Kushiel’s Justice 18th Century English Gown



Rachel Lewin


(click images to to enlarge)

Other Credits

Photographer: Lindsay Reed

Outline the story …

I first encountered the Kushiel’s Legacy series by Jacqueline Carey in the mid 2000s in high school. I was enraptured by the beautiful descriptions included in her prose and the intricate and detailed world she created.

Blessed Elua founded Terre d'Ange and bestowed one simple precept to guide his people, “love as thou wilt”. Rife with court intrigues and plots, the stories contained in Carey’s trilogies managed to provide an escape from the banalities of real life. Her second trilogy in this setting follows Imriel de la Courcel, a Prince of the Blood and son of a traitoress, who bears the stigma of his mother’s misdeeds. Kushiel’s Justice follows his intense and secret affair with Sidonie, heir to the throne and beloved member of the royal family. At the Longest Night, one of the largest fêtes of the year, Sidonie wears a golden gown with a half-mask “and a sun-shaped pendant nestled above the swell of her breasts”.

Since no great detail is included, I realized that I could interpret this garment in any way imaginable for this competition. I chose to utilize the first gown I’d ever made combined with some specific accessories. The gown is a Larkin & Smith English Gown, whose exceptionally well-written instructions enabled me to craft my first wearable garment as a rank beginner. Underneath, I'm wearing a hand-sewn linen shift, stays, pockets, bumroll, & silk petticoat- all made by myself as part of my self-imposed historical costuming learn-to-sew curriculum which began in February 2020.

Outline the construction…

This gown is entirely hand-sewn and follows the instructions included with Larkin & Smith’s English Gown pattern, modified to close center front instead of employing a stomacher and robings. A muslin was used to make alterations to the bodice and sleeves before beginning construction with my final materials. There are numerous techniques I learned by doing them for the first time on this gown, and while I see some things I would like to have done differently, I am immensely proud of the outcome of this piece. The knowledge and skills I gained in construction have served me well on every project since. The final accessory is a hand-sewn cap made of lightweight linen and dressed with silk taffeta ribbon to complement my embroidered petticoat.
When I first began, I didn’t care that the only linen thread I had was too coarse and didn’t match my fabric’s color. Now I smile at the visible stitches- imperfect as they might be- since they are a reminder that everyone is a beginner at some point, and much of the insides of historical garments are a hot mess as fashions were worked and reworked to extend a garment’s useful life!
Gown: Bronze cotton sateen fashion fabric, Light pink linen bodice lining, 35/2 & 60/2 waxed linen thread
Petticoat: Embroidered olive silk dupioni, silk thread, cotton twill tapes Shift & cap: Linen fabric & thread; silk taffeta ribbon Stays: cotton blend, cotton drill, zip ties, chamois leather
Bumroll: muslin, poly-fill, polyester twill tapes




  1. Avatar Madelief on March 11, 2021 at 7:14 pm

    Pretty colour :-). And I am impressed by the fit, shape and complexity of the gown!

  2. Avatar Leora Wambach on March 11, 2021 at 8:01 pm

    Another Kushiel entrant! This is really very gorgeous. I can tell you put a WHOLE lot of work and love into every stitch, and, in my opinion, this doesn’t look at all like beginner work. It’s lovely. <3 Well done!

  3. Avatar Natalia on March 11, 2021 at 8:59 pm

    This gown is absolutely gorgeous! The construction of the back, the pleating, the silhouette, everything! Immaculate!

  4. Avatar Laura Holland on March 11, 2021 at 9:06 pm

    Convincing 18th century silhouette and feel- well done.

  5. Avatar Célia on March 11, 2021 at 10:08 pm

    This is amazing ! I’m happy to see that the Kushiel’s saga was so many people’s choices (including mine), it’s so great to see all those different approaches to it !
    You did an amazing job. The silhouette is great and the sewing is very neat and thorough. Well done !

  6. Avatar Lynda Carlson on March 12, 2021 at 2:19 am

    Jacqueline Carey is one of my favourite authors. You did a beautiful job on this gown. The pleating on the back skirt is so well done. Great work.

  7. Avatar Leah Christlanda on March 12, 2021 at 3:35 am

    the colors are divine. very pretty and Well done

  8. Avatar Ashley Taylor Anderson on March 12, 2021 at 4:01 am

    I love these books SO MUCH and I’m so thrilled someone did a costume from them. Awesome job!

  9. Avatar Divya RV on March 12, 2021 at 6:35 am

    This is an extraordinary achievement! Kudos to you. Looks very well made. Entirely hand sewn? Bows my mind how neat it is, especially for a beginner.

  10. Avatar Andrea Olinte on March 13, 2021 at 9:04 am

    The pleating … and the colour … wow, just wow!

  11. Sophia Khan Sophia Khan on March 13, 2021 at 12:42 pm

    It took me years to 100% hand sew a gown, I’m so impressed it is just lovely.

  12. Avatar Sarah Helgeson on March 13, 2021 at 4:09 pm

    So pretty! Very impressive for being a first project.

  13. Avatar Cassandra Galban on March 13, 2021 at 5:02 pm

    this is really good. I hope you’re proud of yourself. I love the earthy gold tone of the fabric. Your craftsmanship is stunning a whole entire character.

  14. Avatar Rebecca Olds on March 13, 2021 at 10:06 pm

    There are few things in historical sewing as exquisite as an English back gown and you nailed it!

  15. Avatar Elowen Blackthorn on March 15, 2021 at 1:38 am

    Absolutely stunning! Love the fabric choice, and those pleats!!! Well done!!!

  16. Avatar JAYE SUDAR on March 15, 2021 at 2:51 am

    Gorgeous! You did a fantastic job. 🙂

  17. Avatar Valerie on March 16, 2021 at 2:36 am

    My goodness! Nothing like diving in the deep end. And all so well done. That deep gold is a striking choice, and looks fantastic in the silhouette and on you.

  18. Avatar Laura Ingalls Gunn on March 21, 2021 at 11:04 pm

    What an absolutely gorgeous entry. The color is spectacular and your attention to detail sublime.

  19. Avatar AnnaCatherine Sendgikoski on March 22, 2021 at 3:40 am

    You…started sewing in…February 2020? OMG, this is a gorgeous gown! The color is divine, madam! Thank you!

  20. Avatar Stephanie Tietze on March 22, 2021 at 5:14 am

    This is stunning. I would be impressed by the fit and craftsmanship even from an experienced sewist. That you have only been sewing for a year and accomplished this is mind blowing. Very well done.

  21. Avatar Phyllis Morris on March 24, 2021 at 10:42 pm

    Well done, an entirely hand sewn English gown plus underthings, with a perfect fit, I am impressed!

  22. Avatar Benigna on March 25, 2021 at 2:42 pm

    This looks amazing! The back is so beautiful and the colours fit really well.

  23. Avatar Veronica Maria on March 26, 2021 at 3:48 pm

    Such a beautiful gown! I absolutely love it!

  24. Avatar Lowana O'Shea on March 29, 2021 at 11:31 am

    I’m so impressed with the fit of your gown – well done!

  25. Avatar Caitlin Binkhorst on April 2, 2021 at 7:51 pm

    This is one of my favorite books. You did Sidonie and the night court proud!

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