Louis XIV’s favourite colour was flame, an orangish-red which worked well with his self designated title of ‘The Sun King’.  Louis wore it frequently.

Maria Theresa is handed over to the French and her husband by proxy, Louis XIV on the Isle of Pheasants

The French court was all about gaining the kings favour, and a good way to become his favourite was to wear his favourite colour, thus it’s frequently seen in garments and trimmings in 17th and early 18th century portraits.

Women wore it in ribbons and feathers:

La Grande Mademoiselle, Anne Marie Louise d'Orléans Duchesse de Montpensier by Louis Ferdinand Elle, 1640

Portrait of Françoise-Marguerite de Sévigné, Comtesse de Grignan attributed to Pierre Mignard

La Grande Mademoiselle, Anne Marie Louise d'Orléans Duchesse de Montpensier by Louis Ferdinand Elle ca. 1650

Or wrapped around their body in wraps:

Henrietta of England, Duchess of Orléans, oil on canvas, châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon, studio of the Beaubrun brothers

Men wore it as bows around their neck:

Louis Charles de Lévis, Pierre Mignard, 1675

Or as sashes tied around their torsos:

Antoine Nompar de Caumont, duc de Lauzun by Alexis Simon Belle

Whole interiors were done in it, and family groups wore it as jackets and robes:

Louis of France, Grand Dauphin, and his wife Maria Anna Victoria of Bavaria with their three sons- Louis, Petit Dauphin, Philippe (later King Felipe V of Spain) and Charles, Duke of Berry by Pierre Mignard 1687

If you didn’t like flame, but still wanted to kiss up to the king, inflicting it on your children in large quantities was always an option.

They could wear it as historical fantasy dress:

A young Mademoiselle de Blois, Marie-Anne de Bourbon, daughter of Louis XIV and Louise de La Vallière, by Pierre Mignard

Or pseudo-classical short clothes:

Élisabeth (Isabelle) d'Orléans, Duchess of Guise with her son by Mignard, 1672

Or stiff, old fashioned dresses with flame rosettes:

Elisabeth Charlotte of the Palatinate displayed with her two children Élisabeth Charlotte d'Orléans, (future Duchess of Lorraine) and Philippe d'Orléans, (future Regent and Duke of Orléans) by Pierre Mignard

Even Louis’ neglected wife and his kids wore the colour:

Maria Theresa of Austria (1638-1683) and the Grand Dauphin (1661-1711) by Charles Beaubrun, 1665

Yep.  Mid 17th century France was aflame.

Ninon’s accessories

I can’t really trim Ninon’s dress because I can’t get the right trim in Wellington, and I feel I shouldn’t make a special trip up to Brian Gaskin’s in Palmy because I have to go up there on business next week.

So instead I’m researching what jewellery and accessories she should wear.

It’s pretty easy actually: every-single-painting shows the sitter wearing a collarbone level necklace of large pearls, and large pear-drop pearl earrings.

Some ladies went for simply the pearl necklace and earrings, and nothing else:

Simple necklace and pearl drop earrings

Most sitters added a few more accessories of her own to go with the ubiquitous necklace and earrings.

This one has bracelets:

Pearl necklace, pearl earrings, pearl bracelets

Brooches at the centre front holding the fichu in place are common, usually with pearl drops:

Pearl necklace, pearl earring, brooch with pearl drop to fasten the fichu drape

And of course, I have Elisabeth d’Orleans as my inspiration for Ninon with her pleated fabric/shell with a bow and jewelled bodice trimming.

Pearl necklace, pearl earrings, pearls over her hairbun

There are other portraits that show the same pearls in the bun at the back of the head

Pearl necklace, pearls wrapped around bun, brooch with pearl drop

And one lady went all out to gain Louis XIV’s favour, wearing trimmings of his favourite colour: flame.

Three-drop earrings, flame-coloured bows in hair and at wrist, three drop brooch, and a very bejewelled bodice.


Ninon’s dress: sleeves!

After two toiles, and three re-pleatings/readjusting of the sleeves, Ninon’s sleeves are done.

Poofy balloon sleeves!

Or at least I’m happy enough with them to let them go for one wearing while I re-assess them. So typically me!

I pleated the top of the sleeves with soft knife pleats.  It’s less controlled than the stiff cartridge pleats on most extent mid 17th century sleeves, but I felt it looked more like the softer pleats on my inspiration piece:

Élisabeth (Isabelle) d'Orléans, Duchess of Guise by Beaubrun, 1670

The bottom of the sleeves are done with sewn-down cartridge pleats.

Sewn down knife pleats

I left a bit of the band at the bottom of the sleeve totally plain, as that seems to be what is going on in my inspiration image.   I think it will sit a bit better and collapse less when it has all the trim that is in the inspiration image.

The plain band at the bottom to allow the shift sleeve to poof through

I found the sleeve ‘wing’ really irritating.  I think it is a leftover transition from the Elizabethan shoulder wings, but as a transition piece it no longer really makes sense, and is just a bit of a hassle.

Irritating, mostly-pointless sleeve wing

I’m really happy with how the sleeves sit and look across the back.  All the convergence of lines and wings and pleats and lacing is so pretty.

The back

It’s not nearly as extreme as many extent examples, but modern posture has changed so much it has to be.

German bodice, 1660, 1889 sketch: extreme back lines

So, that’s the last of my actual construction done!  Now all that is needed is trim, and I am done, done, done.  Squee!



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Leimomi Oakes is the Dreamstress, a textile historian, seamstress, designer, speaker and museum professional. Leimomi is available for educational and entertaining presentations, textile and fashion advice, special commissions and events. Click to learn more

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