Blue Tudor Gown: Outer Gown

After finishing the structure of the kirtle, I could begin the work of patterning and fitting the gown bodice. In terms of sequencing, I put some of the finishing and fancy work off for the kirtle to start the bodice. I like to do this so that I could have work in cutting, sewing machine, or hand sewing and switch between tasks depending on my mood at the time. For the bodice, I used the Henrician Gown pattern from The Tudor Tailor. The gown will require panels for the bodice including the center back, side back, side front, forebodies (center front panels that lace up), plaquette, large turn back sleeves including a contrasting lining, and skirt including the pleated front, side, and back panels. The bodice pattern is copied from the book and scaled (see my post here on how to scale book patterns) and I got lucky in that my measurements are fairly close to those of the pattern model, except for my waist measurement.

For the first mockup, I slashed the forebodies panel along where a waist dart would be and opened by 1 inch. I figured this would be adjusted with the mockup fitting but would give a good starting point for over the previously fitted kirtle. I also lowered the neckline on the forebodies and side front panels for the decorative panel on the kirtle which turned out wider than the original pattern.

The forebodies panel with adjustments for my measurements. The forebodies will seam to the other bodice panels and lace at the center to close the gown. The lacing and forebodies are then hidden by the decorative plaquette over the top. NOTE: When cutting fabric, I’ll add 1″ at the center front to allow for the turnover for the boning channels.

The mockup actually when very well on the first attempt. There were only a couple adjustments I needed to make to the pattern, mostly related to contouring the opening to the waist, releasing the side seams a tad to open the armscye, and taking in at the shoulders. The most difficult part by far was the sleeves. Sleeves are the absolute devil and I went through 6 mockups of the sleeve caps to try and get the right shape that fits comfortably. To start, I could not seem to get the sleeve head to ease in without pleats or gathers while increasing the sleeve at the bicep to be unrestricted with a chemise layer underneath. I’m honestly still not happy with the sleeves but needed to move on.

For the skirt, there weren’t any fitting adjustments to make beyond reducing the length for my height. The model for the base pattern was about 6″ taller than me, so I opted to simply reduce the length of the skirt panels by 6″ and call it a day.

Final pattern in hand, I began the process of cutting out all the fabric. Here, things got a bit complicated. Now, The Tudor Tailor calls for 10 yards of material for making the gown (bodice, skirt, full sleeves, etc.). I meanwhile had 5 yards, but at 60″ width since it was a home decor fabric. In order to make it work, especially with a very geometric pattern to match, I got a bit creative. I start by laying all the skirt pieces out and using the match point at the waist on each seam for pattern matching. Right off the bat, I knew there was no way to have the skirts at their fullness of the original pattern with the amount of material available, even with the 6″ reduction in length for all pieces. To make it work, I adjust the skirt panels by:

  • The back skirt panel would only be the 60″ width of the material,
  • The side panels are slashed at three points and reduced with the side-back seam on the vertical of the fabric pattern (parallel with the selvage),
  • 6″ width of the front panels would be supplemented by a 12″ strip of velvet and front-sides would not pattern match beyond the waist point match.

The slash and reduce method for the side panels is done by:

  1. Marking three lines from the hem to waist as follows: one line parallel to the front-side seam, one line parallel with the side-back seam, and one line between the first two.
  2. The lines are then cut from waist to hem, but not through the hem. I will often reinforce the scant paper left at the end of the slash with a bit of tape so it doesn’t tear through;
  3. Pivot the slashed sections toward the front-side seam to close . . . . .

By reducing the volume of the side and front skirt panels, I give myself enough material to cut my bodice pattern pieces and part of the sleeves. The reduction of the side skirt panel at the waist line made me nervous that it would affect the historical shape of the skirt, but I actually really liked the reduced bulk at the hips. I’ll point this out in photos toward the end of this series.

In cutting the bodice panels, pattern matching was much more critical than in the skirt. The matching process starts with the center back panel that I opt to eliminate the center back seam entirely. I mark the panel on the fabric, using the yellow and red dots at the center of the diamond pattern as my center backline. I then mark a 1/2″ seam allowance line around the entire panel.

