Thursday 19 September 2013

The cut of Gustaf III's national gown

I’m not going to allow myself to start on the Robe de Cour project until next year. I need to budget in a lot of white silk and I also want to finish as much as possible of my project back log until I start this. As I’ve mentioned before I’m going to make the gala version of Gustaf III’s national gown. It was originally meant to be red with white decoration to honor his Danish queen Sophia Magdalena, but I think it was realized before it was ever sewn, that a bright red gown wasn’t he most flattering one. Imagine a whole court of with red ladies! So instead the gala version became white with blue decorations, nicely complimenting the male suit which had those colours reversed.

J looking snazzy in the male version. I think I will compliment him very nicely in a white gala gown!

The national suit was planned and probably also designed by Gustaf III in 1778. There was a design competition and the winner was selected by the king- and he chose a design by some bloke called Anonymous… For ladies the gown consisted of three parts, regardless if it was the common version for ladies not presented for the king, or the court version.

The original pattern showing the first cut, the two different kind of sleeves, two of the collars, the bodice and the placement of the trim of the petticoat. As the robe was looped up in the back, the back of the petticoat had to be in silk and trimmed as well, making it more expensive.
A petticoat decorated with two rows of pleated trim in the same fabrics. It was to be worn over pocket hoops, which made it easier t wear than the former Robe de Cour that demanded large paniers. It was also used with ordinary stays and not the heavily boned bodice of the Robe de Cour was just about the only thing about it that the ladies of the court liked.

A sleeveless bodice laced in the back and with a pleated trim

A robe with sleeves rather fuller than the current fashion and made into two puffs. On the common version the sleeves were in the same fabric as the robe, but the court version had sleeves made in thin white fabric with a lattice work in the robes fabric. The first version of the robe was cut a la polonaise, but it seems that it was eventually cut a la anglaise. It was decorated with the same pleated self-fabric trim. The common version had a shorter train than the court version and it was also looped up a bit differently.

The cut of the extant common gown.
For all versions a collar was to be worn, two that was high, akin back to a fashion nearly 200 years out of date, and one lower, more like a trim than a collar. The court gown was either the white gala version or black. Depending on which court the ladies belonged to, sash and ribbons were in red (the king’s court), blue (the queen’s court or yellow, (the widower queen’s court). There was also a version for country wear that was yellow with pale blue decoration. For older ladies it looked like the ordinary national gown, but for young ladies was cut like a riding habit.

The common version could be made in any solid colour and so could the sash and ribbon. The national gown was never very popular with the ladies, and there is only one extant example left, a common version worn for a wedding. There is, however, extensive documentation on it as Gustaf III was a bit of a control freak and wanted things to made just so after his wishes.
The Card Game by Pehr Hillestrom, 1779.
One of the seated ladies is wearing the black court gown and the lady beside her is wearing a common version in grey. The lady arriving is also wearing the national gown, through as her sleeves are hidden, we can't see which version it is. The two seated men are wearing the men's national suit in the court version, and the man kissing the hand is wearing a grey common version.

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