All week I’ve been saving the best for last - and here she is - Marie Antoinette. This will be my actual costume for Halloween weekend and I’ll be sewing a matching costume for Adam as Louis XVI. I’ve wanted to dress as Marie Antoinette since I saw seeing the Sofia Coppola biopic with Kirsten Dunst in Paris in 2006. Again, I’m using a mix of Hollywood and history for my costume.
Film stills from Marie Antoinette (Columbia Pictures, 2006), VOGUE Sept 2006 and official portraits
My choice in textiles was two fold - first I needed something that looked 18th century french and I also needed it to be cheap - I bought 8 yards to complete this dress. I’m so happy with what I found. It resembles what I’ve researched in my history books called Indienne. From the Kyoto Costume Institute’s FASHION:
“Indienne, a painted or printed cotton fabric made in Indian, had been well known in seventeenth century Europe; however, there was a ban on importing or producing indienne due to its extreme popularity among the Europeans. When the ban was removed in 1759, the printing industry in England and the French Alsace region immediately grew. Printed cotton fabrics became popular not only for interior decoration but also for clothing, since their exotic and refined polychrome patterns were appealing.”
For the stomacher (or bodice front), I used coordinating blue stripes, cut on the bias and seamed up the middle to create a lengthening chevron stripe. Finally, using budget friendly by-the-roll poly satin (in 5/8” and 1 1/2” widths) and lace, I added pleated neckline decorations, bows and frilly cuffs.
The construction for the dress was fast and easy - I made the base of the dress in under two hours, but the embellishments took another three.
In Marie Antoinette’s time, multiple layers of foundation garments would have created the dramatic shape of this dress. The wide hip extensions are called panniers. I used two down pillows, folded over a belt worn low on my hips for the same effect. I realize these totally mess up the straight hemline, but hey! it’s a costume and I opted out of doing a fancy hem on a 20 foot sweep.
For my dramatic hairdo, I’ve used a styrofoam block, a wig in my natural hair color and baby powder. I pinned the wig to the block, and then used my own hair (that was teased to death), and pinned it to the wig. I also used ultra hold hairspray and a handful of bobby pins. The powdering process is similar to what I did for my George Washington costume two years ago. Sprinkle powder, pat pat pat, sprinkle more powder until you have the look you want.
The makeup was kept very innocent - I used a little eye liner and mascara and let the excess baby powder from the wig give me a pale face. To brighten it up, I used NARS blush in Desire.
- White powered (super high) updo
- 1770s style dress
- Embellishments like lace, ribbons and pearls
Difficulty Level: Advanced
Time Commitment: 6+ hours for construction, 1+ hour for hair and makeup
Photography by Suzie Reecer.