For the side back panel, I generally find an area of fabric large enough for the piece, with wiggle room for pattern matching and seam allowance. I then pin the center back panel to the fabric at the farthest edge and lay the side back paper pattern along the seam line. The paper is pinned in place here and marked with chalk, adding seam allowances. This gives me a perfect pattern match when stitched along the seam line precisely. Though, it was NOT easy with the limited material I had. I then had to repeat the process with even less fabric for the side front panels. This pattern matching and optimizing the fabric left for the bodice took me entire evenings. Plural.

The first try at pattern matching would’ve been easy to cut….until I realized that cutting here would leave me with nothing for the sleeves.
Subsequent rotating and shifting got to this point of pattern matching on the limited scraps for the side back panels.

And of course, the sleeves again are the absolute devil. I knew there would be absolutely no way to have enough material to fully make the sleeves in the geometric pattern and after noodling on it a bit, it didn’t seem necessary to do so. Since the sleeves would be the full turnback style, most of the “outer” fabric would be tucked behind the contrasting lining. So I took the remaining large section of geometric fabric I had and cut the sleeves to I had the sleeve cap and the longest length possible. It ended up that the length ended right at the point where the sleeve would start to curve outward, so all for the best. The remaining outer sleeve was then cut from the navy blue linen that was used for the kirtle construction. I also opted to use this linen for the forebodies panels since they would be covered by the plaquette. I also cut lining for the bodice from a satin I had on hand.

The sleeve “tops” are marked on the fabric as large as possible. The addition to the original pattern at the sleeve seam is visible in the different colored paper. I had to add quite a bit of width to fit my biceps comfortably. In looking back, I should’ve slashed and opened the pattern rather than adding volume at the seam allowance, but I was also having trouble with the armscye being too small.

With everything cut (finally), I could begin the construction process. I start by flatlining all the panels using a basting stitch at 1/4″ from the edge and then finishing the edges on the serger. The panels are then carefully stitched together, checking the pattern match as I pin so that the hard work of pattern matching when I cut is not wasted. I stitched the panels from the center back to the center front. All in one piece, I can do a final fitting for the shoulder seams and move on to the eyelet closure. The 1″ excess at the center front is folded back, ironed, and pinned in place before stitching the boning channels. I am using 1/4″ synthetic whalebone (plastic) boning and thus stitch the first channel 3/8″ from the center front, move over 1/2″ for the eyelets, and then another 3/8″ for the second channel.

The first boning channel is stitched 3/8″ from the center front, then shift 1/2″ over for the second channel to allow for the eyelets.
Both channels are stitched and ready for boning.

While using the iron to flatten the boning pieces, I also turn over the neckline seam allowance, iron, and clip to be sewn down by hand with simple whip stitches.

Here is the bodice with finished neckline and boning added. The satin lining is also visible.


I used the top of sleeve cut pieces to also cut the lining from cotton and make a bottom of sleeve pattern for the remaining length. The bottom of the sleeve is cut from both the same blue linen as the forebodies and silk velvet. Though the linen is technically the outer layer and the silk is the lining, the sleeves will be folded back with the wrist at the elbow, thus hiding the linen and exposing the lush velvet. The velvet section is cut 1″ longer at the hem so that the velvet will fold over at the final hem rather than the seam being exposed.

Cutting the lining for the top of the sleeves pieces.
The bottom of the sleeve pieces is in linen and silk velvet. The linen fabric was not wide enough to fit the full pattern and had to be cut into two pieces, then stitched together. The extra 1″ of velvet length at the hem is visible in comparison to the lining. This allows the seam to be hidden as the velvet will fold over before the hem.

The linings pieces and outer pieces are stitched together, tops to bottoms, then individually stitched at the underarm seams. Once all four sleeve tubes are stitched, the lining and outer layers are stitched together at the wrist hem and turned out to form the sleeve.

The outer sleeve top and bottom are stitched together, prior to a good pressing.

