The Frou Frou Francaise – almost there

1760s Frou Frou Francaise

After many, many bouts of unpicking and re-sewing the 1760s Frou Frou Francaise is almost there.


I’ve unpicked nearly every seam in the dress and re-sewn it at least three times, and I still can’t get it to a place where I’m really happy about it.  So I don’t know when I can stop and call it done, because the more work I invest in it, the more I feel I need to get it right, and right now…it isn’t quite there.

The last time you saw it it was worn by a model at Ramsay to Renoir in Nelson.  I also  blogged about making the sleeves, and how their fit wasn’t quite right.

When I looked at the photos from Ramsay to Renoir the Francaise was pretty, but something about it wasn’t quite right to me.

I looked at it, and looked at it, and couldn’t figure it out.  Then I posted this francaise for Rate the Dress, and my mind went ‘ah hah!’

Robe a la Francaise, 18th century (probably 1770s), silk, Lot 550, sold by Whittakers Auctions, Fall 2016

What my Francaise was missing was the floating pleats.  It was just too stiff and severe with the pleats tacked down so far.

I went and did a (fairly rough) general survey of sacque gowns for the 1760s, and my hunch was right – assuming that the museums were reasonably accurate with their dating, floating pleats do seem to be much more common than very tacked-down pleats in 1760s francaise.  And the look certainly fits my lush, frou-frou theme more than the severity and control of tacked down pleats.

So, I unpicked my sleeves, unpicked my back facing, and unpicked my pleats.

While I was doing my survey I also decided that the width of the pleats was too wide compared to the proportions of my shoulders, so, as long as I had everything undone,  I re-did the pleating width.

1760s Frou Frou Francaise  In other words, I basically went back to the very beginnings of the garment construction, and started again.  Eeergh

But, I am definitely happier with the result:


1760s Frou Frou Francaise

While I was doing this, I also re-did the sleeves.  And re-did the sleeves again.  And re-did the sleeves again.  And unpicked and re-set the bloody things a fourth time.

But… I just can’t get them to where I’m happy with it.

I’m usually really good at sleeves, but there are exceptions to everything, because these ones refuse to sit on me without wrinkling and pulling.

It’s possible that the fabric is just so stiff and unyeilding it will never sit without wrinkling.

1760s Frou Frou Francaise

It’s like the dress that never ends.  Not even the trial photoshoot went right.

I got it all sewed together, and wanted to try it on and do a photoshoot before trimming, so I could really assess the fit before I committed to the last 20 hours of frilling.  As I don’t usually have another person with significant fit experience on hand to help with fitting, I find fully putting on something, and taking lots of photos that I can look at, the best way to assess fit.

Well, three images into the trial shoot Mr D managed to switch a setting on the camera, and everything was so under-exposed they were so unusable.

So I got completely dressed up again (and naturally my hair refused to cooperate like it did the first time, and the pearl trim I borrow from a painting just looks dorky in real life.  And it was much hotter.  And the light wasn’t nearly as good…), and these are the resulting images.

After the first photoshoot I decided the petticoat ruffle was too long, so I unpicked and re-attached it, and I over-compensated, and now it’s too short.  Gah!

Other stuff I’m not happy with & need to re-do:

  • The wrinkling on my bodice.  Possibly better stays (I wore my lighter pair due to the heat, but that may have been a poor choice) or better pinning would help.  Pinning this fabric is even less fun than sewing it.
  • The sleeve ruffles.  I don’t care for the shape, or my punching pattern.  If I have enough leftover fabric at the end I’ll re-do them.  Heck, maybe I should try to re-do the entire sleeves.  :-/

1760s Frou Frou Francaise

Things I am happy with:

  • My lace engageantes.  The lace is from  (they have just started selling retail (and they sell silk tulle!!!!!!)) and it’s SO pretty, and I figured out a really elegant solution to making lace engageantes (which I will be posting about)
  • My tucker.  Lace from my stash, and also so pretty.

So at this point, the Francaise is sort-of back in the naughty pile, because I’m just fed up with it.

