I think it's the sleeve that I'm particularly drawn to. There's just something about the ruching on the sheer fabric that I love. I analyzed the fashion plate to determine the bodice and sleeve styling and I decided that I would make this an apron front gown simply so I could dress myself. I just can't manage gowns that button or tie in back and I'm at a loss when there is no one at home to help me. Looking at the picture above, however, it looks like the gown in the illustration was probably one that buttoned in the back.
I had never made an apron front gown before but I stumbled upon this set of costume tutorial pictures on Flickr which made the construction quite clear.
I settled on using the Elegant Lady's Closet pattern by Sense and Sensibility because I had already muslined it and I thought I could make it work.
I decided that I would use the back bodice pieces, the skirt pieces and the front lining pieces to make the bodice and I'd draft my own bib front and alter the short sleeve pattern.
Here's what the bodice is like on the pattern.
I tried this gown on to see how much I'd need to adjust the lining pieces. I made them 1 inch higher so they'd cover my stays and I made the shoulder strap 1/4 inch wider. I also extended the front edge by 2 inches.
I cut all of the bodice back pieces and the new bodice front (old lining) pieces out of the dotted Swiss and some white muslin for lining. I treated the two layers as one and sewed the back seams in small French seams. I basted the front pieces together and stitched them to the back at the sides and shoulders using French seams.
I decided the openings in the skirt would be at the side seams. I cut out the skirt pieces, extending the back skirt piece 2 inches at the side seam for the under lap. I looked at some extants in Costume in Detail and Patterns of Fashion to figure out how long to make the split and I determined 12 inches was appropriate so I stitched the side seams in the skirt and left an opening of 12.5 inches. I used French seams. I turned under the edges of the opening and stitched them with running stitch. The back of the skirt was gathered and stitched to the bodice with the side edges extending past the side seams.
You can see how the front will overlap.
I tried it on to check for fit. I intended at this point to eliminate some layers. The front pieces will over lap each other and I didn't want 4 layers of fabric. The bottom layer would be the muslin lining only and the top layer would be the dotted Swiss only. I marked where the excess layers would be cut away. I also determined that I needed to add some little pleats under the bust to make it fit better.
Then I pinned the front skirt in place and adjusted the gathers so that the edges of the front skirt would end at the bodice side seams, overlapping the back skirt pieces a couple of inches.
The extra layers were cut away with the cut edge being turned under and secured with running stitch. The gown was tried on the dress form
To draft the front bib pieces, I used the wrap front pattern piece to get the correct curve for the bottom edge of the piece. I cut a large piece of Swedish tracing paper, pinned 4 small pleats in it and pinned it to the dress form.
I used a marker to draw the shape I wanted. Here you can see how it compares to the original pattern piece.
I checked the fit of the new pattern piece.
I cut two pieces out of dotted Swiss and lining, stitched them right sides together and turned them right side out after trimming the seam allowance to a scant 1/8 inch. Then I stitched the pleats in. I pinned them to the gown to check the position and then stitched them together.
I cut a band 2.5 inches wide and the length of the top of the front skirt plus one inch. I folded in the ends 1/2" and folded it in half lengthwise. I placed the raw edges against the top of the skirt right side then placed the bib top right side down and sewed the layers together. The band and the skirt extended beyond the bib top by about 2 inches. I folded the band and the seam allowances up toward the bodice, grading the layers. I stitched half inch wide cotton tape over the seam allowances to finish them and did the same to the back bodice. I also stitched 1/4" tape to the edges of the back skirt and to the edges of the front skirt. Then I made thread loops at the back bodice seams. You can see how this works at the Flickr stream I linked above.
Now I had to get to work on the sleeves. I used the short sleeve in the pattern, lengthened it by about 3 inches, and made it about 10 inches wider. I drew a circle in what I determined to be the center of the sleeve with two ruching lines. I machine gathered these lines on a muslin and it seamed like it would work if I added another 4 inches or so to the width of the sleeve. You can see where I redrew the circle over the added 4 inches.
The sleeves were cut out of the dotted Swiss and the marks were traced onto the fabric with water soluble marker.
I ran gathering stitches at the bottom of the sleeve and the top using the machine. Then I cut a bias strip about 2.5 inches wide by the size of my bicep plus ease. I folded it in half lengthwise and gathered the base of the sleeve to the raw edges of the binding. The binding was pressed down and will be turned to the wrong side of the sleeve later.
For the ruching, first I gathered the circle. I gathered one forth of the circle at a time, drawing that section up to about 1 inch and making a locking stitch.
Then I gathered on the ruching lines, drawing the gathers up until the sleeves measured the size of my arm plus wearing ease.
I was worried about the ruching stitches breaking so I pinned 1/4 inch cotton tape to the wrong side of the stitches, running it across the circle:
This was stitched on from the front using spaced back stitches. Then the round puff was positioned and a couple of stitches were taken in the middle of it, securing it to the tape.
Once the ruching was completed, the sleeve seam was sewn and the binding was turned to the inside and stitched in place. One problem now is that the ruching changed the over all shape of the sleeve. There was way too much fabric in the front part of the sleeve at the shoulder so I pinned one sleeve to the dress form and drew new gathering lines for the front then transferred those lines to the other sleeve. Then I stitched the sleeves into the gown and cut away the excess fabric.
Here is the finished sleeve:
Hemmed the gown and it was DONE!
Here is the final fitting over my chemisette.
In retrospect, if I ever do a similar sleeve again, I will cut a sleeve the finished shape out of a sheer foundation fabric like organdy or netting and stitch the outer sleeve to it. That will help get the proper finished shape. I was so concerned with keeping the sheerness of the fabric that this didn't occur to me at the time.
Here is the finished gown as worn at Riversdale House Museum.