Sunday, March 24, 2013

Oh, Say Can't You Regency? HSF #6!

Welcome to the sixth installment of the Historical Sew Fortnightly Challenge: Stripes! I've made a Regency dress! If only I had a Homeschool Prom to attend whilst wearing it, my life could at last be complete. 

Instead, I'll be filling the void by sitting at home in my pretty stripedy frock as I drink wine from a box, write embittered late-night WTF: Regency posts and talk to my cat. It's what Jane Austen would have wanted, I'm sure of it.

It is a testimony to my lack of proper feminine instinct that I have failed to produce a Regency-style dress til now. Isn't there a clause somewhere in the government-issued booklet that girls receive at birth stating that you must read Emma by the age of 17 and then immediately afterward attempt to cobble together an empire-waist dress? Consider this gown to be yet another milestone in my own awkward, prolonged puberty. (Dammit, I'm not going to act like a grown-up until the acne goes away!)

This dress was constructed like everything else I make: with almost no foresight or planning, and very little skill. I draped the bodice onto Headless June using some bodacious crappity-scrappity fabric that I possess (sorry... no pictures of that), and adjusted the proportions and seam positions until it felt right.   For the most part, I relied on this dress for inspiration, though I omitted the back ties and drawstring, and my sleeves are shorter. (I stared at this one as well, but there aren't many pictures of the details.)

 Rebel that I am, I mixed up my stitchery a bit. The areas that are likely to experience the most stress (armpits, center back, etc.), I finished with a back-stitch. Everything else is in a spaced back-stitch. You can see the transition in the armscye above. 

The bodice is lined in cream cotton sateen, except for the bib. I used a scrap of the calico lining from my gold round-gown for that. The sleeves are mostly lined with muslin, but I used scraps of the striped fashion fabric for the first 4" or so of the bottom of the sleeve. The insides of the sleeves are not at all visible when the dress is on, but it seemed a reasonable precaution.

Since the inspiration gown has the nifty little inner bodice flaps, I did the same thing. I wanted mine to pin closed rather than tie, though. (I didn't want a drawstring in the bodice and the ties would have added lumpy weirdness under the flat, re-designed bib. LUMPY WEIRDNESS, I SAY!)  They are made of white cotton sateen and attached over the finished interior edge. I have no idea if what I did there is correct, but I sure as heck did it. They support my meager bust in addition to closing the sides of the dress. Brilliant!

The skirt is unlined. Honestly, if I were to make this dress again, I would line the skirt. The quilting cotton I used is just a little too thin to hang properly on its own. Hopefully, a period appropriate petticoat or two will help. The material of the skirt is pleated to a band and then enclosed between the bodice fashion fabric and lining. Per the original gown, the bulk of the skirt is pleated at the center back. (I'm making a little pillow that will be sewn under the pleats to support the back. They're hanging a little flat at the moment.)

 Why, hello there matching back stripes.

Regency gowns are generally constructed to play up the "small back" of the wearer. I pandered to this oft-quoted historical costuming trope by using the stripes to form a chevron pattern and inset the sleeves as far back as I could without over-reaching the limits of my own range of motion. There's a knack to setting these sleeves... a wide armscye will give you a much broader range of motion, but your sleeve has to have just enough bulk to allow your arm to take advantage of it. Otherwise, the tiny back/deep armscye combination restricts your arm movement considerably. Needless to say, I am still learning the ins and outs of this balancing act.

I purchased the fabric for this dress over three years ago during an epic Hanc*ck Fabrics sale at my local store. This was a remnant on a bolt with a generous 50" selvedge. That is a critical factor for the following reason: this dress is made with barely 3 yards of fabric. That may not impress some of you delicate, precious creatures out there with your tiny feet and non-monstrous legs and arms. But my Sasquatch-esque extremities usually command more prodigious yardages.

I want pictures! Soon! It unexpectedly rained today, so my resident photographer went out to get groceries. The dress is considerably shorter on me than it is on Headless June, so it will look a bit different. I don't have proper undergarments yet for this era, though I do have a pair of busked c. 1820-1840 mock-up stays I've made for the Flora and Fauna challenge. They were used for most of the fitting.

And that concludes this episode of Thread-Head Theatre. Except for the paperwork! Read on!

 Attack of the Facts:

The Challenge: #6: Stripes!
Fabric: 3-ish yards of reproduction quilter's cotton. (Labeled "1830-1860," but I think it looks a lot like an early roller-print. Maybe that's wishful thinking.)
Pattern: Draped directly onto Headless June as a mock-up in Grandma's Sofa Floral Cotton and adjusted in situ.
Year: 1810's. I've personally examined a very similar bib-front gown from the 1790's made of striped linen, and the primary inspiration dress is described as "1800-1810."
Notions: White cotton thread and 5 steel pins. (Pins are for closure.)
How historically accurate is it? I gave it an 8.5/10 on the HSF Facebook page. The fabric is not a great weight and the construction method is questionable. I made a lot of it up as I went along, consulting pictures for help. However, it's entirely hand-sewn and finished on the inside about a neatly as most of the originals I've seen.
Hours to complete: About 10. Most of the major time was spent on fitting the bodice.
First worn: Yesterday (March 23) to check the fit. I haven't worn it at all since I finished the hem, but I hope to remedy that soon! It rained all day today, ruining my planned photo op.
Total cost: The fabric cost... $1.00 per yard. Yes. Even including the exponential cost of thread and pins, I'm in under $4.00.

BONUS: Obligatory cat!


  1. Your dress is beautiful and you are frickin' hilarious!

  2. Very impressive back chevron! And I am inspired to see what you can do with practically free fabric!!!
    You'll be glad to know that Farthingale #1 is stitched (but no boning inserted yet, because once it achieves its roundness, there's no place in the apt to store it!) F #1 was supposed to get done in a couple of hours yesterday, in between laundry and cleaning. Har de har har--I forgot the obligatory "multiply by 3" law when factoring how long itwould take, largely because I put one of the back panels in the wrong place, and OF COURSE the seam was flat-felled. Does it help you to know that age is no protection against stupid construction mistakes!!??!!
    Can't wait to see your photos in the dress!
    Auntie N

    1. I am currently in the process of trying to motivate myself to pull out alllllll the little back-stitches on both armscyes to reset the sleeves by about 1/2 an inch. That is nowhere near as daunting as tackling a flat-felled seam that has boning channels already sewn in, so you totally win this round. I'm glad progress is happenin' on the farthingales, though! Set up a blog already so that we can all snoop around your sewing exploits!

  3. Congrats, m'dear, I've awarded you the "Very Inspiring Blogger" award! (


    1. You, madam, have made my day. Thank you!