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Making Engageantes from scalloped lace

1760s Frou Frou Francaise thedreamstress.com

In making my Frou Frou Francaise, I knew I wanted extremely lush, frilly, lace engageantes. It matches the overall aesthetic of the dress, and is by far the most common type of engageantes represented in artworks featuring francaise in the 1750s & 60s.

Engageantes in Art

There are exquisite lace examples like this:

Marquise de Caumont la Force (detail), 1767, François Hubert Drouais, Ball State University – Muncie, Indiana USA

And embroidered net examples like this:

Portrait of a Woman, Said to be Madame Charles Simon Favart (Marie Justine Benoîte Duronceray, 1727–1772) François Hubert Drouais (French, Paris 1727–1775 Paris), 1757, Oil on canvas, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Portrait of a Woman, said to be Madame Charles Simon Favart (Marie Justine Benoîte Duronceray, 1727–1772) François Hubert Drouais (French, Paris 1727–1775 Paris), 1757, Oil on canvas, Metropolitan Museum of Art

And generally just lots of lush froth like this:

An Unknown Lady at the Spinett, Johann Heinrich Tischbein d.Ä. (1753)

And this:

Allan Ramsay (1713–1784), Portrait of Horace Walpole’s Nieces- The Honorable Laura Keppel and Charlotte, Lady Huntingtower (detail), 1765

And this:

Allan Ramsay (1713–1784), Portrait of Horace Walpole's Nieces- The Honorable Laura Keppel and Charlotte, Lady Huntingtower (detail), 1765
Allan Ramsay (1713–1784), Portrait of Horace Walpole’s Nieces- The Honorable Laura Keppel and Charlotte, Lady Huntingtower (detail), 1765

And this:

Queen Charlotte by Zoffany, 1765
Queen Charlotte with her Two Eldest Sons, Johan Zoffany, 1765

And, of course, most of all, the glorious example of lace engageantes shown in the portrait of Queen Charlotte that was one of my original inspiration images for my francaise:

Allan Ramsay (1713–1784), Queen Charlotte (1744-1818) with her two eldest sons (detail), 1765, Windsor Castle
Allan Ramsay (1713–1784), Queen Charlotte (1744-1818) with her two eldest sons (detail), 1765, Windsor Castle
Allan Ramsay (1713–1784), Queen Charlotte (1744-1818) with her two eldest sons (detail), 1765, Windsor Castle

Finding suitable lace:

The first thing I was going to need to make really gorgeous, lush engageantes was gorgeous, lush lace.

Perfectly in time for my search for the ideal lace, silkworld.com.au began selling fabric retail, not just wholesale, and they offered me some lace to make something out of to help advertise their new retail line.

I was phenomenally excited by the offer and delighted to help, because SilkWorld is the only place in the Antipodes that sells silk tulle (aka, the holy grail of historical costuming) and its equally covetable cousin, cotton tulle, on a regular basis.

(I’m just popular enough to get a fair amount of offers of free products in exchange for blog and instagram posts, but I turn most of them down, because I’m not going to tell you about something unless I’m pretty excited about it.)

Knowing I was making engageantes, I chose this gorgeous lace in ivory.

Making lace engageantes thedreamstress.com

It is nylon, but not at all scratchy and stiff, and the motifs and overall amount of motif and open space was the best match to my inspiration images.

The lace arrived, and it did not disappoint (neither did the silk tulle I also got, which is like unicorn dreams and angel kisses and was clearly woven by fairies – I can’t wait to use it)

Making lace engageantes thedreamstress.com

So, now that I had wonderful lace to work with, how was I going to get a lace fabric with a straight scalloped edge to work as engageantes, which usually have curved edges?

Figuring out the Pattern

Some of the examples of frilly engagenates that I showed above are clearly embroidered net with edgings of straight lace attached, and it’s possible that other examples are cotton lawn with extremely lush whitework, like this example from the Met:

Engageantes, 18th century, European, cotton, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 34.143.14

Both of those construction styles allow the shaping of the engageante to be built into the construction: cut a straight edge to gather to the sleeve, and a scalloped or rounded edge to finish with whitework or a lace edging.