Next came the agonizing task of setting the sleeves into the armscye. The armscye is prepped by a quick stay stitch (basted stitch length) around the armscye. The sleeve itself has two lines of gathering stitches at 1/4″ and 1/2″ from the edge. The bobbin end of the gather stitches is pulled to gently gather the sleeve cap to help with easing the sleeve into the armscye.

….to create an evenly gathered curve to set into the armscye.

The eased sleeve is pinned into the armscye using the markings from the original pattern for orientation. I hand-stitched the sleeves in place with small backstitches because I worried that forcing it through the machine would create puckers and tucks. Hand stitching takes longer but comes with a lot more control. The lining is then turned inward and also handstitched down at the armscye, encasing the finished sleeve seam.

The Skirt

The skirt panels were cut while preparing the bodice, but lining pieces also needed to be cut as well as the supplemental velvet. The supplemental velvet is cut to serve as both the 6″ reduction from the front panel as well as a lining. I am cutting a stip 13″ wide to allow for 1/2″ seam allowances.

I am adding a lining for the skirt primarily because the home decor fabric has an odd back where all the threads from the red and gold stitching are exposed. Knowing my clumsy self, I would end up hooking those threads all the time if they weren’t encased. The lining is cut using the previously cut outer fabric pieces as pattern templates. I used a mixture of bulk white cotton (Ikea) and clearance patterned cotton (Hobby Lobby). In hindsight, I wished I had used only the patterned cotton to be consistent since any time the bright white is seen, it is quite a shock next to the deep, rich blues.

The lining pieces are stitched together and seams pressed open.

The white and patterned cotton lining (plus a demanding kitty).

As I was prepping the skirt panels to be stitched together, I realized I almost missed a golden opportunity: POCKETS. I quickly found a standard pocket pattern from another project and cut four pocket panels from the blue linen. I added these to the side-front seam edges of both the side and front panels and THEN stitched the full seams for the front, side, back, and front supplement pieces. Lastly, the velvet front panels are stitched to the front lining panels to create a full circle of the outer fabric and lining. The wrong sides are turned inward with both the hem and waist seams open. The waist seam for the outer and lining layers is pinned together, basted, and finished on the serger.

The Tudor Tailor pattern gives instructions for pleating and gathering the skirt waist, but I had to do a bit of adjusting due to my pattern reductions in the skirt and bodice alterations early on. I was able to follow the front panel pleats closely by marking the point where the pleats would meet based on The Tudor Tailor pattern, but then adjusted the starting point of the box pleats based on reducing the length to match the side seam on the bodice. I also added a small pleat in the velvet strip so that the box pleat wasn’t quite so extreme. This pleat is also marked in The Tudor Tailor pattern. The pleats were basted in place before stitching the bodice and skirt together from front to side seam. This seems counterintuitive to do before finishing the back pleats, but it allowed me to then place the bodice and skirt on a dress form and play with the back panel pleats to figure out the right ratio for the cartridge pleats.

The side and back panels of the skirt are gathered with cartridge pleats to give fullness at the hips and butt that were characteristic of the period. I used 1″ pleats at the sides and 3″ pleats at the back and then both were wiggled and squished to give an even appearance across the back.

The pleats are fixed to the bodice with small whip stitches using heavy-duty upholstery thread. Because my skirt is constructed of heavy home decor fabric and lined with a full cotton layer, is un-godly heavy and I worried that the weight would cause the waist seam to pull apart if I didn’t use small enough stitches.

The skirt and bodice are stitched together at the back. Also, can we take a moment to appreciate that pattern matching?
The front of the skirt and bodice are stitched together with knife pleats in the velvet and a single box pleat in the side front (geometric)

With the skirt fully stitched to the bodice, I placed the garment on the dress form adjusted it to my height, and leveled the front hem to skim just above the toes. Since the back skirt includes a small train, I only leveled the hem to the side-front seam. The side and back hem was just tidied up to match at the seams and left long for the train.

To finish the hem, I am using the same silk bias ribbon as from the kirtle hem, though needing twice as much length. I quickly make my bias tape, and pin it to the front of the skirt, being careful that the lining will be caught in the stitches and hang straight with the outer layer. The bias tape is stitched to the front using the machine, turned under, and hand-stitched to the lining.

