How now Brown Gown?

Processing into court for the ceremony. Photo by Joel the Brewer.

Brown velvet gown started March 29, 2016. Finished April 23, 2016.

For my laurelling ceremony I want to wear a gown over my kirtle. I lucked upon a great deal on brown cotton velveteen at $3.20/yd. So I got 10 yards of it.

This is going to be a brown velvet gown with a center front opening which will be held closed with hook and eye at the bodice (open on the skirt). The gown will have a waist seam and very wide sleeves (which can be folded back). The sleeves and the skirt will be lined in black cotton velveteen. The neck and the hem will also be bound with black velveteen. For this dress I’m going to use stuffed box pleats as shown in “The Queen’s Servants” page 46.

The sleeves will be very wide but I want the seam to be at the underarm (lined up with the side seam) and end up at the bottom of sleeve drop at the wrist. For the sleeve, I want a very wide sleeve which can be worn down (to the back of my knuckles) or can be rolled up partially(~3-4 inches) or half way up the arm. When rolled back I want the rolled back portion to sit flat against the sleeve it’s rolled up against. When I was fitting the sleeve I found the if I used a basic flared sleeve the rolled back portion didn’t sit flat. To fix this I updated the sleeve to go straight after it flairs out enough for the depth of the sleeve I want (see pattern).

Originally I thought I’d do a train.. but I finally decided against it. Realistically the number of times I’d wear the gown with the train down is approaching one and it seems silly to spend time and effort developing a pattern for and then sewing a feature I’d never use.

Inspirational Images


  • (done) Update bodice pattern to use more upperclass sleeve arrangement
  • (done) Figure out pattern for sleeves
  • (done) Wash brown velveteen fabric
  • (done) Wash black linen bodice lining fabric
  • (done) Wash black velveteen sleeve/skirt lining fabric
  • (done) Cut velvet into bias binding. I cut this into 1.5″ strips. This is slightly wider than the Queen’s Servants suggestion of 1.25″ but I found it easier to measure and cut and I have a feeling that I won’t even notice the slightly extra width. At 1.5″ the bias tape will attach at around a 1/4″ seam allowance. I think I have enough black velvet bias tape left over from when I made my Hannah Brown kirtle that I don’t need to cut any more.
  • (done) Cut out the bodice outer fabric. (1 yard brown velvet)
  • (done) Cut out the sleeve outer fabric. (2? yards brown velvet)
  • (done) Cut out the skirt outer fabric. (5? yds brown velvet).
  • (done) Cut out the bodice lining. (1 yard linen)
  • (done) Cut out the sleeve lining fabric (2 yards black velvet)
  • (done) Cut out the skirt lining. (5? yds black velvet).
  • (done) Sew the sleeve outer fabric to the sleeve lining. (sew inner and outer fabrics together along what will be the wrist edge. Then sew them into a tube making sure that the seam is matched up at the wrist) Iron seams open. Flip sleeve so that lining is on the inside. Iron wrist edge flat.
  • (done) Piece the skirt outer fabric pieces (stitch together then press the seam open)
  • (done) Piece the skirt lining pieces (stitch together then press the seam open)
  • (done) Sew skirt outer fabrics and lining together. (seam the panels together with bias edges towards the back of the skirt. End up with bias to bias at the center back. Better swoosh and the front hangs straight.)(NOTE: The Queen’s Servants would have you put the bias edges on each side. I’ve decided I like my swoosh so I’m going to keep doing it the way I’ve been doing it). On the Hannah Brown kirtle I used a bag lining. I hated that. This time I’m going to use fully-enclosed seams.
  • (done) Sew the bodice outer fabric together at back and sides. Leaving the front and armseye area unsewn. Press seams open.
  • (done) Sew the bodice lining fabric together at back and sides. Leaving the front and armseye area unsewn. Press seams open.
  • (done) Pin the bodice lining in place inside the bodice. Tack with a slightly less than 1/4″ seam around the neck, front opening and armseye. Do not tack the waist edge of the bodice.
  • (done) Attach the sleeves to the bodice (Machine sew the outer fabric of the sleeve to the bodice, turn the lining fabric and slip stitch it in place)
  • (done) Sew a 1/4″ seam around the top of the skirt to hold the outer and inner fabric together except for the section of the skirt that will be box pleated.
  • (done) On the skirt, clip into the seam allowance into the skirt on either side of the section that will be box pleated. It turns out the area I wanted to not be pleated coincided almost exactly with a singe skirt panel width. So it is convenient to just set that at the panel seam and not have to clip anything.
  • (done) At the section to be box pleated, turn the top of the skirt in and slip stitch the outer fabric and the lining to make a finished edge at the top of the box pleats.
  • (done) Attach the skirt to the outer fabric of the bodice at the front and up to the mark for the box pleats.
  • (done) Slip stitch the bodice lining around the bottom of the bodice. On the front this will enclose the skirt. On the box pleated section this will make a finished edge on the back of the bodice.
  • (done) Make 6 big box pleats. Whipstitch the corners of the pleats to each other
  • (done) Stuff the pleats and affix the pleats(sausages 9″x18″). When stuffed the box pleated section should match the portion of the back of the bodice that still needs skirt attached.
  • (done) Whipstitch the tops of the pleats to the bodice.
  • (done) Bind the front opening of the gown (bodice and skirt) with velvet. At 1.5″ the bias tape will attach at around a 1/4″ seam allowance.
  • (done) Add hook and eye closure to the front opening of the bodice. Hook and eye are 1″ apart. That’s 16 total on the front opening to the waist.
  • (done) Mark and cut the hem.
  • (done) Bind the hem. At 1.5″ the hem bias tape will attach at around a 1/4″ seam allowance.

