adjective: old fashioned, out of style, unfashionable [from French, the past participle of démoder "to go out of fashion," from mode "fashion"].


the presentation

historical research

the gowns:


The Comtesse de Montebello - Created & Modeled by Kendra Van Cleave


Comtesse de Montebello
Comtesse de Montebello Comtesse de Montebello
The Comtesse de Montebello
Kendra as the Comtesse


As painted, the main dress fabric is silk taffeta (obvious from its weight and sheen) in a dull green color.  The dress is trimmed with white lace (probably silk?) and self-fabric ruches and ribbons.

As reproduced:

  • Dress: green-black shot silk taffeta.  Kendra chose a shot silk as it was the closest in color to the painting that she could find.
  • Bodice/sleeve underlining:  green silk organza.
  • Bodice lining:  white cotton broadcloth.
  • Skirt base:  green cotton broadcloth.  In order to save on expensive fabric, Kendra made the base of the flounced skirt from a matching green cotton broadcloth, to which the silk taffeta flounces are sewn.
  • Lace:  white synthetic.  Although not silk, it was the closest in shape and pattern that she could find.
fabric fabric


Portions of the bodice as painted are unfortunately obscured by the sitter’s position.

What is visible: 

  • Low, off-the-shoulder evening bodice with pleated bertha.  Bertha is trimmed with a self-fabric ruche and gathered white lace along its lower edge, as well as a self-fabric flower-type arrangement at center front and bows at the shoulder points.
  • The bodice neckline is edged with a sheer white tucker.
  • The sleeves are definitely mysterious – they could be a number of things:  double flounced lace over fitted green lining, lace puff with lace flounce over fitted green lining, or green silk tulip style trimmed with lace.

What is not visible in the painting, Kendra determined based on other similar style bodices in the painting.  Princess seams, long V-front, center back closure with small V and lacing holes/cord closure.  

fashion plate
The fashion plate above, from Petit Courrier des Dames, seemed to echo the lines of the painting, and guided me to choosing the double flounced lace sleeves.

As reproduced, the bodice pattern was custom-draped, with center front seam, princess seams side front and back, and center back opening.  It is made of (outer layer) green silk taffeta, (interlining) green silk organza, (lining) white cotton broadcloth.  It is boned with spring steel at the center front, sides, and center back, with spiral steel at the side fronts.  It is piped at the neck edge, armholes, and waist edge with self-fabric piping.  It closes center back via hand-made eyelets and is laced closed with a narrow ribbon.

The initial bodice mockup.
The perfected bodice mockup .

The bodice.

The sleeve pattern was custom drafted.  It is a double flounce of lace sewn to a fitted lining of green silk taffeta (exterior) and green cotton broadcloth (interior).

The sleeves.

The bertha was custom-draped, with seams at center front and sides and center back closure.  It is made of (base) white cotton organdy, with folded-over bias strips of green silk attached, and edges bound with green silk bias strips.  A self-fabric strip covers the center front and side seams.  The bertha closes center back with hooks and bars.  It is trimmed with a self-fabric ruche, cut with a scalloped edge; and white lace, which was gathered, bound, and stitched to the underside of the bertha.  Self-fabric bias strips created the center front floral arrangement and side bows.  The bertha is stitched to the bodice along the neck edge.

The initial bertha mockup. I tried to incorporate darts, based on the bertha pattern in Janet Arnold, but these proved unnecessary and irritating.
The perfected bertha mockup.

The tucker was made from a sheer cotton batiste, bias cut, folded over, gathered on a ribbon and tacked to the neckline.

Only interior seams on the bodice and bertha were machined; all finishing, trimming, and attaching was done by hand.

fabric fabric fabric


The skirt as painted is made of green silk taffeta in a classic three-tiered style on a green silk base.  The tier edges are unfinished, and pinked in a pattern of small scallops on large scallops.  It is difficult to be certain, but it appears that all three tiers are the same length.  The tiers are gathered to fit the base, and the top tier/base skirt is cartridge pleated to the waistline (note the depth of the pleats on the sitter’s backside).

Elizabeth Stewart Clark (noted expert in mid-19th century costume) advised on the skirt construction, one of two possibilities for this era.  The base skirt (cut of straight panels of fabric) is cut only slightly larger than the hoop, with the bottom two tiers about 25% larger than the base.  The tiers are cut on the bias, to stand away from the gown without needing a large amount of fabric, and to avoid fraying at the pinked edge.  The top tier is cut the same width as the base, so that the two can be cartridge pleated to the waistband as one layer.

As reproduced, the base skirt is made of coordinating green cotton broadcloth, in order to save the expensive silk fabric for the outermost layer.  It is cut in straight panels, 160” wide (at 5’11”, Kendra needs a lot of fabric in my skirts!). 

The tiers are made from green silk taffeta, cut on the bias.  They are cut with small scallops on large scallops using a rotary cutter with scalloped blade along a self-made template.  The bottom two tiers are cut 25% larger than the base (200”), and the top tier matches the base (160”).  The bottom two tiers are gathered up over a cotton cord, and then stitched to the base skirt.  The top tier is treated as one with the base skirt – turned over at the top and cartridge pleated to a waistband (made of green silk, interlined with silk organza).

The skirt's scalloped hem.
Testing the scallop cutting method.
The final scallops.

The skirt opens center back, with a placket sewn to the base skirt, and closes with hooks and eyes.

The skirt is machine sewn, except for the cartridge pleating at the waistline, the center back opening edges, the waistband finishing, and attaching the hooks and eyes (all done by hand).

skirt Comtesse de Montebello


The chemise is patterned by Past Patterns (#707 Two chemises 1850-1870) in a yoked style with center front opening and short sleeves.  It is made of white cotton broadcloth, hand embroidered along the yoke and sleeves.  It closes center front with hooks and eyes.  Most of the chemise is machine sewn using French seams, with hand finishing and hand embroidery.

The drawers are patterned by Past Patterns (#706 1850s-1860s Drawers and Petticoats), in an open-crotch style.  They are made of white cotton broadcloth, with tucks near the hem and white eyelet lace.  They button closed at the waistband with wood buttons.  Most of the drawers are machine sewn, except for finishing and handmade buttonholes.

The petticoat is self-patterned, and made from straight panels of fabric, gathered to a waistband (hook and eye closure) and with a corded flounce at the hem.  It is primarily machine sewn.

The corset and hoop are purchased.

underpinnings underpinnings


Necklace – gold rhinestone buckle with black velvet ribbon.

Bracelets – gold bracelets (spiral cut, solid, textured bangles with gold tassel; assembled from purchased items]).

accessories fabric fabric


The hairstyle is parted center front, pulled back over pads at the ears, and arranged in a low chignon at the base of the neck.  It is accented with a red silk ribbon.

hair fabric

Comtesse de Montebello
Comtesse de Montebello
Comtesse de Montebello
Comtesse de Montebello
Comtesse de Montebello
Comtesse de Montebello

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Last revised June 23, 2008.
This page is http://www.demodecouture.com/projects/eugenie/montebello.html.