Saturday, May 7, 2016

Louise Godey's Summer Picnic With Petite Chiffonette

Each Spring, especially come May, and after I've been burrowed away in my winter projects, I look up at my doll shelves and realize that most of my girls are still in Autumn or Winter finery.  For that matter, some are still in Christmas garments!  Slowly, out of guilt, I begin redressing some them for the warmer weather of sunshine days. By the time I've redressed the ones in most need, it is nearing Autumn again and we're back to thinking of the holidays. 

One thing about making a trousseau for a limited number of dolls, is that your focus is primarily on them and their endless needs for new garments.  Not that I don't pay attention to the other ladies and child dolls I have, but some seem quite content to simply be little models in what they have on.  Louise is not one of them.  Still in her winter skating costume of heavy velveteen, I felt best to make sure she was "summer ready" before I dove into Gay Event's Walking Outfit.

Earlier this year I'd purchased a couple of used Boneka trunks, one being the largest they made.  I'd seen my friend, Olivia's, and knew Louise would benefit from such a trunk as her wardrobe will continue to expand, and each outfit full skirted and usually multi-layered.  I got lucky.  Someone had listed this trunk with some random items in it, not knowing it was one of those coveted, finely made Boneka trunks.  Boneka stopped making these years and years ago.

I don't believe in putting my dolls' costumes in plastic bags in a drawer.  Each special doll requires a fine trunk to store her wardrobe in.  Especially Louise, as she's a child "French Fashion" doll.  More correctly, an American child from the 1860's, but most people are accustomed to the term French Fashion, and I'll admit, it does sound more elegant.

Louise was in dire need of a fluffy Spring or Summer gown, and I'd purchased this gossamer pink windowpane fabric a couple of months back.  I also have this same fabric in white, and a vintage ecru micro windowpane in my stash (which was very expensive).  I enjoy having a variety of beautiful fabrics on hand for emergencies like this.

I began searching through my Godey books, and even did a little research on Pinterest for child dresses from the 1860's, and came up with nothing I wished to tackle, or seemed appropriate for Louise.  What I really had in mind was something simple.  Something for her to feel free to play in out of doors.  I finally took to Sylvia MacNeil's Chiffonette book for my inspiration.  I do find it interesting that Chiffonette was a child, yet Sylvia clearly made many true adult garments for her.  Although the child's dresses were quite similar to the adults, the details in the hats and trims, the styles of jackets and accessories are often solidly adult fashion.  So I designed Louise's gown from the simplest example I could find.

Louise's Summer Picnic gown is made from the sheer pink windowpane, and lined with a soft pink batiste, in bodice and skirt.  The sheer sleeves are full puffs with small bands, and atop them are hand-made bows of the same fabric.  A full ruffle was gathered, pinned and sewn over the full skirt above the hemline.  I made her a straw hat adorned with pink millinery flowers and velvet leaves to round out the look.

This was one of those gowns that was a design in progress all the way through to the last stitch.  I really had no idea where I was going with this.  Having studied garments from this era, I knew, to be correct, that it would have to boast some kind of embellishment.  More than just bows atop the shoulders.  I brought out my bags of laces.  (Laces can go in bags.  Just not garments. wink-wink)  I had a small stash of antique laces that I'd saved for something special, and holding them up here and there to the dress, I chose a tiny "turtle" lace that would contribute, but not overwhelm.  I did not want an overt look to the adornment, just something to dress it up a bit.

I hand stitched the turtle lace around the neckline and sleeve bands.  I felt the dress was still in need of something, and decided to make a sash. This sash was intended to be both one she could wear tied at the waist and draping in front, or as a big bow for the back.  This sash has the rounded (but, not tear drop), ends indicative of the styles, and to these I hand stitched more of the delicate turtle lace around the edges.  I had some antique lace that was attached to a Victorian collar, and clipped out the main decoration and sewed this to the center of the ends as applique. 