Progress pictures


The bodice pattern for this is not self-supporting. This is for the dress to be worn over my kirtle. I’m lucky to have recently attended a class where we draped a toile over a self-supportive kirtle so I had a nice easy starting point. Even then I had to tweak my toile as the original didn’t cut close enough to the armeye. For this bodice I want to do the upper class very thin strap that just follows the shape of the armseye. After a bit of fussing I think I’ve gotten to a fantastic fit. Aside from the sleeve strap the rest of the bodice just needs to skim the body in a pleasing manner.

Next up, wash all the fabric.

Washed and dried the brown velvet. Last night I cut out the bodice and the skirt. Directly after cutting the skirt panels I realized that my new cutting pattern (V2) doesn’t work. I math’d it and updated it to V3. Luckily I have lots of extra brown velvet so I’m able to recover from this (without having to do back-bendy weird seams on the skirt) and the error was limited to the extra triangle so I didn’t actually have to cut that much. Add to that.. since I don’t want the pieced velvet to flash a different color I needed to cut the triangles separately anyway.

I picked up the black velveteen this morning, washed it this afternoon. I also spent part of this afternoon working on the sleeve pattern. Tonight I finally cut the black velvet. At this point I have everything for the gown cut out. On to the sewing.

Finished the sleeves. They’re ready to be attached to the not-yet-sewn bodice.
Pieced the lining skirt panels(6/6 complete). Started piecing the outer fabric skirt panels(1/6 complete).
In future, when I decide to sew velvet remind me it’s creepy and hard to pin down.

Finished piecing the outer fabric pieces.
Trimmed the selvedge off of everything (I didn’t want to to peek out at the seams).
Started sewing the skirt together. Half done with that (3/6). It turns out when you stack 4 layers of velvet together it stops creeping. Thank God. I was not looking forward to having to chase 4 pieces of velvet around with my sewing machine.

Finished sewing the skirt together. It turns out that velvet lined in velvet is heavier than I expected. This gown may wear me when it’s done. I also finished the 1/4″ seam around the top of the skirt. Next, on to the bodice.

Sewed the outer layer of the bodice together. Sewed the inner layer of the bodice together. Ran a slightly-less-than 1/4″ seam along the front, neck and armseye. I honestly don’t know if that means the bodice is “bag lined” or “flat lined”. Meh. This whole “self-taught seamstress” thing has its drawbacks. Regardless.. I completely sewed the outside of the bodice togehter.. and then I sewed the lining of the bodice together and then I put them wrong-sides together and stitched them together at the outside edge. The armseye will get sleeves attached to it and the front/neck opening will get bound with velvet after I have the skirt attached. I don’t wnat to bind the bodice until after the skirt is on because I don’t want to have a seam in the binding right at the bottom of the bodice.

