Adapting a Chemise a la Reine into a Modern Summer Dress: Design Process

Adapting a Chemise a la Reine into a Modern Summer Dress: Design Process

(classical music) – Ok, it’s high time I
do another of the thing that made this channel
popular in the first place, and that is adapt some
historical wardrobe favorites into stuff that can be wearable today. Although admittedly, I am the
worst person to be doing this because I would 300% wear a bustle gown to the
grocery store, but whatever. I have long had it in my head that the late 18th
century Chemise a la Reine would make the most wonderful, ethereal, floaty little summer dress. So this is what I shall at long
last be plotting out today, starting, of course, with a sketch. This project is very kindly
sponsored by Squarespace, the all-in-one website development
and e-commerce platform that makes building your
own beautifully designed and very professional
looking website super easy, but more on that anon. The Chemise a la Reine is made
famous by Marie Antoinette, most noticeably from this portrait, after which the fashion for
these daringly simple frocks exploded scandalously onto the late 18th century fashion scene. Made from fine sheer cotton
muslin rather than the linen, more common of actual shifts, the Chemise a la Reine was called so because it very suspiciously resembled the chemise, French for shift, or the undermost layer
worn beneath the stays and was most definitely
not supposed to be seen in such capacity. But it perhaps wasn’t
necessarily Marie Antoinette’s primary intent to cause
such uproarious scandal by appearing dressed this way. For what came to be known
as the Chemise a la Reine after its European appearance on the French queen in this portrait, originated as the gaulle, or a light muslin gown
worn by elite ladies of the French West Indies, where such lightness in color and material was most practical and
appropriate for the climate. Sounds like the perfect
basis for a whimsical and unusual summer dress
to fly in perfect coolness in the face of today’s
incomprehensibly illogical obsession with polyester summer frocks. Spoiler alert, polyester is plastic. Plastic doesn’t breathe
and only makes your life supremely miserable in summer heat. Cotton, a plant fiber
whose literal life purpose is to absorb moisture, is the much more practical
wardrobe solution for a toasty climate. P.S., just because something is a new technological
development of the 21st century doesn’t necessarily mean that history might not have actually done it better, but I digress. I’ve kept the length and
fullness of the skirt according to the original chemise design, as well as the drawstring detail
at the waist and underbust, and the silk sash accent, red, of course. The only thing I’ve really changed is the sleeve and collar situation. Short, floaty sleeves for this, instead of the large puffy
sleeves in the historical design. Since I think the combination of these with a large ruffle at the collar will read very 1980s if not balanced with the floofy hedgehog hairstyle, which I probably won’t be bothered to do on a regular 21st century summer’s day. (classical music) In theory, today’s
Garment District adventure is going to be very simple. I really only need some white cotton lawn, which I know exactly where to get. And then I need some sort of
colorful contrasting silk, probably red, because I’m trash. However, Noelle has texted me last night, informing that Mokuba
is having a very large and very fabulous
warehouse liquidation sale. If you do not know, Mokuba is the most wondrous ribbon shop, if you did not watch that
Garment District vlog from a couple of months ago, full of glorious ribbons that
are very expensive normally. So I’m very excited to explore and see what sorts of
woeful damage can be done. So I’ve worked with white cotton lawn quite a few times before
in previous projects, as you may or may not have seen. And every time the white cotton
lawn that I have purchased has come from this shop, Fabrics Garden. They have wonderful cotton lawn, they have large quantities of it, and they have it at
very affordable prices. Oh my goodness, this
just scared me so hard. (bright classical music) Fabric has been obtained. I just ran into a lovely woman called Fran who watches the vlog, and did not want to be on the vlog, and that’s perfectly ok. But hi Fran, it was nice to meet you. (bright classical music) So I was under the impression
that the sale just applied to the little bit in the
front, the clearance stuff. However, it turns out, it’s actually there is a percentage off of literally everything. So I’m about to achieve
my long lost dreams of obtaining some of this
absolutely stunning lace. Just, oh my god, look. Look, look, look. Goodbye, all of my life savings. I literally spent an hour in Mokuba. And I bought some lace. I didn’t spend as much money
as I thought I was going to. But I did a little bit of damage. (bright classical music) So here’s the damage. It is not quite as bad
as I thought it would be. I got two yards of this lace that would hypothetically be
nice for something 17th century that I have no plans to do
anytime in the near future, but I bought it anyway
because it’s pretty. I also got five yards of this, which also, once again, I
do not have any plans for. I will make a blouse out
of this or something. I also bought this. In theory I had it in my head, that, you know, insertion lace
and edging lace for something probably a blouse. All of these laces are synthetic, so these would hypothetically
be for a modern, historically inspired blouse project that maybe I’ll get
around to doing one day. This is for Noelle. This will probably be explained
in one of Noelle’s vlogs sometime in the near
future when this arrives at her merry sewing room. This was actually on proper clearance. So all of these were 30%
off their regular price. By the way, Mokuba is not closing. This whole clearance thing is
not because they’re closing, so all of these things
will still be available if I decide that I need
more of them in the future. So that’s why I did not
buy masses amounts of stuff because it will all be there. This is just plain
lightweight cotton tape. This was $25 for the entire roll of it. I think there’s like 120 yards on here, which is super cool. I will definitely use lots
and lots and lots of this, including for the Chemise
a la Reine project, I do need some drawstring tape for the waistband and the
underbust and the neckline. So this will definitely serve for our more immediate project. And speaking of the Chemise a la Reine, why don’t I actually show you the actual purpose of this trip. what I bought for that. So here is the cotton lawn that I got. I bought 10 yards of this. As you can see, it’s
very, very lightweight, very, very sheer, but this will be quite densely gathered. And I will also have a heavier cotton
underlining underneath it, which incidentally I did not buy. I know I will have enough
cotton in my stash definitely for an underbodice,
but I may need a lining for the skirt as well. More to come on that. For the contrasting bit, I bought this. Wow, it’s turning out
much more red on camera than it actually is in real life. I only got half a yard of this because it’s silk satin
and it was expensive. So there is a shiny satin side; there’s also a less shiny side. I may use the less shiny side, just because I feel like it’s a bit more casual for day wear, although this will be a
whole separate ribbon sash. It will be super simple, and I will make that
decision when I come to it. For now what I’m going to do is I’m going to go ahead
and get this in the wash because it is a cotton and
needs to be pre-washed, because generally the rule is why don’t we turn up the brightness? In general, it is always
wise to wash the fabrics that you plan to wash
as an actual garment. So washable fabrics such
as cotton and linen, you do want to pre-wash the
entire length of yardage before you actually make
it up into a garment so that it shrinks and
warps and does whatever before you actually make it into a thing. Wool and silk, obviously you do not wash, so you don’t have to worry about that. So this is going for a clean, and then when this is out
of the washing machine and is all nice and dry and pressed, then we will go ahead and start making this into a little frock. So somehow I managed to
make it through art school without doing the one thing that every single career practices class tells you you need to do
in order to get a job, and that is to build a website to actually showcase your work. So I suppose it’s probably time
that I finally get on that. Thanks to Squarespace, who make this daunting
and complicated process surprisingly simple, even for technologically illiterate, time traveling folk like me, with thousands of
customizable pre-made designs, loads of practical features including image galleries,
video integration, social media linking, mailing
lists, and newsletters, e-commerce, and even podcast support. Head to to
try out your free trial, and when you’re ready to launch, go to for 10% off your first purchase. And so whilst I wait for these 10 yards of beautiful cotton lawn
to pre-wash and dry out, I will thus be proceeding
to begin experimenting with my own website endeavors, finally. So more to come on that, as well as the building of
the actual dress, of course. I do hope you shall stick around, and if not, cool. Anon, friends. (classical music)

