As you recall, I’m making a sleeveless open robe to dress up my sheer Regency ballgown for an upcoming event. Here’s my inspiration:
Since I only have one dupatta to use to make the robe, I wanted to be extra-careful when patterning and cutting, which of course meant I had to make a muslin.
Okay, so you’ve seen so far that I’ve made three dresses based on Simplicity 4055, which is the commercial version of Jennie Chancey’s Regency gown pattern from sensibility.com.** As you can tell, I’ve made a lot of adjustments to the pattern, mostly the bodice, to get it to work for me. I thought I’d detail them here so you can see how it was done. I’m not talking about basic stuff like lowering the neckline (by about an inch, otherwise it’s too high for most looks) or lengthening the bust to allow for any size over an A-cup (there are instructions available for that on Ms. Chancey’s website)— I’m talking about some structural changes for more period-accurate details.
Forgive my clumsy graphics– I’m not great at tracing things out using a laptop trackpad!
You didn’t expect me to go to a Regency dance event without a friend, did you? And of course, she wanted to go in costume as well! (or rather, I strongly encouraged her to do so and volunteered to help make it so she had no excuse to refuse) While I was putting together my blue Regency dress I was also helping her put together her burgundy dress, which was only slightly different structurally from mine.
She used a twin-sized burgundy sheet set for her outer fabric, which provided plenty of yardage for the dress with some to spare. The lining was made of a white cotton sheet that I found at Goodwill. To make the design a little more interesting we gathered the front of the bodice, by the simple expedient of making the center bodice section wider and then gathering it to fit the original-sized lining. I think it turned out well.
Once it was put together we decided it needed a little trim, so I found a length of cream-colored sheer pleated trim (leftover from the Great Hat Project) and whip-stitched it to the inside of the neckline. You can’t really see it in this photo, since she’s got a scarf tucked into her neckline to serve as a fichu.
I also got some 1 1/2″ black velvet ribbon and stitched it to the waist seam. The placement was a little tricky, because placing it under the bust really diminished the effect of the Empire waist, making it look lower than it was. But trying to sew it above the waist seam just looked funny. In the end I centered it on the seam in front, but brought it all the way up to sit on top of the seam in back. Of course, it’ll be impossible to machine-wash the dress now that it’s got delicate velvet ribbon on it, but that’s the price you pay for beauty…
A few mistakes, of course: the “blind hem” was a little more obvious than I’d have liked due to my thread being just a shade too light to fade into the background. The neckline wasn’t perfectly fitted, so I had to hand-tack it in a few places to get it to lie properly across the chest. In retrospect I should’ve lined the bodice in burgundy rather than in white, because the lining peeked over the top of the neckline despite my efforts at topstitching. I will note that unlike my blue dress (which I actually sewed after finishing this one), the back of the skirt didn’t puff out weirdly because we’d added extra fullness to the back when cutting out the panel. The curve was still technically there, but the added fabric made it disappear into the pleats so it wasn’t noticeable at all.
We also hemmed up a black velvet jacket to make her a spencer (it fit perfectly and didn’t need any other alteration), and did a really basic modification on a straw hat to make a bonnet! Overall I really like the effect, and my friend looked fabulous!
So I had my pattern pieces, I had my dyed fabric– I was ready to start gown construction! It started off easy, but then (as it always seems to do) got complicated. Remember, this is Simplicity 4055, based on Sensibility.com’s Regency Gown pattern.**
I won’t go into too much detail about the ins and outs of dress construction, but I will note a few issues I had with this pattern:
- Like I said earlier, I added an extra curve to the bottom of the front bodice piece to adjust it from an A-cup measurement to a C-cup. I also moved the shoulder seam back and angled it for a more period look, and moved the shoulder straps in towards the center by about 1/2″.
- I really hated easing the curved back bodice seams together– things just wouldn’t match up properly– and since the finished piece was flat (as opposed to being shaped by the curves), I can only conclude that the curved seams are decorative only. That being said, I see plenty of Regency gowns with straight back seams, which I may do from now on to avoid the irritation.
So a while ago I was thinking about going to an event in Regency finery, wielding a katana, and basically being Lizzy Bennet in “Pride, Prejudice & Zombies.” I already had a Regency ballgown that I’d worked on several years ago, so I figured it would be one of the easiest costumes ever– the only thing I’d have to do would be to buy a plastic sword. But things are never that easy, are they?
Because while I knew in my heart that I wouldn’t need a new dress, that didn’t stop me from looking around the internet at pictures of other Regency gowns, “just for fun.” I thought maybe one of my friends might want to join me in my Regency zombie-battling, and she would need a dress too, so of course I had to look at dresses and sewing patterns and fabrics, right? And then I came across a fabulous Regency-themed dance weekend that just happened to be occurring near me in only a few weeks’ time, and it had both day and evening activities including afternoon tea, a picnic, and a ball. It sounded great, and I even found friends willing to go with me!
But wait! My ballgown was nowhere near appropriate for daytime events. How could I ever show my face in a group of reenactors if I wore (gasp) a ballgown during the DAY? It just wasn’t done. And of course, that’s when it all got out of hand…
Once I had my design, it was just a matter of cutting the pieces out. The great part about this tabard is that it’s just geometry– no detailed ins and outs or anything like that. The only thing I had to worry about was getting the nap of the fabric right– because two of the arcs were facing in basically the same direction while the third was opposite, I cut the odd one in half to form the half-arc inserts, figuring that it would be better to keep things symmetrical. Interestingly, once things were cut and pinned there was surprisingly little difference between the two directions, so it didn’t matter much in the end.
For Halloween this year, my daughter (naturally) wants to wear her princess costume. Since we always do family costumes for trick-or-treating, I figured I’d wear my Grey Lady outfit and go as a queen, and my husband could be the king. He’ll basically put on anything if it makes our daughter happy, so while I’m sure he’d have preferred to wear a basic white shirt, maybe a basic cape and a plastic crown, I wasn’t going to let him off that easy.