Finally, I chose a banded lace that just happened to have little squares in it the size of the windowpanes, and hand sewed this to the bodice.  Having done that, I realized that a sash around the waist would hide this pretty feature, and made the sash into a permanent bow that hooks onto the dress in the back. 

Louise needed a freshening up on her hair do.  I'd purchased this curling iron that you wrap your hair around (no clip) and gave her locks some soft curls.  I would love to find a curling iron with a smaller rod, but haven't discovered one yet.  The idea of small curlers and, or plastic straws, does not appeal to me.  I don't fancy myself a hair dresser.  I'm sure I'll cave at some point, but my experiences in curling mohair for mini dolls, is about the extent of what I'd like to do.  I gave her a big pink silk bow for her new hair do.

Next to task, was designing a new garment for her doll, Petite Chiffonette.  Louise seldom goes out to play without her doll. 

Earlier, I'd purchased a nice stash of small scale fabrics and trims from Little Trimmings, Small Scale Haberdashery, in the U.K.  My friend, Grigory Kornienko, who makes Petite Chiffonette's shoes, told me about it.  I almost used the micro windowpane for Petite Chiffonette's gown, but this charming rose and stripe fabric was so delicate and pretty, I couldn't resist. 

The style of her dress is similar to "Mother's", but I added a band of lace around the hemline and a large lace collar to the neckline.  A simple piece of silk ribbon ties around her waist ending in a bow.  I'd made her hat earlier on for a Spring outfit set.  I did my best to make one similar to that of the large Chiffonette.  Sylvia dresses her doll in a variety of costumes using this hat, so I felt it was a must for the wardrode.

Petite Chiffonette also wears a lace snood beneath the hat.  Her little mohair curls were being compromised by the many trying-ons of hats in the making.  I love this tiny doll.  It appears that she'll be out growing her trunk shortly, too.  Some day I'll post a blog on just her wardrobe, as I don't think, other than her first, winter outfit, I've shown others I've made for her.

I'd also made her a miniature parasol to carry.  I'm  not going to say that miniatures are what I love best right now, as my dexterity and eyes are not what they used to be.  But knowing how, and having the patience for them is wonderful.  Helpful.  And, I do still make them as accessories for my dolls.  Accessories are miniatures in themselves.

Among Louise's things, is this antique picnic basket.  I believe I picked it up from Ruby Lane quite awhile ago.  I love baskets.  Someday I'd like to learn basket weaving and make my own, but I still have needle felting to tackle.  Oh right.  Yes, there's the needle felting thing.  I can't help it.  Designing garments is still a fun challenge to me, and I'll get to the needle felting someday.  My motto is to do what you enjoy and love best always.

On that note, Happy Mother's Day! to all mothers out there.  Every day is Mother's Day, whether we remember those that have passed or those we can still call, write to, or best of all, hug.

Miss E. Mouse

Louise Godey's Summer Picnic With Petite Chiffonette.


  1. Such a wonderful, informative and prtty post! I learn so much from your blog - there is so much more doll history in the the US than the UK. I'd never heard of Chiffonette before.
    Thank you - can't wait for your next post!

  2. Hi Jenni, Chiffonette was a child or doll in La Poupee Modele in the 1860's. An illustration, or cartoon, of her and others, like Lily, was created to teach young readers of the latest fashions, etiquette and toiletries of the day. Similar, was the much later La Semaine de Suzette, where Bleuette came from. Sylvia acquired a Huret head, and later a body to make a 45 cm doll she called Chiffonette, and created a fabulous wardrobe for the doll. Her book can be purchased through Dollspart in the U.S. It was the source and inspiration for Louise's dolly.

  3. Lovely as always! I'd really enjoy a blog post all on Petite Chiffonette.

  4. Thanks to your post, I found a lovely article online about Marie Antoinette fichus written by Sylvia MacNeil and illustrated with photos of her Chiffonnette.