Blue Wool Overdress for Coronation (8/22/2011):

September 1, 2011 at 8:48 am (Finished Projects, For Myself, Sewing and Garb)

Although I have a separate post about the entire coronation outfit and I will post pictures of the completed ensemble there,  I wanted to make a new post for just the overdress so that I may go into a bit more detail about how I constructed this dress and the changes I’ve made to my pattern/design.  These details also reflect changes that were made to the gold linen under dress of that same outfit, but as many of my patterns are yellow, its easiest to demonstrate some of these things using the blue overdress.

As I’ve mentioned before,  I have been making these gowns long enough that I tend to use a hybrid system of drafting a pattern from my current favorite gown that fits and then re-fitting each new gown once the panels are sewn together.  I have found that I am almost never able to sew the gown entirely from a pattern, as my size and the flexibility of each fabric varies enough that a pattern does not yield a fully supportive gown.  However, I do not need to start with a gown from scratch each time, either, as a basic pattern is sufficient as long as I leave enough seam allowance at the back and the sides to really play with the fit when assembled.

If you are looking for information on how to fit these gowns and make your own pattern, I highly recommend both: by Mistress Mathilde Bourette who taught me this technique

and which is also amazing and has a fabulous comparison of straight vs. curved front seams.

I have found that gowns with a straight front seam provide a more consistent fit for me personally, but I think it depends on your body type as to which you may prefer.

To begin, I lay the body piece out onto two layers of fabric, making sure that the front and back seams (straight portion of the pattern) are lined up on the grain of the fabric to ensure the best support and fit.  Since I tweak the pattern once sewn together, I do not need to use a left and right piece, but can use the same pattern for all four panels.  I incorporate a fuller skirt into the pattern piece, but if desired you could use a more narrow pattern and side gores. For the front and back gores, I used a 46″ square since I wanted a very full skirt for this dress.

Recently, I’ve been struggling a bit with the armhole and sleeve design of my latest pattern, and so I was focused on getting a new gown that had a better sleeve fit this time around. In my recent gowns, the arm hole has been gradually getting larger, as I’ve found the sleeve to fit most comfortably that way, and it increased my range of motion.  However, the fit does not seem entirely right to me with that pattern, and I’ve had several issues with the shoulders sliding or support decreasing over time.  I wanted to try and go back to the “proper” method of fitting the sleeve right up under the armpit to see if I could tweak that for the same level of comfort and range of motion.

From this point forward, the photos will just show the pattern on the navy without placing the pattern at the edge just for the sake of better illustrating my changes.  This is the original pattern:

To start, I used the same yellow cotton pattern that I’ve referred to before, which was based off of a previous well fitting gown.  I adapted this pattern by bringing the fabric higher into my armpit, as I really wanted to the armhole moved higher. This is the adapted piece:

I also sewed the sleeve seams with 2 inches of seam allowance, instead of 1, also raising the entire pattern and bringing the side seams higher.  This provided me with plenty of fabric and left me in a position to basically refit the entire pattern from the waist up.

After starting the construction this way, I sewed all four panels together and added the front and back gores at the appropriate height.  I baisted the front seam where the eyelets will be, as this is sufficient for the initial fittings, and put the dress on inside out to begin getting a better fit.  With help, I then pinned and took in the top of the side seams so that they fit snug but not too tight, and then took in the seams right below my bust to achieve a more supportive fit.  This was not the final time I’d take these seams in, but it was enough to ensure that no major changes will be needed to these seams.

The result of all of these adjustments was a pattern that fit higher on my body, and allowed for the armhole to begin up under my armpit. Here is the navy gown placed over the original pattern and adapted piece to show how much the pattern differs from what I started with:

The next step was to mark the top of the armhole at the shoulder joint, and begin sleeve construction.  For the sleeves, I once again started with a page by Mistress Mathilde, which can be found here.  From this, I drafted the basic sleeve design on yellow cotton, and tested to make sure I was happy with the design and fit.

The initial design sat very strangely, and did not have the tippets hanging well at all… not to mention, for whatever reason they did not fit the armhole very well either!  So I used those to make up a second mock up, changing the curve at the top a little, and altering the length of the sleeve vs the tippet.  The two images below show the initial design, and the second one with my additional changes. 

When I attached these to the dress, they still seemed to hang a little funny, but hoped this was mainly just due to it being a stiffer fabric than I’m used to working with.  I took note of a few more changes (adding a little length to the sleeve and narrowing the tippet a little), and moved onwards to working with the “real” fabric.

After a bit of an adventure in trying to figure out how to cut and sew the navy wool and white lining together to have both sleeves showing blue on the outside, white on the inside, and not end up with two right or two left sleeves…. and I still ended up with two right sleeves.  After a bit of fussing, re-cutting, new seams, and some prayer… I was once again at the point of fitting the sleeves into the armhole and hoping that they would fit well and hang nicely….

And this time they did!  I  made it past the sleeve step– woo hoo!  From here on out, its a matter of re-fitting the gown and sewing the hems and eyelets…. I’m almost done!

This last picture is of the gown at Coronation worn over the gold linen under dress.  While I got all the hems done, the eyelets were not finished, and so this project is not *quite* complete yet– but I was quite happy with how it turned out, and will post more photos when the eyelets are done.

Photo by Baroness Cateline la Broderesse


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