So remember last year when I was sewing my blue Regency dress, and I said that I already had a Regency ballgown that I’d intended to use for that dance event? Here’s the story: Back when I was in college, I was shopping at JC Penney’s when I came across these beautiful shower curtains that I immediately knew would make a perfect Regency gown. That’s right. Shower curtains = Regency gown. Sounds weird, but hear me out– they were made of ivory netting, embroidered all over with variegated pink roses and green vines, and they were so pretty and antique-y that I knew they’d work.
Of course, back then I didn’t have much experience sewing dresses from scratch, much less dealing with fiddly materials like embroidered net, so I found a seamstress online (Etsy was not a thing back then) and commissioned her to make me a gown based on a sketch I sent along with my fabrics. It turned out nicely, and I spent the next several weeks snipping out embroidered roses from the remaining fabric scraps and applique-ing them onto the gown with hand-embroidered vines to make it more embellished. The finished product was really beautiful. It always reminded me of Anne Shirley’s dress from Anne of the Island:
She had a particularly pretty gown on. Originally it had been only a simple little slip of cream silk with a chiffon overdress. But Phil had insisted on taking it home with her in the Christmas holidays and embroidering tiny rosebuds all over the chiffon. Phil’s fingers were deft, and the result was a dress which was the envy of every Redmond girl. Even Allie Boone, whose frocks came from Paris, was wont to look with longing eyes on that rosebud concoction as Anne trailed up the main staircase at Redmond in it.
So, time for the finishing touches! You can see in the photo below that in the center panel there’s an arc of large silver sequins just above the floral appliqué around knee level.
I bought 10mm silver paillettes to attach to the dress– I only needed 20 paillettes for that section, but then I realized for the first time that the dress actually had more paillettes around the hem! Good thing they came in a package of 200…
So, not only are there swags of embroidered trim near the hem, but there also appears to be a row of silver paillettes following the lines of that trim with short line segments connecting the two. It’s really only obvious in this one photo, so it’s no wonder I missed it on my initial viewing:
See the little gray dots following the lines of white trim? Clearly paillettes. However, I can’t tell what the faint white lines are– it’s possible that, like the sleeve and neckline detail, they are embroidered lines of thread with clear sequin “leaves” on either side.
As I said in my earlier post, I had just finished the sequined swags on the sides of the gown (which took a few tweaks to get right), and was about to start embellishing the center panel when I realized that I had a problem. While some of the movie stills quite clearly show that the center panel is covered in sequins, other shots make it look like there are far fewer sequins, and still others imply that any sequins aren’t really that prominent at all.
Here, there are tons of sequins visible, all looking the same color silver as the side swags:
I know, you’re probably curious to know what happened with the sequins, but you’ll need to wait until later because I had to get the center panel’s appliqués done first. The larger floral appliqués I ordered were some of the last components to arrive, which is why I had to leave it for so long. I bought both venise and alencon lace appliqués because I wasn’t sure which would work better– neither were quite in the same style as the other trims, but I thought they’d work out all right.
You can see in the reference images below that there are leafy floral motifs at the center front and sides of the center panel, and smallish motifs at the high points of the swags of trim around the hem.
As I mentioned earlier, the original gown appears to be sewn all over with beads and silver sequins– while I briefly considered doing the same, I knew it would take absolutely FOREVER and I really didn’t want to deal with the time and effort involved. Instead, I decided to use glue to attach silver sequins to the dress.
As previously noted, I purchased six thousand 4mm flat silver sequins for this dress. You can see in the photographs that the sequins are concentrated around the lines of trim on the side sections, and are basically everywhere in the center section, so I figured I’d need a lot of them.
Taking the advice in this tutorial (excellent tips, by the way), I bought Gem-Tac glue to attach my sequins and rhinestones, and made myself a big cardboard backing to use as a base for attaching things. I covered it in parchment paper and used binder clips (cushioned with paper towel to prevent snagging or creasing) to clip the edges of my fabric to it.
Like I said, as part of our family costume my husband decided to be the Mad Hatter. Honestly, I mostly put his outfit together from pieces I bought– a velvet blazer, some plaid golf pants, a pair of argyle socks– but some items I just had to make myself.
First and foremost was the hat. You know me, I’m the queen of decorated top hats, so while I bought the base hat on Amazon I knew I’d be going to town on the embellishments.
The hat itself is huge– not just tall (which it totally is, unlike many of the dinky little so-called “top hats” you find at the lower price points), but also big in circumference. My husband has a pretty big head, and this hat literally fall down past his ears, it was that big.
Once the main dress was done, I made a set of detached sleeve-puff thingies to wear on my arms. I bought some black satin and stitched it in stripes with the extra red satin from the back side of the shawl. Once I had two long striped pieces, I cut out some equally long but much narrower pieces of red cotton and attached them to the striped sections as a lining.
The inner layer being narrower than the outer layer allowed the striped layer to puff out a bit along the vertical axis. Then I sewed narrow channels into the top and bottom edges and ran elastic through them, which gathered the sleeves horizontally into nice puffs that would stay up on my arms. I did have to stuff the puffs with fabric scraps to give them body– otherwise they were a bit droopy. Next time I’ll take the time to find some netting to do the stuffing– it would hold its shape better.
I finished off the costume with a tiara from eBay and a pair of black satin gloves. Hint: do not balance your tiara on your head just to see how it will look, then forget it’s not pinned on and bend over to look at something– it will fall off, clang on the floor, and lose half a dozen tiny rhinestones which you will then have to locate and glue back in. (sigh)
Stay tuned for pictures of the finished costume!