1913 evening gown

There are very, very few sewing projects that I can truly say I’m completely satisfied with. I’m sure other sewers can understand: there are usually one or two details or aspects you’d do differently next time. Sewing is a learning process, and as such I find it is rare for a project to be a total success from start to finish. I’m quite alright with this, of course, but when something does come along where a lot of work pays off, I can’t help but be a tiny bit satisfied!

04.11.12 | 1912 dinner gown

04.11.12 | 1912 dinner gown

04.11.12 | 1912 dinner gown

More images of this dress can be found here.

This 1912/1913 evening gown is one of those unusual pieces. It took a ton of work, I’m not going to lie. If it weren’t for my sister in law visiting for a week on spring break, I’m not sure I could have had the time to devote to this. I wasn’t completely sure I had what it took to just jump back into historic sewing either–it had been at least 5 years since I had attempted something even remotely like this. But this is an era I adore and have spent a lot of time studying, so I think the skills were there–they were just dormant! lol.

I talk a lot about how I constructed the dress beneath the cut, but will save those of you not as geeky as myself the tedium of reading it all. So aside from the fact that this is a “pretty dress”, I can’t even begin to say how much fun it was to wear! Well, aside from having laced my corset way too tight for a 13 course dinner (my fault–I hadn’t eaten much earlier in the day, so my idea of “lacing loosely” when getting dressed wasn’t loose enough for my belly to expand!). But it was quite an elegant gown that I hope I’ll have an excuse to wear again one day.

04.11.12 | 1912 dinner gown

Let’s talk about hair and accessories, shall we? I did a test run of my hair prior to the event, but I’m not quite as happy with how the style turned out the day of the party. I think it’s because I didn’t leave my hair in curls as long–but it still works! I did what I love to do best with my hair: just pin and arrange things until they “look right”. For some embellishment, I added a strand of doubled pearls and a feather pinned in place. My other accessories were a mish-mash of many things I had accumulated over time: a vintage beaded handbag, vintage earrings (which I also wore on my wedding day), 1990s Nine West pumps I thrifted years ago, and vintage kid gloves I dug up at a rummage sale. The necklace was the only real “new” thing I bought: it’s from Forever 21 and I took some rather gaudy clear beads off the necklace and replaced them with some loose glass pearls. I think it looks really nice!

04.11.12 | dinner scenes

04.11.12 | dinner scenes

04.11.12 | dinner scenes

The dinner event itself was very beautiful and tastefully done in evoking the feel of the early 1910s period. While the party was tagged as “Titanic”, it could have just as well been Downton Abbey! The hosts, whose parties I have enjoyed being a guest of in the past, really outdid themselves with a multi-course dinner using recipes of the era. It was neat to step back in time for a few hours and not only wear the fashions of the era, but taste dishes that were popular (granted, of a completely different nature than my ancestors of the era would have eaten!). These sorts of experiences delight my history nerd-self. It was a very special night of meeting new friends and catching up with ones I hadn’t seen in years; one that I shall not soon forget.

Now on to some details about the gown construction! I warn you: it’s very long!


04.11.12 | 1912 dinner gown

The gown, like many of the designs of the period, consists of a lot of layers. I explained a bit about this in last week’s post, but I’ll go into a bit more detail here. The foundation for this gown is a boned, strapless-like foundation bodice. This was based on a extant gown from the period in Patterns of Fashion and a few detailed schematics in Costume in Detail. The foundation is made from a single layer of muslin-weight cotton, seams serged (not period correct! But my mantra is: what people can’t see, won’t hurt ‘em!), the top and bottom edges bound in store-bought bias binding, and the back fastened with hooks and eyes. I would have liked to add a grosgrain waist stay, but forgot to!

The next layer is the under gown. The bodice portion is modified from the Sense and Sensibility 1910s Tea Gown pattern, which I’ve had in my pattern stash for the past ten years and never have made! The biggest adjustment was to reshape the back (redo the neckline shape and lower the waistline a bit) and make the separate center front panel and bodice one piece. (Which also messed with the grainline of the bodice, but didn’t affect things at all.) The bodice was cut out of a synthetic cream satin, underlined with cotton muslin and the neckline edges finished with bias binding and catchstitched to the underlining. I draped a skirt pattern on my dressform; creating a slim, hobble-style skirt that was the height of fashion during the period. It measures only about 20″ larger than my hip at the hem! Not a lot of room to walk in, let me assure you. I cut that out of silk charmuese I had in my stash from my NYC trip last fall, since I wanted something very flowing and not as stiff as the satin. The seam edges were once again serged and then the waistline of the bodice and skirt joined before being mounted to the foundation bodice by hand. (Easier said than done.)