This took so many pins, I couldn’t believe just how full this skirt hem was!
Just gonna say it, that is the sexiest hem I’ve ever done and I am so thrilled with how clean it looks! Get a peek here at the stark white contrast the lining makes that I am not happy with as discussed.

And there she is! The skirt in all her full glory

Plus a dapper kitty who loves to sit on any fabric as soon as it hits the floor..

It was so incredibly satisfying to see the outer gown come together. The construction was actually pretty quick once I had gotten past the pattern-matching finicky work. It is heavy as heck but by far one of the most well-done, professional-looking garments I have ever made. There is still the plaquette and accessories to finish, but it was such a wonderful moment to be able to see the full garment both on the dress form and then to wear it myself. At this point, the project has been ongoing for nearly a year and a half.

Keep following along to see the building of the:


French Hood

And return back to the:

Design Intro



The Goose Girl: Peasant Skirt

As discussed in my previous posts, the concept behind the Goose Girl garment is to have a coarser peasant look on the outside layers with more delicate layers hidden underneath.  This mirrors the story of The Goose Girl as she hides her royal identity while working in the Prince’s kingdom. With the delicately embroidered petticoat finished, I could start work on the coarse peasant skirt.

My original design concept had the skirt drafted in blue as is described in Shannon Hale’s rendition of the story.  In shopping for fabric, I stumbled upon a roll of coarse 100% linen home decor fabric on clearance at Joanns. However, it was goldenrod yellow rather than blue.  The material was too good of a deal to pass up on though, and it helped that the tone of the yellow perfectly complemented the fabric of the stay already constructed. 

In plotting the draft of the skirt, I planned to use similar dimensions as with the petticoat. Since it is home decor fabric, I was able to get 4 yards of material at 60” in width which gave me a bit more volume to work with.  Overall, in looking at paintings and fashion plates from my time period, I wanted more fullness in the back than the front.  I also wanted to mirror the flat center front, bound by pleats as I had achieved in the petticoat.  To do this, I used ⅔ (96”) of the original length as the back panel and ⅓ (48”) for the front. In hindsight, I could have kept it all as one piece and only had one seam at the back or side. Live and learn.

The length of the skirt was based on the length of the petticoat plus 4” for folding over the top for the pleating and 1” for the hem.  I planned to use the selvage on the hem line to save on a bit of finishing time.

The front and back panels were finished by cutting with pinking shears and then machine stitched together using heavy duty thread due to the weight of the fabric. I used polyester thread in a matching color and a large stitch length.  Both sides were stitched to 8” below the top to allow for closures. 

The 1” hem and top fold over were ironed to make stitching easier and felled with an extremely tiny prick stitch. I took advantage of the selvage on the hem so I would only have to fold it once and thus saved on excessive bulk.

I tried taking only one or two threads from the front fabric since my thread wasn’t an exact match and was visible if stitched through. Since the material was thick already, I did not use an extra bulk layer in the top fold over like was done for the petticoat. 

Then began the cartridge pleating process again.  I initially draped the skirt on Molly (my “me” sized mannequin) over the petticoat and pinned mock up pleats in place to get a general idea of the depth I would need for the pleats.  To do this, I pinned the skirt at the side seams, center front, and center back to the corresponding spots on Molly.  Then, each quarter is halved, pinned at the halfway point on Molly.  This process is repeated until there is little room left to pin.  

This gave me about ½” depths to my pleats for both the front and back.  This was different from the petticoat on the front since I had compensated for the 8” flat center front by reducing the panel width. This time, I got smart and made a template out of cardboard with my markings that I could use.  The template gives three parallel threads at ½” apart lengthwise and widthwise. 

I tried not to think too hard about the pleat depths and width beyond the mock up and template since I would be able to wiggle the width as necessary onto the final waistband. 

For the pleats, I followed the same method as with the petticoat using thick buttonhole thread in a matching color and stitch running stitches at my marks.  These were then pulled and temporarily tied together while I made my waist band 

For my waistband, I measured my natural waist while wearing the petticoat since the skirt would need to fit over the extra waistband layer.  I then added 3” to this length for finishing and overlap length.  Though I had stitched the skirt panels with two side openings, I changed my mind so there would be only one opening at the left side and an overlap to hide the closure.  

