The blue linen dress

I have an enormous backlog of costumes that deserve their own blog post, I don’t know if I’ll ever get around to write them all. But I have to start somewhere, right? Here’s the first costume write-up: the blue linen dress!

Last year, I changed the name of my cosplay persona from Maija Cosplay (and its variation “and Costuming”) to Élise’s Closet. First, to stop lying to myself: while I do try to make costumes inspired by other characters, Élise de la Serre is and remains my main source of inspiration, and I had no intention to change that anytime soon. And second: because my venturing into historical costuming meant I could create original outfits for my character. At the time, I had already gathered quite a collection of costumes based on official references or original creations. I was literally building Élise’s closet.

In the never-ending fanfiction I’ve been working on for more than three years, I’ve imagined and described various outfits. One being Élise’s wedding dress, which I have re-created almost three years ago. (As an aside, I want to make a new version of the wedding dress. Eventually.) Their simple life in the South of France means there is no need for elaborate party gowns. We all know she feels wrapped up like a mummy in these things. However, living in a small town means there are occasions when a dress is a better choice than breeches and waistcoats – as Parisians they are already attracting enough attention to themselves as it is. If they want to live incognito, they better learn to hide in plain sight…

“Élise is sitting at the desk by the open window, an open book in her hands, desperately trying to catch a cool breeze, her light blue dress making her emerald eyes shine, despite the fatigue and the weariness.“

In a Family Way, Chapter 2.

One of the recurring outfits throughout the story is a blue linen dress. I imagined the dress to be rather plain, as it was a dress that Madeleine the maid gave Élise to wear when she was too bloated to fit in her breeches (spoiler alert: she had a bun in the oven…;)) Who knows who wore that dress before, it had been laying around at the Café-Théâtre for a while. It’s not of the latest fashion either.

When I decided to recreate this dress, I chose Sense & Sensibility’s Ladies’ 1780s Portrait Dress pattern. The story begins in the 2nd half of 1794. The 1780s style Italian gown (with straight bodice) enhances the “hand-me-down” feel of the outfit, as I imagined it. You can find my review of this pattern here.

Unfortunately, I struggled a lot with the translation of my vision into a finished dress. I kept on wanting to add details, frills, trims, etc. and when I did add such details, it didn’t felt right. After playing with lace flounces and ribbons — and removing them the very next day — I settled with blue pearl buttons and an assorted belt with a fancy buckle I bought at a vintage fair last year. The neckline and sleeve ruffles are from the chemise I’m wearing under it (Simplicity 8162 – you can read my review of this pattern here).

The dress closes with hooks & eyes. The buttons are merely decorative. I am not wearing any sort of bum pad/roll with this dress. This is a conscious choice. In my imagination, she didn’t wear any of these with this dress. I am wearing stays, though.

The fun will really start next month when I’ll visit the location I’m using in the story. Photo shoots are on the planning! 🙂