Carmilla: Eternally Gay



Jennifer Ren


Outline the story …

I’ve always wished that "Carmilla" by Sheridan Le Fanu had a happy ending for Laura and Carmilla. With that gay ending in mind, I made Carmilla’s dressing gown how I would have imagined Carmilla would wear and alter it throughout the centuries. There weren’t many descriptions of Carmilla’s clothing except for this dressing gown: “soft silk dressing gown, embroidered with flowers, and lined with thick quilted silk” and a “dark loose dress.” Although vampires are often associated with red or black because of the color of blood and death, I wanted a happier take on Carmilla. I chose a dark royal teal color for the outside of the gown since Carmilla is a Countess. I chose to give a nod to stereotypical vampire colors by using a dark maroon-red for the lining, red embroidered flowers, and black thread. My design is loosely based on an 1820-30 French dressing gown from The Met because context clues in Carmilla suggest that the story takes place around that time despite being published in 1872. However, since my inspiration is a Carmilla who is still alive today, I made the shoulders a bit puffier (nod to cottagecore) and the length shorter. Carmilla would probably wear this garment today as a spring statement coat rather than a dressing gown, but it’s still soft and pliable enough to wear as a dressing gown if she’s feeling nostalgic. The collar can be flipped up if she’s feeling a bit cheeky and wants to embrace Dracula’s upturned-collar-cape aesthetic.

Outline the construction…

I soon realized that this is not the project for a beginner. I bought my sewing machine back in middle school but never had time to use it until this last winter break from law school when I was stuck at home because of the pandemic. I couldn’t afford real silk, so I used a matte satin fabric and added fusible interfacing to the lining material. I used McCall’s Costumes M7493 pattern, but I altered the neckline to make it more like the 1820-30 dressing gown which includes an entirely different collar, altered the cuffs to flip up with a slit for buttons and loops, and altered the skirt to wrap around my entire lower half rather than just the backs and sides. I ran into problems quilting the lining since I’ve never quilted anything before. I ironed on fusible interfacing to the lining fabric then sewed the interfacing and fabric together along the lines I drew. The quilting ended up not as puffed up as I wanted it to be. The other thing I realized is that embroidery takes a lot of time, so I ended up ironing on some flower patches. Finally, I don’t have a dress form or anyone to use as a model, so it was a challenge to get all the pattern placement right. To overcome this problem, I usually pinned, basted, unpinned, then sewed my pieces together to try to get everything in the right place. Even then, I haven’t mastered sewing non-wobbly stitches.




  1. Avatar Avery on March 11, 2021 at 6:53 pm

    I love the swishy drama of the dressing gown, the idea of it being altered throughout the centuries is delightful! I love this story. When I was a baby gay, the free digital version of Carmilla was one of the sparing representations I could get my hand on, and I wished for Carmilla and Laura to be happy too. I never realized it was set in the late Regency, that’s so cool! Great work!

    • Avatar Jennifer on March 11, 2021 at 10:24 pm

      Thank you! As a current baby gay, Carmilla has a special place in my heart.

  2. Avatar Bethany on March 11, 2021 at 6:54 pm

    Your color palette and your inspiration give me life! I would lounge around a castle with my lover wearing this!

  3. Avatar Lindsey on March 12, 2021 at 1:09 am

    I’m glad you persevered through this project even though it wasnt as simple as you originally thought. In the end it turned out lovely, and I now need add another book to my TBR.

  4. Avatar Elowen Blackthorn on March 12, 2021 at 1:18 am

    Beautiful and very dressy coat! I hope you plan to wear it often!

  5. Kitty Mortensen Kitty Mortensen on March 12, 2021 at 8:05 am

    It turned out gorgeously- And I applaud your colour choices for her- it’s brilliant !

  6. Avatar Caroline on March 12, 2021 at 8:22 pm

    I love your coat! It’s so beautiful I’d wear it everywhere! 😍

  7. Avatar Valerie Meachum on March 15, 2021 at 1:03 am

    I love your design thought process, and the idea of Carmilla wearing what was once loungewear as outside clothes in our more relaxed world. And that dramatic color combo! *swoon*

    Bonus: I can 100% see the webseries version of her wearing it. 🙂

    • Avatar Jennifer on March 17, 2021 at 9:37 pm

      Thank you! I haven’t watched the entire webseries yet, but I really need to do so!

  8. Avatar Joshua Graham on March 18, 2021 at 6:07 pm

    Carmilla is too overlooked as a work. I love this, and the flower patches look like a great problem solver for you.

    • Avatar Jennifer on March 20, 2021 at 4:25 pm

      Thank you! I wish I could incorporate the floral hand embroidery described in the book, but it would have taken me forever.

  9. Avatar Alex on March 18, 2021 at 8:33 pm

    Fantastic piece of work! I love the colours you chose and your reasoning in how she might have altered the garment over time.

  10. Avatar AnnaCatherine Sendgikoski on March 20, 2021 at 3:58 am

    I like this a lot. Those colors together are very nice. I like the design of the collar, very nice. Thank you!

    • Avatar Jennifer on March 20, 2021 at 4:27 pm

      Thank you for your kind words!

  11. Avatar Laura Ingalls Gunn on March 21, 2021 at 10:47 pm

    Such a lovely flair on the coat. A gorgeous color. Bravo!

  12. Avatar Peta Pendlebury on March 22, 2021 at 5:54 pm

    I love the colour and the swish.

  13. Avatar Jennifer on March 22, 2021 at 9:36 pm

    Thank you!

  14. Avatar Carol Phillips on March 25, 2021 at 2:38 am

    Lovely use of your written inspiration, putting a modern spin on it, and lovely final garment. I agree with others that you should wear this everywhere — talk about a signature look!! And I imagine that it is very comfortable.

  15. Avatar Mary on March 29, 2021 at 4:23 pm

    Its wonderful. And you are correct this is not a project for a beginner, there are many different types of skills needed for this design idea, designing, patterning, quilting, embroidery and construction but you did it beautifully. More importantly you persevered and that is probably one of the most important skills any sewist can learn. Its also wonderful that you can reflect on what you learned and how you might change things for future projects. I hope you wear this proudly and often.

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