The lace edging method is similar to the type of engageante shown in the American Duchess 18th century book, which is what I used for my first attempt at sleeve ruffles for this francaise. Pretty, but not quite what I’m going for:

Frou Frou Francaise Sleeve thedreamstress.com

I want a fully lace engageante, which means working with lace with a straight scalloped edge – not something that can be cut to curve in along the scallops.

So, how to make that type of engageante?

In-period the lace would have made specifically for engageantes, with narrower ends, and wider centres, as surviving examples show:

Sleeve trimming (Engageantes), 18th century, Italian, Venice, Needle lace, L. 35 x W. 5 1:2 inches (88.9 x 14.0 cm), Metropolitan Museum of Art, 09.68.171
Sleeve trimming (Engageantes), 18th century, Italian, Venice, Needle lace, L. 35 x W. 5 1:2 inches (88.9 x 14.0 cm), Metropolitan Museum of Art, 09.68.171
Pair of Engageantes, France, circa 1765-1775 Costumes; Accessories Linen point d’Argentan needle lace 8 1:2 × 17 7:8 in. LACMA M.66.72a-b

But that isn’t possible with standard purchased lace, because the decorative scalloped border is along a straight edge.

To create the curve of engageantes, what I did is flip the standard engageante shape.

Here is a pattern for engageantes, from Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion. The original is made in embroidered lawn:

Engageantes as seen in Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion

I traced off the basic shape (in blue) and then reduced the changes in height, to match what you see in extant examples, resulting in my pink pattern pieces.

I wanted a three-ruffle engageant, so I used my two pattern pieces to create a third piece, halfway between the two – I also extended the top ruffle’s circumference length by an inch, so all three ruffles were the same, as it made them much easier to work with.

This gave me a basic pattern template:

Making lace engageantes thedreamstress.com

Then I flipped the template:

And cut my ruffles with the straight edge of my template/pattern along my scalloped lace border:

Making lace engageantes thedreamstress.com

Cutting & Sewing:

I cut my bottom two ruffles with the extremely detailed, scalloped border, and my uppermost ruffle with the slightly simpler border on the other edge of the fabric – just to give a bit more dimensionality to the engageantes.

Making lace engageantes thedreamstress.com

Then I stacked my three layers together:

Making lace engageantes thedreamstress.com

And gathered along the curved edge:

Making lace engageantes thedreamstress.com

I sewed the curved edge to a tape, and basted the tape into the sleeves of my francaise, so it’s easily removable for washing, or to put on another francaise.

Making lace engageantes thedreamstress.com

And there are my engageantes!

1760s Frou Frou Francaise thedreamstress.com
Making lace engageantes thedreamstress.com

I’m really happy with what an extravagant bit of froth they give at the ends of the sleeves. I could have made them even fuller – but they are rather glorious as they are.

1760s Frou Frou Francaise thedreamstress.com

The Challenge: #12 Neglected Challenge – re-doing #9 ‘Hands & Feet’. It seems only right to include this for that challenge, as I literally re-made the engageantes I did for it!

Fabric: 1.5m lace

Pattern: my own, as above

Year: ca. 1760

Notions: thread, cotton tape 

How historically accurate is it?: Nylon lace and a re-think of how to cut a pattern? Maybe 40% However, it’s as close as you’re going to get unless you are embroidering silk tulle or doing elaborate whitework on lawn.

Hours to complete: 2

First worn: for photos in early December

Total cost: Free, but only because I was given the lace (thank you silkworld.com.au!

Making lace engageantes thedreamstress.com

4 Comments

  1. This was exactly the kind of tutorial I needed. Many years ago I bought quite a few lengths of wide lace, but I never understood how I would be able to make them into engageantes since the lace is on a straight edge. Thank you.

  2. Elise says

    Engineering is so cool. Thanks for letting us into your process and also for keeping your standards so high. Yes, it is really fun to support those who share your ideals. Also, congrats on being so popular on The Internets!

    Now, what will you do with that tulle?

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