Events, Miscellenia

What shall I wear to a Bastille Day Ball?

Thanks to a lovely French friend, I’m going to a Bastille Day Masquerade Ball this weekend!  Exciting!

My original thought was that I would finally finish and wear my Marmotte Masquerade stays, because they are so close to being done, but then I remembered the reason I haven’t finished them: the pattern I cut them to is very historical, and  if they sat about 1cm lower I couldn’t go out in public in them without breaking decency laws, so even with a chemise underneath they are definitely undergarments.

I gutted  I forgot that I’d made the pattern so low when I cut them out.  I’d done it because I specifically wanted to try such low-cut stays, because I think the silhouette is more correct, but had intended the pattern for other fabrics, and it just slipped my mind when I cut the Marmotte stays, and I didn’t notice when I tried them on partway through because I was wearing a shirt underneath.  Grrrr…

So, Marmotte stays (with, obviously, layers of skirts), are out.

The other obvious options are:


Ninon's Dress

Pros: I love it, it’s incredibly striking, no one else will be wearing yellow, and I could use this as an excuse to finally trim it.  Plus, it’s actually pretty comfortable, doesn’t have massive underpinnings, and won’t be trailing.

Cons: Whenever I wear it people say “Oooh, Belle!” and I do not like the Disney movie (Robin McKinley does much better Beauties, and much, MUCH better Beasts).  My hair is way too long for 1660s at the moment, and I don’t know if I could get it cut between now and then, or if I even want to.  And I don’t like the way it looks with long hair.

Lady Anne Darcy:

Lady Anne Darcy 1780s robe a la francaise

Pros: It’s really obvious what and when it’s from, it’s beautiful and striking.  I haven’t worn it in ages, so it’s due for an outing.  My hair will do 1770s/1780s really well at the moment.

Cons: People will say “Oooh, Marie Antoinette.”  I can’t decide if that is better or worse than Belle.  It has a train, and requires a fair bit of under-structure, which can make it slightly impractical.  Speaking of impractical, 1780s hair….  Also, I will never look at glorious in it as Chiara does. (sad moment)

Jeanne Samary

1880s Jeanne Samary dress


Pros:  It’s deliciously obscure, but still obvious because I have a fan with the Renoir painting on it that I can carry.  And it is very beautiful.  And I don’t think I have worn it in almost 5 years.

Cons: It’s getting a bit worse for the wear, and is due for a refurbishment.  I guess this could be a good excuse, but might be a bit stressful time-wise.

I guess there is also Madame Recamier and the Kashmiri gown, but I’m not really feeling either at the moment.

Whatever gown I pick I’m just going to make a very simple masquerade mask for.  I like simple.

So what do you think?  Which frock should I wear?  Which would you like to (hopefully) see oodles of photos of me in?


  1. Emily says

    They are all seriously lovely, but if at all possible the Jeanne Samary one might be my pick for the event!

  2. Natalie says

    I’d love to see Ninon trimmed so that is my pick!

    • Me too! It keeps not getting trimmed because the trim I have isn’t quite, quite right! Maybe I just need to suck it up and trim it anyway. 😉

  3. Louisa S. says

    I am leaning towards Jeanne Samary, but I really don’t think you can go wrong with any of them! Just curious, is there an appropriate way to trim Ninon that would make it less Belle? I would definitely be driven batty by “ooh, Belle” all night..

    • Thank you! One minute I lean towards Jeanne too, and then the next I change my mind. And I’m so glad I’m not the only one who would hate the Belle thing! 😉 Kindred spirits!

  4. Ninon and Samary are two of my favorites of your creations, so I can’t decide! It would be lovely to see the Ninon trimmed up, though. Is there someone clever with hair who could make it work out? Perhaps a super-tight wet-set spiral curl would reduce the length sufficiently?

    • Not helping at all 😉 I’m glad you like them both so much!

      My hair is currently 4″ past my waist, so it’s so long and heavy that even super tight curls pull out pretty quickly. :-p I might try something where I part pin it up, and then use the rest hanging down.

  5. I wonder if Ninon when trimmed would look less Disney? Because of the animation process I guess, their gowns are always so block coloury. So yes, an excuse to dot hat and wear it and look squee! And I have a feeling I know what lace will be going on it 😉
    I also ADORE Samary – that whisper/sigh colour is so beautiful. And it is so exquisite.
    So maybe the question is, which upgrade task appeals to you more this week?

    • Depending on how I trimmed it it would look less Disney, but it really doesn’t look much like her dress at all right now, it’s just people have a silly instant knee-jerk to a yellow frock. 🙁

      I did buy that lace to put on it, but once I actually tried to put it on it doesn’t look right at all, so it’s been conscripted for Elizabethan, and the Ninon lace search continues. I’m leaning toward ribbons at the moment!

