Tea Gown Pattern, by Sense & Sensibility
silk essence, nylon point d' esprit, poly crèpe georgette, cotton (lining), glass beads
My second costume ever. I made this through an online class taught by Jennie Chancey of Sense & Sensibility patterns. I finished it to wear to a musical review, right before a major move. So I sewed and Mom packed - my poor long suffering mother! She was very gracious about it.
Lots of firsts were involved in this project - my first Edwardian dress, my first invisible zipper, my first use of fine, slippery fabrics. So are online sewing classes helpful? Yes indeed they are!
Later I took the dress apart to fit it to a period corset, which I never did. Pieces and parts have since been cannibalized for other projects. How have the mighty fallen!
Completed August 2001.
At a summer tea. The bodice is a little roomy, because I am wearing my new period corset.
Scans of the beaded inset. The motif is based on decorative ironwork designs of the period. I worked the embroidery and my sister did the beading for me.
Off to the theater! I am not happy with *me* (particularly my hair) in these pictures so please only look closely at the dress.
May 28 2001
I bought my fabric today! I'm getting really excited about the class now...only 7 days left! *wink* After a long shopping excursion to Jo-Ann's and much deliberation I decided to go with yellow and black for my colors. It was bright and summer-ish and very different from the original (one of my goals), and most of the fabric was on sale!
I bought yellow silk essence, yellow polished cotton (lining), black point d' esprit, and black crèpe georgette. At this point I haven't decided which layer scheme I like better. I'm going to bead and embroider the insert with scrolls and bees. I'll be using glass beads and silk thread.
June 14 2001
I have finally decided on a beading design! The inset will be the plain yellow silk essence. I wanted to include bees in the beaded design but after testing thought they were *too much*. So I will embroider bees in yellow thread to look like a damask. This way they are still there but are subtle.
I'll bead the design in small black glass beads. The design comes from an ornamental ironwork book and is a mix of a few different designs. I can't wait to start!!
June 24 2001
I was able to finally start on my dress this week. Because the 'sewing room' is also the 'library' and 'dining room' in this house I decided to wait and do the pattern tracing, toile (muslin fit lining), and fabric cutting in a day and a half instead of doing it over 3 weeks. It saved a lot of cleaning up and getting every back out again time which worked for both Mom and I. Of course it took me 3 days instead of 1.5 (mostly due to extra trips to the fabric store!) but I managed to finish before the weekend. Sewing seems to always be a saga with me. Sometime I wonder why I bother! Here's what happened...
Fitting the Toile
I first had Bridget measure me (in the correct underwear of course). I then figured out what size I was on
Jennie's chart and traced the bodice onto tissue paper. (I decided I
would probably be changing the pattern enough that using interfacing at this point was silly.)
With the tissue pattern I cut out my toile out of some scrap calico. I sewed it up according to Jennie's
instructions, with basting stitches, and tried it on. It was way too
small. Bridget and I had somehow goofed up my bust measurements so even
though I had rounded up in picking the size, it was very snug.
Mom and I determined that I need to add to the sides for a better fit. Mom had me cut out a calico inset
(not part of Jennie's instructions) then sew up the front and back,
un-picking the sides. I tried it on again and after writing down what
needed to be added to the sides I prepared to make up a new toile.
Jennie had emphasized that the bodice was to fit but not be skin tight and I was concerned that it would
*just* fit so I traced a second tissue pattern, this one two sizes
larger than the original. I also added the additional figure to
the side seams and added additional length to the bottom of the bodice
(I'm a bit long-waisted).
I then cut out a new toile out of my lining fabric (a mustard yellow polished cotton). When I tried the
second toile it fit much better. A little fiddling with the darts and it
was perfect. I also had Mom measure from the bodice to the floor
(with the right shoes on) to get the skirt length figure. At this point
I was very excited about the gown. I loved the way the kimono bodice
felt and looked on me. In my head I was already planning my next dress
out of the pattern. With that in mind I went ahead and un-picked the lining toile and traced it onto interfacing so I would have a master pattern without having to go through the toile process again.
