Making an Edwardian Dressing Gown 4: The Pattern

There are a couple areas of creativity where I have achieved a pleasing level of competence. I can sew or knit or write something entirely new, and it mostly turns out the way I envision it. Other areas I have not gotten to this level of freedom, and probably will not live long enough to achieve it.

But I have sewed and altered so very many garments that I know how to go about this one. The pattern for the body of this dressing gown will be in four pieces, two front and two back, each mirror images of each other. This allows for pleasant shaping, and a side seam gives me a place to insert pockets. The sleeves will be a single piece, again mirror images right and left. The center back box pleat will be a long single rectangle of fabric. (Should I make it wider at the bottom, a wedge? TBD) The scalloped lapels, right and left, will curve around the neck and widen at the bottom. Like this one:


At the back, above the central box pleat, the back collar will continue on around being scalloped. Notice in this magnificent example that the quilted contrast lapels are actually seamed onto the front. I won’t be doing that, because a scalloped seam in brocade is far too much like work. And are not the frog fastenings glorious? I don’t think I have the skill to do these. Before I actually start sewing I am going to have to come to a decision about the fastenings.

But, in the meantime, newspaper patterns. It is easiest to make patterns for one’s own self. You can measure yourself at any moment, and you presumably already have a wardrobe full of garments that already fit you. By copying the neckline and armhole of an existing garment onto newspaper I get this. In the middle behold the two torso pieces, front and back. The scalloped front lapel is beside them, and on the other side is the sleeve. The sleeve cuff, evenly scalloped, is on the far left and the back collar, also scalloped, lies at the top. I have cut this without the seam allowances. Before I actually move to the fabric I’ll do a little measuring, to be certain I’ve gotten enough width. You can sneak in length, but width is difficult to fix. Is the skirt going to be wide enough?

Paper Pattern




Making an Edwardian Dressing Gown 4: The Pattern — 13 Comments

  1. Will the entire scalloped front edging overlap the straight front fabric part, i.e. the straight edges get sown together and then the scalloped bit gets folded back?
    That’s what I understood; in that case the skirt might be a bit narrow.
    Check how large a stride you want to be able to make in it, or if you want to be able to sit cross-legged in it. I do, it’s why I only wear wide skirts.

    • I thought of a way to figure out if it’s going to hamper your stride. I’ve never had formal training in clothes-making, just picked up a few ideas from my mom, so I have no idea if there’s a better method or even if this will work at all.

      Tie a piece of string in a circle, as wide as the banyan + the backpleat will be just below the knees, and suspend the circle from your belt at both sides, to the right height. Then try taking biggish steps in it and see if it limits your stride.

      The bother is, I don’t think this will work at ankle height because the string will drag on the ground and you’ll just step over it or trip over it.
      For an ordinary skirt to just below the knee this might work, but your stride is widest at the ankles and the banyan will be ankle-length.
      Does anyone have a method that works at ankle-length?

  2. I so wish I had one of these as my working-from-home-in-winter garment. I’m the wrong shape entirely, but it’s so very beautiful.

  3. Yes, the lapels will attach to the body at the center front seam and then lay over onto the body of the garment. I think this glorious blue example is the same, and then the scalloped lapels sewn down onto the gown’s front. Doing a series of curved seams like this is brutally hard.
    Also, having a double or treble layer of fabric down the front increases warmth. One of the big 19th century bugabears was getting a chill on your torso. Trousers for men were cut very high in the waist, so as to cover the vulnerable kidney area, and then they’d button a double-breasted waistcoat over that before adding a coat. Thank goodness I won’t have to worry about that. Wherever I go I will have HVAC, and it’ll be easier to wear and to pack if it doesn’t weigh a ton.

  4. I will wear it to a convention, possibly more than one because why should the world not be dazzled over and over again? I need to organize to go to the Dickens Fair in SF, where I could swan around and be a moody writer, with a long quill pen and a boatload of complaints about Mr. Dickens rejecting my mss.

    As to estimating the width of the bottom circumference. The simplest way to do this is to already own a long skirt or dress that you can measure. Ideally in this case that other skirt should not be of a stretchy tee shirt material or something, so that you get an equivalent ease. I have a long skirt cut on the bias out of a thin tee shirt knit, which is ridiculously easy to wear because it stretches everywhere. But alas, I can never modify it unless I buy a serger.

    The other judgment to make is the silhouette of the final garment. The reason this project is Edwardian rather than Victorian is because I don’t want to have a waist seam and an enormous full skirt gathered into it. Not only would that suck up fabric like gee golly whiz, it’s bulky and uncomfortable to wear. Do I need six yards of fabric hitched around my waist? A sleeker line, like the blue number up at the top of this post, is both easier to sew and more pleasant to sit down in.

    And remember I have to cram this into a suitcase and carry it to Bristol in England. A full Victorian effort would call for a steamer trunk and extra baggage fees. It is a sad fact that nearly all historical garments are inconvenient! There is a reason why tee shirts are now the standard human garment, found worldwide.

  5. I made myself a calf length coat to a similar pattern and going off that I think you may need more width in the skirt, but its a little difficult to tell as I can’t really see how wide the pieces are at the bottom. However I love swishing around in gerously flared – not gathered for the reasons you mention – skirt so take my opinion with that caveat. That coat was wonderful for keeping me warm when I had to do out door stalls for work in winter in smart work clothes, a pair of knee high boots and the coat protected me from the weather while looking smart.

  6. The frogs are so pretty and go so well on the outfit that I would try to make them before you give up on them entirely. You never know with this kind of thing–you might discover a knack you didn’t know you had, and it you fail, the cording doesn’t cost so much that you wince afterward. You can probably find much information on the internet somewhere as well as videos, and just go slow. Alternatively, you might look for someone in the neighborhood who already does have the knack, who would be willing to trade services. I would love to see frogs on the finished garment, they look so fine.

  7. There was an article in Vogue knitting some years back about how to knit I-cord and turn it into frogs. No idea how to find that article now.

  8. No, the other consideration is attaching anything to that dark brocade. Which is stiff and heavy and the very devil to shove a needle through. My hot glue gun, what a temptation.

  9. That VK article was in the 1990s, as I recall.

    How did Edwardians attach frogs back in the day before hot glue guns, which I cannot recommend? I wonder if there is such a thing as diamond-tipped sewing needles? I daresay Tiffany’s would know.

  10. No, if you have time and patience (and a thimble) you can, and must, hand-sew everything on. Knitted I-cord frogs is not the way to go — too stretchy. If I make my own cords I will buy upholstery trim cord from someplace like Ebay. But I don’t want to do this. Must think.

  11. After I originally commented I seerm to have clicked on the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now every time
    a coment is adrded I recieve four emails with the same comment.
    Is there an easy meethod you can remove me
    from that service? Appreciate it!