Saturday, August 20, 2016

Regency Napoleonic Open Court Robe - April (Late) 'Gender-Bender' HSM challenge

For April's 'Gender-Bender' challenge, I made a Napoleonic bee open court robe, which reflects the heavy influence of men and the politics of the day on women's dress. During this part of the Regency era, Napoleon used the bee as a symbol of his strength, reign and power. Thus 'Napoleonic' bees became a part of ladies court wear: it was worn by Empress Josephine, a fashion leader of the day, the Emperor Napoleon himself, the royal family and a few favored members of his court. I made the bee open court robe in April, but trimmed it in June. 

Below the lovely red silk brocade splurge in order to make this fun outfit!
Red silk brocade with embroidered gold bees
Napoleonic bees open court robe - in progress

Historical Sew Monthly APRIL challenge:

The Challenge: Gender-Bender – make an item for the opposite gender, or make an item with elements inspired by the fashions of the opposite gender. 

Material: Red silk brocade with gold Napoleonic bees, a narrow 30" wide

Pattern: Butterick 4890

Year: Napoleonic era court robe about 1804-1807

Notions: Matching belt of same fabric. Bronze gold metal trim on both the open court robe and the belt.

How historically accurate is it? It's patterned after the shape and seam placement of the court robes of the era as far as I can tell (I am not an expert, not having seen extant garments in person, but have looked at them online and fashion plates of the time). The trains can be very wide to very narrow, and medium to extremely long. The fabric I believe is as close to period appropriate as possible. I machine sewed the long seams and hand finished and did hand sewn trim.

Hours to complete: I was about half a day in cutting it out, since I was super careful in cutting with wasting the least amount of fabric, in order to save the most possible of what was remaining. The fabric was only 30" wide, so it was quite difficult to cut out, and I had to piece on the two side train pieces. Also took a long time to sew together, sew in a lining, hem and create the belt, add the bronze gold metal trim. I lost track, but I'd say this was probably about 30 hours altogether.

First worn: Worn to the Gala this year at Costume College in July 2016, with an embroidered court gown underneath!

Total cost: Er, um, this fabric cost waaaaaay too much. I searched for silk bee fabric for a court ensemble for years: I was looking for black with gold bees or purple or royal blue with gold bees, but burgundy with gold bees is what I could find finally, so red it was! It was $33/yard. Lining fabric was stash, and trim inexpensive. Totally worth it, I'm so happy with the finished court robe!

Napoleonic era 'bees' open court robe by TheLadyDetalle
'Bees, Bees, Bees'


  1. Gorgeous!! How much yardage did you order?

    1. Aw, thanks!!
      I ended up using 8 yards of 30" wide for the court robe, so with a normal 54"-60" wide fabric, it would take a lot less fabric!