I pinned one of the sleeves onto the bodice. I made a mistake in the sleeve pattern. When I made my wide-open sleeve pattern I used the sleeve cap of my “standard sleeve” which fits my kirtle.. and failed to take into account the fact that I fidgeted with the gown and the gown’s armseye is smaller than my “standard” sleeve cap. Luckily this is easily worked around. Since they’re still nto attached to the bodice I’ll just flip them inside out and adjust the sleeve cap.

I fixed the sleeves so the sleeve cap matches the armseye. I got the first seam on both sleeves done (sew outer fabric of sleeve to bodice by machine) and pinned one sleeve so it’s ready for the slip stitching.

Slip stitched both sleeves. It’s totally true. It doesn’t matter how plus sized the bodice is, adding a pair of HUGE sleeves to the bodice makes the bodice look puny. Next up, the skirt.

I’m following the plan outlined in “the Queen’s Servants” or at least as best as I can make it out. It’s so hard to read a description and figure out what you’re supposed to be doing. I feel like I need step-by-step instructions with youtube videos to fill in the transitions. Regardless, I think I get it. We’ll see.

Today I slip stitched the top of what will be the pleats in the center back of the skirt. This would have been much easier if I hadn’t already put the 1/4″ seam completely across the top of the skirt. I fixed the TODO ordering above. So ok, in front of the pleat you get a 1/4″ seam to affix the lining of the skirt to the outer fabric. In the to-be-pleated portion the outer and inner fabric get folded down to the seam allowance and then that seam gets slip stitched in place. So anyway. That part is done.

I also attached the skirt to the bodice in the parts in front of the pleats. Finally I pinned the bodice lining in place. Next up, slip stitch the bodice lining in place across the bottom of the bodice.

I’m starting to see the end.. and Thank God too.. only 3 weeks left before I’m supposed to wear this. Wheeee.

Finished sewing the bodice lining in place and got the box pleats setup and affixed them in place. Next to stuff them.

Stuffed the pleats and sewed the stuffing in place. I’m not sure that I like it. Luckily if I hate it it’s easy to remove. I also stitched the top of the pleats onto the back of the bodice. Finally I can hang it up and happy circumstance, it actually resembles a dress. Onto the binding.

I’m not sure I love the stuffed pleats. No wait, I like the “stuffed” part.. but I’m not sure that the method currently used makes me happiest. My “sausages” are 9″x18″ bits of black coat weight wool I scavenged from my stash that are rolled into 18″ long sausages. Then these are stitched into the box pleat. I think 18″ may be too long. I think stitching the skirt down this much may be too restrictive. Luckily this a non-destructive change so if I try it on and hate it I can take them out fairly easily (in which case I may rotate the sausages and use 9″ sausages instead). Sadly I can’t test this out until I can try the dress on.

Started binding the opening on the bodice. I’m using left over black cotton velveteen from my hannah brown kirtle. I completed the binding from the top of the center front split, around the neck-side of the sleeves and back of the neck. I’ve pinned the binding along the front edge on both sides and am ready to start sewing it tomorrow.

Finished the binding on one of the sides of the center-front opening.

Finished the binding on the other side of the center-front opening. Next, hook and eyes.

Attached 15/16 eyes. Not so bad. I don’t think I’ve ever used individual hook and eye on a dress before (last time I used hook/eye tape). The method I found to sew them on is very nice. It leaves them with tidy little button hole stitches holding them down.

Finished the last eye and added 7/16 hooks. I also finished my blue silk belt and v3 of my white partlet.

Finished the last of the hooks. I hope to get the hem marked tomorrow.

My friend Treásach dropped by and marked my hem. I cut the dress at the hem, did the first side of the bias binding and started hand sewing the second side.

When I tried on the gown I found out there’s a burble at the center front. I am going to finish the hem before I start thinking about what (if anything) to do about the burble.

Finished binding the hem on 3/6 of the skirt panels.

Finished binding the hem. When the hem was cut it was a scotch short at the edge of some seams. I’ve adjusted the skirt cutting pattern to V4 and added 3″ to avoid this in the future.


10 yds 58″ wide chocolate brown cotton velveteen $40.95 ($3.20/yd + S&H) from Fashion Fabrics Club 2/2/2016
13 yds 58″ wide black cotton velveteen (in trade for 2 viking boxes) from Elsa 4/2/2016
1 yard of black linen from my stash I have no idea how much I paid for it or how long ago I got it
1 yard of black coat weight wool from my stash



4 thoughts on “How now Brown Gown?

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