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.
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.
Once I had my clothes set for the Regency event, I wanted a reticule (small purse) to carry things in, so as not to spoil the effect with a modern bag. I decided to make mine out of an ivory velveteen remnant from my Velvet Pumpkin project, and lined it with a scrap of sage green faux dupioni I picked up for a dollar at the fabric store. I figured that the ivory-and-sage color combination was sufficiently neutral that it would work with either one of my outfits without being too matchy-matchy.
After some internet browsing, which indicated that many reticules were covered in elaborate floral embroidery, I decided to decorate it with the ribbon flowers left over from my daughter’s flower-embellished holiday dress— they looked vaguely period and it was a good excuse to use them up. I placed them on the fabric, but they looked kind of bare.
I needed some form of leaf or vine to connect them, so I decided to use some sheer sage-green ribbon (purchased as an option for the Birthday Princess Dress but never used), which I sewed on using a couching technique.
So I finished the white underskirt, which I figured would provide the necessary structure to let me drape the overskirt and eyeball how to do the bustling. But first I had to make the basic skirt.