Regency Gown News

Last time I mentioned that I had some exciting news on the white drop-front Regency gown I am making. Here is the story: The gown was all planned, fabric set aside, measurements taken and pattern drawn. And then I went fabric shopping…

As fellow fabric addicts collectors, you will know what it is like when you have just decided which fabric to use for a project and then something  more delicious comes along, cancelling your previous plans. In my case, I had decided to go with the white cotton muslin I used for my 1920s teddies. Shamefully I have not yet posted about them. So here is a “teaser” pic that shows off the lovely, airy white cotton very well.

My !920s teddies, made from white cotton muslin.

But where there is lovely, there is always lovelier. ;) So, when I wandered into the fabric store, they had some woven pattern cottons on sale. One of them was a gorgeous white-on-white check muslin. Of course, I fell in love and had to buy it at once. It is even softer than my other choice of muslin and has just the right amount of translucency for a Regency gown. It looks a bit dense and bluish in the photo, but it is not.

The new muslin for the gown.

What do you think? Is it not yummy? When I found it, I was so glad I had decided to finish my smock first. Now, though, I have really thrown myself into the work for the gown, since I cannot wait to finally cut it out and see what it looks like. Today, I fitted the toile over my underpinnings. Here it is on my dress form. Next up is altering the pattern pieces to fit and … cutting out. Yippee!

The altered bodice toile on the dress form.

It feels so good to have more sewing time again. I also love to finally share project updates with you as they happen. Hopefully I will soon have news from the 17th-century sewing front as well. While the new Regency gown is coming together, I am also fervently planning away on my 1630s stays. At the moment I am feeling like a historical sewing newbie once more, slightly confused and ogling all the pretty period costumes with big puppy eyes. But that is a good sign, right?

Love, Nessa

The Twice-Sewn Regency Gown

Traditionally, November is a very industrious time around my home, with a new semester of uni starting and many pre-Christmas preparations getting underway. This year, it has also been rather busy in the sewing department. So, busy that I did not manage to write a single blog post detailing the progress on my early Regency gown for you.

I am horribly sorry for the lack of updates and progress pics, but I now have a first round of pictures of the finished dress to share with you. :) First though, I will tell you a little about the making process and about why I have dubbed this costume the “twice-done gown”.

In fact, I started working on the toile for this dress way back in October. I used the Drawstring Dress from the Sense & Sensibility “Elegant Lady’s Closet”pattern with a few modifications. For those, I went back to this post about Regency gown dimensions from a very long time ago. Based on it,  I shortened the bodice by 1/4″ at the bottom seam and increased the neckline by about 1″ at shoulder level.

Once I was happy with the alterations, I went to cut out the pieces, as economically as possible, from my striped muslin fabric. As I might have said before, it was an end-of-roll piece of just under three yards, by 5 feet wide. Cutting everything from it was quite a challenge, but I managed, using up almost every scrap. Usually I am not always happy about being only 5’3″ tall, but this time, my shortness has really paid off well. ;)

After this task was accomplished, things got … interesting. Since the fabric was so extremely sheer, sewing it up was a challenge of its own. To protect the material from puckering and tearing, I decided to hand-sew everything.

This is where the “twice-done” aspect comes in: I had not fully hand-sewn a gown in over a year, so I went back and forth, sewing, ripping and re-doing about every seam in the bodice twice, until I was happy. This took up the first half of November and I was really skeptical about the outcome.

Then, when I finally attached the skirt last week, I got really excited. Once it was on, my miserable little bodice started to look like a very gorgeous Regency gown, just as I had pictured it. While I was still somewhat horrified at some badly mismatched stripes earlier in the process, they are absolutely no problem anymore. But, long story short, I will just share my joy over the finished dress with you now. Here are some pictures for your viewing pleasure: ;)

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The finished gown – front view.

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The finished gown – back view with train.

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The finished gown – side view.

To be honest, I love how the dress has turned out so far. The things I enjoy most about it are the sheer, stripey goodness of the fabric, even though it was a bugger to work with and the playful little train. In the early Regency era, short trains like these were not uncommon on day dresses, but since this is my first trained gown, I am absolutely smitten by this particular detail. ;)

Here is another close-up of the bodice back, with the self-fabric drawstring and the poofy gathers around the center back:

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A closer look at the bodice back.

Another thing I am fairly chuffed with are the sleeve bands. Initially, I had planned to make them much wider, but with the help of some lovely ladies with more Regency sewing experience, I decided to make them as narrow as possible. The bands are now 1/2″ wide, made from vertical 2″ strips, folded over twice. This makes them extra sturdy, so that they can later hold the undersleeves without much damage to the fabric.

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Some detail of the sleeve and 1/2″ sleeveband.

The sleeves themselves are fitted short sleeves I made by cutting off the pattern’s elbow-length sleeves. They fit a little oddly at my very weird elbows; so I went with an easy solution that also existed in the early Regency period.

Another thing I wanted to do initially was to trim the dress. Though, after looking at all the extant striped dresses from the research post again, I decided against it. I had already bought this lovely 1/2″ bobbin lace for it. Now I will just keep it for another project. Having ten yards of lace sitting in the stash is not really a bad thing, is it? ;)

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The lovely lace trim I wanted to use at first.

And now that the biggest part of the dress is done, I will speed things up a bit, to get the whole dress ensemble finished in time for the HSM “Re-Do” challenge later this month. Next on the list is a chemisette to fill in the neckline; the undersleeves will follow. Afterwards, I will probably sit down again and replace the hem-facing. It simply feels too bulky for such a sheer gown. In other news: the tale of the twice-sewn seams is not quite over yet…

But, as the story of the gown continues, I will do my best to keep you in the loop with progress pics and updates as best as I can. So I am hoping to be back with you for another post soon.

Warmly, Nessa