04.11.12 | 1912 dinner gown

I wish I had photos of all these steps, but I was too busy sewing and trying to get this done in time for the event to remember to take photos! So just bear with me as I explain this. Up next I added the lace bodice panel. Theoretically I could have just added a panel to the center front and back sections, since those were the only fully exposed portions. But since there was the very sheer chiffon going over top this, I wanted the lace to wrap the bodice in a continual strip, so there were no broken lines between the lace and satin around the bustline. There was a lot of “fancy” pattern fudging going on at this point, as I sliced and diced the under bodice pattern to create a front and back panel pattern that was straight along the top edge so to allow for use of the lace’s scalloped edge. I had to join the lace to make it wide enough, and then dart the panels to fit them to the contours of the bust. But it went together really well, and was then hand stitched to the satin under bodice. I also engineered the back panel so it split not at the center back (which would be seen and look bulky), but at the side-back where it’d be hidden under the chiffon.

At this point, the dress looked hilariously bridal-like, since it was all cream! But soon the black, striped chiffon I had found at Hancock’s (on the clearance table no less!) joined the chaos. Once again I used the Tea Gown bodice pattern and modified the necklines, converted the darts to ease, and laid it on the chiffon so the stripes ran paralell to the neckline-shoulder edges. The seams were joined with narrow French seams, and the neckline and armhole edges finished with hand rolled hems. I then mounted this over the satin bodice at the waistline. Up next was the chiffon skirt, which was just some rectangles I French seamed and assymetrically gathered to the waistline. The hem was once again hand rolled, and at this point I mounted that to the waistline as well. The beauty of gowns from this era is that the finishing isn’t as fiddly as it is now; all those waistline edges didn’t have to be finished since they’d be covered by a sash at the end!

04.11.12 | 1912 dinner gown

I also added beading to the neckline, sleeves and skirt hem edges of the chiffon. The first round was using small bugle beads, which helped weight things down. I eventually added some larger, round beads to the neckline and sleeves to add some more sparkle and texture. This again, was all done by hand, but wasn’t too time consuming. I think because I love doing handwork it made the job a bit quicker!

The end was in sight by the time I finished the chiffon layer. Next was the draped over skirt using the burn out velvet. This material came from a skirt I thrifted awhile ago and had plans to remake into a skirt that would fit me. I’m glad I wasn’t in a rush to do it and still had it in one piece when this project came along! It is a gorgeous silk velvet, and cost me a whopping $0.99 at the thrift store. I essentially just draped these panels (front and back) on the dressform, eyeing the edges as I cut and adding some pleats at the waistline. I then removed the panels, stitched down the pleats and hemmed the cut edges by hand. Then (you guessed it!), the panels were mounted to the waistline of the gown. I also stitched together the two panels on the right-back and added a little bobble (really a vintage shoe clip, also thrifted) for decoration.

04.11.12 | 1912 dinner gown

The sash was insanely easy: just a strip of 4″ wide velvet (also culled from another thrifted skirt–though this one was $2.99), underlined with muslin and finished with seam binding and catchstitched to the muslin. It is stitched to the dress, through all the layers, at the left side front and around to where the lace panel opens on the back. After that, it’s completely free of the dress, snapping at strategic points and finally hooking to the left front and a bobble (the other shoe clip) added for decoration. My original sketch showed a bow, but I dropped that because it added far too much bulk and I had run out of time (it was Thursday evening at this point, and we had plans for Friday that meant I couldn’t sew).

Pattern: Bodice based on the Sense and Sensibility 1910s Tea Gown pattern. Everything else draped/drafted by me.

Fabric: Cotton muslin, synthetic satin, silk charmeuse, synthetic chiffon, velvet, burnout velvet, lace.

Alterations: On the bodice: redid the neckline and closure methods.

Techniques: Draping patterns, adding boning to the lining, hand rolled hemming, hand beading, period sewing construction methods.

Make Again? Most likely not–I think one is enough for awhile!

April 11, 2012 · 129 lovely thoughts
posted in sewing · tags: , ,

Corvus April 11, 2012 at 10:12

This is astonishingly beautiful!

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Jennifer April 11, 2012 at 10:14

Stunning, simply stunning, Casey! What fantastic work you have done, yet again!

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Gina April 11, 2012 at 10:14

Oh Casey!!! So very beautiful is this dress, your pictures leave me speechless! WOW!!!

