Saturday, August 13, 2016

An Edwardian Robe du Soir for the Coco Gala

All of Costume College was great, and the gala was definitely the icing on the cake. So many gorgeous gowns to drool over!

You know what happens when you're having fun? You don't take enough pictures! Ah well, I was happy to at least get my dress from most angles.

And I really loved both making and wearing the gown I chose. The gown was mostly based off of this 1913 - 1914 gown. I had some serious time constraints, so the fabric had to change, as finding the perfect coral silk was difficult. Also, the silk satin I chose was much too drapey for the more structured skirt on the original, so I used the skirt pattern from Ageless Patterns #1362, which I had on hand. That worked beautifully, and gave me more time to play with the rest of the gown, but more on the construction further down.

I also had a lot of fun dressing my husband. He was a total sport, but Edwardian is also his favorite era, so he was game. And there were cocktails involved :) 

I took the simple way and ordered him a tailcoat, tie and waistcoat from Gentlemen's Emporium. We took the coat to a tailor and had it fit properly, which made a big difference. The hat was an antique ebay find. It was in bad shape, but the right size, with faded out spots on the black silk underside. The beaver was still in great condition, so I used liquid shoe polish to touch up the silk. The tuxedo shirt and pants are modern, from his closet. Luckily the tuxedo shirt was very plain pique, with a collar that would stand up and wasn't permanently wing-tip. The cufflinks were also period, and a gift for his birthday - did I mention this was his birthday weekend and he was willing to come play dress up with me anyway? He's the best!

I found that the mix of good quality, modern pieces, mixed with properly fit costume items, accented with antique accessories, made for a simple, but good looking evening suit, without looking too costumey, which is unfortunately what a lot of men's historical clothes end up looking like at events. For next time, I will investigate a more appropriate, full-back waistcoat and a real bowtie.

Having a bit of fun trying to duplicate this print.
Thanks, Nicole!
Speaking of gorgeous gowns, someone asked to take our picture, and I actually remembered have one taken with my camera, too! And it's a good one. Natalie's gown was perfect!

So on to the construction, which really was my favorite part. 

First, the undies. For this early 1910' gown, I needed an appropriate corset and a simpler chemise. I drafted the chemise based on the shape of my earlier edwardian, Truly Victorian chemise, but with simple straps which wouldn't show under the gown.  I also made a princess petticoat to go over, but actually ran out of time to button it, said screw it, and just threw on the dress. There's so much structure in the bodice, I didn't really need it, but I will post about it in my next post, which I did end up needing it for.

Side note, I'm getting dressed in our Airstream! We traveled for two weeks, with Costume College included. I don't know how I fit all the costumes, hat boxes, regular clothes, and dogs! But it worked great!

The corset was a Truly Victorian pattern as well, though I deviated in the construction, using a lot of info from this Festive Attyre post. I lucked out and found some 1" elastic garters with metal hardware that worked perfectly. I used my earlier drawers instead of making new ones. They were a little full, but I love them! The stockings were an amazon find. I think they are just Leg Avenue, but they are matte, opaque black with simple tops, and very thin. They worked great for the era. The shoes are American Duchess Seabury's. 

So now, really on to the construction!

The gown started as the lining from the dress on page 58 of Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion 2. I added shoulder straps to mount the bodice and sleeves on. For the lining, I chose a taffeta I had in the stash, so I could get moving on the lining while I waiting for the outer fabrics to arrive (pretty much everything was from Mood - I love how quickly they send samples!).

Lace was added to the neckline, and parts of the dress started to be mounted on top of the lining. 

I added cotton net undersleeves, to mount lace on, which peeks out of the Bodice. Why cotton net? Well one, the lace was much too precious to waste on a large shoulder section which wouldn't show. Second, it would have been itchy under the arm. Third, air circulates through it. Fourth, it's period! A coral silk 1910's gown in my collection has cotton net in the same place, which gave me the idea.

The final interior, with all the layers mounted onto the lining. 

And oh, those convoluted Edwardian closures! I sewed so many hooks and eyes! 

The black velvet sash was lined with black silk and attached to the skirt with a thread bar so it would't move around too much when I sat. I also hemmed the lace selvage with strips of bias silk satin, so it wouldn't show through as two dark strips, and also so the edges of the lace wouldn't snag the satin of the skirt. 

I added a bustle function as well, for any future dancing or walking through parking lots. There is a hook and eye inside the skirt, and also a set which brings up the sash so it doesn't drag on the floor. I didn't get a picture of it, but it actually makes the front of the skirt into a very attractive, tapered style. 

There are also weights in the skirt. Nickels covered in silk. They help keep the skirt in order and are another period detail taken from the coral gown that I have. Because of time, I didn't overcast the skirt seams, but also didn't have a problem with them shredding. It was really a wonderful experience to work with such quality fabrics. It really does make a difference. 

Because of the complexity of layers and fiddly nature of the fabrics (satin, velvet, chiffon...), as well as the desire to use period and couture techniques in the construction, the entire dress was basically sewn by hand. The long skirt seams and initial lining seams were done on the machine, but after that, there was no way. But I really love the process, so it was very enjoyable to work on this dress and watch it come to life.

The accessories were also very fun! 

The tiara was actually an antique bracelet that matched my necklace. It is a link bracelet, so I wrapped it with silver wire so it could be manipulated into a solid, crown shape. Wire was also used to make a foundation so the bracelet would stand up and not act like a headband. And when I couldn't find feathers that would work as an aigrette, I snipped some tail hair from my horse and used that!

I found the purse frame on eBay and made up a bag out of silk velvet and satin which were leftover from he dress's sash. I made the tassel out of silk thread, which was fine, but much more prone to tangle than modern, poly tassels. I also accessorized with vintage kid gloves. Sorry about the picture of the bag. The bag got a little crushed and marred from being packed in my suitcase. Actually, that was my one regret of the evening: I ran out of time to steam my outfit before getting dressed. I felt extremely rumply all night!

And lastly, the hair. Right now I have shoulder length hair. I was able to get crafty with a 1" curling iron to make rolls (like 18th c. buckles, or 40's Victory rolls) which were easier to manipulate into an Edwardian style than trying to coax my short hair into a bun. I also just teased my own hair under the top layer, instead of using rats. I actually got the idea in the morning, when I dressed my hair for the 1770's. More to come on that.

All in all, I absolutely loved the outfit. And the gown was a joy to make. I hope I get to wear it again one day!



  1. This is beautiful! I only caught a glimpse of you at CoCo. Wonderful work on the underbodice.

    1. Thank you! The insides are sometimes the most fun!

  2. I'm so pleased I got to see this in person, because it's even more beautiful than it appears in photos! You've nailed the silhouette and the complex layering of the teens gowns.

    1. Oh thank you so much! The layers were a fun puzzle to sort out. That was a fun evening, too, and so nice to meet you!

  3. Gorgeous!!! Thanks for showing us the innards. They are lovely, as always!