Thursday, March 17, 2016

Fancy Infant Gown

Close up of completed gown front
Next on my sewing list for preparing for baby's arrival is infant gowns. After looking at all the amazing designs in the fashion magazines and extant examples available on Google, I decided to try my hand at a very over the top gown. A few years ago, a friend of my husband gave me some panels of antique embroidered voile that used to belong to his grandmother. It has been waiting for the perfect project. I also had some similar design thinner voile tape that complimented it beautifully. As I was going over the top on this gown it also needed lots of pin tucks. 

To begin with I wrote down the gown measurements and construction notes from Cassell's Guide 1869. It was interesting as the paragraph on gowns begins with a warning on the absurd lengths that gowns had been previously made. It also instructs that gowns should not exceed a yard in length, and that the yard should include the bodice. 

I began by laying out my cotton voile fabric and insertions to settle on a design. I chose to use a voile fabric as it was the closest match to the insert panels. Once I was happy with a design, I worked out the maths for the front panel lengths to cut it as a single piece before adding the pin tucks. I find that folding paper helps to get an idea of pin tuck width and separation. Once the panel had been completed by machine, I cut the panel down the center to make two sections.

Machine sewing the pin tucks
I then attached these on either side of the center embroidered panel. I hand sewed the seams into a flat fell. One frustration was that the panel had stretched/warped with age, making it a little tricky. 

The completed front skirt panel and a close up of the hand whip stitching to fell the seams
I wanted the front panel to be wider at the bottom. From extant examples I had seen the panels both gathered and cut to angle out. After laying it out, I loved the fullness of the gather more. I also repeated the process from the skirt to make the bodice, but I did shape the pin tuck panel to remove the fullness from the bodice.
Experimenting with gathering or shaping the panel
The front top was shaped to remove bulk

The rest of the construction followed the instructions in Cassell's. The back panel is a single piece of fabric cat to the same measurements as the front (1 yard by 1yard). As instructed in Cassell's, I put a slit down the center back and narrow hemmed it by hand.
Narrow hemmed slit down the back panel for the back opening
The neckline was gathered onto a a strip of bias tape. This tape also has a drawstring inside of it to adjust the neckline to the infant. The sleeve was drafted using the sketch in Cassell's and the measurements provided. I also played around with different design ideas for the sleeves. In the end I decided that less was more and to leave the sleeves as plain fabric.

Close up of neckline and sleeve design ideas
The completed sleeve
I am very happy with how the gown turned out and I cannot wait to try it on my little on in two months time. On a funny note a friend recently asked me what I will do if my baby is a boy. After I stifled my giggles I explained that all infants wore the same clothing until about 3 months of age when slight differences in trim occur and that boys did not often wear pants until after they had been toilet trained. My husband also added that I can run some gender specific ribbon through some of the lace if it makes people feel more comfortable, at a later date.
The front of the gown completed
The completed back of the gown

Close up of completed front of the infant gown

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