Sabine (http://kleidungum1800.blogspot.com) mercifully asked me early, and I picked one of the less precarious outfits.
But also, lo and behold: the 1815 publication in the Journal des Dames et des Modes, what tells us that the dress material is silk:
I'm really not much into ruffles, chemisettes, falbalas, rushing and rouleaux. I prefer clean sober lines, where good material takes over the stage, based on the enlarged picture of the hem I've settled on two layers, white silk taffeta and a stiff silk tulle.
Gold braid and fringe would have been the obvious choice, though me being me and not much into glitzy and golden, I wanted to use spun straw, as it's something I've seen in museums, but it's rarely ever done. (I believe Lyze of The Ornamented Being is the only one I can remember having done straw embroidery before). There are some last master artisans in Switzerland, who spin straw to gold, as we call it here, but it wasn't to be.
Summer 15 saw plan B resurfacing: gold braid and fringe and the hunt of sufficient length of material. Etsy to the rescue. Or so I thought. I spare you the disaster stories, but I offer you to learn from my adventure: forget cheap bouillon, forget Etsy, go to the pros.
With braid this translates to Hand & Lock, in the UK. I followed a recommendation by Izabela Pitcher on her blog (adamselindisdress.wordpress.com) and I wasn't disappointed: Quick, relatively inexpensive and at an outstanding quality, a definite 'Yes again!' (Actually, I will need to order some more, as I stupidly ordered too little of the braid)
The sewing is rather straight forward, a simple backclosing dress, following a basic layout for an 1815 style with ribbon closure at the top and a single handmade hook at the bottom of the bodice. I say rather. Basting thread became my best friend. I basted every seam, every layer on top of the other, as the tulle was a true joy to work. With settling on the metal fringe I've had to say goodbye to the idea of two separate dresses, and work the bodice as one layer.
The decoration gobbled up my last nerve. At the beginning I was still set on the edging being bouillon, thus went for whipstitch-gathering instead of a running stitch (what turned out to be completely innessesary once I've unpicked the snagging bouillon from the snagging tulle and added the braid). After the second rushing was added, I realised my error of measurement thus the lack of braid, and had the joy to unpick that part again.
By that time I was certain, absolutely certain I was working at the equivalent of an 1800 Versace. Too much of everything.
The hat on the other hand turned out quite nicely. I've covered an old felt riding hat I bought 5 years ago in Florence with rose coloured silk taffeta, combined three ostrich feathers into a single plume each, and fixed my new and now fluffy plumes with a couple of stitches onto the hat, added a bit of ribbon to the front and the chin-strap. I usually avoid bonnets with chinstraps, the are not very becoming to me, and the final pictures showed that chinstraps don't do my face any favour, and I liked wearing the hat without the strap much better.
The gloves are my dear old trusted Friedlin Suedes, the short shawl is a modern reproduction I obtained at the eBoutique of the RMN, thus too short for the Big Shawl, but just the ticket for the shorter stoles worn. The shoes are white Thistle dance shoes.
I decided to forgoe any bijoux, with the exception of the comb, as the dress was already way too sparkly for my taste. The lady who wore such an outfit in 1814 had apparently similar thoughts, there is nothing visible in regard to jewellery.
I interpreted Toilette de Spectacle into 'something to be worn to the Opera' and interpreted the lady on the plate having already shed her coat, and will hand over hat and stole to an attendant.
My picture is more the lady getting ready to leave the house, maybe having a last sip of coffee, checking a last time a communicated detail before setting out.
The look I liked best though was when playing around with the echarpe, what lent the gaudy dress a flowing and elegant air, and reconsiled me with my fluffy, glitzy tulle monster. (And show me the woman who never read War and Peace and wanted to have Natasha Rostova's tulle dance dress?)