If you want to do some more reading about them, Leimomi’s blog has a lot of information on them.
When a challenge came up to make and wear them at Costume College this coming July, that fit right in to my project.
Right now the favored pattern for them is Truly Victorian # 423 tea gown. It’s labeled as 1880s but the style was also being worn in the 70s. The one by the Wisconsin Historical Society (aka Patterns of History), called the Avant-Garde gown from 1881, would have been a nice one but it only comes in Size 10. But I have it, and might try and play around with it someday. http://shop.wisconsinhistory.org/productcart/pc/viewPrd.asp?idproduct=273&idcategory=22
This is a drawing I came across showing the interior of one that I think is from Janet Arnold’s books but I’m not sure. Notice that it has a stay belt on the interior that is attached in the back and hooks around your waist in the front to keep it snug.
I didn’t want mine to look like a generic plain one, but something a little more elegant. I began collecting photos on Pinterest and found many would be hidden within a fashion plate of multiple dresses that could be worn throughout the day, or sometimes in the corner of a catalog page.
I found this lovely 1877 mourning tea gown (as seen by the black edged envelopes) and anyone who knows me, knows I love to make mourning dresses. There’s lots of little details I love on it. So this one may show up in my wardrobe too.
There are quite a few extant gowns for inspiration too, and a couple of them are Worth gowns.
I finally nailed down this one, identified as an 1870s Worth gown. The two ladies are having tea in a home, and have a visitor show up. The picture is a little grainy but her neckline almost looks like a chemise with a ribbon drawstring, and a bare neckline with a couple strings of pearls. Kind of dressy but still definitely an article of dishabille.
The main fabric looks like a brocade, with a solid train, and a lightweight underdress. So I decided this would be my inspiration for a Worth tea gown.
My fabric was easy. I found this medium weight polyester, plum colored fabric in a newly opened store in the L.A. Garment District that was heavily embroidered with flowers and vines. It just screamed Worth dress to me. And at $2.99 yard, I bought 10 yards not even knowing how much I would need at the time. It turns out the pattern needs 7 yards, and the pattern pieces are full length so take into account if you have to buy small 3-4 yard pieces you will need 4 lengths long enough to cut from your neck to floor.
The center insertion fabric was the hardest for me to find. I first thought a lighter color than the plum but I think it needed contrast, and white didn’t work. After dragging it around in Yardage Town last week, I finally decided on a sheer pale pink chiffon. You can see through it but my plan is to shirr it so it’s opaque. Although bets are on whether I’m going to cut my throat after trying to cut and sew it.
I started tracing out the pattern yesterday so I could make my muslin to fit me. I only traced it down to the waistline for fitting. I saw the markings to pleat the Watteau back and thought this is going to be easy and followed the direction to fold them.
But then I was politely told just how I *should* be doing those pleats. And it wasn’t like the markings on the pattern seemed to show. WRITTEN IN THE DIRECTIONS, it has you fold the center back WRONG sides together and sew a straight line down to your waist on one of the marked lines. THEN you fold that in towards the sewn center line. BUT NOT ON THE INSIDE of the fabric as I did but on the OUTSIDE. Back to the drawing board. And no, I didn’t read the directions before I started. At least this was just the muslin.
I also was fitting this to myself with my corset on but after reading Leimomi’s blog I saw that these were not meant to be worn with a corset but to be comfortable in around the house. Hmmm. I’ll have to think about that for a while because my pattern was cut to fit my corseted body.
Now that I’ve got that worked out, I get to start cutting my fabric. Just look at all that pretty!