Hello again! As I am entering into my final project as a student I thought it would be a good idea to record my thoughts on this project and share my work with you.
Our final costume is meant to be a representation of who we are as makers and as creators. I have had a life-long love affair with ballet and with the 18th century so I saw no better way to express myself than to combine the two. My hopes are to re-create a historical ballet costume that could be found in a modern production. I have chosen an 18th century design by Jean-Baptiste Martin entitled Paysanne Galante (1722) used in the Ballet de la Provencale and other dances.
I am very hopeful that after I graduate I will find work and be able to remain in the United Kingdom. My tutor has spoken to me at length about pursuing a career in making and as a research assistant. According to her I am very ‘thorough with my investigations’ and like my other projects this costume was no different. I wanted to back my theories on how this garment would have fastened and how the sleeves would attach with historical evidence. I stumbled across The Lure of Perfection: Fashion and Ballet, 1780-1830 by Judith Chazin-Bennahum completely by mistake and found most of my sources. I will be using direct quotes from her book in my posts at later dates (particularly in reference to my sleeve theory).
The first post on this costume will be what I feel is the heart of the ensemble, the bodice. I approached this costume with a few different thoughts. After interning in The Margaret Hunter Millinery Shop in Colonial Williamsburg last summer I already had the knowledge on how to dress properly as I spent 40 hours a week in full 18th century costume. My first assumption was if this was the 18th century then the bodice would fasten at centre front. But if you think about the logistics of a dancer and the requirements of the body then a centre front fastening with pins isn’t very idealistic. Even though the dancers of 18th century France are quite opposite from the dancers we see at the Royal Opera House they would still require a way in and out of costumes in a quick manner which is my focus in this post.
If you study the portraits of La Camargo, Barbara Campanini, and an unidentified portrait of one of the Auretti sisters it is very obvious that their bodices are not fastened in the front.
I won’t go into much detail on this garment in this post because I would like to save it for my post on sleeves. One of my main sources is this extant garment held in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art:
Note how the decorative detail on the surface covers the join lines of the panels.
Even though this bodice is a bit late for the time my costume danced in I still believe it is a good reference and would like to share:
I set about gathering a collection of back lacing bodices (I am considering uploading a folder to my pinterest if that might interest anyone?) and searching for photos of the inside. While they are all obviously different I have found that they all share at least one thing, they were fully boned which led to my decision to make the bodice and the stays into one object.
Last year I was lucky enough to learn staymaking from Luca Costigliolo known for his work on The Borgias and with The Bowes Museum. During the week long session he taught how to draft the famous Kyoto stays from 1775. I took this basic shape and altered it to suit my own purposes. I’m very pleased with how the bodice turned out in the fittings.
A year later armed with my notes and my patterns I set about recreating these stays. Instead of leaving the traditional 2.5″-3″ gap in the lacing I let the centre back meet. Thus my stays and my bodice have become one object.
My first step was to transfer the bone channels and then thread mark my seam allowances:
I am currently working on cutting the stomacher out in ivory and stab stitching it in place:
Once that is finished I will be back with another update on putting the pieces together and cleaning up the inside so I can start the surface decorations.
Amusingly enough I have found three portraits that show the sitter in costumes that have many similarities with Paysanne.
And the one I adore the most: