Fabrics: Red on tan print, 100% Cotton.
Brick red solid broadcloth, cotton/poly.
Apple Green silky lining, polyester/rayon
Unbleached muslin interfacing (interlining), 100% cotton.
Vintage cotton laces for trim.
Hem at front, from waist: 40"
Hem at back, from base of neck: 70"
Fully interfaced and fully lined, sack style. 3/8" heavy duty nylon boning on front darts and side seams. Hand stitching on lining and lace trim. Real coconut shell buttons. Antique, repurposed lace. Final tally is roughly 43 hours of labor and 22.5 yards of fabric/lining/interlining combined.
(Pictures of the finished garment continue about 1/3 of the way down the post, after the construction details)
I have made the Truly Victorian tea gown several times in the past, but I think this is my rendition thus far (meaning, I managed to avoid most of the mistakes I made in the past, lol). I have always been a big fan of this silhouette, especially the Watteau pleats at the top. The pleats, however, combined with the weight of the back of the dress create some unique challenges.
First is bulk. Once you add the interfacing fabric to all pieces (which you really shouldn't skip), and then fold the pleats, the top of the back becomes quite thick. The pattern calls for a facing lining, meaning this bulk would turned in its seam allowance like normal. The bulk, combined with the weight of the train dragging it down, makes this kind of difficult. That much fabric just doesn't want to stay turned in like that, not unless you are also going to top it down through all layers.
Above you see the pleating layout for the back. It's hard to see the markings, I know.
With the pleats pinned in place. At this state, the back has already been fully interlined and lined (more on the lining further down. This pattern doesn't call for lining, only a facing).
As I said earlier, I didn't want to turn the top of all this bulk inward because that would be a pretty thick seam at the back of the neck. What I decided to do was use a method from the 18th century Robe a la Francaise.
Now, if you've ever made a Robe a la Francaise (Sack gown) with the Watteau pleats, you know that the top of the pleats are bound with a separate strip of fabric, not turned. I decided to do the same here. I cut away the 1/2" seam allowance at the neck edge, then bound it a matching bias strip. Pay attention to the far right of the pic below.
The lining for this style dress is a tad tricky. The patterns call for flat interfacing and an edge facing at the front and neckline. As stated already, didn't want to do a turned facing because of the bulk at the back of the neck. I could have just flat lined everything and gone from there, but I'm not a particular fan of flat lining because I don't like exposed seams.
But how to do a sack lining on a garment like this? It's the Watteau pleats that make a typical sack lining pretty much impossible, since the center back seam goes through all parts. I managed to get the end result just the same by doing the following:
- Flat line the back piece before folding up the Watteau pleats. This piece gets treated as one from that moment on.
- Stitch together lining pieces for the fronts and sides at their side seams. Two separate sections result.
- Sew the front/side lining pieces to the front, right sides together, along the neck edge and front, ending stitching at the shoulder seam (where our neatly bound back piece begins)
- Turn the pieces and iron flat.
- On the inside, bring lining side piece to meat the seam of the already flat lined back piece. Hand whipstitch into place.
- Hand whipstitch lining to back flat lining at shoulder seams too.
- Stay stitch lining to fronts and sides at the hem. Hem will be turned later as one piece.
As you can, it's good I don't work for a pattern company, because I suck at writing instructions.
Above you can see the shoulder seam after I turned the front section. I will hand stitching in place.
Below you see part of the side back seam, with the side piece whip stitched in place all the way down to the hem.
Back view of the lining, with Watteau pleats now inside.
I faced the lining on the train with the same brick red broadcloth, assuming it will show during wear as the train gets flopped over and such.
Below, another view of the side-back seams, hand whip stitched tot he back flat lining.
Finally, the front lining. Now, as for the facing you see there, I attached that to the lining before anything else, then snipped away the lining underneath it to reduce bulk.
~The Side Panels~
I saw a wonderful fashion plate showing rows of ruffles just on the side of a dress and decided to duplicate that here. It looks pretty and has the dual effect of giving stiffening and body to this section of the dress. I did this through just the fashion fabric and interlining. Lining came later.
The ruffles alternate from the red brick broadcloth to red brick chiffon. This is the only place on the dress I used the chiffon. I entertained the idea of a second hem ruffle just on the train of this chiffon, but decided against it later.
I don't have a gathering foot or ruffler for my machine. I use a Janome and the gathering foot I tried once was total crap. If it cant' do at a x1.75 gather, it's no use to me. Thus, I do it all by hand with long running stitches.
It's just math at this point. Measure the hem circumference, multiply by the ratio you want for you gathers (I did x1.75), then cut and stitch together you piece. A lot of people insist of ruffles and ruches being bias cut, but I don't think that's necessary at all. I did straight of grain here. Then, mark the hem in 8 equal sections, mark you piece is 8 equal sections, and gather to fit. Pretty simple (but a hell of a lot of pins!).
All told, this dress is 8.5 yards of outer fabric, 7 yards of interlining, and another 7 yards of lining. 22.5 yards!! Phew! I think the finished weight is like 9 pounds =D
The flat lace and ruffles on the neckline are vintage, or possibly antique. I buy them at antique marts and can't verify age, but they are certainly 100% cotton and much better quality than the store stuff we get now. I had to hand stitch the flat lace border into place. A straight machine stitch would have been far too noticeable.