I’ve always been wildly envious of costumers who post about historical retreat events that include opportunities to swan about in glamorous undress. Whether it’s 18th century banyans, Victorian tea gowns, or Edwardian wrappers, there’s something so delicious about actually wearing historical deshabille for the purpose it would have been worn for in period.
So when we planned our 2021 historical retreat I suggested that we should definitely include early 20th century undress in our dress planning. It would be really easy, because we all at the very least had gorgeous vintage kimono thanks to the kimono shop that used to be in Wellington.
I had slightly more ambitious plans. I have this fabulous 1908 wrapper pattern in my stash:
The perfect excuse to make it!
What is a Wrapper?
Wrappers were looser, more informal dresses that women wore in their own home, either to relax or do housework. They would be acceptable attire for an invalid, or for the lady of the house to wear to breakfast or dinner with family and very close friends.
In elegant fabrics they overlapped with tea gowns in use and social status (I have an 1890s sewing pattern for a ‘wrapper or tea gown’). In simple fabrics they were ‘scrub’ attire, for housecleaning.
Wrappers were a definite step up in formality from a bathrobe or kimono, but weren’t generally meant to be worn outside the house. Miss Cornelia wears a ‘chocolate brown wrapper scattered with huge pink roses’ on her first visit to Anne in ‘Anne’s House of Dreams’. Mongomery makes it clear this is highly unusual, highlighting that Anne instantly likes her, despite ‘certain oddities of attire’ and that ‘nobody but Miss Cornelia would have come to make a call’ in such a garment.
The extravagant design of my wrapper, ‘in empire line’, with its wide sleeves and full skirt, means it wouldn’t really be practical as anything but a very elegant garment.
Wrappers could be worn with or without a corset, depending on the formality of the occasion (I’m sure Miss Cornelia was wearing one with hers!
The Fabric and Construction:
What to make my wrapper out of? Sometimes I know exactly what fabric to pair with what pattern, and sometimes I’m totally at a loss.
I had a rummage through my stash, and decided I definitely didn’t feel like trying a pattern out for the first time in silk charmeuse. I was a bit stumped, and then remembered this fabric:
It’s a weird piece of cotton sheeting with three large embroidered cutwork motifs at one end. I’d picked it up at Fabric-a-Brac Wellington, thinking it was embroidered all over, and then discovered how strange it was. As far as I can guess it was meant to be a duvet cover:
I had a play with the pattern pieces, and they just fit perfectly. It was meant to be! But what a dull, uninspiring colour…
Well, I can fix that!
Definitely not dull and inspiring any more! I was aiming for a very soft, muted pink-purple, but sometimes you get vivid orchid when you want dusty mauve…
With very careful cutting I was able to get two large motifs on the front of the skirt. I cut out the third large motif, and appliqued it to the back sweep of the skirt:
I got slightly carried away on the bodice and sleeves, and just kept inserting lace, using all the lace techniques that are covered in the Scroop Patterns Ettie Petticoat pattern.
And the end result?
So worth it! I’m ecstatic about the end result!
So comfortable! So swooshy!
And the best part? If you look very closely at the side seams, you can see it has pockets!
I wore this basically every day of the retreat. Swan into breakfast in it, change into it for a lazy afternoon, put it on after dinner to hang out. It’s the ideal garment!
It can even be worn with or without a corset.
It was the only properly new make for the historical weekend, but I think it’s the perfect one.
It also fits the Historical Sew Monthly 2021 ‘Purple’ challenge (obviously!)
The Challenge: Purple (May): Make something in any shade of purple.
Material: A 2m x 2m piece of cotton sheeting
Pattern: An original 1907-8 pattern
Notions: Insertion lace, dye, thread.
How historically accurate is it? The fabric isn’t 100% accurate, but it’s not terribly inaccurate, and the construction techniques are spot on.
Hours to complete: 6ish hours.
First worn: For our historical retreate, October 2021
Total cost: Fabric was $6, dye was $2 (an op shop bargain), lace would probably have been around $7, so $15 all up.
Cute story to wrap this post up. (haha).
I showed my parents these photos in our weekly video chat, and explained to my dad what a ‘wrapper’ was.
He thought about it for a while, and then said “well, if you made a wrapper….what’s your rap name?’
Me: Ummm…I don’t know! Maybe ‘Lil Stitch’?
