Portfolio: 1660s dress for Ninon de l’Enclos

1660s Ninon at a Bastille Day Ball thedreamstress.com3
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  Ã‰lisabeth d’Orleans, 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 is  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 used  17th century stitches and garment construction.

Inspiration Gallery

Élisabeth d’Orleans, 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 & silk thread to sew

The Undergarments:

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

The Dress Diary:

Research and helpful links:


  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.

  2. Elizabeth says


    You and your gown are lovely!
    I have a question. I am considering this Era of gown. I have a concern of how it sits on the shoulders. I have had a frozen shoulder and since it does get fatigued after a day at work I am wondering how the fitting of the shoulder area would effect, if at all, that area.

    Did you notice any pressure areas after a few hours of wear? I get “bodice back” when I havnt been to Ren Faire for a year. I’m in my costume for several hours

    • I have worn this dress for up to 7 hours at a time, and have not noticed any discomfort and pressure in the shoulders – which I do in Regency & some 18th century.

      • Elizabeth says

        Thank you so much for responding. I just bought some beautiful silk green taffeta curtains from Craigslist. I think I’ve found my inspiration. I’ve considered a Mantua but I like this style so much more for its femininity.

  3. Grace says

    I love everything you sew! This dress reminds me of “The Man In The Iron Mask.” Would you know what pattern I could use to make this look? I’m unable to draft my own. I want something like this with large puffed and splashed sleeves!

    • Thank you! I used three main sources to drape and bone the under-bodice for my 1660’s gown: the patterns for the 1660’s bodice in a downloadable book on 17th fashion (in German, which I don’t read, but ‘pattern’ is a universal language!), Janet Arnold’s 1660 bodice pattern, and the under-bodice pattern in Corsets and Crinolines. If you scroll down to the bottom of this page and read through each blog post you can see how I made it 🙂

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