Wednesday, 7 July 2010
The Mercenary en Chemise
Granted, I do not look half as grand as the French Queen in her infamous portrait by Élisabeth-Louise Vigée le Brun. (More about the portrait, Marie Antoinette en Chemise, and its complex symbolisms and scandal can be found at Tea at Trianon.) I did rather lack the feathered straw hat, gold stripped sash and a talented painter, but I was quite pleased with the outcome.
This chemise, frequently glimpsed underneath other gowns I wear, is made from a sheer white cotton (muslin or mousseline). It's modelled after the one in Norah Waugh's The Cut of Women's Clothes, 1600-1930. There is very little else to say about it other than that it could (and perhaps should) have been cut more full and I really should have worn a sash.
article and the more recent musings of the inimitable Dreamstress.
Even as it scandalised France, the chemise dress was immensely popular in England, "made a fashion statement for the 'natural woman', suggesting simplicity and honest sentiment."* It is also considered the ancestor of the Empire fashions of the early nineteenth century that feature heavily in any Jane Austen adaptation (which is, of course, only slightly ironic given the chaste, modest, mannerly reputation of her heroines).*
There is an abundance of portraits of women clad in chemise dresses. Kirsten Dunst wears a great variety of them in Marie Antoinette, especially in the Trianon scenes. There's also a livejournal group (Chemise Dress Madness!) devoted wholly to them.
If you would like to commission a chemise a la reine from the Costume Mercenary, it would cost in the region of £45-55.
More photos under the cut.
* Mary D. Sheriff, "The Portait of a Queen", in Marie-Antoinette: writings on the body of a queen, edited by Dena Goodman (2003) pp.45-73
* Stella Blum, Eighteenth-century French Fashion Plates in Full Color: 64 engravings from the "Galerie des modes," 1778-1787 (1982)