So a while ago I was thinking about going to an event in Regency finery, wielding a katana, and basically being Lizzy Bennet in “Pride, Prejudice & Zombies.” I already had a Regency ballgown that I’d worked on several years ago, so I figured it would be one of the easiest costumes ever– the only thing I’d have to do would be to buy a plastic sword. But things are never that easy, are they?
Because while I knew in my heart that I wouldn’t need a new dress, that didn’t stop me from looking around the internet at pictures of other Regency gowns, “just for fun.” I thought maybe one of my friends might want to join me in my Regency zombie-battling, and she would need a dress too, so of course I had to look at dresses and sewing patterns and fabrics, right? And then I came across a fabulous Regency-themed dance weekend that just happened to be occurring near me in only a few weeks’ time, and it had both day and evening activities including afternoon tea, a picnic, and a ball. It sounded great, and I even found friends willing to go with me!
But wait! My ballgown was nowhere near appropriate for daytime events. How could I ever show my face in a group of reenactors if I wore (gasp) a ballgown during the DAY? It just wasn’t done. And of course, that’s when it all got out of hand…
Before I knew it I had ordered a bunch of fabric on eBay, had picked up some white cotton sheets from Goodwill to use as mockup and lining fabric (much cheaper than buying it by the yard), and gotten started.
I decided to go with sky blue as my color, mostly because plain white was boring and I couldn’t find any period-looking prints. A little rummaging around on the internet and I came up with a few inspiration images.
I’m using Simplicity 4055, which is a commercial version of Jennie Chancey’s Regency Gown Pattern from Sensibility.com. ** There are some definite differences between the Simplicity pattern and the Sensibility pattern– most notably, the Simplicity version is cut only for an A-cup, whereas the Sensibility pattern provides different cutting lines for different cup sizes. The other issue is that the Simplicity version adds more “ease” to the pattern, so it basically has you wearing a size larger than you actually measure. I knew I’d have to fix the bust issue, so to make sure I didn’t mess up the original pattern I traced out all of the relevant pieces onto large sheets of paper and re-folded the pattern tissue to keep it safe.
Once I had the original pattern pieces traced I followed Jennie’s instructions (available on her website) for drafting a new cutting line for the bust (I added 1 inch to the center front and curved it up to the original height at the sides), and after making a mockup of the bodice I re-drafted the pieces again to tilt and shift the shoulder seams towards the back to make them more period-correct. I also widened the armhole a little, and moved the shoulder strap a little bit towards the neck to keep it from falling off my shoulders– it was awfully wide-set as originally drafted.
Next up: preparing the fabric!
** It has recently come to my attention that the creator of this pattern is also the author of a “Ladies Against Feminism” website, which espouses many ideas that I simply cannot support. Without going into detail, I will simply say that I will no longer be purchasing any patterns from sensibility.com, nor can I in good conscience recommend that others purchase the Simplicity 4055 pattern unless it is purchased secondhand.