To add some interest to the design of an otherwise relatively plain dress, I decided to add a small puff to the top of my long, straight sleeves. Not only that, but I wanted to ruch the puff to give it even more texture and dimension.
I wanted to use existing patterns for long sleeves and puffed sleeves– the problem was, my sleeve patterns are completely different shapes. As in, my puffed sleeve pattern is symmetrical and my long sleeve pattern is cut so that the seam is set towards the back. I decided that rather than try to convert my puffed sleeve pattern, I would use it anyway and rely on the fact that the whole thing is going to be too short for the difference in seam placement to matter.
Let me just say at the outset that I am never going to make a dress out of pashmina shawls again. The fabric is so loosely woven that it’s next to impossible to cut straight, it frays if you look at it funny (I had to zig-zag every single edge to keep it from unraveling entirely), and it snags at the slightest provocation. Unpicking seams takes forever and leaves gaping wounds in the fabric, the weight of the skirt alone appears to be pulling the fabric itself out of shape, and I have no idea how I’ll wash this thing if it ever needs cleaning. Never again. Never. Again.
Anyway, back to a time when I didn’t know all this…
A few months ago I was invited to join a friend at the The Governor’s House in Hyde Park, Vermont for a Sense and Sensibility Weekend, which is basically a weekend of Jane Austen-y activities at a historic house (built in 1895 but it’s a copy of a 1753 home), including tea, a dinner dance, and a sleigh ride! It sounded like fun, but I immediately knew that I would need to supplement my Regency wardrobe, which until now has consisted solely of evening gowns and springtime-appropriate daywear. Clearly, I needed something for winter!
I wanted to use a more winter-appropriate fabric than my usual cotton, not only for warmth but also because I just thought something more textured would look better in the setting. The problem was, it was difficult to find lightweight wool in a pretty color at any price point, much less one that I was willing to pay. But then it occurred to me– what if I made my gown out of pashmina shawls? After all, making gowns out of such shawls is actually completely accurate to the period, as textiles from the Indian colonies were hugely popular during the Regency.
I recently attended a Regency ball, which is usually my excuse to make something new and pretty to wear. However, as I’d just finished cleaning out my closet I couldn’t really justify making a brand-new gown (also, no time), so I decided to freshen up an old one– my ivory sheer ballgown, originally worn under a burgundy open robe made of a vintage dupatta.
I’d worn the burgundy open robe a few times already, but without it the ivory gown just seemed too plain. I dug through my stash and pulled out a vintage chiffon dupatta in forest green, leftover from when I was collecting fabric for my 1920s green evening dress.
I know, I know, I’ve already made several Regency gowns out of saris, but they’re just so perfect for this kind of thing! Besides, this one isn’t for me, it’s for a friend of mine who is (luckily) short enough to use the width of the sari as her skirt length, so I used a slightly different cutting layout than I have in the past.
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.
Just wanted to give you guys a look at the new outfit in all its glory! I took these photos at the Commonwealth Vintage Dancers’ Regency Dance Weekend, which culminates in a Grand Ball. The hall provided such a nice backdrop for the rich fabric of the dress– I’m very happy with it!
And then I stumbled upon a fabulous sofa that was crying out to be posed upon…
This is totally my new favorite picture of myself in Regency-wear!