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Mourning Gown

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October 2005 - February 2006: Starting the Project and Getting Inspired.

Background Info:

There is this pattern, in one of the facsimiles that I own, of a gown with a fitted front and unfitted back. The minute I saw it, I wanted to make it but no fabric came along that inspired me to do so until, one day in September of 2005, I visited a friend who lives in Vancouver, WA. She had purchased, several years before this, a substantial amount of what I thought was a killer brocade. And then she waved in front of me and stashed it in her sewing room. She never did anything with it and so, the day I visited, she decided to gift me with it. The first thing I thought of when I saw it was this pattern.

Note that I am calling it a 'mourning gown' for lack of a better term as the name given for this pattern in my facsimile has defied translation by my meager skills. More on that later when I hear back from someone more skilled.

The Dress Pattern and a Design:

The pattern is simple enough; a fitted front bodice, like a regular gown, with a back like a Spanish ropa. Really, the only way to achieve this is to create a false back that goes under the ropa back. There are no pattern pieces for this in the actual pattern but that is no surprise as the pattern is for the outer garment pieces. The under back or false back would have been made from less expensive cloth. Below is my sketch:


And here is the fabric, the lining, the trim and the pattern:

Creating the Foundation and Bodice:

Once the bodice was sewn together, it was time to turn my attention to the Ropa back.

Ah, look! The back. In order to figure this out, I had to do a bit of fussing around before I cut out the piece. I found a center motif and worked from there, pretend pleating until I felt the back was wide enough for both the pleated part and for the skirt part. Then I cut it and its lining and started pleating.

In order to make the pleats behave, I pleated them onto a canvas foundation.

After I got this far, it was time to pin it onto a dress dummy and see how it layed out. I like it!

After this, I went back and finished up the bodice to prepare it for adding the ropa back.

The front center opening was finished up by hand and prepped for teh hooks and eyes.

The fitted back was finished up and lacing added. I know it's not spiral... don't get on me about that. There's no way I could do this up myself if it were spiral so cut me some slack.

The interior of the bodice before binding, showing the side seam.

And now for the skirt. The two front panels must marry into the ropa back. I matched motifs for each side, cut out the lining and fabric, added stabilizing canvas to the front edge and pleater fabric to the pleating edge and went from there.


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