I’ve been hard at work on my Joker Antoinette costume for Comic-Con Germany! My version of Batman’s Joker just happens to be an 18th century queen. I’m not aiming for 100% historical accuracy, but I think the key to making this costume stand out will be nailing the silhouette of the period.
To get the right look, I need to start from the inside out. So for the past month, I’ve been making authentic undergarments to provide the structure for the finished dress. Through this journey, I’ve leaned heavily on Janet Arnold’s Patterns of Fashion 1 and Costume Close-Up for patterns and information. Where done a lot of research to try and figure out how these garments were constructed and how they should fit.
In the process, I’ve settled on a 1770s as my target decade. The hair was nutzo huge and the hip padding, which had reached yards in width at court in earlier decades, had been reined back in by this time. In the 1770s, women were wearing pad around their hips and bums for bulk rather than cages. This seems much more doable, so it’s what I’m going for.
Marie Antoinette may be the queen of France, but pragmatism is the reigning queen in this house. I’m going to be at a Con with thousands of other people. I do not want to be 8 feet wide, thank you very much! This also goes for the books I’m taking my patterns from. They concentrate on English and American clothing respectively. There almost certainly were style discrepancies, since these countries were many weeks’ journey from France at the time. I don’t care. I’m going to assume that Joker Antoinette wore them anyways at some point. It just might not have been the day that her portrait was being painted!
Getting dressed begins with the shift, a relatively shapeless garment worn next to the skin.
Important side note: Apparently underdrawers weren’t really a thing back then…. This is not something I am being accurate about. I am not going out in public in a skirt without a set of 21st granny panties to cover everything up. Who knows who might have mirrors tied to their shoelaces? Or be misusing their selfie stick?!
The shift prevents the corset, the next layer, from rubbing and irritating the skin. Fabric at this time was very valuable, and no scrap would have been wasted for an undergarment. The shift pattern was like a puzzle, with every piece fitting perfectly on a narrow rectangle of fabric. You can see the triangular piecing at the bottom of the shift skirt:
Those triangles come from the top half of the shift – at the side seams. All of the other pieces – the sleeves, underarm gussets, and reinforcing strips (I left these out. Unlike in the 18th cen., I won’t be wearing this for years at a time.) are squares and rectangles that fit together.
I made this from a vintage sheet that had a beautiful eyelet lace inset. I couldn’t waste this, so I carefully cut it out and add it to the neckline.
The second layer for an 18th century lady was the corset. I’ve always been taught that corsets at this time were called stays, but I’m skeptical. Let’s not forget that Marie Antoinette was speaking French. I think corset sounds Frencher, so I’ll stick with it.
This corset took about 80 hours of work. If you want to see how happy I was to finish it, take a look at the very first picture in this post! If you want to see me being sexy and aloof, here you go:
…And now it’s bedtime. I want to finally publish a post after weeks of procrastination, so I’m going to leave you with a cliffhanger.
Tune in next time to see how I made the corset!!! And then the hip pads, bum pads and petticoats! Also, you won’t BELIEVE which character gets eaten by zombies next! Will it be the pincushion lady, the bum pads, or the seamstress herself??! It’ll all be revealed on the next episode!
I really need to go to bed.