So I had my pattern pieces, I had my dyed fabric– I was ready to start gown construction! It started off easy, but then (as it always seems to do) got complicated. Remember, this is Simplicity 4055, based on Sensibility.com’s Regency Gown pattern.**
I won’t go into too much detail about the ins and outs of dress construction, but I will note a few issues I had with this pattern:
- Like I said earlier, I added an extra curve to the bottom of the front bodice piece to adjust it from an A-cup measurement to a C-cup. I also moved the shoulder seam back and angled it for a more period look, and moved the shoulder straps in towards the center by about 1/2″.
- I really hated easing the curved back bodice seams together– things just wouldn’t match up properly– and since the finished piece was flat (as opposed to being shaped by the curves), I can only conclude that the curved seams are decorative only. That being said, I see plenty of Regency gowns with straight back seams, which I may do from now on to avoid the irritation.
- The sleeve bands were a little narrower than I’d expected– next time I’d cut the pattern piece about half an inch wider to give myself plenty of room to fuss with the width. Also, I stitched buttonholes along the inside of the sleeve bands to allow me to attach removable long sleeves to the dress for a different look– a very period-appropriate option, even if I haven’t made the long sleeves yet.
- I ended up lowering the neckline about 1 1/4″ in the front– the original neckline wasn’t low enough for a ballgown and wasn’t high enough for a day dress, in my opinion. (at least not for my body type, your mileage may vary) With the original, the dress looked way too much like Wendy Darling’s nightgown in Peter Pan.
- The neckline on this is also pretty wide– I actually cut it narrower than drafted, and it still was a bit wider than my bra straps. If you’ll be wearing a standard bra with this I’d recommend putting in some little stays to keep the straps hidden and keep the neckline from slipping off your shoulders.
- Strangely, the back edges of the bodice didn’t line up parallel to each other once I tried it on– there was significantly more overlap on the top than there was at the raised waistline, even though the piece was actually straight on the grain. I don’t know if my shoulders are oddly shaped or what, but I had to adjust the shape of the back edge to make things fasten properly.
- I had the worst time with the shape of the skirt– because the skirt back piece curves up at the top (supposedly to allow for an upward curve in the back waist seam, which doesn’t actually exist), it means that the length of the fabric being pleated is actually longer than the straight length of the hem despite the fabric being the same width all the way down. This makes the whole skirt act kind of like a puffed sleeve– pleated at the top, poofing out slightly, and then coming back in again right around knee/calf level as the pleats basically disappear due to the way the fabric hangs. This is NEVER a look you want on a long skirt– it makes the rear end look enormous and I really hated the effect.
- For future dresses I will either remove the curve from the pattern, keeping the skirt back piece a simple rectangle, or go a step further and actually make the pattern a trapezoid, adding extra width to the hem to combat the “puffy butt” effect.
- For this particular dress, as I had very little extra fabric to work with I ended up taking the horizontal inches I cut off the hem (I’d cut it extra long to allow for potential detailing, but decided against it in the end), and turning the pieces vertically to create a gore to add to the back of the skirt. It didn’t add much extra width at the hem (only about 7″), and the faint stripes were perpendicular to the rest of the dress, but it seemed to help a little with the shape.
- I cut the skirt pieces based on my height, not on the measured pattern pieces. I’m told that you’ll need extra length if you’re taller than 5’6″, so keep that in mind if you use this pattern.
Despite all of the issues listed above, I do like this pattern. It’s very simple to put together, and with a few minor alterations (some of which I admit are probably just due to my personal body shape) it made a lovely, well-fitting dress. If you’re looking for a basic, period-appropriate pattern, this is a great option.
** 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.