100 Replies to “Adapting a Chemise a la Reine into a Modern Summer Dress: Design Process”

  1. Oh that sketch is gorgeous… I might have to add this to my “someday I’ll make” list! I’d be much more likely to wear that than the walking skirt. XD (Though not in white for me, white just begs for me to stain it…)

  2. I’ve been sewing for almost 38 years. You don’t need an excuse to buy beautiful items! You don’t have to make anything with it. Sometimes we just need them to pet.

  3. Oooo this is going to look great!!! I'm working on mending/altering some 18th Century Petticoats for a client. 😀 So I was seam ripping while watching your shopping exploits. 😀

  4. Best way to clean wool is to snow wash, ie take your wool and lay it flat in the snow. The moisture from the snow will absorb the dirt and grime from the wool without getting it wet. Then, once it's done, beat off the snow and bring it inside. The wool may grow slightly damp, but will be mostly dry, and CLEAN.!

  5. Oh that's going to be stunning! And I'm totally with you on the polyester summer dresses – why would we want to be wrapped in plastic on the hottest days – not good for sandwiches and not good for people. I think it might come from the idea that no one wants to have to do any ironing but it's worth it to be cool. I've heard linen is even cooler than cotton but I've no practical experience (just 2 metres of linen waiting for an experiment!)

  6. hey bernadette,
    i much prefer longer videos with the whole process from start to finish, instead of cut into parts like this.

  7. Everyone needs a summer frock. I, a yarnie, have begun my foray into sewing with pajama bottoms at the beginning of this year, and am now learning to make a rectangular skirt. I look forward to seeing how your frock come out. I may need to look into making one myself.