Him (triumphantly): Lil Stitch? Obviously you’d be Scroop Dog!
How very serendipitous! It’s gorgeous!!!
That wrapper is absolutely gorgeous! And I very much appreciate your dad’s sense of humour.
Looks gorgeous ( cute pattern weight too )
I love how the motifs from the original fabric were incorporated in. It looks like a wonderfully swishy garment, perfect for summer mornings!
Your dad’s comment made me smile! A similar pattern from Scroop would be awesome!
i adore both the garment and your papa’s punning!
seriously, these garments have my heart. i loathe track suits, hoodies, sweatpants, the so-called yoga pants which i do not wear even to teach or practice yoga, jeans, pretty much all the current-day standard garments of “undress” or casual attire. for those who like them, that’s great; but to me they are aesthetically boring, unflattering, unimaginative, and actually not comfortable . vintage kimono, on the other hand, along with banyans in sumptuous fabrics and glorious-hued, embellished wrappers and tea gowns (as well as salwar-kameez in lovely fabric)…those i can embrace and enjoy wearing. your orchid wrapper is a beauty.
Scroop Dog! Bwahaha!
What a wonderful garment! I especially like the pintucks heading into the sleeves. As you come from Hawaii, I also think about muumuus and Hawaiian applique, and so it is extra special in that way, too.
This is so pretty, and I bet fun to wear! Now I really want to make one myself.
Any chances of you reproducing the pattern for the rest of us? 🙂
Your choice of fabric for this was fabulous!
It’s perfect! You look so lovely in it. I love the puns too.
Several of my friends participate in the recreation of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake meet up. It takes place in April at 4 am. Most people wear outerwear ( it’s very very cold and the meet up is outside). I’ve been toying with making a robe and nightgown ( with thermals underneath) but a wrapper may be an alternative.
Scroop dog! What an excellent name.
It’s a beautiful wrapper. It seems like a handy thing to have. At our NYE party (and by “party” I mean that we got dressed up for dinner; there were no guests), once the baby needed attention, I removed my lovely silk dress and popped on pyjamas and a housecoat. It would have been much nicer to have a wrapper to swan about it.
It’s lovely. especially like the picture of you in the doorway. Also love the conversation with your Dad!
I love it! Such a gorgeous – and useful – gown!
Wow! What a gorgeous garment! Do you plan to sell the pattern? (even in one size?)
That combination of orchid and white lace on a comfortable garment is stunning. Definitely want the pattern. I probably can’t do all the painstaking insertion lace, but just finding a similarly gorgeous color and adding some ribbon trim in place of some of the lace would work.
Picturing myself wearing something so pretty I wouldn’t have to grab a robe if a dear friend stopped by or I got a package. With judicious tucking, even this old lady could dispense with the infamous but socially obligatory elastic upper garment of torture. What a lovely gown, and upcycled too! A veritable triumph.
I like how the embroidery stayed white after dying the fabric, which really made it “pop” against the purple. A very nice effect!
Thanks! It’s an easy trick to accomplish: most fabrics with embroidery are done in polyester thread, so if you pick one that’s polyester on a natural fibre ground, when you dye the natural fibre the embroidery doesn’t pick up the dye.
I adore your wrapper! What a lovely project and pattern. I will add my voice to those hoping for the pattern, even one size would be fantastic.
It looks very elegant and very comfortable! What a puzzling fabric, I don’t think I’ve ever seen one with embroidery in the middle and not on the edge.
The shade of purple is gorgeous, and your dad’s joke made me laugh!
I want one too. Or two !
Oh how fabulous!
I would like to second (sixth? eighth? echo, anyway) the calls for a Scroop version for the rest of us!
I’m absolutely in love with this!
The embroidery is just stunning and you’ve used it so cleverly. And the colour is absolutely divine. WOW!
I do hope there’s migh be a pattern similar at some point as I would totally make it. it’s perfect for my lifestyle of wafting round my tropical home between the kettle and the computer writing books.
I want one too! I don’t respond to stuff very often but I just had to this time â˜ºï¸! I’m just getting ready to make a couple of shirtwaists, and a white on white Edwardian dress. I absolutely love your wrapper! It’s more than perfect ! I hope you do produce a pattern for all of us. Please ! P.S….do you have a channel on YouTube? I’m on there every day!