One of the major problems I had when setting out to make a Regency dress was I had absolutely zero idea what I was doing. I’ve followed a few costumier blogs for several months, but they were all far too advanced to be of any real use. I’ve since found a community on Facebook that specialises in Regency costume and is really very helpful, but just typing things like Regency Dress into Google is really not very.
Which is how I came to be using this pattern. With hindsight I would say, if you want something that is at all for reenactment use something by Sense and Sensibility or Laughing Moon. However for my purposes, I needed something for Regency dancing, but I had no idea if I was going to continue doing it long term, and so for a first dress, although I wanted something I could get away with at a local group Regency dance (it would not do for a proper ball) I also wanted to use fabric that was already in my stash, and if possible make something I could use for goth clubbing as well, just incase I ended up not dancing regularly.
So I didn’t do the research I should have done before buying the pattern (always, always do a google image search and look for any blog reviews before you buy a pattern!) and then when with a deadline looming and after it was far too late to change my plans I did do a bit of research it wasn’t very helpful.
Google image search brought up only about 3 results I could see were actually of that pattern, only one of which I actually thought was the sort of thing I was aiming for. There was a similar blank space with blog reviews, with only a ‘don’t even go there, it fits no-one’ and a ‘its ok for women with very small busts’ to make me very nervous about what I was about to do.
However I would say, with certain provisos, I found this pattern a lot better than I expected to and actually have a wearable result out of it…..
Obviously if I’d had any sense I’d have lengthened the sleeves to hide the bingo wings, (a rater distressing weight related side effect of the medication I’m on) but I wasn’t sure whether that would be in the slightest bit period accurate. But I’m rather pleased with this, especially as I got to the trying it on before putting in the eyelets (yeah complete lack of accuracy there, but seriously wasn’t going to sew them myself) and thought it wouldn’t remotely fit and was a total write off.
Which leads me to problem number one of this dress….it only works if your waist measurement is properly smaller than your bust, and your stomach does not stick out at all. The images above are being brought to you by the most un-period pair of heavy duty control pants! I actually had appropriate period underwear ready, and indeed fitted the bodice to fit a set of stays, but in the event I looked like a pregnant tube of smarties with it on underneath.
Basically the problem is. even cutting according to my bodice size (40″) which meant I went a good two sizes down on where I would have gone if I’d gone according to my waist and bum sizes, the bodice is still rather big, I had to take an inch in across the centre to make it fit (hence the pretty ribbon decoration down the front, sneakily hiding a seam) it is also exceedingly low cut, when I tried it with my stays it took a serious amount of jiggling not to have them sticking out, and finding an appropriate modern bra that didn’t show wasn’t much easier. I would actually disagree with the review I read and say that while this is not for ladies with giant chests perhaps, it certainly isn’t for flat chested boyish figures only!
Even with hindsight I think given the gape I made the right decision to cut the smaller size, but this has lead to severe difficulties with the waist and bum. It is the first time I had attempted an empire line dress and they are not all designed equal. This one is supposed to have a completely flat front and is infact fairly narrow most of the way down. As I said, it only fits with severe support underwear.
If you look at the back, you can see the not fitting thing a bit more clearly…..
It also does not help that the instructions for adding the lacing were somewhat random, so I winged it, it actually needs a few hooks and eyes on the bottom of the back seam that I have yet to add. These were mentioned in the instructions, but it wasn’t made clear where or why you needed to add them. To be fair that was the only bit of the instructions I had any problem with, it was actually quite an easy dress to make. I am spectacularly proud of myself for getting the eyelets in ok though as it was my first attempt at them and they are notoriously difficult to manage without £100 specialist equipment.
The inside of the dress is supposed to be lined however, and here is major problem two with this pattern: the way you are supposed to attach the bust lining is to hem it, and then stretch it over the seams that connect the arms and the skirt to the bodice in order to conceal it. Which is great in principle, and would look very pretty, except the lining pieces are cut on the same pattern pieces as the outer fabric, and therefore are the same size to slightly smaller when hemmed and therefore will not fit at all over the seams they are supposed to. Although there is the vague possibility I could have helped this by cutting a bit more accurately, my recommendation would be to redraft the bust pieces and make them a good 2 cm bigger on the armhole and the bottom (where it meets the skirt) . I tried sewing them down but it stretched the bodice way out of proportion, so I ended up letting the bodice lining hang loose. This however leads to problems at the front….
….with clearly visible lining, but its nothing that a bit of topstitching wouldn’t fix. I was going to avoid it, cuz machine topstitching is really not period, but then the whole thing is not period so it doesn’t matter anyway.
The above picture also gives you a really good view of the fabric I used, which is a dark purple synthetic (frayed like anything) with a small diamond check pattern. I did actually see something similar on a dress from the time but in a different colour way, so maybe not as horrifically inaccurate as all that. I was having a rebellion against white and pastel colours when I designed it though, it does make it difficult for Regency if you don’t like white or pastel!
Main fabric and cotton lining are off the very cheap market stall (£2.50 a meter) the lace is off eBay, and the ribbon is actually from a Scandinavian homewear shop called Tiger that has a branch locally and cost £1 for a massive roll, they have art supplies and knitting wool very cheap as well.
Anyway, gratuitous trim on the hem shot….
So overall I am very proud of it. It has ended up that we are unable to carry on Regency dancing as our local trainline is victim of the major refurbishment program at London Bridge and late night trains have been cut from Waterloo and Charring Cross, meaning it became significantly more difficult to get back from Surbiton (where the classes are held) late at night, so we have transferred our attention to swing dancing classes that have recently started in Lewisham instead. Regency dancing is definitely something I will go back to when I get the chance though, but I am very glad I took the inauthentic approach and made the dress suitable for a goth party dress as that way I will actually get wear out of it.
Anyway, I am actually massively behind in posting what I’ve done on here, I’ve already completed another dress and have one more and some jewellery underway. So I will actually have to catch up on blogging in the near future.