  8. The stark absence of any greenery as you were walking through the streets was very striking, I'm not used to seeing so much concrete and no trees or bushes.

  9. I WANT one of these! (In other words do you mind if I steel this idea?) The drawing is utter beauty and it is always a pleasure to go fabric shopping with you. May I also add that Im very happy for you and your sponsorships. Though it might be selfish as it means more incentive for more videos.

  10. I don't know why but the sketch reminds me of Anastasia's dress in the dream scene. (I'm talking about the animated movie)
    Can't wait to see the finished project 🙂

  11. Another gorgeous sketch! Watching your videos always help me when I am feeling overwhelmed in the day! I just put a playlist of your videos on and think one day I can have a historical wardrobe of my own.

  12. Wow the history behind the dress is so interesting. Caribbean fashion doesn't influence high fashion very often.

  13. I hate to sound like a hater, but Ill correct you simply because I feel like you would want to be corrected: "Reine" is pronounced with an open [E] sound! So like "rehn" instead of like the word "rain." Reine like the beginning of the word "renegade"!

  14. I despise polyester and acrylic. I would only allow for 10% when mixed with wool for sturdiness and even then for the outer garment.

  15. Looking forward to seeing the construction – and congrats on the sponsor!! We all know ribbon doesn't pay for itself :p

  16. Some day in the future I will manage to be insidious enough to convince you that adapting concepts from the book "Jonathon Strange and Mister Norrell" is a fantastic idea.

  17. You’re so sweet, I love how you’ve attempted so many historical garments. I was drawn in by your title, yet I subscribed due to your nature. Namaste

  18. plotz ya know, I got the American Duchess book a while back.. it's probably a Good Thing that I don't have stash or budget to sew along with you right now, or I'd dump everything on my list in favor of that. (I do like the floofy sleeves, so if I ever do make one, I'll retain those).

  19. I can't wait for this dress and the lovely print you are going to have for sale. Can't wait I have your other pretty pictures I really do need to put up some of my grandchildren too.

  20. I love that you call out polyester! Four years ago, I donated all polyester clothing I owned, and I have never looked back. It also makes contemporary clothes shopping quite easy to keep on a budget. 😉

  21. i too would wear a full chemise a la reine out during the summer like its normal. also i love this. less likely to die of heatstroke.

  22. I just have to say.. the quality of your videos is so WONDERFUL! And you’re doing a really great job with your channel, and I’m EXTREMELY EXCITED to see the finished product.

  23. I’m really looking forward to the dress and I will forever enjoy hearing your wonderful voice and eloquent speech. Haha

  24. Hooray for a new video! Normally I would say it was completely unfair for someone to have so much talent with pigment and paper AND needle and thread. But, in Bernadette's case, I have to make an exception. Tons of natural talent, but she's put in the time learning to excel in both skills. And, then is kind enough to share her endeavors with us. Thank you! Looking forward to seeing this dress come to life!

  25. How I so wish we had a garment district here in Australia like you do over there! You have so many material stores, speciality ribbons, lace's & trimming store's and so much more…here we get Spotlight and that's it! Loved the painting as always and I can't wait to see how this wonderful dress turns out! maybe you could sell prints of your paintings, I think many here would love them.

  26. I can't wait to see it finished! Your watercolors are exquisite. Did you take a class in college for watercolors or have you just practiced a lot?

  27. Bernadette, you are an exceptional artist. I love your sketches. This project should be very pretty.
    I too, have always wondered why summer frocks are made of plastic.
    Looking forward to your new dress…

  28. Okay but I'm high key in love with your outfit at the end there!
    I can't wait to see how the project turns out, the design is super pretty so it'll probably be absolutely stunning in real life!!

  29. Your drawing is beautiful. And as soon as I saw it, it reminded me of Another "simple frock"… Cinderella wears this dress, through every example of the story that I've seen.
    Can't wait to see your finished project.

  30. You stress pre-washing your fabric, but what about bolt fabric that comes pre-washed? Do you suggest washing it anyway?

  31. My mother’s high school friend works at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Chelsea. We were walking through their fashion history exhibit today and she mentioned that she loved your videos! I’ve been a fan of yours for some time, so hearing that was a pleasant surprise. If only our paths had crossed in the garment district!

  32. Watches video. . . falls into rabbit hole of research about Chemise a la Reines. Oops there goes the rest of my night.

  33. Love the idea of a Chemise A La Reine as a summer dress. Is there a way that you could do it for a plus size girl?

  34. Wondering if any of the stores you shop at have a web presence? As I do not live someplace with a fashion/fabric district within driving range. Also wonderful to have you back on the video screen.

