Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The 1895 Minerva McGonagall Tea Gown - Finished!

Well, I did it. It's done! My 1895 tea gown, inspired by Professor McGonagall in Harry Potter, is completed and wearable!

In the late Victorian era, a tea gown was primarily an at home garment. It was what an upper class lady would wear while she was at home resting between visiting friends in the morning, and before dressing for dinner in the evening. Fancy loungewear, if you will.

In this context, the best place to photograph my tea gown would have been the parlor of a 120 year old house. Unfortunately, I did not have one of those readily available for my photographic needs. So, after considering my options, I decided a local replica 19th century schoolhouse would suffice for my photo shoot. After all, this gown was inspired by Professor McGonagall, a teacher at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Thus, lacking a 19th century mansion, I decided to do a Minerva McGonagall photoshoot, and the school house felt fitting. (English castle ruins were also in short supply.)

Photography location explained, let's get on to the good stuff! How does one actually wear a tea gown (that doubles as a Hogwarts teacher costume)? All one piece, my tea gown slips easily over my head. I wear it over my standard 1890's undergarment - a combination corset, corset cover, and 3 petticoats. Now, as tea gowns were loungewear, there is some debate whether or not they were worn with corsets. After all, it is easier to lounge without a corset on! Personally, I have decided to wear my corset under my tea gown as I like the 19th century silhouette it gives. However, I also made the tea gown easy to adjust if I ever chose to wear it without a corset.

The tea gown settles at my hips, like a skirt, then I pull on the sleeves.

Once the sleeves are on my arms, I fasten the twill tape waist stay around my waist.

Next, the bodice is fastened. As tea gowns are meant to be easily put on and taken off in the middle of the day, all my fastenings are on the front and I can easily do them up myself.

First, the bodice underlap is fastened in place with a hook and bar. Then the bodice overlap is fastened in place, also with a hook and bar.

And with that, the tea gown is securely on and all that's left to do is smooth the front "over dress" in place.

The front "overdress" hides the skirt placket and the side seam pockets, because every good dress has pockets!

Pockets, they are the perfect place for concealing things,

Such as wands. Every set of wizards robes must have a wand pocket after all!

And with that, I am Professor Minerva McGonagall, ready to teach young witches and wizards how to transfigure things!

Let's pretend for a moment, shall we, that the beautiful gardens surrounding the school house are the grounds of Hogwarts Castle?

Let's set off exploring, beautiful silken trains trailing behind.

Honestly, the back of the tea gown my be my very favorite part of it.

Originally, I'd planned for the back to be all one fabric, no center back contrast, just like the original. However, I didn't have enough silk jacquard for that to work. So, I took a hint from this 1880's tea gown and made the train, flowing down from the waist, from black silk satin.

And I absolutely love the result! It definitely turned out better, or at least more interesting, than my original plan would have!

It's the layers and different texture that make this tea gown so much fun!

The green, and the black. . .

The streaked satin, and the jacquard. . .

The velvet ruffles. . .

The bodice pleating. . .

The front layers. . .

The sleeve dimensions. . . 

And the back train.

All together it makes one perfectly fun, fabulous, and magically inspired tea gown.

Perfect for wearing while instructing stone statues to defend Hogwarts;

Or relaxing in a garden like an 1890's lady of leisure.

I now have a beautiful gown that works for both activities!

What more could I ask for?

If you have not followed along with my 1890's tea gown making journey so far and want to catch up, check out the links bellow!

You can find out how I got the inspiration here.

Check out the tea gown I decided to copy here.

See how I made the pattern here.

Read the struggles I ran into mocking it up and cutting it out here.

And observe how it all came together here.

A huge thank-you to my friend Bretta for taking all the amazing pictures for me!

Now, what costume should I start on next??

Monday, July 9, 2018

Happy Butterflies, Sword Fights, and 4th of July!

Every once in a while you need a skirt. A skirt with large pockets. A skirt that's comfortable. A skirt that you can run and play in. A skirt that you can sword fight with your brother in. Yes, every once in a while you need that kind of skirt. 

