Mooshi’s High Tea Couture Dress
After an intense period of sewing in August to make the Mooshi Tessuti Couture Dress for the Tessuti Awards, Mooshi has finally found time to finish it’s first high tea couture dress!
The intention behind this project was to make a tea dress modelled on the 1950’s classical style of tea dresses that had full skirts and beautifully fitted bodices. I’ve never made a tea dress before, certainly not from scratch with a bespoke pattern and I’m glad to say this one has exceeded my expectations.
When I started designing this dress I drew a very simple design. If you look back on my previous posts you’ll see my illustrations; a simple bodice with short sleeves and a full circle skirt. I certainly stuck with my goal to produce a fitted bodice and full circle skirt full of flounce as I had illustrated. But I had no idea I was going to smock the sleeves until I explored smocking as an embellishment technique. The lattice embroidery on the voile was what sparked my curiosity for smocking and made a great foundation for the honeycomb stitch I used.
Smocking the sleeves (with very small cream coloured beads) took some time to do and needed to be done before I could fit them to the bodice. But even before fitting them, I had to hand drape the smocked pieces (with the sleeve head trimmed with a very wide seam allowance) onto the form first to determine the sleeve head seam line. Sure, I could follow the seam line I drafted on my pattern but this is not always the best way to fit a pattern if you’re adding embellishments such as smocking where extra fabric is drawn through the work and more ease is required. Hand draping, pinning and basting the sleeves to the bodice in this way gives a much more flattering result than working with the flat pattern.
Mooshi’s tip for smocking? Always use the pattern as a guide, and test it out in the fabric you’re working with before marking the seam lines. I was lucky that I could use the rows of lattice embroidery to work with and keep both sleeves looking reasonably consistent. In one of my earlier posts about this project I included a photo of this stage showing one of the sleeves basted in place.
Onto the zip. Well only hand stitching will do for couture work and it really is a better method to use for a finer finish, especially if any pattern matching is involved. I loved stitching it in. Allowing enough fabric at the top edges can always be a little tricky. I’ve also stitched in a small hook and eye to keep the neckline edges flush, and I’ve slip stitched the zipper edges to secure the layers of fabric making up the bodice. A word of caution, hand stitch your lining sufficiently away from the zipper teeth or it will catch and tear.
Now to the front. Here we have lovely hand beaded and stitched lace trim and a corsage of tea dyed hand folded silk organza roses. I also made a silk chiffon and organza sash to tie around the waist.
And the piece de resistance….the skirt! It is underlined with a mocha silk chiffon and ivory silk organza. Added to that is the silk cotton voile lining I inserted to the whole dress. This combination adds a wonderful body and weight that makes it truly a gown and not just a dress. It really has to be seen to be appreciated. Each hem is hand rolled and stitched! I think I have this technique down pat! It’s a joy to stitch a fine hem like these. Oh and I mustn’t forget that I also stitched French seams in each skirt layer. No fraying seams here!
There you have it. The Mooshi Couture Dress perfect for High Tea!