yet (even thought my daughter has already cut it out), but this is what we intend on using.* I'm assuming they recommend linen to stay true to the period, but my daughter didn't want plain 'ole linen. My daughter wanted something spiffier and I can't blame her for it. Special, colorful linings are a nice secret surprise in garments (and handbags too!). So we bought this purple lining material. I'm wondering if there's anywhere it will show through the dress. I hope not. I hope we didn't make a mistake by buying purple.
Total Cost Tally for Simplicity Pattern 3637
Here I'll add the Cost for Everything We Purchase
Don't take this a written in stone for the cost. Sometimes we buy a little more than they recommend. For example, if they recommend 7/8 yards I'll simply buy 1 full yard etc.
I'm still gathering my receipts and will add that info here asap.
Starting to Sew Simplicity Pattern 3637
The Beginning: Steps 1, 2 & 3 - The Bodice - Triangular Pieces
Forgive me, but I forgot to take pictures of steps 2 & 3. These are all actually from step 1. The trickiest part is step 3 - turning the bodice right side out with the boning in place in the channel (you'll see the bodice already turned in the next step). It did not want to turn because the bottom (point) is partially sewed shut. Well, we finally made it work by bending the boning somewhat. And we just discovered a major error on our part. Since the front of the dress is rather low, we were going to add 2 inches to the top of the bodice for my daughter. Well, we forgot. So plan B will be to add extra neckline ruffles. We will raise that neckline somehow!
Step 4 - Pleating Bodice Side Front
I think my daughter did an awesome job tacking this pleat!
Some Expert Sewers Will *Gasp*, but....
We draw and outline in pen right on the fabric!!! It's easy to see and is hidden in the seams.
Step 5 - Attaching Bodice to Bodice Side Front
This step is when you baste the bodice (triangular piece) to the bodice side front with right sides together.
In this photo, the left side is showing the 2 pieces basted with right sides together. On the right hand picture I've flipped the pieces opened showing the right sides of the fabric.
February 28, 2011
Step 6 - Stitch Center Back Seam
Thankfully, this is simple
The back is two large rectangles which are stitched together to make a center seam. Here, Savannah is holding the 2 pieces sewn together. You can see the stitched part in the photo inset. Easy step :-).
This piece attaches near the neck/shoulders and runs all the way to the floor. It's a lot of fabric! and it a key part to making the dress look unique.
Step 7 - Stitching Bodice Side Back to Gown Back - Nice Easy Step
Here you can see the two gown back pieces a little better than the step above. The gown back is soooo long we had to put it on the floor to get this picture.
Step 8 - Making the Pleats! - The Most Confusing Step so Far
Oh yes, I remember this confusing step from our practice run. Wow. This step is tricky and I can imagine many projects ending here!! On our practice run, we missed that the Bodice Side Back is part of the pleating!!! Geepers. This confused us for quite a while til we figured it out. The pattern envelope includes a VERY IMPORTANT GUIDE for this step. It is a guide only - no cloth is cut from the guide. You will place it on top of the fabric in this step to mark where the pleats go.
Folding the pleats was so very confusing, in fact, that we looked for a video of how to do it. We didn't find one! So we made one as we went along. I'm not sure where it ended up, but I'll post it here as soon as possible.
Step 9 - Attaching Bodice Front to Side Back
It was time for another EASY step (after those pleats!)
Here, all that is required is attaching the bodice front to the side back. Note: The side back is currently sewn to the gown back.
This step connects all the pieces (so far) and now we have a "circle" of pieces. It's hard to explain, but if you are doing to project too you'll understand what I mean.
I think this is a good place to stop and breath. I'm going to put the next steps in another post (tab at the top of the page) so this one is not overwhelmingly long. So if you are following along and want to see how we progressed go to step 2 (link below).
If you are also making this dress, please leave a note and a link to your blog or website. No spam please. Only related articles or blogs. Thanks!