Make your Georgian dress (18thc) like a pro!

Last week I showed you the pictures, today we are looking under the skirt: I am going to explain how I created my dress: is it historical? Who am I supposed to be? If you dare to read until the end, you will be able to impress even the most blasé of your friends with your intimate knowledge of what Marie Antoinette actually wore to the Revolution. Shall we?

I could write a dozen posts on how I constructed this dress. But I’ll behave, promised. This week, we will talk about the dress itself while next week will be about accessories, hairstyle and makeup. Yes it takes a village work to transform into a Marquise!

How it all started

We have to go back a few years, when I started my very first dress project using this pattern:

Simplicity 3637 pattern…

It was to made out of bed sheets. And yes it really was what I had in mind as a “little beginner project” at the time…

Thanks to a fairy godmother (a.k.a my mother in law), I received 5 or 6 yards of curtain-to-be fabric with the most 18th looking style you could wish for. It was perfect but….


1st version of the dress, screaming ” yes, I was made by a beginner

… Let’s just say my sewing skills did not match my imagination YET.

This half made dress stayed a good 2 years in a “project half done” state before it got out again. In the meantime, I had improved my knowledge of the era…

Pick just one

Again, I could go on and on describing the different versions of dresses I came across, their good and bad points. The Net is filled with super interesting resources if one looks for it. Yet my wish is not to bore you to death so I will sum up the parts that were the most useful to me. The most curious among you are welcome to go and have a look at wonderful websites such as American Duchess, Temps d’élégance et le Temple des Modes (the last two are franco-english blogs).

The most difficult part was, out of the many options available, to choose just THE ONE that I would design and sew to the end. If you start a time consuming project, might as well be sure that it will be pretty and historically accurate(ish).

I quickly noticed we often hear about “a georgian dress” but it is like saying “a 20th century dress”: very vague. If trends were not as quick to change as our “fast fashion” modern times, styles evolved a lot from one decade to the other. To give you an idea take a look at this:

It begins with the end of Louis the 14th’s reign (he died in 1715), then the Regency period lasted until 1723, opening to Louis the 15th’s reign
Louis the 15th (1715-1774) was followed by Louis the 16th (1774-1793)…
…and Marie Antoinette followed by the French Revolution (1789 to 1799, ending with Napoleon’s coup)

Source: a russian blog Bloshka with many over time lines like this one. They also have a Facebook Page 

When you wish to create an XVIIIth century look, time is not the only factor to take into account. Clothing also depended on your activity (inside, outside, hunting, ball…), the time of the day and your social rank (obviously).

It is my fabric that helped me decide, reminding of the pre-Revolution period. In short, Marie Antoinette’s style gets more and more popular starting 1775 after Louis the 15th’s death. The older she gets, the simpler, more practical clothing becomes. The influence of the Revolution and the idea of the time also tended towards less ostentatious fabrics, less fuller skirts…

My main inspiration: one of Sofia Coppola’s dress from Marie Antoinette. Not that I am crazy about this movie but still, THE COSTUMES….

So who am I supposed to be ? I am closer to a young Bourgeoise than to a Marquise to tell you the truth. At my age (28) I have already 3 or 4 children and I have been married for 10 years.

You would probably not go to Versailles in my outfit (not enough bling) but you could definitely walk around for a nice park stroll in Paris.

Putting the pieces together

Since I now knew the style I wanted, I picked a corresponding pattern (below)

Pattern JP Ryan, “robe à l’anglaise”

I completely skipped the thick, tiny written explanation guide provided by  JP Ryan. Instead I followed closely the instruction of another blogger (Dentelle et Satin franco-english too). She made the best video detailing construction step by step:


I used the top’s lining as a test for the pattern. A good thing since the size 16 I had ordered was way too big, it needs to be super skintight (but without wrinkling) to get the proper look. You can see on the pictures how I shortened all the seams.

I hand sewed external hems for an invisible finishing touch.

Keep cool and sew on!
I had two main difficulties: the sleeves pattern was wrong (on the left, wayyy too big) so I added a pleat (middle picture). The front seam had to be super tight on the breast so a lot of work there as well.

My advise would be to test the fit of your dress WITH your stays on (not the case on the picture but you get the idea). The reason is your shape will change once you have it on (which is heu… kind of the point). 

