Makings of a High Tea Couture Dress
Here it is, the first (almost complete) toile of the Mooshi couture tea dress!
I didn’t manage to hem the skirt like I promised as I decided to change its shape and length. I would have loved to extend the back hem into a train but the width of the vintage voile isn’t wide enough for this extravagance. It will now be an even tea-gown length as in my illustration.
A Traditional Couture Tea Dress
A tea-gown is traditionally mid-calf to ankle length long and in contemporary wear is defined as a flowing dress of sheer or translucent fabric (wikipedia). How happenstance that my dress is sheer and in a shade of tea. Guess what I’m doing to the white silk cotton voile lining! I’m dyeing it with tea. A test dip resulted in a lovely shade of tea with cream. Total fabric for this dress, per layer amounts to 6.5 metres, just over 7 yards, and lots of cups of tea!
My order of the silk satin organza and silk chiffon also arrived recently and I took some time to test out the beaded smocking on three layers of fabric – the vintage voile on top of the chiffon and organza.
The organza makes such a difference to the result. The smocking is more defined and structured. Here is the beaded smocking sample draped over my dress form. Click here to watch a video of me smocking the vintage voile in my studio.
A keyword search for smocking on the internet brought up a wonderful article called “Smocking: A Stitch in Time” by the Jane Austen Society in the UK which shows an illustration of a smocked gown published in Costume Parisien in 1812. Look at those sleeves!
Regency period smocking was worn not only to provide elasticity and function to a garment as was its traditional purpose, such as on cuffs, necklines and bust lines. It was also worn as an elaborate and decorative status symbol and was a popular adornment technique throughout the 18th and 19th Centuries.
This image from the Jane Austen article illustrates the use of honeycomb stitch smocking on an 18th Century gown. The article refers to honeycomb stitch being the reverse side of the smocking. Below is an image of the reverse side of my smocking showing the same effect on silk organza.
Looking at both images, its interesting to see the difference in their effects. The smocked pleats on the 18th Century gown are obviously much larger, indicating that wider stitches and more fabric was used. Smocking can require fabric up to 3x the width of the finished area, or even more depending on the desired effect and weight of the fabric. For a visual tutorial on how to create a Regency style smocked chemisette using honeycomb stitch, visit the JaneAustin.co.uk.
Now for a cup of tea to contemplate the next steps of the couture dress project.