Making an Edwardian Dressing Gown 2: Fabric

Dressing gowns were pretty spiff wear in the 19th century. They evolved from the Indian banyan, a casual long garment. Our modern bathrobes, worn to brush your teeth or donned after the shower, do not fill quite the same ecological niche. Dressing gowns were more in the line of yoga pants, or sweats. If your regular day wear involved high starched collars, tight waistcoats, and stovepipe hats, a nice loose gown was a relief to don at the end of the day. In a classy dressing gown you could receive close friends, take breakfast or a late supper, or sit by the fire and discuss cases with Dr. Watson while smoking your pipe. Here we may see a typical dressing gown in its native habitat, modeled by Thomas Carlyle. The Sage of Chelsea is depicted by the mid- 19th century painter in the full trappings of an intellectual, pen in hand, his wife Jane by the fire of an intensely-pattern-filled drawing room, wearing a jazzy striped dressing gown. Notice he is wearing it over a shirt (see the white collar and cuffs peeking out) and boots. He probably has trousers on under there too. But he did shed all the other uncomfortable outerwear.


The salient features of this garment, which hold for many decades, are the long sleeves, long skirt, and the center front opening that allows for easy on and off. The dressing gown I propose to make clearly has to be like this.

And, what luck! I have a vast stash of fabric, a dragon hoard accumulated over decades by many hands. Relatives, friends, I have inherited stash from many sewers who could have been on cable TV being kindly addressed by Marie Kondo. In justice, for a purely impractical project like this, I shouldn’t go and spend lots of money on more cloth. I should raid my stash. And very fortunately I have about ten yards of glorious gold brocade with a sprigged pattern. Behold!


I’ve been saving this mouthwatering yardage for years, just in case the Queen of England invites me to court or something. But I’m tired of waiting for HM to get it together. The greenish rope cording is also from the stash — I must have eight yards of it, plenty for any craziness I care to execute. At the bottom is some very dark gray brocade with a gold spriggy pattern, a great contrast!

So the plan falls into place. A gold brocade dressing gown, with the black an elaborate collar, lapels, and cuffs, carefully adjusted so that the vines all run up or downhill properly. If there is enough yardage there’ll be a box pleat at the back, from collar to floor, to ensure a proper period fullness at the back.

Next up: into the weeds of design. Because there are no Simplicity patterns for this kind of thing. Not a problem. Before I cut, I need to make the pattern. Measure twice, cut once!







Making an Edwardian Dressing Gown 2: Fabric — 9 Comments

  1. Measure twice, cut once is what I was taught, also, but a trial run in cheaper fabric is also a good way to go. One caution, though–the time I was stupid enough to make a trial halter-dress (and this should tell you how long ago this was) out of cotton twill as a test-run for spiffy fabric made of silk taught me that the fabrics need to be of equal weight and weave. The twill draped beautifully, and the expensive plain-weave did not.

  2. Oh yes! And stretch. A tee shirt fabric cannot be modeled in woven muslin, it only leads to tears. However, I am both bold and lazy. I can get away with a lot in a loose unfitted garment like this. If it were closely fitting then yes, a dummy garment might be essential.

  3. Consider starting not completely from scratch, but from a jacket pattern made longer. I used a shawl collar jacket pattern, made it a little wider for more overlap, and a lot longer, with belt loops (and pockets).

  4. Isn’t it a glorious fabric? It is at least 50 years old. It was given to me in the 90s by an elderly friend who was moving to a senior community in Florida. She had a stash accumulated not only by herself but by her two older sisters, one of whom was a couture seamstress in New York City. I was gifted with bales of fabric, enough trim to last the rest of my life, and buttons enough to fill a bathtub. I have been steadily giving most of it away (it is clear I can never use it all) but I saved this, because it is so glorious. Where did it come from? It doesn’t feel like an Asian fabric. Anyone have a possible ID?
    Never until now though could I think of anything to do with it. No Prince invited me to a ball, and the Nobel Committee has not gotten in touch about my prize. Use it or lose it, is where I am now!

    • I envy you the trim stash. It is almost impossible to find any kind of interesting selection now.

  5. That is going to be beyond splendiferous. I think you need to get the Windsors on the horn and tell them, in no uncertain terms, to invite you to brunch as soon as the gown is done.

  6. The other notion is I need to come to the Dickens Faire and trail around in this, perhaps moodily clutching a long feather pen just like Thomas Carlyle above. I may not be able to be the wife of the Emperor of China, but I could definitely fit in.