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Elizabeth C. from Texas April 11, 2012 at 10:18

WOW it turned out great, good job!

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Cassie @ A Little Treat April 11, 2012 at 10:19

That is so breathtakingly gorgeous.

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Jizreelita April 11, 2012 at 10:21

Hi Casey!

I have no adjective that can describe how beautiful it was her dress … and you of course!
You are absolutely beautiful!
I showed my co-workers and all loved … you are more than congratulations!

Kisses from Brazil!

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Sue April 11, 2012 at 10:26

Aboslutely gorgeous! It really is a stunning dress. Sue x

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sarah April 11, 2012 at 10:26

you look lovely- I knew you would!! you sound like you had a brilliant time, but 13 courses oh my gosh, even if you had laced up more loosely I think you’d have been feeling it by the end haha!!

Thanks for the additional info on the make too!!

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Qui Pardue April 11, 2012 at 10:30

gorgeous Casey! thank you for sharing your project with us!!

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Renee April 11, 2012 at 10:30

Casey you look beautiful. You could have been in the movie:) You did an amazing job on that gown. I hope you get to wear it again some day. Have your own party of some sort.

The food looks very elegant. I’d love to hear more about that, too.

Glad you went and hope you had a wonderful time.

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Maggie/denisebrain April 11, 2012 at 10:31

That is truly spectacular. Congratulations on your meticulous work coming to such complete fruition!

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Courtney Elizabeth April 11, 2012 at 10:37

Oh my goodness, this is stunning. I am truly envious of your sewing abilities. Your efforts really paid off into something spectacular!

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Lauren April 11, 2012 at 10:39

It is absolutely perfect! You should definitely be pleased with the outcome – you look stunning! Definitely worth all that effort :) Love all the interior shots & the construction blab – I’m totally nerding out over here :) And whew, doesn’t it feel good to have that finished & off your sewing table finally? :)

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Senhora Baruch April 11, 2012 at 10:42

Casey,
Todas suas costuras são lindas e nem faço ideia de qual me deixa mais deslumbrada!!!
O vestido é perfeito e quanto trabalho teve na elaboração, corte, costura e acabamento… Sempre está de parabéns!
Abraço.

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Tasha April 11, 2012 at 10:46

Oh Casey, that really is just divine! I love the romantic feel with the lace and velvet, and the beading around the neckline is a beautiful embellishment. Sounds like a lovely event, and what a special dress for it!

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Dakota April 11, 2012 at 10:46

Oh my, you did such a wonderful job!! What a stunning gown, and you look so striking! I’m also in love with the photo background… it looks just like a studio set in an old cabinet card!!

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oonaballoona April 11, 2012 at 10:48

WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOW.

i can think of nothing intelligent to say, as my jaw is on the floor.

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Gail April 11, 2012 at 10:53

Absolutely stunning!

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D April 11, 2012 at 10:54

You are absolutely gorgeous! Excellent work! I don’t know much about sewing, but this is inspiring!

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Emma April 11, 2012 at 10:58

Casey you just did such an amazing job on this dress, you should be very proud of your work, I can’t imagine the dedication it must have taken. It definitely paid off because you looked fabulous in your full “costume”. I’m going to go see Titanic in the cinema this week (not in 3D because it’s not for me!)

Emma x

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annaintechnicolor April 11, 2012 at 10:58

Absolutely stunning and a great motivator for me to finish my 1912 dress for the Titanic tea this weekend!

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Annabelle April 11, 2012 at 10:59

My goodness, I don’t think I will ever have an excuse to make up something that fancy! It really is lovely and your attention to detail is amazing. I’m gald you found the time to make this and write up a detailed post on the construction. I’m no history buff, but this surely is interesting!

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Sheri April 11, 2012 at 11:04

Lovely job, Casey! Truly well done and you look more beautiful than ever! Even my daughter was checking out your gown! :P I find the description of the construction of the dress very interesting. I guess I am a little bit of a historical fashion geek. ……I’m so glad you had such a great time and the dinner looks like it was fantastic! I find myself wondering, though, did Sailor Husband dress in period attire as well?

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Rachel April 11, 2012 at 11:19

It turned out beautifully- wonderful job Casey! Just… wow!

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Janey April 11, 2012 at 11:20

Oh my goodness that is just too wonderful for words! You did a fantastic job! It looks so lovely!

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Thilda April 11, 2012 at 11:34

What a beautiful dress. Oh my.
I admire you and wish you a lot of beautiful moments with this dress.

