Monday, February 20, 2017

Robe a la Levantine

I've long been a fan of Mary Russell's 1781 portrait, and the striking green dress she wears.  I've long wanted to make it, but haven't been sure exactly what it is.  It does not seem to have the "zone front" as you can see it extends down the front.  The appears to be opened slightly at the top, and the top front folds down, revealing the lilac colored lining. Underneath?? It has a lace edge, but you can't see much else.  It has short sleeves over longer, though it's unclear if they extend to just the elbow or the wrist.

In searching robe a la turques, of which there are many, many, many variations, I found this. Other than the front being cut slightly differently, it looks pretty similar, down to the ermine trim:

Thanks to Mimic-of-Modes - here is a translation of the caption:

Robe à la Levantine garnie en hermine, coëffure à la Créole: le juppon et la soubreveste nommées l'Assyrienne; inventé par P.N. Sarrazin Costumier ordinaire de Nosseigneurs les Princes du Sang freres du Roi, et Directeur ordinaire du Sallon des Costumes du Colisée.
Robe à la Levantine trimmed in ermine, coiffure à la Créole: the petticoat and underbodice are called l'Assyrienne; invented by P.N. Sarrazin, costumer in ordinary to their Highnesses the Princes of the Blood, brothers of the King, and director in ordinary of the Salon of the Costumes of the Coliseum.

The blogger adds, "This specific plate depicts a costume for the theater or a ball, but there is an ordinary version - see my translation of the longer text belonging to this plate here.  The levantine is a short-sleeved gown worn over a long-sleeved undervest.]"

On the page she links to above, she has a longer description of this gown, translated from the French,

THE LEVANTINE is of the number of the new Dresses.  It is so comfortable and requires so few preparations, either to put it on or take it off, that it has merited the nickname, Negligée of Voluptuousness.

It is a Gown with mancherons, fitted en fourreau in back: that is to say, the skirt is only pleated on the back and the sides.**  It fastens at will over the chest, and must seem instead posed on the stays/body, which are attached.

This Gown covers in part an undervest opening in front and coupée at the waist.  Amadis sleeves come through the Levantine's mancherons, and are finished with a parement placed en barriere.

Petticoat matching the undervest, opening in the front as well, and trimmed with an embroidered border.  Lace or gauze can be substituted for it, following the season and taste, together with the Levantine, which is here trimmed with a cordon of ermine.

Hair in chien couchant, held in by a barriere of pearls, and serving as a support for a bandeau matching the trim of the Gown.  The extremities of the bandeau are fixed with a diamond rosette, from which escapes an aigrette of heron feathers.

A gauze veil forming the toque
in front, and the kerchief in back, serve as the cap of this Coiffure.  With the help of a drawstring, ending with a tassel, the veil is lowered in front to the belt, or raised in back, as presented in the Print. 

There is also an alternate coloration of this gown, which looks a lot like Mary's. Mary's doesn't show the undervest, and the front of hers has a slimfitting closure, it doesn't overlap robe style like the one in the fashion plate. So despite the similarities, is it really this style of levantine?

  There are tons of turque variations - some with waist seams and fitted backs, some not.

Witness this one with a tight-fitted back from 1787.

American Duchess goes through a bunch of the variations in this blog post:

Other resources:

I have done a sort of turque as other people have, as a roundgown with a sort of polonaise/zone front cut gown over it. But I don't think Mary Russell's looks like it's two gowns, so what to do?

Mary's looks like an all-in-one combo of the yellow silk gown with top front folded down, AND the blue overrobe trimmed with fur, shown in this portrait of Mademoiselle Guimard by Jean-Baptiste Greuze!

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