Historical Belle research and dress

May 15, 2018

Hello lovelies,

my Belle costume was an ongoing project since the movie with Emma Watson came out, which in hindsight was a very long project but I finally finished it! Hooray.
The costume is part of a historical Disney interpretation I am doing and it took me more than one year for Belle so...it will probably take me that long again for the next costume.

Disney was specific about the location but they did not mention the time the movie was set. I agree with the fans who say that the movie was preceding the French Revolution in 1789 (here is a very good thread about the various time line in Disney movies).
With the time set I had the three factors for choosing and designing the dress:
  • time: 1780s
  • location: France (more specific would have been better)
  • social standing: middle class - Belle has enough time each day to finish a whole book and therefore I don't think she has to work much or do a lot of housework.
It took a while to decide on the cut of the dress but in the end I decided on an English round gown. Here are some examples of dresses during that time.

This dress is from Augusta actions. It is a dress made from blue silk brocade and dates c. 1775 to 1790.

A green silk dress made in 1775 in America.




Robe a l'anglaise, France, 1785-1790

For a complete set I needed stays, a split bum, a chemise, underskirts, hanging pockets, the dress, apron, fichu and a small cap. I always find it useful to start with the underwear and work each layer outwards. Most of these were made last year and are in a separated post.

I got my pattern from a Janet Arnold book and tweaked it a bit to fit my needs. A few days after I wore the finished dress for the first time I found a commercial pattern for a robe a l'anglaise I bought a long time ago and which would have saved me a lot of time. Oh well, that is what you get when you are super forgetful.
I started with the pattern in August 2017 and made about three versions of it, before I found the one I liked best.

The skirt and bodice were made separately and I started off with the skirt. It's just a big rectangle with the upper side seams opened. I pleated it neatly and pinned it.

Afterwards I hand stitched the pleats in place.

Easy? Yes, very!
The next part I worked on was the bodice and that was a hard and rocky road.
As I mentioned before I had about three different attempts and tweaked the pattern every time until I was satisfied. In the progress I didn't do any pictures which I now regret, it would have been nice to see every change I made.

The lining was sewn together and afterwards the outer fabric was mounted on it. Sounds easy until you get to the end and find out you have to push the outer edges inside. That meant that I had to open the seams again. Peachy.

Close up! Most of my pictures were made with crappy light during the night so that's really a nice exception.

 Back on my doll.
 And close up of the back. My stitches are barely visible.

 Front with a huge overlap (miscalculated my pattern?).

And a close up.
The sleeves are next and it took me ages to do them.
 I am also not sure if I lined them correctly because at that point I was already very annoyed with it and just made the seam with the sewing machine.

The sleeves were pinned to the shoulder strap. I used the helpful tutorial from Koshka the cat to insert the sleeves correctly. I changed the placing of the little folds on the sleeve a few times again, of course after I finished hand sewing them, which meant ripping the sleeves from the bodice again.

This is how it looked like with the skirt.

More of the sleeve action. The white thread was just used to hold everything together.

An inside view of the dress. In the end I had to open the front again and make it rounder.

This is the back of the dress with the back pinned onto the dress. I tried to make the small tip as neatly as possible but it didn't really work as I had planned of course.

 The complete dress without the appropriate underwear. It really looks flat.

I went for hooks and eyes as closures but it didn't work out well and in the end I had to also pin the front together.

The apron is completely handsewn and embroidered. Guess what, it also took ages.

The dress was completed in time for Animuc in Germany were I wore it for the first time.

My bumroll looks especially large here

All pictures were made by Blur of color.

Who will be my next Disney princess costume?

All the best,

Auris Lothol

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