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!



Ninon’s dress: binding the tabs

I’ve finished binding the tabs of the bodice of Ninon’s dress.

My bound tabs

I used kid leather to bind the tabs.  This may not be 100% historically accurate.

There are numerous examples of 18th century stays bound in leather, but I couldn’t find any extent 17th century bodices with leather bindings.  However, all the bodices I did find were bound in a different fabric from the main bodice fabric: usually a sort of ribbed tape.  I couldn’t find a suitable modern alternative, especially in the right colour,  so I decided to go with kid.

I cut apart an old kid glove for my bindings.  A few years back I found a bag of mis-matched and soiled gloves at an op shop and I picked them up thinking they might be useful.

My soiled kid gloves

Boy am I so glad I did!  Binding stays with kid leather is soooooo much easier than any other kind of binding.  Because the leather doesn’t fray, you don’t have to fold in the cut edges.  The leather folds smoothly over the inner and outer curves of the tabs.  The kid is soft enough to easily push a needle through.  It’s fantastic.

I’m binding all my stays in kid leather from now on – and I can, because it only took 3 half inch wide strips of kid to do these tabs, and there is enough of the one glove left to do it another 3 or four times.  Considering I have a dozen gloves, I have kid for a couple dozen stays!   Happiness!

The leather curving over the tabs

The other cool thing about the kid is that when you run out of a piece you just overlap a new piece and continue sewing.

An overlapped join in the kid

I’m sure my sewing technique will get better as I do more kid binding, but this first attempt doesn’t look too bad.

The binding from the back

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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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