At least, that's the kind of skirt I decided my sister needed when I agreed to test the new child's Gingerbread Gretel skirt by Mother Grimm designs. This pattern is sized from newborn, to 14 years, and my sister's measurements just lined up with size 14. So, I decided why not? My sister could use some new skirts, the designer needed someone to test size 14, and I had a few pieces of knit fabric, too small for a full garment, but too big to be clasified as scraps, that I wanteded to use up. 

The pockets are almost large enough to stash a play sword in!

A few weeks ago, I was gifted a butterfly T-shirt to add to my fabric stash and re-fashion at my leisure.

Of course, as soon as this shirt came home with me, I knew it would become something for my sister, but what, I didn't know. Thankfully, before the shirt had time to languish in my fabric stash and be forgotten, the question was answered. I received the Gretel Skirt pattern for testing and the front skirt panel pattern piece just barely fit on the front of the T-shirt! 

The skirt pockets got cut from the back of the skirt, and the side panels, back, and waistband got cut from a dark gray jersey knit I found in my stash.

I quickly sewed up the skirt one evening before bed, and presented it to my sister the next morning. She quickly declared she loved it and it was very comfortable and she wore it to Latin camp with her homeschool co-op that day. Then, she requested another couple skirts from the pattern, and I obliged, though perhaps not as quickly as she was hoping.

The look I get when I don't make her new clothes as fast as she wants them.
The pattern designer did what pattern designers are apt to do during testing and made some minor changes to the skirt pattern. Once that was done, I sewed up a second skirt to test the fit of the updated pattern, and my sister got the skirt she'd requested.

For the second skirt I paired a pink camo jersey knit (left over from making myself PJ pants a couple years ago) with some bright green cotton/spandex jersey. The second skirt was sewn up just as quickly as the first and fit even better! And my sister liked it just as much!

At this point, the pattern designer declared the fit of the pattern was just right and I decided to make my sister one more skirt. After all, she needed something red, white, and blue to wear for the 4th of July!

I made my mom a red, white, and blue, stripes, and fireworks, perfect for Independence Day, dress a couple months ago. And, I had fabric left over from it. 

So, I took those scraps of cotton interlock, along with a random scrap of blue and white starry jersey found in my sewing room, and turned them into an independence day skirt for my sister. She was thrilled!

Thus, on the 4th of July, my mom and sister had coordinating outfits.

And, not to be left out of the fun, I whipped up a red, white, and blue tank top for myself out of the little bit of striped fabric, and the very tiny amount of fireworks fabric, that as left after making the dress and skirt!

Three different garments out of under 3 yards of fabric! I'd say we did pretty well with our patriotic fabric this year!

I hope you had an excellent 4th of July with your family and friends! If you're interested, you can get the Gingerbread Gretel Skirt pattern for yourself here. It also comes in adult sizes! Both the child's and adult Gretel Skirt patterns are on sale through tomorrow (7/10/18) for 25% off!

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Making The 1890's McGonagall Inspired Tea Gown - Pockets and Such

After making nearly 4 mockups of my 1890's tea gown, I had the easiest order of construction for that sucker down pat. Sew the side back panels to the center back panels. Sew the center back seam. Pleat the excess center back skirt fabric, press, pin, and hand sew the pleats in place.

(Ok, so on the mockups I machine stitched the pleats. But on the real thing I hand sewed so the stitching wouldn't show on the right side of the garment.)

Then, move on to the front of the panels of the tea gown - and this is where things got a little more complicated than they had been on the mockups. All those things you don't have to do on mockups, finishing edges, adding pockets, and actually attaching the entire skirt to the bodice? It was time for all that to be done on the real thing.

I pleated the front under bodice pieces just as I had on my final mockup. Then I finished the edges of the left bodice piece with a 2" wide black silk facing. And the right bodice piece? That I attached to the under skirt.

Now, I had not mocked up the front underskirt of my tea gown at all. Nope, I had a vague idea of what the underskirt needed to look like, and how it ought to attach to the bodice and overskirt, and I just winged it on the final garment. Thankfully, that mostly turned out ok. Only one last minute alteration had to be made -  but more on that later. 

The front underskirt was one big rectangle of black silk satin backed with black cotton broadcloth. I gathered the top edge to be a few inches longer than the bottom edge of my under bodice, and sewed it in place. I let the skirt extend past the end of what would be a wrap-style under bodice. The under skirt would reach from side seam to side seam of my tea gown. The wrap bodice would only be covering 2/3rds of that distance. I attached a partial waistband to the upper edge of the skirt where whe bodice ended. 

