1882 Tea Gown, Part V: Facings and Finishes

Once the gown was structurally complete, I had to finish the edges. I first cut out a standing collar from turquoise dupioni– the original collar went all the way around to close at center front, but I wanted to keep the lace ruffle visible at the neckline so I shortened it to more of a 3/4 collar that stopped at the front edges of the lapels.


The original instructions called for me to attach the facings first, then the collar, so I cut out facings from more turquoise dupioni and stitched it around the front opening of the gown. The problem, however, was that the lined Watteau pleats were so thick at the back of the neck (10 layers in the pleats alone at center back!) that once the facings were added it was almost impossible to turn the seam allowance to the inside. I could manage it, but it made an uncomfortable and unsightly ridge that dug into my neck.

Instead, I decided to change things a bit and sandwich the seam allowance of the Watteau pleats inside the collar rather than turning it over. The seam allowance can lie flat (pointing upwards) instead of being folded downwards, making it much more comfortable at the nape of the neck. I will note that I only did this along the center back section, where the pleats were– once I hit the shoulder seams I transitioned back to the regular method. I stitched the facing on after the collar was attached, so the facing would lie flat on the inside rather than flipping up like the seam allowance.

I trimmed the facings to an even width (except at the back of the neck, where they were narrower to avoid bulk), zig-zagged the edges to finish them, and hand-whipped them to the interlining layer.


I also flipped the lapels the wrong way and topstitched all the remaining layers to the seam allowance– this kept all of the layers facing the right way and allowed the lapels to sit more smoothly in the right direction.


Then I hemmed the gown– first I ran a line of stitching 3/8″ from the edge of the fashion fabric, then turned over a narrow hem along that line. The stitching makes it easier to press the hem, even along a curve. Then I turned over a wider hem and pressed it before hand-whipping it to the interlining.


Once the facings and hem were set, I added a waist stay on the inside of the gown (saw it on the Modern Mantua Maker’s teagown and it looked like a good idea), to keep it snug around my waist. It’s just a length of 1.5″ wide grosgrain ribbon (because that’s what I had on hand), with two hook and bar closures just to one side of the center front so it won’t rub against my corset busk. Given the weight of the Watteau pleats, it’s good to have something to prevent the back from sagging down.


The waist stay also helped when I attached the closures to the long front edges of the gown. I won’t lie, I was not looking forward to hand-sewing a ton of snaps or hooks and eyes, so I took a shortcut and attached some snap tape.


The stuff you can find in the stores is usually spaced with the snaps 1 1/2″ apart, but I used 1″ spaced tape instead to avoid gaps. (in retrospect this was probably unnecessary) It still took a while to stitch, but it was *so* much easier than sewing snaps or hooks and eyes individually! To make it less obvious-looking against the aqua side of the gown I dyed one side of the white twill tape with Jacquard Dye-Na-Flow, a combination of turquoise and orange in a 3:1 ratio (the orange dulled the brightness of the turquoise). For the ivory side of the gown I didn’t bother– the white tape was close enough in color not to be noticeable. I stitched the aqua side of the tape on first, then snapped the white side into it and then pinned the gown shut so I could mark exactly where the white tape should sit on the lace center panel. Then I took the whole thing off and stitched the white tape in place.


And now the tea gown is wearable!


3 thoughts on “1882 Tea Gown, Part V: Facings and Finishes

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