Portfolio: 1660s dress for Ninon de l’Enclos


The Idea and Inspiration:

To make a a 1660s gown for the celebrated 17th c French beauty, arts patron, and sometimes nun, sometimes courtesan,  Ninon de l’Enclos. And it had to be out of golden yellow duchesse silk satin.

As there are no images of Ninon that were made in her own life, my design is based on a 1670s portrait of Élisabeth d’Orléans, with further inspiration from Bartholomeus van der Helst’s 1660-61 portrait of a couple, the 1660’s Bath dress, and a 1660’s bodice (in yellow duchess satin!) from a German collection.

In order to really experience the work of a 17th century seamstress, the ensemble will be entirely handsewn except for the boning channels on the bodice support (sorry, done that once, never doing it again).  As much as possible I have researched and am using 17th century stitches and garment construction.

Inspiration Gallery

Élisabeth d’Orléans, Beaubrun, 1670 Couple, 1660-61, van der Helst Bodice, probably German, 1660s
Dress, 1660s, Museum of Fashion     Mary, 1652, van der Helst Fredrick & Louise, van Honhurst, 1650


Fabric and Materials:

  • Custom dyed yellow duchesse silk satin over a bodice of unbleached linen boned in cable ties.
  • Skirt of custom dyed yellow duchesse silk satin
  • Cotton thread to sew

The Undergarments:

  • A 17th c shift, quilted petticoats, and possibly a bumroll

The Dress Diary:

Research and helpful links:

2 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Erika says:

    Hi, my daughter and I are considering making the Red and White Queen costumes from Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland for a convention. May we raid your designs and techniques for making the bodices? On close inspection of numerous publicity photos of Anne Hathaway and Helena Bonham-Carter, it appears that a mid-17th century silhouette was the inspiration for both costumes. BTW, your original “dorky” bodice point seems to be what was used in both costumes. And, since I am a Paralegal by profession, I must ask if we will be violating any copyright, trademark, or other intelectual property if we use your patterns?

    Thank you, Erika.

    • Hi Erika,

      I put my dress diaries online so that other seamstresses can use them as a resource, so I’m happy for you to use anything that is there as a reference. In any case, none of it would be a copyright violation. There is very little protection for garments/fashion design. That’s why cheaper stores can knock off designer garments almost exactly – the copyright violation is in replicating the logos of designer garments.

Leave a Reply




Meet the Dreamstress

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

Come sew with us!


Archives