Monday, April 25, 2016

Edwardian Tea Gown / Simplicity 8399

The Ladies of the Traveling Tea Society planned an Edwardian Tea on the Queen Mary this Month in Remembrance of the Titanic.  In support of this event, the Orange County Costume Guild had an Edwardian Sewing Challenge due April 1st.  While my first choice did not work out (a true vintage restoration piece – still in progress), I was able to cobble together an Edwardian Tea gown that I very much liked. 

I did not have a lot of time left for sewing and making a new gown after I tabled my original project, only about ten days, and that included buying the necessary fabrics!  I took a day looking at my pattern stash and deciding on colors.  I wanted something easy and pretty straight-forward, so I selected the Simplicity 8399 Titanic Dress pattern by Andrea Schewe.

Next, I was off to purchase fabric.  The night prior I had sat and watched a spectacular sunset, all corals, dusty purples, and peach, highlighted with pops of gold and white.  I decided right then and there, those would be my colors!  As luck would have it, I was able to pull together all the fabrics and colors that I needed.  A beautiful peach embroidered sheer, a pink Chiffon, a dusty violet Georgette, plus a coral Crepe de Chine.  The drape and hand of each fabric was in perfect contrast to the next color it layed against. 

This gown would need to be dry-cleaned due the fabrics, so I just pinned the pattern pieces and went for it.  There are three different layers on the skirt and four different layers on the bodice.  The embroidered sheer was lined with the Chiffon, the Georgette, and lastly the Crepe de Chine.  The bodice has all three of those, plus a white striped cotton underbodice that you can see just a little of.  Lots of seam sewing, hemming, and gathering for the skirt section, followed by lots of fiddling of fabrics for the bodice.  The pattern called for a big zipper, but no thank you, I went with a row of beautiful mother of pearl ½” buttons down the back instead.  Another change I made was I lengthened the sleeves to elbow length. 

One thing that I did not learn about this pattern until it was too late was the bust line.  If you are a smaller busted lady, say B-cup or smaller and short waisted, you should be okay.  This pattern makes no adjustment for cup size.  I should have done a full bust adjustment and added three inches to the length as I am also long waisted, but with a back closing gown, it is always so hard to fit yourself.  By the time I realized I had a problem, it was too late to fix it.  I just used my corset to flatten down the “girls” for a better fit, and made a wider sash to help cover my faux pas.  In my defense, I did cut a bodice mock up, but again, it is just so hard to fit a back closing gown without help.

While the pattern looks simple, it is deceptive, the layering construction can be challenging.  You have a lot of fabric to work with in all the skirts, approximately nine yards, plus another two yards or so of fabric in the bodice, for an eleven yard total.  I think I bought twelve yards total, and just managed to have a few scrapes leftover.  I bargained very hard for the fabrics and notions, so I think the entire gown cost me approx $28 to make as I already had the pattern.

I am not sure that I would personally use this pattern again unless making the necessary FBA bodice adjustments, as it was not really designed for my body shape, and there are just too many other patterns out there to try without all that extra effort.  However, I think this is a good pattern for a smaller bust sized person with beginning sewing skills that would like to give themselves a challenge.  Enjoy.


  1. I too have the same problem with back closing bodices and fitting. My favorite solution is to finish the back closure but leave the side seams open and then pin those on me to fit. The hard part is remembering to do that. I have a big sign over my computer that says "Do Closures First on Patterns".
    It was a beautiful dress and I love that a sunset was your inspiration for the colors.

  2. Oh Val! That is a BRILLIANT suggestion! I will definitely be doing that on all future projects!!

  3. I baste a zipper on mockup backs in order to figure out the fit. Your dress looks great!