Cutting the Fabric
The bodice now fitted and perfect, I turned my attention to the skirt. Using my waist and hips measurements as a guide I traced the skirt front and back onto interfacing, adding for my height (as always) and taking into account the narrow (42") width of the silk essence.
I now had to decide which layer scheme I wanted to use. After draping the fabric on the table and
on me and some consultation with Bridget, I decided on scheme "B".
We both felt it would look better to the eye and be more flattering than the other one. The
only problem was I had bought the fabric with scheme "A" in
mind. Oh well! The silk essence wasn't horribly expensive and one
could always use black point d' esprit, right? *eek*
I cut out the silk essence skirt fronts and
back then went to the fabric store for the extra silk essence for the
bodice. I came home and continued on, cutting some of the point d' esprit The next day I finished cutting then decided to lay out all the pieces to make sure I hadn't forgotten
any. Sure enough I had forgotten the top yellow skirt back layer. So
back to the fabric store I went, thanking God that yellow silk essence
was always in-stock at Jo-Ann's! I finished cutting out the fabric that day. I then layered
the cut pieces in order on the table and pinned it all together (at the
top). It's now hanging up (on a hanger with clothes pins), looking
beautiful. I can't wait to sew it up!!
August 12 2001
The second half of the construction was difficult only because of the
fact that I was getting ready to move and go on vacation! Our move was on the 18th of
July and I left for vacation in San Diego the week before that, so my
life was pretty crazy that month to say the least.
Skirts & More Skirts
The actual construction of the second half of the project was
really easy. I made up the bodice with no problems. It went together
with ease and fit perfectly when I had finished. I next made up the skirts
using French seams. That took time because of the number of skirts but
it was brainless and actually fun (and so professional looking!).
I next pinned the skirts together then pinned the skirts to the bodice. Because I was doing this at a sleep over
I also hand-basted the skirts to the bodice together before machine-basting as the instructions
said to do. The hand basting held the skirt layers really well and I didn't have to
worry about getting pricked by the mounds of pins required to pin the two
pieces together. It's not a necessary step but I will probably do it the
next time I make up this pattern.
This was the worst part for me. I had never put in an invisible zipper
before and neither had my Mom. I spent a lot of time testing, sewing,
ripping out and sewing again before the stupid thing was right. <sigh>
I must say however, that once I figured it out it was simple to do and
it looked so professional and polished! I'm not sure I will ever put in
a regular zipper again!
I tried the gown on at this point for
the first time so Mom could mark the hems. It looked and felt wonderful.
The silk essence draped and flowed beautifully and it fit wonderfully.
I sewed up the hems (on the machine because
of the time issue) and at 11:00pm the night before my plane left for San
Diego I began the sash!! I made some stupid mistakes that required a lot
of ripping because I was tired but I finished it before 1:00am!
The remainder of the handwork on the belt
and gown I did while my friend and I watched movies in San Diego (except for
tacking down the lining which still isn't done!).
The inset beading was done by my sister, Bridget. She saw my pattern and beads and got the beading itch! I knew it wouldn't be done in time for San Diego if I tried to do it, so I let her. She did an awesome job! Thanks Dearest!!
My gown was finished in time for me to wear to a play. The play was a kind of musical review, tracing the music of the 20th century. It was great fun and even though we were WAY overdressed I’m glad I wore my gown! The theater was by the bay so when I walked outside it flowed wonderfully in the sea breeze!
October 1 2001
Below are the actual yardage figures I used for my dress (please note I am 5'9" and the skirt is to the floor)
- 6 yds - yellow silk essence - bodice, inset, skirt, overskirt #2
- 3¼ yds - black point d' esprit - bodice, overskirt #2
- 3¼ yds - black georgette - overskirt #1, sash
Since taking these pictures I have picked apart this dress and plan to use the pieces for other projects. I loved this dress but found the yellow was a little bright for me. I felt like a "tall poppy" in it, to be sure. I am going to re-make the dress in the next year but it will be mostly black, with hints of color. The inset will become a purse to be used with this *new* dress or another formal.