  35. I love the dress idea and the fabric you picked out. May I suggest you make it tea length for an extra modern twist. It's my favorite length of dress.

  36. CAN WE TALK ABOUT THAT WATER COLOR PAINTING!? Holy crap woman, I am in absolute awe of your talent <3 Im teaching myself how to paint with watercolor and I am literally dying at how amazing that painting is. You are incredibly talented.

  37. Polyester makes me break out who else wants to be dressed in itchy cling wrap?

    Eee I’m so excited to see this come together I may have to try and make a doll sized version with my grandmother

  38. regular ppl: normal outline, faceless sketch of garment

    bernadette: creates an actual masterpiece as her reference

  39. I've literally been checking everyday to see if you've uploaded more work. -_- Holy Jesus….glad you did. You're videos are so educational, and completely not a waste of time, to watch. Keep posting more of your work. It's amazing. Also, don't know if you've seen the show "A Stitch in Time" ( I think it's called ), but they cover remaking the Marie Antoinette 'Chemise a la reine'. It's on YouTube. It's pretty elegant seeing part of the work and finished piece.

  40. I could watch you draw and paint all day! It never ceases to amaze me the creative things people can do!!

  41. "Just because something is a new technological development doesn't mean that it's better" ME every day!

    I absolutely adore this project! I have been making my own "modern" chemises for like two years and LOVE the chemise gown and really want to make one with a bodice like yours. I usually do blue sashes but ahhhh I love it with a red sash too! Usually I keep the sleeves the same because I love puffs and just shorten the skirt but I like the short sleeves and long skirt too 😍 historically inspired clothes (esp 18th century) are my jam…

  42. Anyone else think of the little House books when Bernadette talks about lawn? Because Laura Ingalls had lawn dresses? Anyways very excited about this fabric and also planning to drag my husband to the garment district next time we are in NY because oh my does Bernadette make it look fun. And perhaps if i time it right I may actually meet her there 😍

  43. if you havent already, i highly recommend that you watch A Stitch In Time with amber butchart, theres an episode they did on this very dress and the whole episode is free on youtube!!!!!

  44. Hooray! You took us to the Fabric District. I could watch a full 30 minutes of you shopping in the Fabric District! I am looking forward to watching your new creation come to life.

  45. I have to say, a vintage-wearing time-travelling woman walking past a poster saying “why women kill” is a big mood 😂❤️

  46. My goodness do I know that 'whoopsy just spent an hour in a single supply store' feel. Leaving me to my own devices in a craft store is perhaps the single worst mistake someone could make. Not even because I'll buy too much, but because I'll spend forever just looking at everything very intently.

  47. I loved it when you said that history sometimes does things better-as I always say to my students time always progresses but society is under no obligation to follow suit:) I am always on the search for clothing that have historical aspects to them because I too would wear a bustle gown to the grocery store were it not for society and the fact that I live in Southern Arizona- your channel is so lovely to watch and remind me its not just me! If I enjoyed sewing I would be doing what you are. Keep up the lovely work!

  48. looking forward to this dress, I love that portrait, so I can't wait to see your dress, and maybe making one for myself.

  49. So beautiful I have always wanted a dress similar to the one Marie Antoinette wears! 💕

    Also, the dress in the illustration sort of resembles the one Eliza wears in Hamilton act 2

  50. Finally someone said it! Polyester is the worst! Everybody ask me why I sew in cotton because "polyester is so light", and fokes, this is why

  51. I absolutely love the print! I really don't like polyester either, sadly our work has gotten in new uniform and they're all polyester/wool blend! So many eye rolls and so uncomfortable.

  52. The 120 yard white thing costed you 25$?? We have them cost literally 3 or 5$ max !!!!! And I buy them in boxes too…. i can tell you where to buy them if you’re interested (sadly it’s in Saudi Arabia)

  53. " I need something colorful, probably red because I'm trash." Completely caught me off guard, I laughed for several minutes.

  54. The design drawing is soooo pretty!! I would love to buy one like this if it's available in some store. Really into the cotton/linen long white summer dress now with a bit vintage feel and have been searching everywhere for the perfect one. Too sad I don't know how to make cloth myself.

  55. Perfec inspiration as always. This week I plan to go fabrick hunting for modern recreation of 1890s walking skirt. Wish me luck in my country it can be pretty hard work.

  56. Yes polyester fabrics are evil…. Both to wear and if it's a very high polyester it's got that horrible shiny look.
    Also I almost never sew for everyday clothes for myself but… I am very inspired by this. A combination of my favourite kind of dress (floaty) with one of my all time favourite historical gowns (it's stunning in paintings and somehow the tragedy associated heightens the romance of it)

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