I think I’m going to fix the petticoat ruffle (because that definitely needs fixing), and wait for cooler weather, and do another photoshoot, and see how I feel about it then.  Maybe if I’m happier with my hair and everything else I’ll like it more…

1760s Frou Frou Francaise

I’m more than a little annoyed about this, because the Francaise has been going on for so long, and was one of my big sewing goals for 2018, and its…not done.

Once I can get the fit right, I can trim, and it will finally, finally, be finished!

Now that I’ve sewn every seam in it four times by hand…

So there you go.  No matter how much you think you know, and even when you’ve done things before and had them be a smashing success (my other francaise fits like a glove!), you can still get stuck on things, and have them not work.

And if you think I’m exaggerating and being over-dramatic about the fitssues, remember that you’re still only showing the photos I could bring myself to post publicly (though I’m far more willing to show less-than-stellar fit than I am derpy expressions!)


  1. Tegan says

    It IS one of those things where you know every single bad idea, but as someone merely looking at the pretty pretties, I can’t really find them. So, keep that thought under your hat too, so that when it comes out of time-out you can perhaps better assess if it’s being naughty or if the crankies were a part of the judgement.

    I have always loved your punched trim — and it’s so nice to see more pics of le frou-frou!

  2. Nannynorfolk says

    Oh poor you, as a maker but not a sewing person we all have projects that we find fault with, I sympathise. However sometimes it’s not worth going on and on and the time comes to bin it or be satisfied with a not perfect item. I’m sure you’ll never be satisfied with a non perfect dress, so you have to make a decision, that of course is your decision. It’s a bit like buying something very expensive and finding it’s not what you thought it would be or it doesn’t suit you and you never use or wear it, and then of course you don’t want to get rid of it because it cost so much money. But remember it cost you your time and that is much more precious than cost in money.
    10/10 for perseverance.

  3. Your suggestion that the fabric may simply be the wrong texture for this type of gown makes sense to me. The lace accessories look great though!

  4. Well the back looks incredible, it really is super floofy and elegant and just gorgeous. So, win there! If you need fitting buddy hit me up. When it’s cooler. 😉

  5. Deanna says

    You look lovely! *What* a pretty dress! The pleats look very elegant now, and give the dress such a sense of movement and lightness.

    I hope you are able to get it to a place you’re happy with after it comes out of the naughty pile.

  6. Some projects are just maddening, aren’t they? Having seen the Francaise in person, I’d say the bodice wrinkles are stays/pinning related.

    Redoing the pleats was definitely worthwhile. They’re so much lighter and fluffier now, and they float very gracefully.

  7. Linda says

    Could it be the dress needs a heavier fabric as the brocade in your rate the dress? The weight may help the drape overall and give you an easier set in the sleeve.
    Some projects just get you that way. Get to the acceptable level and leave it ! It’s a beautiful gown! Things you see, no one else would even think of!

  8. Anor says

    Wow, those issues are mysterious! I hope you can solve them to your satisfaction. And the journey is so interesting, though frustrating to you I am sure!

  9. Michelle says

    I just want to say it is beautiful dress….I am history Buff and I love the fashion of the 18th and 19th Centuries

  10. That’s too bad! Maybe I shouldn’t say it but it looks absolutely beautiful to me!

  11. Elise says

    There is so much to like about this dress. For myself, I didn’t notice any faults, but I *do* notice when it gets perfect (sometimes). Like the others said, the back pleats really help the dress do what you want it to do. And the lace around the neckline and the engagettes made me sigh with perfection! It’s a lovely color and maybe some of the frustration is that we all konow its potential. Give yourself kudos for your perseverance! And thanks for letting us peek in on your work.

  12. I know you’re not happy with it, but it’s still lovely, and the changes you made with the back pleats really did change it so much and worked so well.

  13. Susan says

    It is a beautiful dress and I love it!! The difference in the pleats is just fabulous! Thank you so much for all your hard work and your sharing it with us!!

  14. Elaine says

    I see the faults when you point them out, but I didn’t notice until then. I just see a beautiful dress, and you look gorgeous in it.

  15. raelene says

    This gave me a very “Cinderella-y” feel, and since she my gave I love it!!!

  16. Charlie says

    Everyone is their own worse critic! I would not have noticed any of those “faults” had you not pointed them out. The dress looks beautiful, and you look beautiful in it 🙂

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