I can’t remember where I got the idea, but I’ve been wanting a Victorian tea gown for a while now. What’s a tea gown? It started off as a casual morning wrapper to be worn for informal at-home occasions, and then apparently got more stylized and formalized over time until it became a whole new mode of dress– still for wearing at home, but no longer something it was unacceptable to be seen in by visitors. Jennifer Rosbrugh has a nice history of them here, and The Dreamstress has another excellent explanation here.
Anyway, I loved the concept, and after a little bit more research I decided to base my own tea gown on Truly Victorian 432. It looks relatively straightforward, and has Watteau pleats in the back (shades of a robe a la francaise!) that I love the look of.
While I was in Los Angeles last year I saw some gorgeous embroidered fabric for $2.95/yard (!) that I just had to snap up– at the time I’d had a vague notion of making this project but wasn’t sure what exactly I wanted to do with it, so I got 8 yards of embroidered fabric, plus another two yards of coordinating sea-green dupioni and an extra yard of pinky-bronze taffeta to match the embroidered flowers. Plus several yards of coordinating trim, because it was on massive sale at $0.99/yard! I figured that would be enough for anything. Behold, my collection!
I’m fairly sure it’s all polyester/acetate, but it’s so darned beautiful and I’ll line it with cotton, at least, so that’s something, right?
I did some digging online, looking for people who’d made the Truly Victorian pattern before, and it was then that I came across this fabulous account by The Modern Mantua Maker, who altered the pattern drastically to make an amazing gown. I was immediately inspired, and bookmarked the page to come back to later when I found an excuse to make the thing… that excuse came when I signed up to attend Costume College this summer! They’re going to have a Victorian-themed tiara breakfast, with attendees encouraged to wear their best tea gowns or similar affairs– how perfect is that?
I immediately started sketching.
Like the Modern Mantua Maker I’m going to move the center front opening to the side front, but I’ll overlay the center panel with neck-to-ankle lace, gathered to fit. I’ll add full-length lapels in the solid sea-green dupioni, probably with some self-covered button accents, and I haven’t decided what to do with the trim or the bronze taffeta yet– maybe I’ll make a dust ruffle so the train doesn’t get dirty. And I’d like to add trailing lace ruffles at the elbow sleeves, again evoking the 18th-century aesthetic along with the Watteau back.
After I figured out my design I got two yards of this double-bordered lace fabric on Etsy, but I’m thinking now that I should’ve gotten more to use for the elbow ruffles. We’ll see, I guess!