Once I’d finished the bodice (the most complicated part, obviously), I added a 1″ waistband– something I don’t usually do, but I thought it would help add some definition to the shape of the dress and would provide a convenient spot for adding trim later. I basically just cut out three 3″ wide strips of fabric (to provide plenty of seam allowance on both sides with room to trim)– one sheer, two cotton, and flatlined the sheer strip with one of the cotton strips.
I pinned the bottom edge of the bodice to the flatlined strip and basted it together. Then I pinned the remaining cotton strip to the inside of the bodice (to use for interior finishing later), and stitched all layers together at once.
To make the skirt I created a 120″ wide tube of the sheer fabric (french seams). I was going to use the selvedge as the hem, but then I realized that a) it wasn’t quite even all the way across, so it would look odd upon close inspection, and b) I’d rather have a turned-up hem all the way around to add a little extra volume to the bottom of the skirt. So I put the selvedge at the waist. I also used the cotton lining fabric to make a slimmer a-line skirt lining, the waistline of which was cut to the same width as the bodice. I cut a slit down the center back and attached the two skirts with a placket made of cotton (though honestly the skirt back was so tightly pleated that the slit barely shows).
I pinned, basted, and stitched the two layers of skirt to the lower edge of the outer waistband, keeping them flat across the front and then densely pleating the sheer layer between the center back seams.
Then I graded the seam allowances and hand-tacked the interior waistband down to cover the raw edges on the inside.
I hand-sewed more eyelets into the back of the waistband to allow for ribbon to be threaded through it to fasten the waist. I started off with only one ribbon, but it was woefully insufficient– I think the weight of the skirt (all that fabric adds up) was just too much, and the waistband just wouldn’t stay snug against the waist with only one narrow ribbon keeping it closed. I had to add a second ribbon and a second set of eyelets, and when that wasn’t working either I ended up hand-stitching channels into the inside of the waistband (had to be hand-stitched or the channels would show from the outside) to run the ribbons through so the weight would distribute evenly. This finally worked, though the skirt fabric still tends to bunch up at the sides rather than staying gathered to the back.
And finally, I hemmed the skirt layers to dancing length, keeping in mind that I would be wearing flat slippers and that I would need to keep the skirt just a bit shorter than for a dress I would only be standing around in– a lesson learned at my last Regency ball!
- In retrospect I probably should have made the sheer dress separately from an ivory bodiced petticoat, instead of integrating the lining. That would’ve allowed the overdress to really gather up nicely in back, rather than weighing it down with extra layers of fabric around the waistband. I suppose it would’ve had its own drawbacks, like more visible interior seams and possibly not-perfectly-lined-up neckline edges, but it probably would’ve been more authentic.
- I’m not entirely happy with the fit of the waistband, mostly due to the inability to really tie it snugly and have it lie smooth, but I’m hoping that once I add the open robe over the dress it won’t be as obvious.
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