A dress for Ninon (because I’m really tired of pink pintucks)

I’m really sick of pink pintucks.  And of sewing with a treadle machine.  And of wearing a corset to sew in.  Not to mention that wearing a corset every day is ruining my figure (you loose all your stomach muscles within a week!), so I’m taking a break from Emily’s dress.

I have a good excuse to take a break from Emily too.  On July 23 I’m co-presenting a historical concert with The Historical Arts Trust: Grandeur & Frivolity: Music & Fashion from the Courts of Louis XIV and Louis XV.


Obviously I need to add to my stock of Baroque and Rococo fashion, so it’s a great excuse to tackle a project I have drooled over for months: a 1660s gown for the celebrated 17th c French beauty, arts patron, and sometimes nun, sometimes courtesan,  Ninon  de l’Enclos.

In yellow duchess satin, because I’m desperate to make a yellow dress.

There are no portraits of Ninon done within her life, so I’m using a portrait of  Ã‰lisabeth d’Orleans as my main inspiration frock.

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

That colour!  Those sleeves!  The jewel trimmed bodice!  The sheer fichu-thingee (yes, I know fichu is a 19th c term), the silly little fan at her bodice.  So lovely!

For reference and to help move the dress dating back to the 1660s, I’m using this 1660-1661 work.

Portrait of a couple, 1661, Bartholomeus van der Helst

I think the bows are tres ridiculous and tres adorable.  More importantly, like my main inspiration image, it has a plain skirt, and a similar skirt treatment.

For extent garments references, we have the invaluable 1660 Bath Dress.

Dress of silver tissue, 1660, Museum of Fashion Bath

While a little early, and reflecting British fashion, it has the same sleeve treatment as my inspiration frock, and is an excellent reference for period construction techniques, especially thanks to the wonderful Cathy who has put detailed pictures of the construction of the Bath dress on photobucket.

I’m super excited about this project.  Except for the boned inner bodice it will be entirely hand sewn (I refuse to hand sew boning channels).  I’m such a nerd.  Historical accuracy gets me so excited!

Even better than historical accuracy is being historically accurate, and being able to kill two birds with one stone.  I’ve read up a bit on skirt construction between 1630-1670, and as far as I can tell it didn’t change a lot, which means that if I have enough leftover fabric after my 1660s bodice, I can also make this bodice and have a 1630s example too:

Queen Henrietta Maria, 1632, Anthony van Dyke

Those cuffs!  That collar!  The black bow!  And is she wearing the same dress with different cuffs  in this portrait as well?

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  That will come later.  For now. I’m full steam ahead hand stitching and dyeing and fitting.  I’ll be posting about this dress exclusively (excepting Rate the Dress) until it is done.  I’m hoping by next Friday!


  1. I look forward to see it! Now I feel very inspired to finish my 1660’s gown. 🙂

    I posted quite a while ago a link to a paper on extant 17th century clothes. It’s in German, but there is a bodice, with pattern, that might be useful. Perhaps you saw it, but here it is again:

    • Oh, thanks for the reminder! The bodice pattern is pretty much exactly like the one I’m using, but I’m still super excited that there is an extent yellow bodice from the period!

  2. Gosh I love this look, it’s the neckline that gets me. It will be fabulous! So this is why you are obsessing over yellow duchess satin eh? 🙂 And no pintucks in sight, very important that! I LOVE that Queen Hettie is wearing the same dress with a bit of a makeover. It’s so human. And I am definitely going back ot Bath for a proper look next time!
    BTW however did the wearer sit in that frock!

    • Elise says

      I’ve often wondered the same thing! Maybe that is why ladies seem to be reclining in paintings from the time–they cannot sit properly!

      The gold and blue are so beautiful. And the black bow reminds me a little bit about how that other Worth dress should have been contstructed using black bows.

  3. YES! 1660 rocks! It’s so unloved, but I think one of the great decades of fashion. I can’t wait to see your gown!

  4. Ah, this is fantastic! More love for 17th century – I keep remembering that it actually was one of my favourite eras. Posts like this bring the old love back!

  5. The first image of the duchess of Guise, I too love that colour, and the sleeves with those gorgeous white under sleeves and that blue looped ribbon fringing, oh it is just totally to die for. Don’t you love that the sleeve is open at the front too, almost like a slashed sleeve, showing the undersleeve, are you still going to sew the sleeve this way? I have 3 more weeks at work and then all my time will be free for sewing and researching. I can’t wait…..

    • I can’t wait to see what you do when you have more time for sewing and research!

      I’m not sure what I plan to do with my sleeves yet, but I do love the open ones.

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