Chemise a la Padmé

Historybounding + Star Wars = chemise a la Padmé. 

I had extra lake dress fabric (no I didn’t dye it myself) and wanted something light I could wear to Star Wars Celebration, but also around life. Something that was easy to just throw over something.

Chemise a la reine pattern dress diagram.

Looking at the chemise a la Reine diagrams, it seems like adding ribbon channels to a dress was a perfect way to easily make what I had into something for future use. As in, if I didn’t love it I would have most of the untouched yardage to play with. 

My chemise a la Padmé is not a chemise a la Reine. It shares the idea of channels of gathering it into the body, but it also doesn’t have sleeves or the “strap” part at the shoulder, nor the ruffle along the next. It was legit a “I’m throwing this on a body double and hoping for the best in a mere week”. 

I do want to take time to say that even when we history bound, we should do so consciously.

I would like to direct folks to the links at the bottom of the page, including a video by Snappy Dragon, which all go into the connection between the chemise or robe a la creole, a garment worn by  Black women in the Caribbean. Many people believe that this loose, light garment that would be functional and comfortable in the heat of the Caribbean was adopted by white colonizers, eventually becoming the chemise a la Reine worn by Marie Antoinette in a famous, or infamous depending on your take, painting by Elisabeth-Louise Vigee Le Brun. And keen eyes will see the similarity to the garments painted by Agostino Brunias of the Caribbean. 

I also think, beyond “who started the garment trend” (which is a long complex story but ultimately doesn’t feel all that different from how pop culture frequently takes, appropriates and capitalizes on Black culture today), we need to also think about the turn of events around this garment in terms of textiles and the human cost. 

Because whether it was Marie Antoinette herself or the other nobility along with her, the idea of this wannabe pastoral life gained traction, and a shift from silks and fine garments to more relaxed and easy cotton garments gave way. Fashion even became a major player around how people signaled their feelings during and after the French Revolution. 

And cotton, which we know became a major crop in the Americas, is a fiber that is fraught with heavy, intense history that involved enslaved peoples. Cotton’s popularity from this point on will result in irrevocable harm, trauma, and death for enslaved peoples ripped from their homes. There are numerous books, including the 1619 Project and Empire of Cotton, that work hard to talk about the exploitation and long-term repercussions of this horrific period of history. 

And if you think this has nothing to do with Star Wars, let me recommend EK Johnston’s Padmé books, which have made it clear that Padmé was highly concerned with addressing the continued enslavement of people’s and being throughout the galaxy. A main plotline in the books is Sabé working on Tatooine to help free enslaved people. Is this a white savior-y storyline? Honestly yes, but also… I appreciate that someone in Star Wars writing said “you know how we had a main plot line in Ep 1 and 2 about enslaved people’s (aka Anakin and his mom)? Maybe we should actually address this glaring human rights issue.” 

All this to say: I hope you check out the links to research below. They each work hard to present historical research that I hope if helpful in your journey to learn more about history and historical fashion.

Because if we can learn about a historical fashion skill, whether it’s shoes, stays or, for me, clever construction, we can take the time to learn the actual historical context of these clothes and materials. 

Links/Research:

Books for further reading:

Padmé books


**I’m a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and Bookshops Affiliate program. If you purchase items through the links listed above, I may earn a small commission, which will go directly to supporting this channel and my work. Thank you!

If you’d like to support me and my work (or see previews of my upcoming projects), check out my Patreon (it has Austen-themed tiers)! You can also consider donating to my Ko-fi. These funds go toward production fees, which helps me be able to share my content with you all. 

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