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)

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About the Author: Oren Garnes


  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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

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

    bernadette: creates an actual masterpiece as her reference

  5. 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.

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

  7. "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…

  8. 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 😍

  9. 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!!!!!

  10. 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.

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

  12. 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.

  13. 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!

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

  15. 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

  16. 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

  17. 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.

  18. 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)

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

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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)

  23. The black trim (the triangle shapes) reminds me a bit of blackwork. Maybe a loose "piratey" blouse styled after a shorter chemise or a simple t shirt dress with the trim by the collar and cuffs?

  24. Incredible illustration. Looking forwards to the construction video of the dress.
    Please do a video about your lovely blouses.

  25. your artwork is so beautiful and I would like to recommend some book's that might interest you or at least one character in the series. the book series named is circle of magic by Tamora pierce and can you try to recreate their outfit.

  26. With every video the urge to get a flight from Europe to New York just to steal Bernadette's wardrobe becomes stronger. In all seriousness I am excited to see this project executed as I love chemise a la reine and I think this particular design will look so beautiful on Bernadette.

  27. Hi, I'm glad to see Miss Bernadette back. I don't sew nor am I into the historical clothing scen, other than as audience, of course, but if it's all right with you, I don't really care. I love this channel. Miss Bernadette, you can make anything and I would be really happy and very entertained.
    Miss Bernadette, your drawing is lovely. If this, making historical clothes, doesn't do as well as I think it will, you could use that talent to make illustrations for romance novels' covers, and I mean that in the best possible way. (I know that my view of life, the universe and everything, is a bit strange or weird, some would say. But I'm okay with that.) Or you could sell them on the arts market and I think they would sell really well. I would definitively be interested in buying a Bernadette Banner original. This one is so lovely. If now you can play the pianoforte and sing, you are a very accomplished young lady, as from the time of Jane Austin, as she remarks in one of her books (can't remember which one at the moment), But that is maybe not the era that Miss Bernadette is hailing from? Yours, Ann

  28. Bernadette: "I need some colorful contrasting silk; probably red, cause I'm trash"


    I'm very determined to make a red version of the chemise a la Reine now. I feel like it would be a very striking dress if it's made from a similar shade of red as the one you chose for your sash

  29. I'm still in shock that Mokuba had a sale and also that you managed to come away with such few things 🙂 I have a Mokuba just one block away from me and I just longingly stare in the window at the gorgeous ribbons. Can't wait to see this project take shape. Especially after watching "A Stitch in Time" recreate the said dress.

  30. I agree… Wash your fabric as you would the finished garment. Wool and linen, if to be dry cleaned, should be sent to the cleaners to be pre-washed. Dry cleaning will shrink wool and linen even to the point of unwearable… I have a purchased linen skirt that came back from the cleaners unwearable. As dry cleaning really isn't dry… they use chemicals instead of water, but it's still liquid. 💝☀🌵. P.s. polyester was invented in the 20th century not the 21st.

  31. Instead of using double fabric on the sashing (i.e., choosing either shiney or matt side on both sides of the sash.) I would make the inspired sash a single thickness allowing both sides to show by simply hemming all 4 edges. I believe that once tied in a bow the contrast is remarkable. And since the fabric is expensive, you'll need half as much or you can make the sash twice as long. 💝☀🌵

  32. I'm sure you've seen it but here is a link to the Marie Antoinette episode of A Stitch In Time based on the same portrait

  33. Thanks for sharing your beautiful creations with us, I just love your videos! Perhaps it's the charming personality, but I can totally imagine you in an anime about a girl with magical sewing skills! ^.^

  34. (Not sponsored)
    Wix is also a good website builder and has lots of great features for free, as well as being easy to use. I created a website as a kid bc I was bored. I've had many websites over the years (none of which were ever used, most of which I have taken down) ❤

  35. Oh how I wish I could sketch/draw . Such a beautiful sketch and the laces are to die for but I can't do that because I won't get to see the dress finished lol

  36. Wool you should steam though. Good to mention. Wool is notorious for shrinking a lot. Just in case you end up having to wash

  37. I need to move to New York, but then I'd probably end up being the poor homeless guy on the corner, hand sewing 18th Century (and medieval) clothes.

  38. Everytime I watch a video I think to myself "ACK I should be sewing" but my new sewing/craft room is far too stuffy in the summer heat TT_TT. Though I am working on a dress shirt with DELIGHTFUL bishop sleeves in black and orange-printed (like the fruit) fabrics. Looking forward to it, I've got everything cut up and I've made the stand collar thus far.

