When I made my first Regency dress, I wasn’t sure if I’d be sticking with the period for costuming so I didn’t bother making the necessary underpinnings. As a result, my outfit was nice but didn’t have the little details that make an outfit look really right. Now that I’ve really gotten into the sewing, however, I need to build the outfit from the inside out.
I have a mostly irrational fear of making structured/tailored garments, so I found an Etsy seller (Beth is awesome!) to make me a set of short stays– they turned out quite well, and I saved a little money by agreeing to hand-sew the thread eyelets myself. In the process, I learned how to do buttonhole stitch, so that was an added bonus!
But of course, once I had the stays I needed a shift to wear underneath them– not only to keep them clean, but also to keep things… er… contained up top. I picked up 3 yards of bleached fine muslin at the fabric store (not as nice as my sheer cotton voile, but much cheaper and probably sturdier), and got to work.
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.
After I attached the beaded fringe on the neckline and sleeves of the dress, I did some hand-stitching of sequins. I had not originally realized that this would be involved, but closer examination of the sleeve decoration showed that the straight lines (and by extension, the straight line segments at the neckline and hem of the dress) were not baguette sequins or beads, but were actually alternating lines of sequins and what looked like stylized vines with sequin leaves. See?
So I bought a bunch of clear 4mm sequins to go with my silver 4mm sequins, and got to work. Again, to assist in accurate placement I ran basting stitches of white thread to mark the lines. Then I used ivory embroidery thread to stitch down lines of silver sequins and to make the central vines for the clear sequins. I used a basic running stitch– since the net is see-through, the stitching looks like a solid line. I then used regular white sewing thread (finer but still visible to match the original) to stitch clear sequins along the edges of the vines.
When I first started this projects I started bookmarking every applique, trim, rhinestone, or other embellishment that I thought might be useful in recreating the lavishly beaded overgown. There were so many options!
It looks as though there are a few different types of embellishment:
- Narrow trim down the center front that outlines the central panel. This appears vaguely floral in design and may or may not also be used to outline swags around the hem of the dress. It looks to be about 1/2″ wide.
- Circular embroidered motifs that are graduated in size– the largest appear to be about 1.5″ in diameter, and it looks as though the largest few sizes are pad-stitched with a bead or rhinestone in the center.
- Narrow embroidered trim around the very bottom edge of the hem. It appears scalloped on a large scale, but it’s tough to see detail.
- Filler appliques of some kind to embellish specific points on the gown– for example, the center front of the skirt and the high points of the swags I mentioned earlier.
- Clear rhinestones, sequins, and beads in various sizes.
- Baguette beads or sequins sewn in straight, short lines.
Happy Holidays, everyone!
So the outfit is finally finished, and I got to wear it to a Dickens-themed ball! I know, I know, Dickens was really 1840 and later, but since the ball specifically featured Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig from A Christmas Carol, and since the Fezziwigs were portrayed in the book during a flashback to Ebenezer Scrooge’s youth (presumably in the 1810s or so), I felt comfortable using it as an excuse to wear the dress. So there!
I used the last few pieces of dupatta fabric (literally there are only a few square inches left!) to make a long strip, which I wound around my head with some gold net to make a turban/fillet type hair accessory– I added some fabulous ostrich plumes for a finishing touch!
As you recall, last time I made a muslin to pattern out my Regency open robe to fit onto a 45×90″ silk dupatta. I ended up with paper pattern pieces for the bodice, but I didn’t want to bother making them for the skirt so I just ripped apart the muslin and laid out the skirt pieces on my dupatta, cutting around them. It was kind of a hassle trying to keep the pattern of tiny scattered flowers symmetric on the bodice– I hadn’t thought about that when figuring out where I’d place the pattern pieces originally, but luckily I had enough spare fabric to move things around.
As I mentioned earlier, my daughter is going to be the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland for Halloween this year. She was really excited at the idea– so excited that when the yard of fabric I’d ordered– pink and purple striped faux fur– arrived, she used it as a blanket on her bed until I was ready to sew!