Older white woman outside twirling in a black and brown elbow length sleeve gown.

In the 1910s, women's fashion trends moved towards loose, flowing gowns reminiscent of Classical Greek costumes.  These style liberated women's bodies from corsets and other (multitudinous) undergarments.  Simple gowns with voluminous fabric, like this Paris Promenade Dress, were shaped with decorative cords or sashes and accessorised with long strands of beads, cords, tassels, and/or pendants.  

This simple, but elegant, dress is made from just three main pattern pieces.  The dress shape is defined at the waist with a fabric sash that can pass underneath the bib-shaped underdress to tie in the back.  The three sections of the dress are also great for putting together interesting fabrics and fabric combinations (prints, colors, stripes, textures, etc.), as well as for adding creative embellishments (around the lower skirt, outline the overdress, or around the bateau neckline.  

We do, however, often get questions about this dress and its construction.  It is fairly simple once you get the hang of it, but at first glance (and without the whole pattern in front of you), it can be a bit confusing.  The construction is different than a typical dress construction - i.e. skirt, bodice, sleeves, collar/facing.  In this pattern there is a dress, overdress (and lining), and skirt.  A lot of fabric is needed for the dress, in several different sections or main pieces, so understanding how it goes together can help when picking out fabrics, especially if you want to do combinations of fabric.  We have a blog post on fabric suggestions which may help you decide what type of fabric to use and give ideas on combinations (many of the suggestions may not longer be available, but the ideas may help). 

I'm going to demonstrate below how this pattern goes together using paper cut into the shapes of the main pattern pieces.  This is a good technique to use if you want to see what colors or prints might go together well, or to experiment with the look you want before cutting into fabric.

First, here are the main pattern pieces:  Overdress and Lining (left), Dress (center), Skirt (right)

white paper cut out shapes on green grided mat

 

When they are cut on the fold, they will look like this:

The Dress (top) has the neckline/opening cut into the top (or middle) of the piece.  The Lining (right) is cut from the same piece as the Overdress (left).  And the Skirt is cut  to have a "V" at the top.  There will be one Dress, but two of everything else. I am only showing one Lining, one Overdress, and one Skirt to show how this goes together on one side (front).

 

First, the Overdress and Lining and sewn together along to top. The Lining will be behind the Overdress, but will be seen from the outside, similar to how a large pocket lining is seen on the outside occasionally, depending on how the wearer moves.  

 

Then, the Skirt is sewn to the Overdress at the bottom of the Overdress.

 

The Lining is sewn to the bottom of the Dress (the dress is folded so that there is no shoulder seam and the neck opening is at the top).  And, the Overdress is folded up over the front of the dress.  Now this would make an extremely long dress, much too long for anyone to wear.  So, there is one more step.  

 

The skirt is folded up underneath the dress to be sewn to the Lining on the inside.  This encloses all the seams inside the dress as well (except for the side seam), and makes the dress a "normal" length.  


You can color or draw on the pieces to decide how you might want to have your dress designs - how to put colors, prints, or stripes together.  

 

You can see this is a fairly easy dress to put together, but unusual at the same time.  The Overdress is sewn, at the top, to the Dress, and sashes and facings are added.  It makes an elegant gown.  

One other tip when making this dress, is that there is a LOT of ease in the dress, and many people (including me) often size down one or two sizes to reduce the amount of fabric in the dress.  A muslin might be a good idea - and you can just make it with the Dress piece only - to see if the sizing feels good to you.  

 

Older white woman sitting on a vintage couch in a black and white rayon gown.