Monday, September 3, 2018

The Tsarina Gown - The Dressmaking Details

The gown construction was pretty straight forward, as far as turn of the century sewing goes. The big challenge comes in handling all the layers.

I've already posted a bit about this dress, so, to view the finished gown, see this post. To learn more about how I planned and executed the sequines, see this one.

The skirt ended up being a foundation of silk satin, a chiffon layer, trimmed in lace, and then the sequined silk tulle. All the skirt layers were joined to one waistband. I tried to decipher as much as I could from photos of the original dress. What was not obvious, I filled in with instruction from period sewing manuals and other extant dresses from the era. 

On this dress, I tried a different kind of pocket. In the past, I have placed the pocket opening at the top of the placket, joining it to the waistband. On this gown, I made the pocket like the one on this dress from The Museum of London. The pocket is placed at the bottom of the placket. The pros: its below the hip line, so in theory, it keeps everything smooth. The cons: because it was low, and with all the skirt layers, it was so hard to find the opening! Such a pain in the, well, haha!

The hem of the skirt was interlined with crinoline and muslin, and faced in taffeta. Then two rows of pinked, gathered dust ruffles were added. On the outside, a hemmed, plaited ruffle was placed. All of those were tacked to the foundation skirt with french tacks. Then, all of the skirt layers were also french tacked together to keep them in order when walking and moving. 

Below is a period french tack, which is different than a modern one. The period tack is done by taking multiple loose stitches between two layers of fabric and then loosely buttonhole stitching around them. Its very sturdy, and keeps layers or trim in order, but still allows movement between the layers. 

The bodice was a lining layer of silk taffeta, then silk satin, then chiffon, then the tulle, then lace and then more tulle, and the organza belt!! There was a lot going on with the bodice.

The sequined flowers and leaves were all appliquéd onto the bodice foundation. 

As was the flower at the center front of the bodice. 

The neckline leaves were loosely gathered and tacked to the bodice, then the flowers were appliquéd over the leaves. 

The sequined leaves, under the silk organza belt was one of my favorite details. It was actually two sets of leaves, as the belt was lined with satin. Otherwise the seam allowances would have showed through the sheer organza. 

Below, you can see the lace that was layered over the tulle, but under the appliqués. 

The drawstring at the neckline was very helpful. In the weeks leading up to Costume College, I unintentionally lost a lot of weight. We had a very active couple weeks! This would have been great, except it meant the bodice started to gape at the neck. The drawstring, which is seen on a lot of original gowns, really helped with the fit. I also wore padding below the bust, which was common as well. Speaking of padding, I wore a hip pad under the skirt as well. I also wore a cotton petticoat, and a silk one, too.

Below is the armscye. Because the sleeves were so sheer, I cut down the selvages and overcast them, to keep them as low profile as possible. The sleeves were tulle over a layer of chiffon. 


  1. These posts are just amazing. As someone who has HOWLED over the injustice of having to unpick a (finished) Elizabethan costume sleeve from its rapidly fraying silk armscye without destroying the velvet it was attached to, I am in awe of your patience! Thanks so much for the valuable detail of how you went about this.

  2. Your attention to detail is immaculate! I could learn so much from you. Thank you for sharing!!

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