Second in my Regency outfit project series is the dress. Originally, I had wanted to make it based on Patterns of Fashion 1: Englishwomen's Dresses and their Construction, c. 1660-1860, the 1806-2809 Frock and the 1797-1805 Morning Dress, but my attempt at a bodice muslin was a complete disaster, so I ended up making my own pattern from scratch for the bodice and sleeves, and only vaguely following POF1 1797-1805 Morning Dress for the skirt’s shape and measurements. It worked out much better than I expected. One of my fears was that my shift or stays would show, but in drafting my own pattern, I made sure this would not happen.
I made the front of the bodice gathered at neckline and under bust level, while the back lays flat. The back also has a princess line which I tried to place lower than is done on modern patterns, to make it look more period accurate (an hour of intense image Googling went into the placement of this seam). The neckline is finished with a self bias binding that doubles as a drawstring casing so the neckline can be pulled tighter (effectively avoiding me any wardrobe malfunctions).
Regency Dress - Front
The sleeves are elbow length, just like I wanted, and are ever so slightly gathered at the top.
The skirt is gathered all the way around with a 2:1 ratio. It is floor length at the front and has a train in the back. I will eventually add loops to bustle up the train (just as shown in POF1) to make it easier to wear out in the park or for general day wear; the train can be let down for the evening. I will also have to adjust the hem level once I loose my baby belly!
Regency Dress - Back
Since the skirt and bodice are gathered separately, it was difficult to keep the gathers tight enough to fit properly at the under bust level. My solution was to bind that seam in some bias tape and use this as a drawstring casing. This way, both the neckline and under bust seam can be tightened through hidden drawstrings. The visible closure consists four (real) shell nacre buttons down the centre back of the bodice.
Back closure and ties
The material I used is a tone on tone white printed cotton sheeting fabric that has been in my stash since my fashion school days. I had bought it to use in various draping, pattern making and sewing projects, but ended up only needing a little for a simple dress shirt. I remember finding it in the sale section for 3$/metre (so I had bought 5 metres), and being thrilled when I found out that this fabric was meant for bed sheets so it is 300 cm (about 90”) wide. The print on it is very small and subtle organic scrolls and is just enough to give a certain visual interest to the dress (I also have a Medievalite cotehardie cut from this fabric, to be finished eventually).
Because no project is complete without at least one major problem, I discovered after assembling my skirt panels that one of them had a toonie sized hole (about 1” for my non-Canadian readers). By that time, I no longer had enough fabric to cut a new skirt panel, so after much pondering and some support from my Facebook fans, my solution was to patch the whole and go out to buy a lace trim to cover my patch.
First I placed a piece of fabric bigger than my whole on the reverse of my fabric.
Then, I used a piece of fusing bigger than the patch to cover it and I pressed the fusing to keep the patch in place
Fusing on top of the patched hole
Finally, I covered the patched hole on the right side of the fabric with my lace trim.
Trim hiding the patched hole
I used the lace trim to create a design, adding a little visual interest to my skirt. I sewed a long line of lace trim from top to bottom on each back panel, at equal distances (based on the hole I had to cover), and added two more lines to the front panel, on either side. I have to say, I am happy with the result. It adds a little je ne sais quoi to the dress. As it turns out, this was a happy accident. Plus, that lace trim was just 1.29$/metre.
You already know what the end result looked like, but what the heck, here it is once more.
Regency Lady in the park
The great advantage of a plain white dress is I can accessorize however I want to create different looks! Maybe I’ll even wear it for Yule / Christmas with a red shawl!