      The colour of Jeanne just makes my heart happy too – though in a very different way to Ninon!

  6. You look absolutely charming in the Ninon (also, HOW COULD YOU NOT LOVE BEAUTY AND THE BEAST? *gasp*) BUT I say any chance to splash Renoir into an outfit is a chance that should be taken. Also, I think a huge, fluffery 1800’s updo would look fantastic on you 🙂


    • I don’t like Disney’s Beauty & the Beast, because I didn’t see it until I was an adult, and by that time my mind was mature enough to be thoroughly creeped out/horrified by the implications of the relationship. Basically the very first thing he does is say “well, if you don’t have dinner with me, you don’t eat.” Can you say controlling, manipulative, abusive behaviour? The whole thing is a dreadful message to give young girls about relationships. :-/ I’ve never been good at liking things because they are pretty/eye candy, if the thought behind them is unwell.

      But yes! More Renoir! More enormous hair!

      • Elise says

        Yes yes yes to your reservations on the story. The message that “you can change a man” is a dangerous one, as well. I feel similarly to Beauty and the Beast as I do to Twilight.

        However disturbing the message, though, you can’t take away from the sheer beauty (ahem) of the Disney version: They made the heroine intelligent and bookish, the music, the colors, the acting is all so very good.

        • Unfortunately, even though I know it has nothing to do with the Disney Belle, every time I see the Ninon gown I see a resemblance to Belle’s evening gown. Not strong but just enough. Maybe if the trimmings were black, that would break the image, but then you risk looking like a bee. Chocolate brown or metallic bronze?
          I agree on the Disney spin on the story being quite harmful to people in general, not just girls. And, I do love Robin McKinley’s Beauty & the Beast stories, especially “Rose Daughter” (although how do they manage married life if he’s still a beast-thing? :-/ ).
          But I also love love love Patricia McKillip’s short story version “The Lion and the Lark” in her collection “Harrowing the Dragon.” She’s such a lyrical writer, and this particular story is strange and beautiful.

  7. Elise says

    Don’t you have a chemise a la reine? And a pet a l’air? I think the chemise a la reine would be most fun, and the most comfortable–and the most period!

    But something from the belle epoque would be nice, too. Can’t go wrong no matter what!

    • I do, but those are both day garments, and this is a ball, so obviously I should wear an evening suitable dress 😉

      • Elise says

        True. Very true. Maybe something more of the period would also be a little too on the nose.

        Maybe JS is the way to go, because it evokes the Belle Epoque, is a little worse for the wear (while still beautiful) so that you won’t weep if someone spills their chateau-neuf de pape.

        Ninon would be fun, evokes French Classicism, but I would be worried about taking it to a party.

        Bastille Day for me often meant good food, French cigarettes, excellent wine, and good conversation. All of us dressed in modern-day wear, though! I hope, then, that you will enjoy dressing up double for me!

  8. MK Carroll says

    Jeanne Samary is so appropriate while being less expected!

    May I recommend the book “Bryony & Roses” by T. Kingfisher, if you haven’t read it already? The author was inspired by Robin McKinley and handled that quite well (I felt it was very “inspired by” and not “ripping off”).

    • I’ve just come across the existence of that author via her tumblr and honey badger cartoons. It’s a pseudonym for the fairy tale books, and beside that, she’s a science fiction author by the name of Ursula Vernon, and has won a Nebula, and now I want to read everything she’s written, and can’t. 🙁

    • I agree! Can’t decide if it’s the look I want to go for though!

      I’ll have to look up Bryony & Roses! I find that fantasy & sci fi are a very fine line for me – I either love them or hate them.

    • I think we may be already trained by Leimomi and others out of the general public’s ability to mis-interpret. (Leimomi, am I right in suspecting people have already gone “Belle!” on you multiple times?)
      But I second the motion, because I love the Ninon dress, and the world needs more gorgeous 17th century costumes.

      • Hehe. You guess too rightly!

        I don’t know about the world, but I definitely need more 17th century 😉

    • I think you give the general French NZ public way too much credit for historical knowledge! And, of course, Cavalier would be the wrong country 😉

  9. Jub says

    All are too much aristocratic gowns for a Revolution anniversary… Don’t you have any “sans culotte” costume ?

    Like this one :×300/3/81/76/77/femme_sans_culotte.jpg
    Or this one :
    Or the last one, if you are in the mood :

    If not, I should say the Lady Anne Darcy dress, better fitting the period, I think.

    • The theme of the ball is Masquerade & France, not French Revolution. The invite shows Marie Antoinette in a mask. So I’m pretty sure they aren’t going sans culotte!

