Tuesday, June 26, 2018

My La Mode Bagatelle Artistic Reform Tea Gown adventure!

Well I decided I needed a challenge gauntlet thrown down in my sewing room! I have been in a bit of a funk, kinda bored and unmotivated. I rely on sewing to keep the creative side of my brain happy. It lifts my mood and eases stress. So I went wandering through my patterns and nestled in my 1890s stash was La Mode Bagatelle's Artistic Reform Tea Gowns pattern. I already had the fabric needed for the under gown and over gown. The only things purchased were ribbon and some lace. Yay for stash busting!

Here we go!

Under gown:

I decided on view C. This is the most advanced view and it took a lot of patience. The under gown's bodice has a fitted waist length under bodice and the outer bodice has a raised waist line, except for the very front pieces. View C has a stand up collar and very involved ruched pin tucked sleeves with cuffs. The skirt is a simple A line shape lightly gathered.


Cream silk sari fabric. This is a light weight version of silk taffeta. It is very nice to work with. The pattern's fabric requirements are accurate. I do try to have a bit more on hand than I need just in case.


I decided on size 18 or 44 bust. Yes I did make a muslin and just needed to add a bit more in the waist area. I am wearing this with a loosely laced corset. If you decide to wear this with modern undergarments you may have to make more alterations. The bust points are very perky and if you are dealing with the ravages of gravity then you might have to lengthen the bodice to get full coverage. They do also have a DD cup option in this pattern.


The under gown's fitted inside bodice is waist length. As a short waisted gal I had to shorten it about 1.5 inches. I always pay attention to the back of neck to waist measurement on pattern envelopes. I also needed to add about 1 inch to the waist measurement. I was surprised that those were the only two alterations I needed to make. I didn't bother to shorten the outer bodice because it was already short enough.

Directions and making it work:

The direction aren't terrible. However they are assuming sewing knowledge. The bodice goes together fine. The stand up collar is not fun at all. Oddly at some point in my life I made a similar collar and understood what they wanted me to do. It is very fussy and I still had to rip out stitches and do over. Attaching the skirt is fine until you reach the front panels. It is again very fussy and I did improvise and attach the last inch on both sides by hand. It still is a bit of a coarse join and the pattern recommends using some trim on the waist seam, I think to cover it up. I'm not putting trim on an under dress. You will be sewing on lots of hooks or snaps. I wound up changing the hooks I used to snaps because there wasn't quite enough tension on my under bodice to hold the hooks closed.


If you are going with view C you need to make all the pin tucks and gathers by hand. Truly. You start out by pulling single threads from the fabric weave up to the point that each the pin tuck ends. You then use those lines to create your tucks by matching them together 2 at a time. This makes sure your tucks are totally on grain. Otherwise your sleeves will twist weirdly while you are wearing the gown. Then you stitch your tucks by hand with a long running stitch and use that same thread to pull up the gathers. It all works out nicely and the end product is pretty. The cuffs aren't difficult but it took a few  long looks at the drawings to figure out what I was supposed to do. I would say they are fussy but not as bad as the collar.

 Beginning stages of the bodice.

 Sleeve progress. This is what they look like as you are pulling threads from the weave to mark the pin tucks. Try to pull gently so you don't go past the end of the tuck markings. 

 Sewing the pin tucks by hand with a long gathering stitch.

Finished sleeve!

 Under gown when fastened.

 Under gown with skirt undone.

 Under gown with all the fastenings undone. 

Over gown view C:

Again the most challenging view. It slips on over your head and has a shoulder closure. I used snaps. Skirt is A line shaped and gathered at the waist with a modest train. Sleeves are pure butterfly fairy Wicca drama. They are pleated to the bodice.


