Mrs. Spencer / Edwardian Tea Gown {the finished product}

I told my sister I figured out why people only had a few dresses back then. It wasn't because sewing machines were scarce, or the patterns were too complicated...it was simply because they used so much fabric and fabric is expensive. I mean, really, truly... 10 yards of calico for one simple dress. Outrageous.

But thank heavens Edwardian gowns only take about 6 1/2 yards of fabric (technically 13 yards counting the lining). Unfortunately, fabric is expensive and by the time I was ready to go out with my plan...I was officially only in the possession of 83 cents. But you haven't heard of my plan, of course. It's the biggest secret I've kept for about two weeks. I decided to make my sister Hannah an Edwardian gown for the upcoming performance of Anne of Green Gables. I knew she had wanted me to sew one - and I ungraciously and flatly refused considering I had about five other dresses to make - instead of relying on a hand-down costume. And she wanted it pink.

We had a pattern (check), and all I needed was the fabric. But, as I said...I was hopelessly out of money. Introduce the big idea:

 I convinced my mom to take me to a thrift store, to see if they maybe had a cheap 12 yards laying around. They did, actually. But it was brown. And thin. And ugly. I was disappointed.

And that's when I saw the sheets.

Sheets. The world's cheapest form of well woven fabric that ever existed. And there before my wondering eyes was the prettiest shade of peach/pink sheets that ever wound up in a thrift store. It even had salvagable lacing at the end! Bingo.

My luck continued, as we looked at old dresses and found...a pink 1980s dress that matched the sheet almost perfectly. With salvagable lace. This was just too good! I started babbling about if I took that off there and cut that there, then I added that there and then it would turn out so lovely...

All in all - I got all my materials for my Edwardian Gown from the thrift store.
  • One peach/pink sheet
  • A set of matching lace table runners (four 14")
  •  Thrift lace (3 1/2 yards)
  • One ugly 1980's peach/pink dress
  • One rose flower clip thingy that looked pretty
 The dress was hideous. Elastic waist, one of those weird sailor-like tie things in the front, off the shoulder puffy sleeves, button down, shoulder pads...it was a hopeless mess of antiquity. I made a list of modifications. I wanted to salvage the lace on that weird tie thing, take off the shoulder pads, save the skirt, take in the sleeves...and somehow modify the bodice to look Edwardian.

In the end, the bodice was so ugly that I scratched that idea and began to chop up my sheet.

The dress began with the lining, and I used fabric I already had. Following the pattern (Butterick Historical B5970) I inserted the boning. A note about the boning - I have no idea where you can get this stuff or how it works...so I simply used ice-cream bucket handles and lined them with silk fabric. It didn't look pretty - but it worked.

The pattern was easy - although time consuming. Making the bodice (outside pink/peach stuff) was a piece of cake...you simply sew it on the lining. The results about four days later:
 I used the table runners as an overlay for the yoke. And it was so pretty that it was actually enjoyable, despite the fact that my sewing machine was hopelessly broken. I named him Albert, because I was mad. Don't ask why.

When it came to the sleeves, I was so tired of sewing for days on end that I left the pattern and sorta drafted my own. I sewed forever, got callouses on my fingers from sewing by hand (this added to my broken cuticles from practicing glissandos on the piano...that's another story), and made the biggest mess in my entire history of sewing. The skirt was the last straw...I ripped out the v-yoke from the dress and added a layer of sheet underneath to make the skirt ankle-length. My button hole was a disaster, and sewing on the hooks and eyes (like...twenty of them) was annoying. But finally, at 3:00pm, Christmas Eve, it was finished. And I wrapped it with relief.

CHAPTER 1,000,000 / the finished product

It has it's flaws, and the hooks and eyes need to be redone - but it's for stage so the problems aren't that noticeable. But I'm ridiculously happy about how one week of sewing turned out - and how excited Hannah was. For living in the same house, she was clueless about my secret...even though it was kinda obvious - considering there was a sign over the guest-room door forbidding her to enter under any situation. Now I just can't wait to see her as Mrs. Spencer - gossiping with the likes of Mrs. Lynde and the rest. //


  1. IT'S SO WONDERFUL! And she's such a beautiful, feminine young lady. HER HAIR. <3

    This hilarious, insightful post thoroughly repays me for the use of my room as a sewing disaster area.

  2. !!!! I'm speechless...you did such a wonderful job sewing the dress! (Not that I didn't think you could sew - quite the contrary!) The color is beautiful - and it looks so authentic! Bravo, Bethany!

    Hannah is going to do a wonderful job playing Mrs. Spencer - and she'll look beautiful, as always!

  3. This turned out wonderful! I love it!

  4. this is lovely!!! you did such a fantastic job, bethany!

  5. Oh my goodness! It is SO Mrs. Spencer! Is there anything you *can't* do, Bethany?!?! And you're so thrifty, too! When I grow up, I want to be just like you.

  6. Ice cream bucket handles!!!! That is SO neat :)
    Hannah P


© Everyday Memoirs
Maira Gall