Sunday, March 3, 2013

Dressing Gown Tutorial

Since there's been a lot of interest in my 1930's dressing gown I'm posting up my first tutorial. I'm way later than I wanted to be posting this, but I found it a lot harder to write this up than I thought it would be. I'll attempt to guide you through my pattern drafting process in a way that will hopefully make sense. I'm mostly self taught and fairly new at drafting my own patterns, so hopefully my methods aren't too unconventional. Let's start with the inspiration garments however.

I found this dressing gown here, and there are a lot more images of it and the matching nightgown at the website. This next image comes from an etsy seller who seems to have sold it since I can't find the page anymore. 

I really liked the little dip in the back which you'll see in my pattern pieces, and I wanted the lace detail to go all the way around the waist which it doesn't seem to in the first example.

Now on to the pattern. I started with the waistband which is fairly simple. I took measurements of myself just under my bust and then at my waist just below my bellybutton, which is about where I wanted the waistband to end. My underbust is 34 and my waist is 36. I added two inches to each measurement for seam allowances and then divided each number in half. I also figured out about how thick I wanted the waistband to be at the sides and decided on 4 inches, plus one inch for seam allowances, so 5.

I drew two parallel lines on a sheet of paper, one 19 inches (half my waist plus two measurement) and one 18 inches. The lines were 5 inches apart and I matched their centers, so the top line was an inch shorter than the bottom line on each end. I connected the two ends of the lines with a diagonal. For the back piece I measured 1 inch down from the center of the bottom line for the dip.

The back waistband piece

For the front waistband piece I took the same base shape and measured 7.5 inches up from the center of the bottom line. I cut the shape in half and then added 1 inch of width to the center for overlap at the center closure.

The front waistband piece

The upper front bodice

The pattern for the upper bodice starts with a pretty basic shirt shape for the armscye and shoulder. I pinned a mock-up of the waistband on to myself and measured from my armpit to the waistband (plus an inch) to get the 6.5 side length. I measured from my shoulder down over my bust to the waistband (plus an inch) for the 14.5 center length. The bottom edge of the piece is 3-4 inches longer than the front waistband piece to allow for gathering. 3-4 inches extra worked well for my B cup, I would suggest an extra two inches at least per cup size larger.

The upper back bodice

The back piece is almost the same as the front but with a straight line at the bottom and side. It is a few inches wider than necessary to allow for light gathering into the waistband. I cut this piece out on the fold of the fabric.

Those are the only pattern pieces I made, the skirt was just a basic rectangle pleated into the waistband. My rectangle was about 42 inches long by 90 inches wide to allow for a lot of pleating. I cut two 42 inch long pieces from my skirt fabric which was about 45 inches wide. One piece stayed whole and became the back of the skirt and the other piece got cut in half for the separate side front pieces. This made two side seams in the skirt that I could put pockets into.

The main construction of the gown is fairly straightforward. I sewed the waistband pieces together at the sides with flat felled seams and then sewed the back and front bodice pieces together with flat felled seams as well. I sewed the gathering lines into the upper bodice stopping at each side seam to allow the front and back gathers to be adjusted separately. For the front pieces I gathered the most in the center of the piece, leaving both sides relatively flat. It gives a nicer shape to the bust and looks like what they did in my example piece. I used an overcast stitch to finish this seam which might be a little questionably historical, though overlock machines were being used in factory manufactured clothing at the time.

I sewed the skirt side seams together and sewed the pockets in before I sewed the skirt to the waistband. My skirt had two layers of fabric, the opaque satin and the see through organza. Both layers are sewn together at the pocket opening and above but I left them separate from each other below that.

After all the pieces were sew together I cut a strip of my satin on the bias to use as a facing for the neckline. I made a small hem on one side. For the neckline I pinned the bias piece to the gown with wrong sides together and sewed a scallop satin stitch and then trimmed away the excess. 

The inner facing

The next step was adding the lace overlay to the waistband. I laid the pattern pieces under my lace and cut out the general outline following the flowers in the lace, never cutting through a flower. This gave me the little pieces that stick up and down around the waistband. I was going to sew it on by hand but got lazy and sewed around the top and bottom where the seams for the waistband underneath were and tacked the extra flowers to the rest of the garment. My lace overlay came up a little higher than my original waistband at the front point but I liked it better that way. I also exaggerated the point in the back when I cut out the lace.

For the front opening on the side where the buttons would go I sewed a strip of the hemmed bias piece on with right sides together and then turned and pressed it and tacked down the corners. For the loop side of the closure I pinned the loops to the dress facing in then pinned the bias strip on top and sewed it all together. When turned the loops poke out. The corners of this bias piece got tacked down as well.

Detail of the loop side

The sleeves of the gown were two rectangles of organza cut a few inches longer than my arm. I cut a small curve into the corners of one end to line up with the bottom curve of the armscye and pleated in the excess around the top of the shoulder. I sewed elastic into the bottom edge and lace over that.

And there you have it! A nice comfy dressing gown to lounge around looking fabulous in. Hopefully I've explained everything well, please feel free to contact me with any questions or clarity issues you might have. 


  1. Gorgeous! :) I love the sleeves especially. Thank you for posting the pattern! I want to try making one when I get the time...

    1. I know what you mean, time is very hard to come by lately.

  2. Thank you. That really helps a lot.

  3. Neat! Will be 'pinning' this Thanks for sharing