Anatomy of a Dress – Regency Dress Measurements

Have you ever gawked at an Empire gown, wondering just how long and wide it is cut?

Well, I have. Since I have taken up sewing, every piece of clothing that grabs my attention turns into pattern pieces in my head. When it comes to measurements and dimensions though, I am quite the klutz. So, all these little numbers and yardages became one of the first things I researched about Regency fashions. The first insight into measurements came from this ball gown pattern, found in the Jane Austen Centre’s Online Magazine:

Authentic Regency ball gown pattern with measurements

Authentic Regency ball gown pattern with measurements

But, as these measurements were taken from an authentic period gown, some adjustments to a “modern” woman’s body are often needed:

Even though the 18-teens were only 200 years ago, most of you will be taller than the average Georgian woman. When I, a dwarf of 5’1″, first drafted a skirt based on the above pattern, the hem came down somewhere above the ankle. I needed to add another 3 inches to the skirt length. Most of you will need to add even more.

That is one thing. Another is the empire waist. Most of the sources measuring on period gowns estimated the waist circumference at around 25 inches. Now, most women I know today have an under-bust measure of at least 30 inches. And, taking into account the numerous layers of undergarments plus the fact that some of the drawstring-closed dresses are supposed to have a gathered waistline… oh dear. ;) My advice is to simply add the necessary amount to your draft, based on your personal needs. In the schematics you will see below, I left out the circumference estimate, since it is really a matter of girth and taste.

As you can see, that first approach was not really satisfying. So I went on researching. On Jennie Chancey’s Diary of a Dress I have found some very helpful insights into train lengths and construction. Then at the library, I ran into several annotations in various costuming handbooks and also some remarks about women’s riding dress in an early issue of Wiener Moden-Zeitung. All my findings, I have put into two compact little schematics for you. As a base, I used this pretty gown on Maggie May’s Clothing:

Schematic of a Regency gown (front)

Schematic of a Regency gown (front)


Schematic of a Regency gown (back)

I hope you will find my scribblings helpful. As to the specialties of closure (hooks vs. single or double drawstring) and  sleeve construction, I will try and cover these topics in their own posts. Just wait for it…

Oh, and before I forget…

There is also a new page on this blog. :) It is called “The Sewing List”. Being a list person, I have put on it all the sewing projects I am currently working on and those planned for later. Hopefully it will give you a little overview of the ideas cluttered in the sewing area of my brain. ;)

Much love,




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