      And whatever I wear will be a gazillion times more accurate to history than anything else anyone is wearing, anyway 😉

      • Jub says

        Ok, so everything will fit yes. My choice remains the second.

        Do you have a mask with a stick ? I don’t know the name in french neither, so I can’t translate…

        Or a black cape ? To be the mysterious beautiful woman of the party…

  10. Other thoughts:

    Could you wear the marmotte stays with a fichu/a tuck at the neckline?

    And: Have you seen Panna and netvor, the 1978 Czechoslovak scary (in a good, poetic way) take on Beauty and the Beast? I think I’ve only seen it once, but it’s the sort of thing you don’t forget easily.
    Regency costumes. Some inevitable cheap 70s lace and stuff, but overall, pretty good!

    • I could wear the marmotte stays, but the incentive isn’t there to finish them if they aren’t going to look right, kwim?

      I haven’t seen Panna & Nevtor. It sounds intriguing. I must find out if the niche rental store in Wellington carries it!

  11. holly says

    I’d go Ninon; I’ve never seen the Disney movie so I’m not swayed by that. The colour is spectacular on you.

  12. Ninon! Stunning!!! Honestly brush off the Belle comments (I didn’t think that at all!) and you can easily cheat the hair. 4 sections… Centre (little wider than a fringe section), left side, right side and back (ponytail and mid bun). Layer the left and right across your crown & pin (section each side into 3 or 4 smaller sections so they crisscross evenly). Take the front section up and over, pin and tuck ends into the bun then ringlet the remainder of the side sections, because you’ve crisscrosses them they are shorter and should sit just lor than your ears once curled. Trust me it’s way easier than that reads lol! Email me if you want me to sketch it out for you.

    • ..thank!Awww…thank!

      I have actually been playing with something very like that for the hair! It’s not that easy though, but does sort-of work! It’s just a trick getting the bottom curls to not separate into sections :-p

  13. Ninon every time. I didn’t think ‘Belle’ when I saw it. And there’s an easy way with the hair – hair up into a bun as normal with false ringlets tucked underneath the hair in front of the ears. I saw a girl do this two years ago at an event for 17th century costume and it looked stunning.

  14. Both the Ninon and the Lady Anne Darcy are smashing! You’ll just have to decide whether you can most easily tolerate the “Belle” comments or the “Marie Antoinette” comments, and whether the extra underpinnings for the Anne are too much of a hassle. I don’t think the Jeanne Samary is nearly as lovely.

  15. I lean toward Lady Anne Darcy because of the time period. And a fabulous over the top masque.

  16. Jocelyn says

    Lady Anne Darcy. I don’t think the yellow color in the Ninon looks good on you and the Samary is not fancy enough for a masquerade ball.

    Lady Anne Darcy is the best option. I would add color in your hair and masque.

  17. Charlotte says

    Ninon, with lavender trim! Then you would look like a lemon/lavender cupcake (in the delicious way, not in the round way!). If you want to stand out more at the ball ninon’s yellow will do it. The creamy colors of the other two, while beautiful, might fade more into the background. I can’t wait to see what you decide!

  18. Julia Ergane says

    I love the Ninon. Yellows/golds were a real favourite of the period and were get off with dark burgundies, blues, purples, and greens (brocades, velvets, etc.)– along with oodles of lace. Personally, I don’t think the “Belle” description apt at all. The only thing is its yellowness. It is not 17th century in design; it is just generic Disney.

  19. I know it’s more work, but I vote Jeanne Samary. It’s so pretty, and the skirt is so cool. But if you don’t have the time to get it sorted, Lady Anne Darcy would be my second choice. Great big 18th century dresses are fun.

    You know, I hadn’t thought to compare Ninon to Belle’s dress until you mentioned it. I guess maybe I can see a resemblance if I squint, but the two dresses don’t look much alike to me, other than both being yellow. When I Googled Belle’s dress, I thought it looked vaguely 1850s.

  20. MJ Ruisi says

    While all the Garments in question are Quite Lovely,none would be out place either, I am quite lost at any Disney reference,so without any hesitation The Jeanne Samary Gown is the Clear Choice,goodness,You will be STUNNING!….

  21. Lynne says

    Ninon. No contest. Hope you go for the dark blue trim. I’m sure you could put your hair up to make it work for you.

    One should never pass up an opportunity to look fabulous.

  22. I think Ninon is the most beautiful dress you’ve made and I’d love to see more of it, but I think the Lady Darcy would be the best choice for a French party. Jeanne Samary is -very- elegant, though. You’d look beautiful in any of them, but if I have to vote, I vote for Lady Darcy.

Comments are closed.