Focus on hand sewing your sleeves. Believe a once-sceptic-now-believer: yes it is quicker this way than with a sewing machine…
Different tests of decoration. I chose the less “hey I am a living manga” option…
The final bow
Lace was tinted with tea to remove the “too shiny” side of it
ready to be worn!

back view

Historical or not?

Yes and no.

Team YES:

  • The shape is good and I have roughly the right amount of layers needed.


  • The pattern on the fabric isn’t too bad: cotton or cottonade started being fashionable (even a luxury) around this period. People were also crazy in love with stripes and flower motifs were Marie Antoinette’s péché mignon. Plus color isn’t too bright: at the time vibrant colors like the ones we have today had not been invented yet. They will be during the development of chemistry in the 19th century. If interested, check out this horror story about the first green dye invented. Not so pretty anymore is it?


  • Jewels are correct even if that style of pearl necklace was in fashion earlier, towards the middle of the century. Unlike what you would believe with stories like the Queen’s Necklace, people rarely wore super bling bling diamonds. Actually the dress WAS the jewel and you would put them on it, not around your neck. Regular (rich) people would prefer lace or pearl chokers. 
Catherine II the Great of Russia (1729-1796) before 1762. Photo of Heritage Images

Team NO:

  • I am out WITHOUT A HAT! You simply would not do it if you were a woman of means. Even tiny, you HAD to wear one. Since I was in such a hurry to wear the dress, I did not bother making one, I replaced it with a small lace and trim flower in the hair but it is not really the same, I confess.  


  • I am not wearing a shift. Here again, I was too lazy. Since dresses were refashioned endlessly during their lifetime (fabric was way more expansive than manpower at the time) they were also often passed on through generation. A good way to “save” the dress for as long as possible was to wear a white shirt under it. You would have just left out the laced hem to say “hey look, even what I wear underneath is priceyyyyy so have some respect Monsieur!“.


  • I am missing one or two layers of skirts and the way my top skirt is tucked up is not right:
The dress in its “retroussée” position
What it should have looked like
  • The puff sleeves as well are incorrect But I was too lazy again liked the style the way it was

If you want to know more on the topic, read this article from Temps d’élégance. Really useful. It is also ok if you don’t want to play by the historically accurate rules, girls wanna have fun and all that…

Technical Details

Price: Hard to tell because the fabric was a gift but probably around 250$/300$

  • 5 yards of fabric around 20/30$ per yard: 100/150$
  • 1 yard of white cotton fabric (top lining) : 4$
  • 4 yards of cotton fabric (underskirt) at 8$/yard : 32$
  • millineries (thread, trims, lace, boning…): 20$
  • 1 pattern : 21$

Time needed: 2 seasons of Outlander, 3 seasons of True Blood, 2 season of Game of Thrones

For the pros among you, what do you think, historical enough?

For the others, are you ready now to make one of your own?

Tell me in the comments!

You can also:

Subscribe to the blog to get all the articles first,


Follow my latest updates on Instagram:

See other inspiring images on my Pinterest 18th account:

Feeling chatty? Go have a look at my facebook page:

See you next week!

La bise


10 comments Add yours
  1. Thank you so much for the truthful tale of your lovely gown. I am just beginning to do my research on 18th Century and want to eventually make a gown. I feel inspired and so glad that I found you. Your dress is absolutely beautiful and you wear it well.

    1. Thx ! Good luck for your futur project ! It is enterly worth it and with a little stuborness you will vanquish I am sure 🙂 tell me if I can help !

  2. Absolutely beautiful dress! It gives me inspiration and encouragement for beginning to sew my own 18th century dresses.
    Also, I like how you measured how much time it took you to make it by how many seasons you watched! 🙂

    1. Ah ah thx ! yes I often watch series while sewing… hence sometimes I end up making mistakes on the dress because I was listening or I am lost in the plot because I focused too much on the sewing 😉

  3. Wooah this is no project for me, but I had to read your post and I am blown away now – sewing that really must require total skill and it looks so georgous! Stunning!

    1. Thx! It is always very pleasing to read compliments on something your worked a lot on ;-). if you are stubborn enough, it will happen one way or the other, whatever the difficulty of the project…

Un avis, une question? A vous le micro !