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emily April 11, 2012 at 11:41

Wow! What an amazing piece of work:-)

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Amy April 11, 2012 at 11:57

Wow, impressive. It’s beautiful. Thank you for sharing your process!

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Trisha April 11, 2012 at 12:25

Beautiful! You look like you belong in Downtown Abbey!

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carmencitab April 11, 2012 at 12:32

I’m speechless. What beautiful work!

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Sarah AJ April 11, 2012 at 12:32

Just gorgeous, Casey! Thanks for sharing all the details that went into it as well.

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Jip April 11, 2012 at 12:34

The dress looks so amazingly beautiful ! I hope I’ll be able to sew as good as you do one day (I want to be a costume designer :) ) ..

- Jip

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Melissa Swanson April 11, 2012 at 12:35

It’s so beautiful!!!!!!!!!!! You did a fantastic job and you should definitely be proud of yourself:) I can only hope that someday I’ll have enough sewing know-how and confidence to make something like this!

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Anna | Mormor hade stil April 11, 2012 at 12:39

Fantastic work, you look stunning!

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Heather April 11, 2012 at 12:41

Gorgeous! How elegant you must have felt!

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Jill April 11, 2012 at 12:56

So lovely. I would never in a million years have the patience to pull that off!

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sheryl April 11, 2012 at 13:03

Oh Casey, that gown is stunning. You look absolutely amazing in it! I hope you had a fabulous, memorable evening. A great deal of work…but the results just take the breath away!
A dress that would blow away all others on any red carpet!

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Portia April 11, 2012 at 13:03

Just beautiful! Well done lady!
Px

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Jessalyn April 11, 2012 at 13:17

Beautiful!!!!!!

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jen April 11, 2012 at 13:32

It’s gorgeous, Casey, you’ve done such a wonderful job! Like you’ve just stepped out of a movie (or PBS TV show). The silhouette is really flattering too. Why don’t we dress like this now? It’s really funny how style has evolved; there was a time when people made an effort whatever their means! Even though it was a ton of work I think you should make another dress like this someday. (Hey, you’ve got the corset done already.)

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Sherry April 11, 2012 at 13:38

Wow that is so lovely Casey, and looks amazing on! I think the combination of fabrics and trims – lace, velvet, chiffon, and beading – work so well together. Awesome job!

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Viola April 11, 2012 at 13:45

It looks great! I admire you for your guts and determination to stick with it, especially as a fellow seamstress!

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Ria April 11, 2012 at 13:47

Casey,

It’s absolutely beautiful! You continue to inspire me. I had a 1920’s New Years Murder Mystery Party and defiantly jump at any chance to take a little trip back in time. I would love to see more photos of the evening, what people wore, and what kind of food was served. By the way the photo of you for the after party posted on Flikr was charming. I love the silk kimono.

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Sabrina April 11, 2012 at 13:52

So beautiful! I love the cream and black combo. And it really captures the era. That food also looks amazing. What fun!

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Emily April 11, 2012 at 13:55

It’s one of your best dresses! Beautifully done and I think the fabrics go together so well. Nice to have a peek into another era! One question though; the dress has a boning in it, so do you still wear a full corset under that?

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kirsty April 11, 2012 at 13:55

I just need to pick my jaw off the floor. OMG how much of a fabulous job did you make of this dress ?! I am totally astounded, there certainly is some skill to this creation, and I could only dream of creating a confection as perfect as this. I am so in love with it, I would wear it everyday for a week ! Gorgeous ! The party sounds pretty darn snazzy and the food pictures you posted make my mouth water. I am so pleased that you had a lovely time ! xxx

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Shelley April 11, 2012 at 14:00

i just love the amount of detail you incorporated – not only on the dress and dress construction, but in your accessories and general image too, with fantastic results. Also, i’m kind of in awe of their crockery and table place setting…

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Charlotte Dymock April 11, 2012 at 14:06

Absolutely gorgeous! I can’t get over how much work went into it, and I’m so pleased for you that it came out so perfectly. I confess I haven’t yet had a project turn out exactly right, but I’m still learning – I’ll get there in the end :)

xx Charlotte
Tuppence Ha’penny Vintage

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Sarah April 11, 2012 at 14:08

The dress is so very stunning and looks like an original. :) Great job with all the detailed construction, too! I loved your hair in these photos; it is different from anything I’ve seen you model yet, and I have to say it is very becoming on you!

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Lisa April 11, 2012 at 14:12

Wow, that is SO AWESOME!!

This might just be the greatest example of real-life time-travel I’ve ever seen.

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