Girls Block-Printed Regency Dress

With the pandemic and all, I’ve had tons of time to make costumes but no place to wear them. Imagine my excitement when I came across a Regency event that was not only nearby, but on my birthday weekend! Clearly, it was a sign from above that it was time to get back into the swing of things! And since it was my birthday, I had the perfect excuse to insist that my husband and daughter accompany me. In costume.

(cue disgusted face from my 9-year-old)

As you may recall, my daughter has never been thrilled about dressing up for historical-themed events, but she can be convinced with the proper incentive. In this case, I told her that her participation could be my birthday present– and promised to work bunnies into the outfit, since she’s really into bunnies right now. And it worked, so the only thing that remained was to find some vaguely appropriate bunny-themed fabric… which was basically impossible. Of course.

After much consideration (which included the fact that I had mere weeks to work), I decided that the fabric would have to be stamped by hand with a rubber bunny stamp. Block printing was a thing in the Regency, right? I located a cute stamp, picked out some pale blue striped fabric (to make it easier to line things up evenly), and got a bottle of blue fabric paint. A little experimenting proved that it could be done, though the details of the stamp got a little lost. I decided to cut out my fabric first and then stamp the pieces– that way I could make sure things were centered properly without wasting fabric due to placement issues.

The dress itself, I decided, would have drawstring closures to allow for some flexibility in sizing. I wanted the front of the bodice to be gathered just for looks, but I didn’t want the front of the skirt to be too puffy, so I used the same technique I’d used on my pink cotton sari dress and did a gathered top layer on the bodice, mounted to a flat underlayer. I cut a flat, slightly angled front skirt panel to go with it. The back bodice and skirt were both gathered with drawstrings. I added a waistband as well, partly for stability and partly because the blue fabric was so sheer that I wanted it to conceal the seam allowance at the waist.

To add some detail to the sleeves, I ran a line of gathering up the center of each sleeve and stitched it in place, forming a “tulip” shape. This tied in to the row of gathered puffs I put along the hem of the dress for decoration.

I could have stopped there, of course, but the fabric was so sheer that I knew I’d need a petticoat or lining of some kind. I suppose a lining would have been easiest, but I wanted to add a chemisette to the dress for an added detail, and it occurred to me that I could combine the two and make a bodiced petticoat where the bodice looked like a chemisette. I ended up making the top section out of some pre-pintucked white cotton that I’d bought on a whim years ago, adding a ruffled collar much like the one on my own chemisette. Then I just made a basic rectangular skirt and pleated it to the bottom. You can just see the chemisette part peeking out at her neckline in the pictures below, though I didn’t take any pictures of it alone, and it has since disappeared into the depths of her closet so I can’t take any after the fact!

Finally, I pulled a straw hat out of my stash of random costume-y items and converted it into a bonnet, cutting out the back brim and re-attaching the edge binding with hot glue. My daughter and I decorated the outside with ribbon, feathers, and artificial flowers leftover from my Edwardian hat. You can also see the small embroidered bunny patch we hid amongst the flowers, just to carry on the theme!

And here we are at the event!

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