For my waistband, I use the vintage jacquard ribbon from Studio RicRak that I had been originally inspired by.  The waistband would eventually be hidden under the stay when worn, but it was a lovely touch and the yellow in the ribbon was an exact match to the skirt color!

Both ends of the ribbon were quickly whip stitched (“felled”) to finish.

I then marked the right side seam point with a red pin, and the beginning of the overlap portion with a blue pin. The finished pleated skirt panels were pinned to the ribbon about every three to five pleats.  The back section of pleating ended up being a bit too small, which was remedied by removing the temporary knots in the thread and releasing a bit of tension to expand the pleats to match the waistband. 

The pleats and flat front were whip stitched to the ribbon with the heavy duty thread and the extra left side opening was closed. To finish, a skirt slide and bar was added to the overlap, and hook & eyes were added at the top of the side closure and 2” down to keep the cartridge pleats next to the opening tight together when worn. 

This is where I started backtracking.  When put on Molly, the cartridge pleats looked too stiff and perfect. It looked almost Victorian.  I also wasn’t happy with the distinct line where the fold over ended due to the third row of stitches to make the pleats.  

Since my pleats were stitching in place on the waist band, I simply removed the three rows of pleat threads. It was a very subtle change to do this, but I felt the released volume gave a better shape outwards from the hips and rear rather than the tight pleats.  

Overall, I was very pleased with the look and how the length allows for the petticoat lace to peak out from under the hem, especially when in movement. 

The sheer bulk of the home decor linen did weigh down the garment a bit and I am considering adding a hip-roll to achieve the 17th century look I am designing for.  

Check back on the next posts to see where we go from here!

The Goose Girl: Petticoat

In following the concept of the Goose Girl’s story, the petticoat is a bit more regal and embellished than the rest of the garment.  In the original tale, the lady’s maid demands that the Princess hand over her dress while they are on the road together.  The maid then wears the Princess’ clothes and rides into the Prince’s city where she is announced as the Princess. But I doubt she would have demanded her petticoat.  This let me have a bit of fun with the garment and build on the motif of the Princess’ hidden identity under the coarser worker’s clothing.  

While researching the petticoat, I found little specifics that I would have to stick to for my 17th century style aside from the length being just to the ankle. So, I let myself run a little wild here. 

For choosing the fabrics, I wanted to incorporate one of the embroidered pieces I had sourced from vintage shops that were all too pastel for the stay. 

Fortunately, I found the absolute perfect piece at a garage sale in Bay View from Bandit Vintage. This linen tablecloth was hand embroidered with delicate pansies in yellow, orange, and green.  Total, the tablecloth measured 54”x 90”

I wanted as much volume as I could get into the petticoat and planned to use cartridge pleats to achieve the effect.  In order to make the most of the tablecloth, I decided to cut it in half lengthwise and add a strip of taffeta to the top and bottom for the full length (measuring from my natural waist to ankle bone + seam allowances + hem). 

Please enjoy my chicken-scratch plotting…

The cream taffeta was found on clearance at Joann’s, had a bit of sparkle to it, and more stretch than I realized.  The cream also contrasted the bleach white of the linen.  However, I had a massive pile of ribbon polyester lace from my grandmother that would create a lovely transition between the fabrics while hiding the seam lines. 

Here I have the linen, taffeta, and ribbon trim set out to check color and proportions of the cut strips of taffeta.

I had to get a bit creative with cutting the taffeta strips since the clearance fabric had an odd wrinkle through the middle and deep crease that would not come out with steam. Compensate, I adjusted my measurements for the strips so that the top strip would cut with the crease at the fold over line and the wrinkle was outside of the bottom strip.

I cut all my strips and finished the edge of the bottom layer taffeta with a zig-zag stitch. While doing and then stitching to the linen, I realized the stretch in the taffeta was causing it to gather slightly. Fortunately, the gathering actually made for a nice ruffle effect at the bottom tier.

