The Lesser-Spotted Dressing Gown
Posted on Thursday the 26th April 2018 by Anna-Jo Sews
I’ve been meaning to make myself a dressing gown for a few years now, but since I had a couple of okay RTW ones hanging on my door, I figured there wasn’t a pressing need for another. That was until I realised I was going to be dealing with a newborn over the summer months. Previous experience with babies has taught me that you end up spending a lot of time awake in the middle of the night, and having something easy to throw on for some extra warmth can make all the difference when staggering around in a zombie-like haze, searching for nappies and clean babygrows.
My existing lighter-weight dressing gown is a cotton waffle, which is definitely too warm for many summer nights and gets more use in spring and autumn. Finally, I had need for a properly lightweight dressing gown and the best excuse for sewing one :-)
One of the patterns that I was particularly inspired by was last year’s hugely popular Suki Kimono from Helen’s Closet. I loved the details of the inseam pockets, ties anchored at the back, and the internal ties too. However, I wasn’t so keen on the idea of paying for a PDF pattern and then having to pay to have it printed by the copy shop too—and there’s no way on earth I’m going to stick together that many A4 sheets for the print at home version. Dressing gown pattern pieces are huge!
So the idea of making a summer dressing gown was temporarily shelved, until I stumbled across Vogue Patterns’ V8888, which features—along with two nightgown variations and some French Knickers—a dressing gown pattern with those same features I was coveting in the Suki Kimono. And this would be printed on pattern tissue, thus getting around having to have a PDF printed. Yep, I was sold! I went for the longer length version (View B), but the cropped length is pretty cute too.
The fabric suggestions on the pattern envelope are Charmeuse, Crepe de Chine and Jersey. However, when checking out other sewists’ makes online, I found a gorgeous version made in this Viscose Challis Fabric by Danni at Oh Sew Quaint. I love wearing viscose because of its softness and drape, but I’d never sewn with a challis before. Undeterred, I checked out the selection on Minerva’s site and found this Polka Dot Fabric. I love the irregular dot sizes and random-looking repeat, which give it a different vibe to all my other polka dot garments. Yes, I’m a firm believer that you can’t go wrong with dots or stripes, and my wardrobe definitely bears testament to that!
In addition to the main fabric I used some lightweight fusible woven interfacing for the collar, which is of a really good quality and doesn’t go bubbly in the wash. If you’ve only ever tried the non-woven kind of fusible interfacing before, I urge you to give woven a go. It has a much better handle and drape which you need with lighter weight fabrics. There’s none of that weird cardboardy texture you get with some fusible interfacings.
Choosing a size for this one was a little fraught as I had no idea how quickly my measurements would return to my pre-pregnancy size, which is normally in the 14-16 range in Vogue’s sizing. However, experience has taught me I usually need to size down to a 12 when sewing Vogue patterns, so I decided to go for the 14 and give myself a bit of extra room without drowning in excess fabric. After all, I can always cinch the belt in tighter after losing the baby weight.
The envelope said I’d need 3m of fabric for a 14. Now, I’m not disputing this. I honestly think I could have cut the pattern out of my three metres if I’d been a bit more careful on the cutting table. However, I’m used to Big Four patterns recommending far more fabric than I need for my size, so I wasn’t as tight on my layout as I could have been. And yes, viscose challis is a tricky fabric to cut out as it shifts all over the place, so my efforts to keep it on grain meant I was wasting more fabric than usual.
In the end I was left with not quite enough fabric to cut my final pieces: the undercollar and the internal ties. It wasn’t too much of a problem as I had various decent size scraps, and was able to cut one half of the collar on the cross grain, and I pieced the other half. The ties ended up pieced too. Lucky for me the last bits I cut were two pieces that wouldn’t be visible in the finished garment!
Construction for this one is fairly involved, as there are many steps and the main seams are French seamed. Vogue rates it as “easy”, and it probably is comparable to other supposedly “easy” Vogue patterns I’ve sewn before. However, beginners beware! An easy from Vogue is not the same as beginner-friendly. You’ll want to have a few sewing projects under your belt before tackling this one, and you’ll definitely need to have a good reference book (or search engine at the ready) to look up some of the techniques in more detail. Even I found the collar instructions confusing, although I’ll admit I’ve never sewn a shawl collar before so it could just be my inexperience talking.
In the end I complicated things even more by opting to go with French Seams to attach the sleeves and for the inseam pockets. I’ve French Seamed sleeves once before so I knew this was possible, if a little fiddly, but I’d never done it with pockets. However, this challis frays if you so much as look at it, so I knew it was going to need the best seam finishing I could give it if the finished gown was going to hold up to repeated washing. And if I’m going to be feeding and changing a newborn while wearing it, regular washing will be essential!
Pro tip: when I make French seams I always take the time to press the teeny weeny trimmed seam allowance open before then pressing it right sides together for the final stitching line. It really helps to give a crisp edge to that inner fold—although it does take longer and you have to watch you don’t burn your fingers pressing it open!
Another change I made was to add a hanging loop, as the original pattern doesn’t feature one. It was easy enough, and I used a scrap of fabric to make a rouleau loop on grain, then threaded narrow ribbon through it to strengthen it still further. I attached this before handstitching down the upper collar, and made sure I stitched over the join several times to strengthen it.
This project definitely stretched my skills what with all those French seams in a challenging fabric, along with the couture details like the handsewn thread loop at the front. It took over ten hours to sew up but I decided I didn’t want to rush it and enjoyed spending my time getting the best finish I could. I’m really pleased with how neat it all looks on the inside. The picture below shows the armscye at the top, and the pocket at the bottom. Check out all those beautiful French seams!
Although making this dressing gown took a lot longer than I ever expected, I’m thrilled with the finished garment and I feel like I learned lots, which is always good. I love the way it looks with those bold polka dots (hopefully the baby will too, as newborns respond well to bold monochrome patterns) and I know it’s going to cheer me up when I’m having to drag myself out of bed in the small hours. Plus it should be easy for me to spot with bleary eyes in dim light, which is always a bonus. See, I’ve really thought this one through!
It’s also incredibly comfy to wear, and it should be the perfect weight for summer nights and mornings. I’ll just have to make myself get dressed properly before going on the school run or it won’t be the Lesser Spotted Dressing Gown, it will be the Greater Spotted Dressing Gown!
I would definitely make this pattern again, although there are limits to how many dressing gowns a girl needs in her life. Perhaps next time I’ll tackle one of the nightgowns as they’re pretty cute—I can just imagine one made up in more polka dots (black and hot pink?) with black lace trim. Right up my alley!
Happy sewing, everyone!
All materials for this make were kindly supplied by Minerva in return for an honest blog post. Thank you, Minerva!