20th Century

1903 Chinoiserie Promenade dress – the skirt is done!

Well, thanks to Polly/Oliver, I’m still running three days late for HSF challenges, but my Chinoiserie skirt is done (done, done, done DONE!), and I swear this is the last time I’m late and my White challenge will be in before the deadline!

1903 chinoiserie inspired promenade dress thedreamstress.com

The Chinoiserie skirt has been a bit of a sewing rollercoaster.  It’s gone terribly well, and then well, terribly, and then terribly well, and then well, terribly.  Now that it’s done I think I’m pretty pleased with it.

Kinda unsure though.

So what went terribly well?  The double piping, as long as it was around moderate curves.  Just look at how tiny and neat it is here, even just pinned on:

1903 chinoiserie inspired promenade dress thedreamstress.com

And then sewed on properly:

1903 chinoiserie inspired promenade dress thedreamstress.com

It’s the perfect blend of my Chinese inspiration, and Western sewing in 1903 (though they might very well have done it exactly as it was done in China).

Unfortunately, when it came to apply the piping around the extremely sharp corners and curves of some of the front detailing, things went well, terribly.

1903 chinoiserie inspired promenade dress thedreamstress.com

The one on the right isn’t as sharp and precise as I had hoped, but it isn’t terrible.  That blob on the left though?  Urgh.  Seriously!  What happened?  I’m not even sure – I had to hand sew those areas, I thought I’d done them very precisely, but once I’d sewn both lengths of piping, and pressed, I suddenly had a bulging blob of sewing goop that looked more like it was inspired by Ghostbusters than the mysteries of the East.

Luckily the other side of the front turned out much better, and it is near my hem, and the overall effect isn’t too bad, en masse.

1903 chinoiserie inspired promenade dress thedreamstress.com

And even just pinned on, you get an idea of the effect of the pattern, and how it improves the fall of the skirt, giving it some necessary swish and bulk.

1903 chinoiserie inspired promenade dress thedreamstress.com

The way it changed the way the skirt hangs is actually one of my favourite things about my decoration.  I always knew it would help give a little body and support, and act like cording does in a petticoat (the piping is, after all, essentially four lines of cording), but the effect is even better than I hoped.

1903 chinoiserie inspired promenade dress thedreamstress.com

Also, the last two photos give the best impression of what the colour is really like.

In order to sew the applique on, I sewed the centre front join, pinned it on to the skirt, checked that it was exactly symmetrical, and then machine sewed the top edge on from front to back, stopping 6 inches from the centre back.

1903 chinoiserie inspired promenade dress thedreamstress.com

I then machine sewed the bottom edge on all the long smooth points, getting as close as I could to the fancier cut-ins.

Then I checked, trimmed and sewed the centre back seam, pinned the last section in place, and machine sewed it.  Finally, I hand-sewed on the pesky cut-ins.

1903 chinoiserie inspired promenade dress thedreamstress.com

Finis!  Hurrah!

1903 chinoiserie inspired promenade dress thedreamstress.com

Clearly I haven’t gotten to the top, but I could wear the skirt with a simple shirtwaist (Separates challenge perhaps?), and there will be a challenge later in the year that will be suitable for finishing up challenges.

1903 chinoiserie inspired promenade dress thedreamstress.com

The Challenge: #14  Eastern Influence

Fabric: 2.5 metres of plain weave delft blue wool with a slightly fulled finish ($8 from an op shop), 1 vintage silk & metal obi ($5), scraps of ivory silk-cotton (free – left over from another project)

Pattern:  My own, based on a pattern in the  Ladies Tailor Made section of The “Standard” Work on Cutting, 1900

Year: 1903

Notions:  27 metres of piping cord ($8), hem tape (50 cents), 9 hooks & loops (inherited).

How historically accurate is it? The design is not based on a specific historical precedent, though there were designers in the early 20th century using Chinese textiles for inspiration, so it’s plausible.  The construction is 85% accurate.  The hem isn’t (machine invisible hemming) and I’m not sure about the techniques I used to create my applique.  So 80% all up.

Hours to complete: 11.  Doing the applique properly would have taken another 15 or so, which makes me feel a lot better about it!

First worn: Not yet, I need to finish the bodice.

Total cost: NZ$21.50 (and that will cover the bodice as well – not bad!)

1903 chinoiserie inspired promenade dress thedreamstress.com

Looking at it now, in the warm glow of morning, I’m feeling quite a warm glow towards it.  The mistakes are so minor, and so near the hem, that they are unlikely to be noticed, and I’m going to experiment before doing the bodice, to make sure I can get the collar perfect.

And, of course, the most important question?  How does Felicity feel about it?

1903 chinoiserie inspired promenade dress thedreamstress.com

I think she approves!

1903 chinoiserie inspired promenade dress thedreamstress.com

Of course I approve.  It’s gorgeous, and it’s lovely scrummy warm wool.  Get over yourself Mommes and come give me a cuddle!


  1. It’s amazing! The double piping is brilliant, it makes the edges look so cool and the design really stands out.

  2. holly says

    Ah, well, what’s a little blob between friends?

    If I point out a fault that I think is bleeding obvious in a project to someone else, they usually haven’t noticed it on their own.

  3. Kitty Scalzo says

    Really lovely. You should be very proud. I love the way the skirt drapes.

  4. Sheila Codd says

    You are so brave to even attempt the double pipeing and you have brought it off really well. Gold star

  5. Lynne says

    It looks very beautiful! I see The Blob, but unless you had mentioned it, my eye would not have been drawn to it. The piping is brilliant. Hope you do make the top half before too long – going to be a stunning outfit.

  6. This is so fantastic! You are much too hard on yourself. Piping is hard! I made this same skirt earlier this year, and mine didn’t come out nearly as nice as yours did. Well done, and very inspirational!

  7. Obviously, I meant same pattern, not same styling, your decorative touches are positively inspired!

  8. Evey says

    I love this so much I want to hug it. Amazing!

  9. The applique is brilliant. I love the double piping and how it’s given the skirt such a beautiful drape. You should be proud.

  10. The design and the double piping are lovely.

    The skirt appears to be a lighter, duller color at the hem than at the top, but I’m assuming that’s an optical illusion.

    Well done! I can hardly wait to see the bodice!

    • Thanks Catherine! Any changes in colour are either an optical illusion, or as a result of the change in grainline from the top of the skirt to the curved hem, or simple because the top half of the skirt would be getting more natural light in the photos. In real life, you can’t see any difference at all.

      I am so excited about making the bodice, but need to be good and concentrate on my robe a la francaise for ‘Robes & Robings.’

  11. Congratulations! 🙂 It’s pretty; the skirt has such a wonderful “swoosh” (that’s totally a thing). And I still love the waistband. 🙂

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