“Tree”: Materials!

Hi from Canada again!

I’m back home and now able to blog about how the Tree gown is progressing!  I’m still going to finish the V&A virtual tour, but thought I should get going with Tree since there’s been a lot going on with it!  I actually started this post a couple of months ago, but wasn’t able to get all the elements together until today.  So, let’s dive right in, shall we?

An interesting combination of fabrics and materials were used by Charles James for his “Tree” gown.  While I will mention what all of them are as they are incorporated into my version, I thought it might be useful to have a post that lays them all out in one spot as a sort of reference.  This also gives me a perfect opportunity to show off the amazing coloured silk I got for the fashion fabric, hee!

To make things even clearer, I decided to draw a little diagram of each layer of the gown to make it even easier to visualize what goes where and how.  I’ll be going from the innermost layer out.

#1 Bodice foundation



This layer is made of silk taffeta.  I’m using a fairly heavyweight one in a cream colour for my dress.  I figure a sturdy, crisp silk taffeta will hold its shape well, and it’s from my stash (yay!).  I’ve got 2 good-sized drapery samples I picked up at the Textile Museum’s More than a Yard Sale last spring.


I’m using spiral steel boning inside the bodice.  I decided it would be easiest and best to get it by the metre so that I could cut it to exactly the lengths I need – once I figure them out.  I figured out an easy way to cut and tip them some time ago, so it’s not a big deal for me to do.  Maybe I’ll try to get in a future post showing how I do it.


#2 Innermost petticoat


This layer is comprised of three materials: silk taffeta for the outside, horsehair canvas for the middle and cotton on the inside.  This creates a very strong foundation onto which the other skirt layers will be mounted.  I hope the cotton is enough to keep the scratchiness of the horsehair away!


(this isn’t a photo of my actual fabric, looks like I forgot to take one, but this is pretty much what my ivory silk taffeta looks like)



To the bottom of the innermost petticoat is attached the first use of the dress fabric in the form of a ruffle.  I think it’s meant for sort of modesty purposes and to uses the dress fabric for the sake of continuity,,,I think.


#3 Buttress Petticoat


The skirt/petticoat part of this layer is made in pink cotton cut on the bias.  In the original dress it was of the same colour as the fashion fabric so I chose one that seemed the closest match to mine that I could find, although it’s not as close as I’d have liked.  But I don’t think it can be seen at all, so, whatever.


The buttresses that are attached to this petticoat are a sandwich of one layer cotton crinoline between two layers of cotton.  This may not technically be cotton crinoline (esp since it’s a cotton/poly blend), rather it’s heavyweight woven non-fusible interfacing.  I have a small piece of what I believe to be cotton crinoline in the stash and it feels very similar to the interfacing so I’m calling it close enough and going with it.  These layers are then quilted together to both bind them and stiffen the whole a little more.



Both reed boning and some type of braid were added to the buttresses.  The reed appears to have been inserted into a casing at the bottom edge of the buttress to help hold it out.  I’m not sure yet where the braid goes.  Along the hem or to re-enforce the curve around the top?

#4 Petticoat Flare


This piece builds on the shape created by the buttresses and extends the flare of the skirt down to almost the hem.  As such, it also requires several layers and re-enforcing elements.

The outermost layer is silk taffeta again.


Backing the entirety of the silk taffeta is very stiff crinoline netting that I know as Diamond Net.


Backing the upper back portion of the petticoat flare is more horsehair canvas.


The whole thing is backed again with cotton crinoline canvas – or in my case, heavy non-fusible woven interfacing that is a cotton/poly blend.  It feels pretty much the same as cotton crinoline and I could get it at Fabricland rather than have to order it.


Inside the hem of petticoat flare is applied horsehair braid to stiffen the hem.


And our second use of the dress fabric is a facing, both inside and out, of the petticoat flare hem


At the upper edge of the facing on the inside I’ve also added a hoop of cane/reed boning.


#5 Tulle Flounce


This element goes underneath the skirt flounce.  Going from the inside out there will be one layer of white tulle, one layer of light pink, then two layers each of the red and darker pink arranged as red-pink-red-pink.  This way the colours blend together and create a really interesting effect.


#6 Skirt Yoke



This is the piece to which the skirt flounce is attached, making it mounted to the dress foundation separately from the tulle flounces.

Again the outer layer is ivory silk taffeta.


Backed by horsehair canvas.


#7 Skirt Flounce



This is the big poufy part at the bottom of the dress, one of the elements that really make it special.

The outer layer is, of course, the dress fabric.


This is backed by a layer of white broadcloth.


And lined with a layer of silver silk taffeta.


The reason why I decided to underline the silver taffeta with broadcloth is because it’s so very thin.  The pink dupioni was showing through and dulling the silver.  Backing the taffeta with the broadcloth keeps it a bright, pale silver.


#8 Dress


Progress posts on the actual dress will be coming very soon.  It’s really starting to take shape, I’m so excited!

8 thoughts on ““Tree”: Materials!

  1. All I can say is WOW! It will be gorgeous. I am amazed at tall the details and layers that go into making the foundation of this garment. It is truly a work of art that couture nerds like myself adore.
    I look forward to reading about your progress.


  2. Another WOW! So many layers and different materials: it almost is a structure rather than a dress.

    Having seen all the drawings, I’m looking forward to pictures as each layer gets added.


    • I feel the same way, this feels almost more like engineering or architecture rather than dressmaking. Definitely the most ‘different’ type of sewing I’ve done! More to come very soon!


    • I know. I accidentally deleted nearly all of my images from the blog a few weeks ago. They all need to be re-uploaded and manually added back into each post. I’m doing this at a rate of about 1 post per day going backwards chronologically. This post, and the other Tree gown ones, will be coming up soon, but it’s kinda time consuming and thoroughly irritating! Hope you’ll stop by again in the near future to check it out once it’s sorted!


      • Ack! Thank you for reminding about finishing re-uploading progress photos! However, I never did post photos of the pattern pieces, I’m not sure it would be ok for me to do that because of where they came from/how I got them. Sorry!


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