How to Make Marie Antoinette Costumes

Written by cindy day
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How to Make Marie Antoinette Costumes
A print suggestive of a brocade or damask may achieve a desired luxurious effect. (Floral Fabric Pattern Background image by James Phelps from

Marie Antoinette was queen of France until the French Revolution, when she was executed by guillotine in 1793. She was born in 1755 and as queen was famous for her excesses. Marie Antoinette wore elaborate low-necked gowns over a petticoat, and her gowns' skirts opened in front to show the petticoat underneath, according to Rebecca Wallgren, wardrobe manager and costume designer for the drama department at Rockford College in Illinois. Ruffles and lace trimmed tight sleeves and necklines. Her portraits show her wearing tight bodices emphasising a small waist and bosom. Extremely full skirts draped over wide panniers that held the fabric out at each side of her hips. Her hair was worn high in extreme styles and topped with elaborate hats and headgear.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Sewing machine
  • 2 identical floral print twin-sized flat sheets
  • 2 solid colour twin-sized flat sheets, light colour
  • Tightly-fitting low-cut white T-shirt with snug sleeves at least elbow length
  • Dye of deep colour
  • 4 yards of 1/2-inch ribbon
  • several large safety pins
  • Straight pins
  • 1 yard 2-inch ruffled lace
  • 1 yard very wide (4 to 5-inch) ruffled lace
  • Thread to match
  • Large (wide) new round plastic garbage can
  • 1 yard 1/2-inch elastic tape
  • Utility knife

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  1. 1

    Examine portraits of Marie Antoinette to select sheets (or fabric) and colours that look most authentic.

  2. 2

    Dye the printed sheets and the white T-shirt according to the package directions. Dying over the print will create a subtle print suggestive of a damask or brocade.

    Damasks and brocades are types of fabric with an elaborate pattern woven into it and frequently used in upholstery or draperies. They were popular in women's gowns during the reign of Marie Antoinette, and many of her portraits show her wearing dresses made with them.

    How to Make Marie Antoinette Costumes
    A print suggestive of a brocade or damask may achieve a desired luxurious effect. (Floral Fabric Pattern Background image by James Phelps from
  3. 3

    Cut the wide hem from the side of the dyed, printed flat sheets meant to be at the head of the bed.

  4. 4

    Attach a 1-yard length of the ribbon to a large safety pin. Starting at the recently-cut edge of a printed sheet, thread the ribbon through one hem of the sheet toward the end opposite the cut edge. Before the other end of the ribbon slips into the hem, pin it in place at the cut edge as you thread the ribbon through to the other end of the sheet. Secure it with a safety pin. If necessary, cut a small 1/2-inch hole at the foot end of the sheet and pull the ribbon through. This will create a gathered edge.

  5. 5

    Repeat Step 4 on the other printed sheet, but gather the ribbon through the hem of the opposite edge of that bed sheet. Again, secure the ribbon with a safety pin on both sides, creating another gathered edge on this sheet.

  6. 6

    Place together the cut edges of the two dyed, printed sheets, right sides together. The edges gathered with the ribbon will be on the same side of the sheets. Sew together the two sheets, leaving a 1/2-inch seam. Press open the seam.

  7. 7

    Pull through the ribbons and knot each ribbon at the ends several times to prevent the ribbon from slipping through the ends and getting lost inside the seam.

  8. 8

    With straight pins, attach the 2-inch ruffled lace to the neck of the dyed T-shirt. Trim to fit. Sew the lace in place.

  9. 9

    Cut off the ends of the T-shirt sleeves so that the sleeves end at the elbow. Pin the wide lace to the sleeve's new hems. Sew the lace in place. Sew another seam where the ends of the lace meet.

  10. 10

    Create small, 1/2-inch holes at the end of one of the solid colour sheets. Attaching one end of the remaining 2 yards of ribbon to a large safety pin, thread the ribbon through this hem, securing each end with a safety pin so as not to lose the ribbon inside the hem. After threading the entire ribbon through the hem, knot each end of the ribbon to secure it more permanently.

  1. 1

    Use the utility knife to cut one-inch circular bands of plastic from the garbage can. You will want about four or five strips, each cut from the widest end of the garbage can.

  2. 2

    Trim off the foot and head ends of the remaining solid-colour flat sheet. With right sides together, pin the cut edges together to form a wide fabric tube. Sew together, but leave the hem at one end unsewn for now. Press open the seam.

  3. 3

    Starting at the end where you left the hem open and unstitched, about 8 inches from that end of the tube, slip over one of the plastic circular bands created from the garbage can. Fold the sheet over the band and pin the fabric together. The sheet tube will be larger that the plastic band. Allow the fabric to gather loosely over the bands. Sew where you have pinned. Do not sew over the plastic (this will break needles), but allow the plastic to float inside the stitched cover that you have created for it.

  4. 4

    Working your way toward the other end of the fabric tube you have created from this final sheet, repeat Step 3 with the remaining plastic bands.

  5. 5

    Cut the elastic to fit snugly but not tightly around the waist.

  6. 6

    Attach the elastic to a large safety pin. Thread the elastic through the opening in the hem that you left unstitched. Secure the end of the elastic with another safety pin so that it does not slip into the hem. When the elastic has been threaded completely through the hem, sew the two ends of the elastic together. The finish the seam, securing the elastic again inside. Press open.

  1. 1

    Slip the pannier over the waist. Standing with feet apart, push together the top plastic band at the centre front to the center back. Use one of the large safety pins to pin the front to the back between the legs. This will create the full sides that was popular during Marie Antoinette's lifetime, says Rebecca Wallgren, costume designer for the theatre department of Rockford College in Rockford, Illinois.

  2. 2

    Put on the dyed and lace-ruffled T-shirt.

  3. 3

    Secure the second solid-coloured sheet around the waist over the pannier and T-shirt, tying it together in back like an apron. Adjust the fabric so that it gathers uniformly from front to back. This forms the petticoat, popular during Marie Antoinette's time.

  4. 4

    Secure the dyed, printed sheets around the waist over the petticoat, tying it together in front. This forms the skirt of the gown. Adjust the fabric so that the seam is in the back and so that it gathers more fully on the sides. It should open up in front to reveal the petticoat underneath.

Tips and warnings

  • If you choose to purchase fabric rather than use sheets, lightweight drapery and upholstery fabric from fabric home decor departments hold up better when used with hood skirts, as was the custom in 18th century French gowns, says Wallgren. Satins, tafetta, velvets or velveteens, brocades and damasks all are possible choices.
  • Marie Antoinette was famous for her excesses, and many of her gowns were elaborately trimmed with embroideries, ruffles and frills. Additional ribbon and trim can be added to this basic dress design if it is in your budget and time constraints.
  • Accessories are essential. Look for a tall white or very blond wig, a hat to top the wig and satin slippers.

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