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'Orleans, 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!




  1. You really are amazing such patience,I have patterns (I cant draft like you).And really do want to make some old style costumes but I keep procrastinating (fear of failure and kids in the way stop me)I would lve to see a post of all the things you have made as I would have missed many of your older items.

    • Awww…thanks! I don’t actually have a lot of training with drafting and draping – I’ve just figured it all out by trial and error, so don’t let that hold you back. Get some not too expensive fabric and try it out!

      You can see all of the older costumes I have made on my portfolio page. I have pages for every single major project, with posts about all of them.

  2. I think they came out marvelously! It looks like they’re more complex than the ones I did for my 1660s, which oddly enough ended up to be just rectangular pieces of fabric pleated top and cuff.

    • I used a mash up of the pattern from Arnold and the pattern for the German bodice – its got some pretty complicated S curves on both edge, which makes the pleats tricky as they go across the bias at places.

  3. Tamsin says

    Sooooo beautiful. And wow – that pleating on the back skirt is amazing. Can’t wait to see it with trim 🙂

  4. Zach says

    It’s so pretty! The back especially–and the sleeve wings turned out wonderfully, even if they were a pain. They add something extra to the top while being rather simple. I can’t wait to see the rest of the process!

  5. Madame Ornata says

    Wow simply stunning! Those pleats are seen to such advantage in the back view and happy to see you conquered those tricky naughty sleeves. Well done.

  6. Good luck with the trimming! I can’t wait to see the finished result, but don’t rush it just because of impatient foreign blog readers. 😉

  7. I love reading your blog…it’s wonderful to get to sit near and watch somebody so knowledgeable and excited about their work. I like books that take me someplace that I’ll never go to in real life and that’s how I feel each time I read your blog. I’ll never sew what and how you do, but it’s such a treat to watch you do it.
    Thanks for letting us in.

    • Elise says

      Hear hear! And I wanted to know: How has modern posture changed?

    • Madame Ornata says

      I totally agree Tina and I’m lucky enough to share the journey in real life too. I feel inspired to do what I previously had thought impossible because I know I have my incredibly talented, Knowledgeable and generous friend beside me.

  8. jackiead says

    Beautiful! One of the reasons I enjoy reading your blog regularly is how you carefully explain the techniques used for your projects in a step-by-step process from the dying of the fabric to the intricate details worked into the finished piece, your work is amazing. It would take me five years to finish such a complicated project as this one.

  9. Oh my goodness – that is fabulous work. I think you’ve outdone yourself! Beautiful.

  10. Marguerite says

    Those knife pleats are a thing of beauty!

  11. Hi, you amazing dreamstress,

    this dress is actually now the one that got me started on my first own project. I’ve tried to make 17th ct stays but it never worked out in a way I liked and that really dicouraged me. But this dress … is really something special! It is so gourgeously pretty… the silouette, the fabric… the way the sleeves of the shift are seen…

    It is the perfect harmony in historicalness and this princess feeling that I am looking for… I am deeply in love.

    I started to draft a pattern and I have already a mock up that fits amazingly well compared to my early try outs….
    the fit will be perfect for my body type… I am a petite girl and not very tall, but I tend to have a bit of wiggle at my upper arms that annoys me. With these pretty sleeves thats taken care of… did you take the pattern for the sleeves out of Janet Arnold’s as well or did you draft you own pattern for this?

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