They give a lot of fabric options. Anything from something with lots of drape to stiffer home decor or mid weight silks. I had this lovely green silk faille in my stash. It is a mid weight fabric with lots of body. I used my cream sari silk as the sleeve lining. The trim is 2 1/8 inch wide jacquard ribbon. Gold on black. They don't give yardage info for the amount you will need. I bought 4 yards and used it all. The hem is faced with bias cut brown velveteen. I also added some cheap ruffled lace to protect the hem. I just peeks out and is sewn to the underside of the skirt. Buy the cheap stuff, baste it on by hand. When it gets worn out just replace it.


Once again the size 18, 44 bust.


I made a muslin and in doing so I realized that the length from shoulder to apex was too long and would need to be shortened. I have this issue with modern RTW fashions as well. My shoulder to apex measurement is short. Things like tank tops are always too long in the strap area. Knowing I had to shorten both bodice front and back in the arm hole area it would throw off the pleats on the sleeves. I didn't worry too much about it and once I got to the sleeves I just followed the pleating markings and made small adjustments to the pleats. The skirt was a bit long in front for me so I shortened it about 1.5 inches.  I'm 5ft 4in for reference. I normally decide on what shoes I will be wearing before I start on any project. I then set my dress form to that height. Once I have the bodice done I will drape the skirt front pattern piece and see how much I need to remove from the length.

Bodice alteration. Both front and back pieces had to be shortened in the upper torso area. The back bodice was gaping even worse than the front.


They are still assuming sewing knowledge. I didn't have any issues putting this together but there were some parts of the instructions that just weren't covered. Like sewing the side seams. That is pretty much all the directions say. However, you have a lining and fashion fabric to sew. If you have ever made a lined vest before then you shouldn't have an issue. See below.

Sewing the side seams. Your lining is already attached at the neckline. Sew each side seam RST and then flip it so that the wrong sides rest against each other.

The other part was the shoulder closure. They suggest a piece of a short piece 3 inch wide petersham ribbon that you fold in half. You attach this to one shoulder and it serves as a foundation for the eyes or in my case snaps that the other shoulder will attach to. You don't want this ribbon in your arm hole space. It will interfere when you attach the sleeve. See pic below.

Shoulder seam closure. I had to trim my 3 inch ribbon because it was too wide so I serged the cut edge. I measured and made sure it wasn't going to interfere with my sleeve. The upper raw edge will be enclosed by the lining. The ribbon flips up and the other shoulder will lay on top of the ribbon and attach to it with hooks or snaps.

**Side note, the sleeves are open at the top. That is how you are able to have a shoulder closure. A normal sleeve is sewn together like a tube or circle. Think of this sleeve as the letter C laying on it's curved back.

Make sure you stay stitch the necklines. For two reasons. One is to stabilize and the other is to help with the ribbon placement. You lay the ribbon on top of the bodice pieces ant attach it that way. It helps to have a guide. No right sides together stuff. Do not cut the ribbon until you have made the gathers in the bodice front to your liking. Measure what you need then cut. The ribbon will need darts on both the front and back points. This will be done freestyle as you are attaching it. 

Bodice completed. Where the waist trim meets at the center point is where you will put the dart, same at the center back. 

Attaching the skirt was not difficult. I did have to combine gathers and pleats because my fabric was thick. All gathers looked like crap. So I gathered the front and back and pleated the sides. Again you are laying your trim/ribbon on top and top stitching it to attach. It helps to have your seam allowances  clearly marked.

Final notes:

A really nice pattern but not for beginners. Even an intermediate may struggle with this one. I had some head scratching moments for sure but worked my way through them. You fabric choices will determine how this gown drapes. Mine is more origami like because my fabric has so much body. If you go with silk velvet, chiffon or charmeuse the gown will look totally different. What is nice about having the underdress in a neutral color is I can make a different overdress view and change up the look. This delightful ensemble is traveling to Costume College next month! And......... I will now commence with the pictures!

 Sleeve detail. A lot of work but so worth it.

 Going all Artistic Reform in the garden!

 Back view. A modest manageable train. 

 I decided to let my hair down to fully celebrate dress reform!

Contemplating poppies!