  39. 😍 This is going to look so beautiful on you, like a dress made out of floaty clouds! And I totally get the requirement of a red sash…

  40. Isn't the advantage of polyester that it doesn't wrinkle as much? I mean yeah heat is an issue but I'd rather deal with that than the wrinkles. Also in my experience synthetic fabrics are usually stretchier, every time I've gotten a fabric I like it's always been synthetic.

  41. I am willing to use synthetic fabrics like polyester for winter garments (particularly outerwear), decorative elements, or for some accessories but otherwise I avoid it too. I primarily sewn in linen or cotton for clothing. I have plans to make a few silk dresses and wool garments in the future, but I do not use those fabrics as frequently.

    This dress design is lovely. I look forward to seeing it completed and may have to consider making something similar if I can acquire the right kind of fabric.

  42. It looks so cool I might want to make this for prom next year… Incredible video as usual, although I was surprised with such attention to us uneducated people (like pre-wash and cottin vs polyester thing)

  43. Yes. Yes, yes yes! I have also thought how wonderful it would be to have an updated lingerie dress for hot summer days.

  44. I am already sooo excited! I really love watching your process of dress making from start to finish. It is pure magic😍♥️

  45. can't wait to see how it turns out! I really need to make a few everyday wear pieces. I keep getting rid of things but rarely buy/ make anything to replace them.

  46. If you want to see construction of the exact replica of the dress that Marie Antoinette is wearing in the painting, watch BBC's A Stitch in Time, episode S01E06 Marie Antoinette. You can find it easily in the internet, from Youtube as well. The whole series is interesting, they study famous historical outfits and recreate them with authentic methods.

  47. Everytime I see you walking in NYC I have this cognitive dissonant moment. Somehow I expect to see Edwardian London and carriageways behind you, or something…

  48. Actually, I am, except for wool, prewashing everything. Because I need to wear the finished garment right after I finish it 😀 and you never know where ever the material was and what can stay inside chemically. I am torn equally between natural materials and polyesters. I will be making more summer dress from both lightweight cotton and poly-notsureexactlywhat. One thing is breathing and the second thing is washable to death and immediately dry and no need for ironing. So I chose to have options 🙂 Lovely video as always <3

  49. I LOVE the idea of a modern insertion lace blouse! It's an idea that's been floating around my head for a while and I'd love to see how you approach it

  50. Bernadette will the red fabric dye rub off on the white lawn fabric? Im asking cause this happened to me. I made a white pinafore for my daughter , I used red ribbon and the red dye rubbed off on the white.

  51. I am a fabric snob and never buy anything with polyester. It's a useless fabric, it doesn't provide any warmth when you need it and it makes you sweat like crazy so what's the point of it? I always buy cotton, linen, silk and wool for my clothing regardless if it's expensive. Quality over quantity, folks!

  52. Hi! I really like your videos, but this one I liked particularly because two of my daughters (aged 2 and 10 months) watched it with me, were mesmerized by your sketch and finally fell asleep and let me do a lot of things before waking up!!! I never thought they would get interested, but you did catch their attention… Thank you!!!

  53. Thank you so much for this video. I thoroughly enjoyed watching this, as I thoroughly enjoy watching all your videos (sue_mcfluzen).

  54. Ms. Bernadette Banner is lovely. Thank you for preparing such wonderful vlogs. I have so much fun watching you.

  55. YES! Thank you! I DO NOT understand Polyester clothing. Why would you want to wrap yourself in plastic? It is not even fun in winter!

  56. The art alone was absolutely gorgeous! It is ridiculously easy to be too controlled and go over the top, so I am in awe with the art at the beginning. I was so happy to see a new upload, and to see on Instagram that it was going to be based somewhat on one of my favourite historical garments just makes my heart soar.

  57. Your sketch is beautiful! 💖

    It’s been to long since I’ve been to NYC. I really need to go to the garment center and stock up on things…oh, and visit friends and family. 😉 Thank you for introducing the store where you bought the cotton lawn to me. It wasn’t on my radar. I sew with it often because I live in the Land of Endless Heat and Humidity aka Florida.

    The ribbon store is a favorite of mine. It’s like a candy store! You want every thing but can’t buy very much. My wallet will have a tummy ache.

    I’m really looking forward to seeing you bring this dress to life. I throughly enjoyed your videos. You are a breath of fresh air, like a stroll though Central Park, on a platform that more resembles Times Square.

  58. Hi, I was wondering if you’d ever consider discussing where you get your blouses from! I’m always searching for a good button down that isn’t sheer white

  59. You should make the sash reversible with one shine level on each side to play peekaboo when worn either way to show depth and intrest

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