1879 Tea Gown: Mocking Up and Sketching

Last night, I jumped into working on this 1879 gown, for our tea on December 14th.  I was so anxious to see what resulted from the Wearing History 1879 Dinner Bodice pattern, as the pattern only has one illustration showing the front of the bodice, and I was just dying to know what was going on in the back.

The pattern went together quite nicely.  The measurements are accurate, and I found the pieces quite true.  The pattern notes that the center back pieces, at the hem, are longer than the rest of the bodice hem, which I suspect was a purposeful design, as the rest of the pieces match so cleanly.

I hit a snag with the pattern where the revers are concerned.  The illustration shows these lovely little turned back bits on the lower edge of the bodice, but when I turned back my bits, according to the lines on the pattern, it didn’t look at all like the illustration.


I fiddled for many hours, until I determined that the bodice overall was too long for my taste, so I went slicing n’ dicing, and cut the bodice hem into a shape I liked and felt would be more flattering on me.

The hem cut into a shape I liked

At this point I thought it would be a good idea to get jiggy with the skirt.  I had no idea what I was doing, but after consulting Patterns of Fashion 2, and Jen Rosburgh’s “How to Make an 1870s Bustle Skirt” post, I set to work pleating and pinning kindof just wherever.

Skirt swags, along with the bodice back – on the left, the altered line (which may be altered further), and on the right the original lines.

Oddly enough, it appears to have worked. I wanted that tight-across-the-front, flared-at-the-bottom late 1870s look, and for the bodice to work with the placement of the poufs.  I think it kindof looks like an insect body at the moment, so I may try a couple different methods of gathering up the sides, before deciding on the final design.

I’ve been trying to wrap my head around each part of this ensemble, so have done a lot of sketches:

These are derived from various gowns on my 1879 Pinterest board. These are a few of the reference images I feel most closely resemble what I’m trying to create:


…but it’s as much random chaos as anything right now!


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