However, I wouldn’t be able to finish any of the other edges of the taffeta in this way or I would have that ruffle effect everywhere. Instead, I used a French seam to encase the edges of the quickly fraying taffeta at the upper tier and side seams. The stretch of the taffeta is only in the width-wise direction, so I still had a bit of gathering occur at the top tier seam, but the sides had no puckering. The gathering would later be covered by lace trim, so I was not concerned.

The sides, as mentioned, were stitched together with a French seam and I left about 8” at the tops of both seams unstitched for the side openings. 

For the waistband, I cut two strips of the taffeta equaling half my waist measurement + 1” for ½” seams. I would be using side closures for the waistband as was typical of the period. I made a mock up to check the sizing and used twill tape attached at the top and bottom of the waist band for ties. I decided on a rather thick waist band (5″ wide)

The mockup went well. But as I fit tested it, the taffeta began to stretch. To combat this, I cut two strips of flannel equal to the length of the taffeta, minus the seam allowances, and only half the width since I would be folding the taffeta in half, encasing the flannel. 

The flannel was baste stitched inside the taffeta casing to hold it in place. I then pressed the folds with the iron on “synthetic” with a press cloth and steam to make for crisp lines to stitch along. The pressed fold over was hand stitched with a tiny slip stitch.  I then carefully machine stitched every ¼” along the width to give additional stability to the band. 

The stabilized waistband during the final fitting

Before attaching to the band, the skirt was prepped for pleating.  The flannel was used again at the top of the skirt to give additional bulk when making the pleats since the taffeta was so thin. The taffeta was folded over the flannel, ironed, and stitched like the waistband to finish the top edge.  

To prepare for the cartridge pleats, the wrong side of the fabric is marked with precise dots for where the running stitches will go.  For the front, I marked 2 parallel running stitches at ¼” and ¾” from the top and ⅜” apart. 

Once marked, a quick running stitch with strong buttonhole thread is used.  With long tails on either side, the pleats are pulled together.  I was honestly terrified of this process because of how precise it is but found it to be an incredibly satisfying experience! I want to put cartridge pleats on everything now.

Getting just the right amount of pleats to match the size of the waistband wasn’t nearly as satisfying.  I have to admit, it was quite a bit of guess and check on the front.  I had made my pleats too deep on the front, and didn’t have nearly enough to make the full length of the waistband.  Luckily, this worked out in my favor.  I cut the pleat threads at the exact middle of the panel and released enough pleats to make the full length of the waistband.  In the end, the front was pleated for 6” from either side while the center is flat, allowing for the stay to sit flush against the body. 

Learning from this, I used different measurements for my back panel: 3 parallel running stitches at ¼”, ¾”, and 1 ¼” from the top and ½” apart.   With the change, the length fit to the waistband much nicer.

The threads from the pleats were backstitched in place and then the skirt could be attached to the waistband.  To attach, the button thread was used again, and the pleats were whipstitched on.  I used two stitches for every pleat to ensure a solid hold. 

Originally, I finished the side seams of the waistband with cotton twill tape that would be tied around the body, overlapping front and back as was common of 17th century petticoats. But, I added dress hooks to the sides to make a tighter closure. 

Because of the ruffling effect with the taffeta discussed earlier, I knew I wouldn’t be able to finish the hem or the waistband on the machine. In finishing the hem, I steamed the fold in place so I would have a nice crisp line. I then killed two birds with one stone by felling the hem on the inside while taking small bites of the lace trim with the needle to attach to the front of the hem. 

Now, the fun embellishing could begin! 

1” ribbon lace trim was applied with a prick stitch at the two seams where the taffeta and linen were attached. At every stitch to the outside, one gold seed bead was strung.  From a distance, the beads give just a bit of sparkle.  Between the glint from the beads, the sparkle in the taffeta, the hand embroidery, and delicate lace, the petticoat was absolutely over the top lux. 

With the taffeta and linen being lightweight, the finished petticoat has lovely fullness at the pleats and float just at the ankle.  The final length was a bit long since my bottom tier of trim was 2” past the planned hem. This would need to be accounted for in the skirt construction.