Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Ivory and Rose Lace 1910s Edwardian Gown & High Tea at Vaucluse House

For some reason or another, lately I've been stuck in the 1910s. Personally I blame Downton Abbey, but as we are currently experiencing the centenary of events such as the sinking of the Titanic and the start of WWI, I don't think I'm the only one!

Although I already have one teens outfit, a purple 1912-13 cotton summer dress, when I was invited to an Edwardian High Tea at Vaucluse house in Sydney I jumped at the chance to make another, slightly more elegant gown.

Vaucluse House is a beautiful 19th-century mansion and gardens located in the suburb of Vaucluse in Sydney. The original Vaucluse House was built by Sir Henry Brown Hayes, who had been transported to New South Wales in 1802 for kidnapping the daughter of a wealthy Irish banker. The Governor at the time considered Hayes "a restless, troublesome character" and so he forced to move 3 km away from the city. In 1803 Hayes was granted permission to purchase the land and house. He built a small but charming cottage and several outbuildings in the secluded valley of partly cleared coastal scrub. In 1827 the colonial explorer, barrister and politician William Charles Wentworth bought the house.

Over the next five decades, William and his wife Sarah developed Vaucluse into a large and picturesque estate with grounds that extended to cover most of the present-day suburb of Vaucluse. In 1915 Vaucluse House became Australia’s first official house museum and continues to entice visitors to its lush and still secluded grounds.

But onto the dress! As everyone knows, a good dress has to start with some inspiration. As I was going to a daytime high tea set in the gardens of a beautiful old estate I knew I wanted to keep the colour palette light: nothing too dark or rich in colour. I settled on a cream/ivory scheme after looking at these reference images:




The main inspiration however came from an extant gown belonging to fellow blogger Caroline from Dressed in Time. The gown is made from ivory silk and lace.


As the basis for the under dress I used Reconstructing History Pattern, RH1090, as well as Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion V.2 1860-1940. Both these patterns are drafted from the same extant gown which belonged to Lady Maude Warrender and now resides in the Museum of London. Click here for photos of the original and for more information. The dress is dated around 1909-10 by Janet Arnold.

I then used the inspiration images above to drape the overdress.

The under-dress is made from ivory satin and a dusty rose coloured lace. The over-dress is made out of a sheer cream chiffon fabric.


I had only a couple of issues with the pattern by Reconstructing history: firstly it seems to be missing a piece at the back, or rather I had to add an extra one. I don't know why this happened but I cut the same size in all the pieces and yet the top of the dress and the skirts didn't match up, so I had to add an extra panel to the back of the bodice. The top part of the dress is also a bit gape-y. I'm flat chested but when I used my well endowed friend as a mannequin it still didn't quite fit right. So I'm not quite sure what's going on there.

I also reinforced the parts of the sleeves that attached to the front of the bodice (and back) with strips of satin, as the lace is quite stretchy and I was afraid that the weight of the dress might make it pull easily.

The dress is essentially three layers: a bottom dress of ivory satin, lace over dress and sleeves, and another overdress made of white chiffon. A sash made from the ivory satin goes over the top of these around a high waistline. The dress fastens with hooks and eyes up the back.

For the event I wore the gown over my 1910-1914 longline corset. As it's still summer in Australia I opted not to wear my Edwardian combination underwear as the dress was hot enough already! My hairstyle was based on various images from the time, as well as television such as Downton Abbey. I've posted a tutorial for it here. Gloves, peals and a parasol completed the outfit. Thanks go to Andrew Heslop for taking these photos.


My friend Michaela who is not a sewer at all, managed (with the help of her lovely mother) to turn a dress she dug out of her wardrobe into a plausible Edwardian costume. This photo was taken in the beautiful sitting room of Vaucluse House.

Taken out in the back gardens, overlooking the stables and vegetable patch

And let's not forget the High Tea:

Michaela, Myself and Andrew in Vaucluse Gardens

Andrew also informed me about this cool little smartphone app called '8mm' that takes vintage looking film. I thought I'd film a little video in Vaucluse gardens just to show what the dress looks like in motion, as sometimes I feel that the true effect is lost in still images. Check it out below: 

The HSF '14 Challenge: #3 - Pink
Fabric:  3 metres of ivory satin, 1.5 metres of dusty-pink lace, 2 metres cream chiffon
Pattern: Underdress is a mix of  Reconstructing History Pattern, RH1090, as well as Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion V.2 1860-1940. Overdress was self draped.
Year: 1909-1912
Notions: Thread, hooks & eyes
How historically accurate is it? 90% The pattern for the under-dress is an exact replica taken from an extant garment, and the over dress is based on an antique garment owned by blogger Dressed in Time. Sewing techniques and colours are correct for the period.The only thing that makes this not 100% accurate are the fabrics - synthetic satin, stretch lace, synthetic chiffon and poly-cotton thread. However they are modern fabrics created to look like the authentic ones of the time which is why I'm only taking 10% off!
Hours to complete: 15-20
First worn: To an Edwardian High Tea at Vaucluse house in Sydney.
Total cost: I think the fabrics cost me about AU$50 all together + 5 for the hooks and eyes.
Approx. $55 AUD


  1. Lovely! And that little video is THE BEST!!

  2. How nice that you were able to wear this lovely gown to a real Edwardian tea! You look wonderful.

  3. Beautiful job, and the event looked fun. I was partway through rh1090 and found similar issues. Im not a complete novice, but like you found the instructions sorely lacking in visual detail. After much refitting and confusion about the back, I've decided to go with an unkosher hidden zipper. I simply don't have the funds to hire a good ladies maid to help close all those hooks and eyes! Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. It's nice to know that I wasn't the only one who had trouble with the pattern. Yes, I definitely don't know how'd I'd get on with the dress if I was by myself, so a zip is probably a good idea! Good luck with your dress :)