An 18th Century Ballet Costume

Posted by Taylor Shelby on

An 18th Century Ballet Costume

When I started musing about costumes I wanted to take to Carnivale in Venice, I immediately knew an 18th Century ballet costume was going onto my list.  I'd always love the frothy, impractical silliness of these costumes but had never had a good excuse to make one.  But it seemed perfect for Venice!

There's a large series of ballet costumes painted by Jean-Frederic Schall in the 18th Century, and while they are obviously stylized (um...look at those waists!) they provided my main inspiration for my dress

Starting out I only had two specific ideas: I wanted it to lace up the front (so much easier for getting in and out of!) and I wanted to use up stash fabric.

Because each element is an individual piece, this was a great project for using up scraps and small yardage, including trim!

Here are the pieces of this outfit:
Underskirt of striped silk taffeta
Overskirt of pink taffeta
Bodice of yellow taffeta
Separate puffed sleeves of cotton organza

The real trick to this outfit is the volume of the skirts.  The foundations of this outfit are my pocket hoops that I wear with my francaise gown AND my largest but roll, which I typically wear with my 1780s gowns.  This gives full volume all the way around.  A thick quilted underpetticoat is put over the supports to smooth the lines between the two supports and fill in the gaps.

Pockets Hoops
Paired with my largest false rump!
 And then I have a quilted cloth underpetticoat that goes over all of it.  This fabric came from Renaissance Fabrics and they currently have an ivory in stock.  This stuff is AWESOME for making underpetticoats!

Once the underpetticoat is over it, everything is nice and smooth and you can't see the differences between the hoops and the rump.

Next comes the petticoat of gold and yellow striped silk, which is just a simple shortened petticoat.  It closes only at the back with one tie and I concentrated the volume at the sides and back.

Over that goes the pink petticoat.  This one was made a bit shorter that the striped one, then I pulled up four puffs (two in the front and two in the back) and tacked on a ribbon bow.  The pink petticoat closes in the FRONT only.  I just have it safety pinned so that no ties hang out of the front of the bodice.

Over that goes the bodice of the outfit.  I just used my basic 18th Century bodice pattern that I use for most of my gowns, but made it sleeveless, cut the waist a bit higher than normal (to allow for maximum puff from the skirts!) and closed the front with eyelets instead of pins. The center back seam is boned with a piece of synthetic whalebone.

The sleeves are simply a MUCH wider version of my regular 18th Century sleeve with two gathering channels sewn in and it drawn up to fit my arms.  The sleeve was then attached to a cotton tape and tacked down into the armseye of the bodice. 

This is worn with my American Duchess shoes:

My hair features buckles and hair pads from JennylaFleur:

And I'm wearing earrings from me, Dames a la Mode:

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