Plaid Travel Gown

Inspiration image for the plaid travel gown, from the book Victorian Fashions & Costumes from Harpers Bazar: 1867 – 1898, by Stella Blum.

Patterns used:
– Bodice, Truly Victorian TV460 (with some custom changes).
– Four Gore UnderSkirt, Truly Victorian TV261-R (bustled version).

Fabrics used:

For the bodice,
– White cotton voile.
– Black satin.
– Gray polyester suiting.
– Black cotton.
– White cotton.
– White bottom weight canvas(?).

For the skirt,
– Cotton plaid fabric.
– Red netting (flat-lining poufs).
– White bottom weight canvas(?). 

Other materials used:

For the bodice,
– Hooks and eyes.
– Twill tape for the waist tape.
– Strong, flat hook and bar for the waist tape.
– Spiral and spring steel boning, and boning casings.
– Medium weight(?) iron-on interfacing to strengthen the satin “vest” pieces.
– White, black, and gray thread.

For the skirt,
– Black storebought twill tape for poufs.
– Black thread.
– Strong, flat hook and bar.

A mix of machine and hand sewing.

This project seemed like it was never going to end! I started off with confidence and did very well for a while, and then it felt like a struggle.

I sewed the skirt first, and some of the issues I had were the plaid fabric seemed warped. Nothing I did straightened it out, so it slants a bit. The wonderful thing is I did a decent enough job matching the plaids up on the seams, and there is so much going on you really don’t focus on the errors.

I had never used netting before, and it is flatlined to the plaid fabric on three sides on the back panel where the poufs are. I left the bottom loose (not sure if this is wise or not), and where the tapes tack to the poufs, the netting is also attached at those points. It does help stiffen the fabric and give it more oomph, but it also tends to have a mind of its own when you have to sit and mess it up a lot.

I’m not sure what happened with the waistband, but I ended up adding an extra piece to the end to lengthen it a bit. I strengthened it by flatlining a heavy canvas to it (I had issues with my first skirt’s waistband not being strong enough), but I think that may have been too much thickness. It was like sewing through cement. I hope I don’t have to make any waistband changes!

Hemming turned out a little longer than I’d planned. My dressform tilts back when bustled garments are on it. I hang a weighted purse around the dressform’s neck to help balance it forward a little more, but never did get the right weight — the dressform still tilted back a little too much and what I thought was the right hem length in front turned out to be a little longer than I wanted.

The bodice was something new — I had wanted to try a false layering effect. I had some white cotton voile leftover from a previous project, and decided to use it to create a neck-filling shirt look. I treated the fashion fabric (the gray fabric) the same as I normally would on all pieces, but the front. I pulled that back to layer the other fabrics in order. White gathered voile first, then the black satin vest, and then trim and stitch down the gray fabric. I was originally going to have the vest be straight across, but the gathered white fabric angled on its own and I liked the look and changed the design as I continued.

I have learned I have more control sewing things by hand, but I worried the thick layers would be a problem. Plus, I was nervous I wouldn’t make my deadline. So I used my sewing machine to stitch down the gray fabric.

The gray fabric drove me nuts. I could never tell just how much stretch it has. Sometimes it seemed fine, other times it seemed like it gave too much. In this case, the pressure foot of the sewing machine kept pushing the fabric and warping it. So I ended up with warping/stretching issues around the neckline and the bottom edge of the bodice.

The front closure is an edge-to-edge opening, closed with hooks and eyes. I also put a modesty panel in the black vest part in case of gapping. The white voile filling covers just enough, but I may eventually go back and add a white modesty panel there as well.

The sleeves are lined with white cotton, but I did not use a lining on the bodice. The edges are turned with wide black and white cotton bias strips (white on white, and black on black and gray sections).

A few other annoying issues that I almost didn’t want to bother fixing (mostly due to illnesses and stress), and I finally finished the bodice.

I was inspired by the image at the top of the page, but didn’t have enough time to follow the bottom edge of the bodice design. I didn’t want to do the same layering style (I wanted to do the version I sewed), but when I’d seen this image with the plaid skirt, I knew I wanted to make it and ride a train some day! The image is not in color, but these were the colors that immediately came to mind when I saw it. I was worried I wouldn’t find the fabrics I needed, but I managed to luck out after some searching. I may also eventually go back and add a gathered white ruffle to the cuffs of the sleeves, similar to the collar’s ruffle (update: cuffs added June 2012).

I had hoped to try making a hat like the one in the inspiration image, but ran out of time. I’m still hoping to try making one.

Photos:

plaid bustle gown

plaid bustle gown

I recently added some matching white cotton voile, gathered in small strips, and attached them to the cuffs for a little extra decoration and because I felt the sleeves were a bit short on my arms.

The first outing for the new plaid bustle outfit — riding a train to the Fort Worth Stockyards.

I had a little trouble on the train, with all the thick layers in my skirts. There wasn’t much room in between the seats (the arms were in the way). My husband and I are both tall, so even he was a little uncomfortable. The bustle got a little messy, but it still worked out and was worth it.

The neck ruffles got a little out of shape as the day progressed. It was humid, even though we lucked out with some cooler weather and clouds.

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