Once the top edge of the underskirt was all fixed up, it was time to focus on the sides. These would be sewn into the side seams of the "over gown". The left side of the under skirt got a placket, so I would be able to get the tea gown on and off, and where the placket ended, the left side also got a pocket. 

The right side too got a pocket, it's just a little higher up on my hip than the one on the left, as there was no placket to contend with.

 These pockets are completely hidden by the "over dress" when the tea gown is worn - and they are very handy for putting things in!

I finished the front edges of my over dress with 2" facings, just like I did on the under bodice edges. And then, once the placket, pockets, and facings were all fixed up, I attached the under dress to the front over dress at the side seams and shoulders then sewed the front of the tea gown to the back. My tea gown was taking shape! It could now be tried on!

It fit!! And it resembled my inspiration gown! I was feeling good about this thing!

Next, thankfully with no difficulties, I constructed the sleeves and attached them to the gown. I decided to add a wide black velvet ruffle to the ends of the sleeves, and I love the effect it gives!

Now all my tea gown needed was the finishing work - the hems, closures, waist stay, boning, and bum pad. Well, I was almost ready for that stuff at least. Remember how I hadn't mocked up my underskirt? That shortcut came back to bite me. At this point it become obvious the under skirt needed a bit more work - it just wasn't as full at the hem as it needed to be. So, I pulled out my leftover fabric and seam ripper and added triangular gores at the side seams.

Thankfully, I had plenty of black satin left over to use for this. What I no longer had was black cotton broadcloth. Thus, the gores are flat-lined with purple quilting cotton instead, because that's what I was able to quickly find in my stash.

Once the gores were in place, it was time to really finish the gown. There was one internal picture of the gown on the LACMA website that allowed me to see how the dress was structured. (You can click on the picture below to go to the LACMA entry for this tea gown)

From this picture I was able to discern that the gown was supported by boning at the center back and side seams, a waist stay, and a small bum pad. So, I added these elements to my tea gown.

Three steel bones, encased in cotton ribbon on the side and back seams, a waist stay made of fun chevron cotton twill tape, and a bum pad made from scraps of black broadcloth and stuffed with torn up cotton quilt batting. The bum pad greatly improves the silhouette of the back of the gown.

I then hemmed the gown with a wide, bias-cut, cotton corduroy hem facing.

And finally, to finish it up, I sewed two small sets of hooks and bars onto the waist stay, and two large sets of hooks and bars onto wrap portions of the underbodice. 4 hooks and 4 bars, that's all it takes to fasten this gown!

When the last hook was sewn on, my Professor McGonagall inspired, 1895 Liberty of London, tea gown reproduction was done! All that's left to do now is to find as many excuses to wear it as possible! Oh, and a photo shoot, I definitely need more pictures of it!

Even though it was finished a few days after the deadline, this tea gown is my entry for May's Historical Sew Monthly challenge; Specific to a Time (of Day or Year).

What the item is: A Tea Gown - Tea gowns became popular in the late Victorian era. They were garments worn at home, primarily in the late afternoon.

Material: Silk Satin, Silk Jacquard, Polyester Velvet (sleeve ruffles) Cotton Broadcloth (underlining), and Cotton Corduroy (hem facing)

Pattern: A combination of several patterns from "59 Authentic Turn of the Century Fashion Patterns" along with a few self drafted pieces.

Year: 1895

Notions: Thread, hooks and bars, twill tape, cotton ribbon, cotton batting, steel boning

How historically accurate is it? The pattern is accurate. The materials are accurate to this type of garment, have the right look, and are mostly accurate in fiber content (poly velvet being the exception here). This is a copy of a Liberty Tea Gown at LACMA, and I referenced the pictures of the original to help construct both the interior and exterior of my gown. The construction is a mixture of machine sewing with hand sewn finishes, which is also accurate for the period - with the exception of my serged seam allowances. This would be recognizable in its time. So I'll say 80% accurate. 

Hours to complete: Oh goodness, I don't know!

First worn: June 5th, to assure myself it was really done and it really fit!!!!

Total cost: Around $100 USD