Before 1908, Jeanne Margaine-Lacroix was known for the sleek corsets with minimal boning that she designed for her mother’s couture house in Paris. But in 1908, during the Prix du Prince de Galles at Longchamp racecourse, she created a sensation with her draped dress designs that would inspire the next shape of the century, the “directoire gown”.

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She sent a trio of beautiful models to the racecourse to show off three gowns of a style she first introduced in 1899, in L’art et la Mode, as “sans corset”. These gowns were touted as being incredibly slimming, as their draping eliminated the need for “bulky undergarments”.
Yes, when the models strode across the enclosure, it was plain to all that they wore neither chemise, petticoat nor corset beneath their gowns. In fact, their skirts were split up to the knee, their legs masked only by a thin underskirt of muslin! The crowd was aghast, even for fashionable Parisians, and the models were mobbed with onlookers.

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Now, I ask you, who *wouldn’t* be inspired by this?

For my part, I decided to create an iteration of this gown as my outfit during the Teslacon Fashion Show in 2016for which I was designing a collection.

My materials were an eggplant silk 4-ply crepe and eggplant silk double georgette from Mood Fabrics, black sheer fabric that was pre-pleated and hemmed, and some vintage beaded silk fabric. I also used black tassels, a black straw hat and enormous feather, and a cameo featuring a succubus purchased on Etsy and set into a vintage cameo setting.

In honor of Margaine-Lacroix’s style, I draped the entire dress. I used no pattern (though I’m sure she had patterns of her own), but simply began by pinning a corner of the fabric to the neck of my dressform. I draped thrice and cut once… you can be sure, with silk crepe!!

Unfortunately, as sometimes happens when I get swept up in a project, I created the dress in one day and didn’t come up for air until it was essentially done. I could swear I took a couple pictures in-progress, but alas I’m unable to locate even a solitary example.

So this post is more a tribute to the gowns that shocked a nation, and rocketed Jeanne Margaine-Lacroix’s designs to fame, even though her name has faded from the most common annals of fashion history.

Some notes:
The hat was just a large straw garden hat, and I pulled one side up to create the dramatic sweep, accented by a ridonculous black ostrich feather and some artfully arranged crepe.  I decided on long fingerless gloves instead of the sheer sleeves with many buttons, mostly due to time constraints. Perhaps I’ll add the sleeves one day.

The band beneath the bust was created by cutting out the shape desired in 2 layers of the fashion fabric, using iron on interfacing to add sturdiness and sewing them together. I turned them right side out and pressed the band, then used an embroidery stitch to embellish the edges. Then I tacked it to the seams and hand-stitched it at the center and back.

Instead of creating a muslin underskirt, I inserted the pleated sheer fabric into the side slits of the skirt, and that worked very well. True to the original aesthetic, this dress is indeed “sans corset”…  I hope you enjoy the results of this little experiment!

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