Mary Bennet Regency Dress, Part II: Construction

mary-dress

Compared to the pashmina dress, this one was a breeze to put together– a welcome change! Things got a little fiddly when it came to piecing the bodice front– because the diagonal stripes on my fabric were not at a 45-degree angle, it was a little more complicated to mirror them at the center front. Since I had to cut the pieces on a slight bias (both of them, to get the V-shape I wanted), the edges were prone to stretching and wiggling out of place; after trying three times to get the V perfect, I declared that my result was *good enough*.

mary-bodice-stripes

Given the hassle in matching the V in front, I really didn’t want to have to deal with matching the stripes on multiple pieces for the back to make purely decorative curved back seams. This was particularly true since I was going to have a drawstring back that would mostly obscure those very same seams. I decided to just cut the back pieces as one so I could dispense with the piecing and just worry about matching the diagonal stripes along the center back line.

Once that was done it was smooth sailing for the main bodice and skirt. As is becoming standard for me, I cut the back wider to allow for drawstrings for fastening and fitting, ran those drawstrings through the back neckline and waistline, and added a narrow waistband to make the waist drawstring easier to work with. I made the waistband stripes angle in a different direction than the skirt stripes, just for contrast.

mary-drawstring

I managed to fit 4 yards of width into the skirt itself– the cotton/silk blend fabric is so lightweight that it pleated down to practically nothing. Unlike some of my previous drawstring dresses where the skirt was a single rectangular panel, I decided to cut the front to be slightly trapezoidal in order to let the skirt flare out just a bit more for a more flattering shape. I wanted Mary Bennet to be drab, but not necessarily frumpy.

That being said, I got so caught up in pleating down my skirt fabric that I totally forgot to attach the lining layer to the waistband, and by the time I remembered I didn’t want to go to all the trouble of unpicking everything to add an extra layer. I decided that the brown striped lawn skirt was opaque enough that my shift would provide enough opacity, or in any event I could make a slip out of my lining fabric if necessary.

Last up were the sleeves. Tulip sleeves were a new thing for me, but there are plenty of online tutorials for how to draft them. I used my basic puff sleeve to start, and drew out the overlapping lines to make my new pattern piece without too much trouble. I cut it on the fold so I wouldn’t have to put any center seam in, and overlapped the sleeves at the notches before running my gathering stitches along the top curve. Taking a cue from the sleeves of my blue sari gown, I shifted the center of the shoulder slightly towards the front of the armscye so it would be centered on my arm. The sleeves are lined with plain brown voile.

mary-tulip-pieces

mary-tulip-sleeve

In retrospect, I think that they ended up ever so slightly longer than I’d intended, but this way they’ll make for better standalone sleeves if I ever wear this dress without an underlayer.

I did make one alteration from my original design— instead of wearing my regular chemisette and adding long undersleeves in the brown striped fabric, I decided to leave the dress with just the sleeve caps and wear it over a new white blouse. Not only is it historically supported (see fashion plate below), but the style was worn by Mary Bennet in the 1995 Pride and Prejudice, which was what gave me the idea.

Jumper!! marybennet2-1

I found a thin cotton blouse on eBay that features a band collar, pintucked front, and narrow cuffs. The fabric itself has a faint white-on-white stripe, which I think adds some nice texture. Including shipping it cost me about $9 so it was a pretty good deal.

regency-blouse

I considered altering it to make it a bit more Regency– cutting it off under the bust to make a drawstring fastening like my chemisette, and possibly adding a ruffle to the band collar– but decided that it worked fine as it was, besides being more versatile for other periods if left alone.

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