Once the tea gown was wearable, I added a few extra bits and bobs.
First, covered buttons. I bought several sizes, since I didn’t know which would look best on the finished gown, and ended up using sizes 45, 36, and 30 on the top, and sizes 60, 45, and another 45 on the bottom, all covered in turquoise dupioni. (I tried using 60, 45, and 36 on the bottom but it just didn’t look right) I stitched them not only to the lapels themselves but also to the gown fabric behind them, so they kept the lapels from flipping forward. I will note that I bent the wire shanks slightly so the buttons would stay flatter against the fabric.
I also added two size 24 buttons to the cuff of each sleeve, and let me tell you, covering buttons that small is kind of a pain. Quick tip: don’t try cutting out circles to the correct size and maneuvering them into the mold– instead, cut out larger pieces of fabric, push them into the mold with the button-top, and then trim around them.
As you recall from my sketch, the skirt has several layers to it– an overskirt, an underskirt, and an apron-ish panel in front. When I decided to make this outfit into a dress, I originally planned on stitching all of the layers to a single waistband to ensure that they’d all stay properly aligned. However, after getting most of the way through the process I decided that the weight of the underskirt was pulling everything down too much, so I ended up making it separate from the overdress. The whole process was a serious pain…
For the underskirt I first just cut a single rectangle about 2 yards long and ran two horizontal decorative tucks at the hem. I made them deeper than my sleeve tucks– about 1″. I’d originally planned on doing three tucks to mimic the sleeves, but I had some issues with placement and ended up with only two. I used a folded sheet of paper as a guide to keep the width consistent.
I stitched up the back seam after sewing the tucks, and used the selvedges for the top and bottom of the skirt, hemming the skirt to the correct above-the-ankle length. Happily, my mistake with the spacing of my tucks turned out all right, because turning up my hem twice made it just about the depth of the tucks, which looked intentional.
One of the things that all of the illustrations and photos I saw of my favorite Belle Epoque ballgowns had in common was an embellished neckline– usually involving pleats and lace and other froofy stuff, it served not only to draw the attention upwards but also to make the waist look even tinier by comparison. So I knew I’d have to do something interesting on my gown.
Of course, my original sketch was kind of, well, sketchy when it came to the neckline. I knew I wanted some pleating across the front, and some lace, and hopefully some 3D wisteria blossoms at the shoulders. But how to put it together?
Once my insertion was in, it was time to actually cut out the dress. Like I said, I went with a One-Hour Dress pattern, which is basically a glorified T-tunic– you just cut a hole on the top fold for your head, cut in some sleeves, and fuss with the hipline a bit to get pleats. Here’s the diagram I ended up using:
I made a mockup out of an old sheet to be sure I didn’t have too much or too little ease, and to determine a flattering hip level (on me it was 21″ down from the shoulder). I ended up using 2″ of ease from the widest point of my hip, which meant that there was 7″ of ease at the bust.
You’ll note that I basically used every scrap of fabric, using the cutout panels from under the sleeves to add extra width to the hips– I was incredibly lucky that I had exactly enough, because I couldn’t find any matching fabric to make up the difference. It took a little piecing together, but it all worked out!