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1938 Marie Antoinette’s Grande Panniers

newpannierswatermark

Now that C2E2 is done and done, I’m going to try and share more of what I’ve been doing on Marie Antoinette over the last few months.

One of the first big things I did after DragonCon was a complete remake of the grande panniers. Two reasons. 1) I needed them to be able to break down easily for air travel and 2) I wanted a cleaner, more polished finished product, and for competition, it was important to me that these were self-patterned and more attractive.

There are no commercial patterns available for grande panniers of this size. Norma Shearer’s were over 6 feet wide. Since I am almost half a foot taller than she was, I scaled them up to 7 feet wide. Version 1.0 was a heavy modification of Simplicity 3635, but because they had to be scaled so much, they lacked some structural integrity. Also, the fabric I used was too lightweight. I used plain old cotton muslin, which should have been a “duh” moment from the beginning, but you live and you learn. I also used commercial bias tape, which, again, did not get the job done. It was too narrow and too weak. These panniers drooped a fair bit both during the costume build. (for a costume like Antoinette, 85% of the costume is built on to the panniers on a dress form – i.e. lots of arm cramps. Arm cramps for 15 months…) They were also incredibly difficult to transport and basically could not be broken down. The bias tape was too narrow to easily slide the steel boning in and out quickly, and I also had made them so that the boning was sewn down inside of the casing. Don’t do that. Just don’t.

 

Version 1.0
Self-patterning v2.0 allowed me to completely engineer them from scratch, troubleshooting ALL the issues from v1.0.
It’s virtually like engineering a tent. You don’t want the tent to droop in corners or collapse in on itself.
The pattern for v2.0 is completely different, with a totally different approach to seam lines to reduce bias pull and balance issues. I added additional channels for steel boning, all made from 43 yards of 100% handmade bias tape. I also added additional internal ties – 52 of them to be exact – to the interior of the hoops to form the kidney shape. And I used stiffer, stronger fabric. Since this is a 1930s movie costume and already derailed from any kind of historical accuracy, 18th century accuracy was not a huge concern for me, so I used cotton-poly broadcloth. I chose it because it had virtually no stretch, not even on the bias. I used it to make my bias tape as well. I liked it so much for bias tape, I made an additional 30 yards of bias tape just to have around and use for future projects. (like a bustle…!)
Technology in cosplay isn’t and shouldn’t be just about wires and programming. 18th century court fashion defied gravity. It’s more than just popping some hoops through some boning channels. To create a distinctive, wide, flat, kidney shape, distances have to be measured, seam lines and bias stretch have to be accounted for.  So much math went into these, which was a challenge and accomplishment for me since I am not a math-y person. (I didn’t even ask my husband, who actually IS a mathematician, for help!)
The last thing that I wanted out of my new panniers was that I wanted them to be fancy and pretty. v1.0 had been functional but plain. I wanted these to resemble the paper doll illustration of her undergarments I found in my search for reference materials. I handmade 15 pale pink rosettes, added lace, and added a wide bottom pleated ruffle for additional poof because this dress could always handle more poof.

 

My new panniers held up to living on my dress form as I worked through several months of upgrades. I removed all of the trims and swags from the gown, remade them, added 1000 beads and 20,000 rhinestones, and sewed them all back on to the dress. All of these changes added a ton of additional weight, but it took the weight really well. They were heavy, yes, but there was very little droop over a long period of time.
For travel, they break down in about an hour, and it takes about 45 minutes to put them back together. It’s a small price to pay to be able to make this a fully transportable costume.
So there you are. The one issue that did arise, that was somewhat unexpected, was hoop burn. Super weird. Because the hoops are flat in the front, walking caused a lot of friction between frame and my legs, and so got hoop burn in six places all down my legs. Attractive. I should have worn a narrow petticoat underneath the hoops, and I would definitely do so if I were to ever wear this again to a convention.

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