1882 Tea Gown, Part III: Main Body

(I know I took a break on this one for a bit, but I needed to finish my picnic dress for an early June event, so it took priority…)

Anyway, once I had my altered pattern established for the tea gown, it was time to get to the sewing!

Looking at my fabric, I was relieved that the embroidery was basically omnidirectional, which meant that I didn’t have to be too careful about placing my pattern pieces when determining how to cut them out, as long as they were on-grain. But first I cut each piece out of plain white cotton sateen for lining (I used a queen-sized sheet set). I cut the lining first because it was 1) more expendable, being plain cotton, and 2) easier to draw on, which was important because I didn’t actually cut out the paper pattern pieces (instead poking holes in the paper with a pencil and making dots to connect on the fabric). Then I used the cotton pieces as pattern pieces when cutting out my fashion fabric. Sorry, no photos, I detest the cutting-out process so I try to get it over with as quickly as possible…

After basting all of the lining and outer pieces together for the body (which took forever, also a pain) I stitched my main seams, binding the edges of the seam allowances with Hug Snug seam binding to keep them neat on the inside (well, *neater*– my binding technique still needs work), and sewed in my darts.

I will note that I added pockets to the side seams of the gown– I’m not sure if keeping things in them might ruin the nice smooth line over the hips, but I’d like to keep my options open. I made them out of white cotton, with 2″ wide strips of fashion fabric at the tops so they wouldn’t show much if the slits pulled open a bit. Here’s the inside and outside:


Annoyingly but not unexpectedly, my flatlined fashion fabric (stiffly-woven polyester) did not behave the same way as my mockup fabric (an old cotton sheet), and the addition of the Watteau pleats pulled at the shoulder line due to the weight– I had to tweak the shoulder seam a bit to get it to lie smooth again. Also, it was much more difficult to press the seams flat, since the stiff polyester wanted to puff up instead. But I kept pressing it with steam and a press cloth, and eventually it (mostly) bowed to my will. The Watteau pleats looked much better after a good pressing, but the side seams, particularly at the pockets, are still a bit stiff (as you can see above).

I cut out my lapels using folded pieces of the turquoise dupioni– I basically folded lengths of dupioni in half (pressing the fold) and laid them along the front edges of the gown, then trimmed the excess along the edge so it matched exactly. I left the raw edges free, since I’ll be finishing them after I add the center lace panel. Out of necessity, I cut the bodice and skirt sections of the lapels separately, which meant that had I to put short seams at the waist.


NOTE: When stitching large pieces of fabric, I’ve found it helpful to pin the edges and then place additional pins about 2-3″ in from the edges. That way, when you remove your first set of pins one by one as you stitch around the edges, the additional pins will keep the fabric in place rather than allowing it to shift over and potentially mess up your seamlines.

Next I did the sleeves– they were pretty straightforward. I cut out my fashion fabric and lining, and also cut out narrow cuffs of the turquoise dupioni, doubled like the lapels were. I will note that I’d originally planned on finishing the sleeves with lace ruffles (engageantes) instead of cuffs, but I ended up liking the tailored look better.

I stitched everything together, treating the lining like a real lining instead of a flatlining so I’d have clean seams on the insides of my sleeves. After stitching the sleeve seams on both layers, I attached the layers at the wrist, sandwiching the cuffs between them. I made the lining slightly shorter than the outside layer so the cuffs would roll under when the sleeve was turned.


I attached the sleeves to the gown (had to trim the shoulder line of the armscye a bit more so the seam would sit more on the tip of my shoulder than below it), clipped the curves, and bound the armscyes with Hug Snug.




One thought on “1882 Tea Gown, Part III: Main Body

  1. Poly fabrics really can fight pressing sometimes- the only fix I found that works [after alllll the steam in the universe] is to catch stitch the seam allowances open to the underlining. Tedious, but doesn’t need to be spectacular hand sewing, and is a nice couture touch for a better finish.


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