Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Pink Sari Open Robe

If you follow me on Instagram, you probably saw my #makeitblue vs #makeitpink posts where I was trying to decide which of two saris to use to make my 1790s open robe.


Pink won the informal poll, which I kept open until I finished fitting the mockup.  I used an old sheet with a pretty blue stripe, with the thought that if the mockup turned out ok, I could turn it into a cute little Regency shortgown!

I used my Regency bodice pattern to draft a pattern for the open robe with a pleated back.  I was inspired by Stephani Miller's 1790s Open Robe that she was making last month.  I basically just copied her entire idea, and it worked great!


I had to give my dress form, Anna, some bust improvement to give her the right shape:


I wanted to keep the border edge of the sari intact, so I cut out my mockup along one of the hemmed edges of the sheet, and folded a small tuck at the shoulder to bring in the excess width:


It's offset at the neck because the front edge is already finished, just as it would be on the sari.  I'll add a back lining piece later, which will take care of the seam allowance in the back.


I pinned on the front pieces to check the fit on myself over the mockup of my transitional stays to give an idea of the shape they would give me:





I was happy with the fit, so I set about cutting into my beautiful sari!  This was not as nerve-wracking as I thought it would be, considering I had never cut into a sari before!  (My first Sari Open Robe was made from scraps left over from a sari that my mom had cut into. Doesn't count.)  I guess I'm getting to a point in my sewing journey where fine fabrics no longer intimidate me - at least not as much as they used to.  It's a nice feeling.  :)

Anyway, I laid out my pieces, starting with the center back.  I knew I wanted the beautiful pallu to be at the hem, possibly with a slight train, to show it off to maximum effect.


So I measured the length of the skirt that I wanted from the lower edge of my mockup while it was on my dress form.  Then I measured up from the end of the pallu:


And laid the back piece lower edge even with the end of the tape measure:


After laying out the front tab and the sleeve pieces, I repeated this same process for the side piece, to ensure the skirt would be the same length at the seams.



Whenever possible, I try to lay out all of my pattern pieces before cutting anything.  In order to make it all fit on the table at once, I folded up the excess fabric in between the sleeve and side pieces.


This layout gave me the best use of my fabric, with at least a yard left over that I can play with for future projects.  I knew I wanted a strip of the border edge to wind into my hair (wig) for the event, so I set that piece aside until the gown was finished.

The party was on Sunday, March 24, but Brian the Engineer and I were going up to DC the previous Wednesday evening and staying for a long weekend.  He had a work meeting on Thursday, and Friday was my birthday so I wanted to do something fun in the city.  All of which meant that I needed to get as much sewing done before we left - ideally all of the machine sewing - so I would have little to do once we got to DC.  Also, we were taking Reptar with us.  Sewing in a hotel room with a toddler is not ideal...

As it happens, I did end up bringing my sewing machine with me.  Some unforeseen events transpired to delay much of my sewing in the week prior to us leaving, but c'est la vie.  I did make sure I overlocked all of the raw edges of my gown pieces to ensure they did not fray horribly during transport:


I also brought my iron with me to the hotel, because this sari wrinkled pretty easily - as you can see above.  I didn't trust a hotel iron not to ruin my delicate silk!

Now, since I didn't have a dress form with me, I had to get creative so I could see how the back drape was looking:



I was undecided about how I wanted to handle the back skirt seams:


I tried it both with and without the vertical border left on the back piece:


In the end, I decided I liked how it looked without that border breaking up the solid pink at the top of the skirt.


Most of it would have been hidden in the stacked pleats, anyway.


Also, I had somehow messed up on my measurements when cutting out the side pieces, as they were not as long as the back piece:


So I took the skirt seams apart and cut off the back skirt piece borders.


I then pieced the two borders together and attached them to the hem of the skirt after I'd reassembled it.


Since the two border pieces were mirror image, I placed the seam at the exact center of the skirt.  This left me with two sections on either end:


So not the best use of my fabric, but sometimes sacrifices must be made for the design!


I turned my attention to the front tab pieces.  I had made a mistake and cut the lining pieces too small, so I offset the seam allowance at the top:


And simply folded up the bottom selvedge of the sari pieces over the lower raw edge (after pressing, clipping, understitching, and turning the top seam):


I tacked this in place by hand.


The shoulder seams came next.  (On the pillow-mannequin above they are simply pinned in place.)  I lined up the armscyes with the lining pieces:


Then folded in the excess fabric, just like my mockup:


The only difference here is that there was more excess on this version than the mockup.  I was hoping that would translate to a nice pleat in the skirt at the front waist.

I basted the pleat in place, then stitched it to the back at the shoulder seam:


I tried it on for fit, but I have no pictures of this.  It fit without any issues, though!

(At this point in the construction we moved from the hotel in DC to a friend's house in Maryland, where we stayed for the remainder of the weekend.) 

Now I needed to do something to protect the hem, as it would certainly be dragging on the ground now with the extra border pieced on.  Luckily, this being a used sari, there was a built-in solution:


This strip of pink cotton was sewn along the lower edge of the end of the sari that would have been the front of the skirt, when worn.  I carefully removed it before cutting out my open robe, but made sure to bring it along when we left for DC.  I was always intending to use it to face the hem, which now had become imperative.

Annoyingly, it was half an inch too short!  So I had to make do by offsetting it from the front edges by 1/4" on either side.


Fortunately, I had left half an inch of the excess border on either side, which I overlocked, turned in, and hand-tacked down.  The cotton facing covered the overlocking stitches, at least.  I attached the facing with long running stitches, just as it had originally been done.


The stitches barely show on the outside:


Finally, I attached the bodice lining:


I only seamed it at the back neck edge, then turned in the lining seam allowance at the front neck edges and pinned them to the sari selvedge.  I did the same with the lower edge of the lining, also pinning it thoroughly throughout the bodice to prevent things from shifting around:


The silk is quite slinky, so all those pins really helped keep things in place! 


Oh, and I attached the sleeves somewhere in there, too.  I had used the sleeve pattern from my La Mode Bagatelle pattern, and it went in with no issues.  I pleated the excess at the top back of the sleeve head instead of gathering it, because I wanted to keep more in line with a late 18th Century aesthetic.


After the bodice lining was all pinned, I pinned the front tabs in place and tried it on to make sure everything was draping correctly.  I made adjustments as I was wearing it (over my shift, stays, and underdress). 



Now began a long bout of hand-stitching!  In addition to hand-tacking all the edges of the lining in place, I also needed to address the center back bodice seam: 


The silk was starting to pull away from the seam under strain - I really should have flat-lined the bodice to prevent this.  But it was too late now, so I elected to reinforce the seam with prick-stitching along both sides of the seam: 


Because the silk liked to shift around a lot, I decided not to go up one side of the seam and down the other, which would have been a much more historically accurate approach.  Instead, I did a weird ladder sort of stitch: 


But this did keep the seam straight down the center back, so I feel justified in my improvised stitch pattern.  I also attached the front tabs by hand, and tacked down the front border pleat from the waist to the armscye. 

Finally, I took the remaining length of sari fabric:


And cut off the slightly longer of the two border edges.  I overlocked the raw edges and turned the long edge to the inside and quickly stitched it down by machine.  At this point I had no time for further hand-sewing!  But it made an acceptable strip of fabric to wrap around/weave into my hair to complete the 1790s look:

Jewelry by Dames a la Mode




More photos can be found in an album on my Facebook page:  1790s Pink Sari Gown