Thursday, June 9, 2011

Regency Day Dress Progress Update #1

THANK YOU all so much for your positive comments about my little bonnet! :) I'm so pleased you all like it. To be honest, I really did not like the previous bonnet at all and this one is so much better. I felt bad not liking something of my own creation but, well, sometimes that happens! :D Anyway, I was so encouraged by your positive responses! I can't wait to wear it!

I took the plunge and cut into my dress fabric yesterday. Even though my petticoat seemingly needs more adjustments (hem is still longer in the back than in the front and the neckline *may* need to be cut down a bit more) I was sick of working on it. I have learned through past sewing horrors experiences that if I start to get frustrated with something and come to the point where I detest the sight of it and it makes me feel naseaous to handle it, I had better put it away and work on something else and so come back to the problems refreshed and re-inspired.

The plan for this day dress was to make a gown that can be worn for day or evening wear. I am using the 1798-1805 day dress from Patterns of Fashion 1 for the skirt (sans train) and the sleeves and the 1806-1809 gown from the same book for the bodice style. I should say I am more inspired by these two gowns than I am actually copying them. I am not taking the patterns straight from the book and sizing them up but rather altering my own basic patterns for bodice and sleeves to appear like the pattern shapes. This is my usual method for constructing historic garments.

Anyway, I spent a few hours yesterday afternoon puzzling over the bodice construction. Because of the shape of my armscye I could not get my bodice pattern to look exactly like the one in the book, which appears to be a pretty straightforward rectangular piece with scoops cut out for the arms, and the back separate. My bodice pattern has a curved bottom to accomodate my bust, which needs more length where the fabric drapes across each breast than it does at the side and at the center front. So, I had to work with that. Then I had to work with the neckline and figuring out how these flat bands that make the squared neckline were applied. I sweated and fussed and made several mock ups but in the end, ditched the flat bands with the mitered corners and simply made a band to go across the neckline at front and back with separate shoulder straps that attach at the back and then at the front. A similar effect to what I wanted, but not exactly what I had planned. It's a good thing to be flexible with plans, especially when it comes to sewing. ;) Here's my last mock up before I cut into the good fabric. It looks a bit bulky and blousy in this sheet that I cut up to use. The neckline was a tad high here and made the bust look large so I cut down the neckline some before finalizing the pattern for the good fabric.

I then cut out the bodice pieces and sewed them together. I pressed the seams all to one side and sewed them down about 1/4" from the edge. I don't know if this is a period practice but it really helped firm up the seams to prevent them from wiggling and stretching since the fabric is so light and is unlined. I ran gathering stitches at the top and bottom of the front bodice (the back is smoothly fitted - another deviation from the 1806-1809 gown) and added bands to the neckline. Here you can see the bodice laid out with the waistband ready to be attached. Forgive the ugly floor. We need to redo it.

I tried on the bodice with the straps pinned on and had to move them over a bit to hide the neckline of the bodiced petticoat. I went with bias cut bands for the neckline but wasn't happy with how it kind of buckled and wrinkled in places. : ( Still, at least it lays flat against my skin. The straight cut band I used for the mock up buckled and wrinkled to expose the skin below the neckline. At least the bias conforms itself to me.

I sewed the straps on this morning and tried the bodice on one last time before moving on to the sleeves. I'm pretty happy with how it looks! It's almost exactly what I wanted. I really am happy with my stays since I can get a fairly high waistline with them.

Here's a slightly blurry back view. The back is just pinned shut at the top and bottom right now but it gives you an idea of what it will look like. In the finished dress I will have buttons and buttonholes to close the back opening.

The sleeves ought to be fun! I'm doing a short slightly gathered sleeve and then a long undersleeve that will be basted into the armscye but can be removed when needed. It's a style I've never done before so I'm looking forward to playing around with it!

Til then!



  1. You are so talented Sarah! It looks beautiful!

  2. Looks good! I think it's almost impossible to make a high waisted dress look graceful on a full busted figure, without the help of stays to push everything up a bit - you seem to have managed very well, it looks brilliant!

  3. I like it best in the white, but I have to admit that the sheet version is kind of attractive!

  4. That dress looks lovely. But reading this makes me glad I'm a knitter instead? I do shape a bust and waist and add darts in all my sweaters, but knitted fabric is inherently stretchy and so much more forgiving than woven!

    I am really completely sewing stupid. My mother seams my sweaters and makes clothes for me, and I knit stuff for her in return.

  5. Meag, I would gladly give up some of my sewing ability to be able to knit really well. I've made simple things but nothing complex and I wish I could. :( I think knitting is harder than sewing since you are just SO involved in each stitch and the fabric that is created as you knit. Whereas almost anyone can sew a few pieces of cloth together.

    Sarah, thanks! I COMPLETELY agree that stays are a MUST for larger busted ladies. It makes everything look smaller and tidier and is slenderizing since the bust is lifted up higher. When I was a teen I could get away with no stays but after nursing 3 kids, nope, not anymore! :P

    I kinda liked the sheet version too. I must admit, I love brown and the sheet was oh-so-soft. :) It's been hacked up now though so I could trace it to make the paper pattern for the white bodice. The rest of the brown sheet will be used for David's tailcoat mock up. Versatile things, sheets!

  6. HI Sarah..

    the dress is turning out gorgeous :) :) :) I love the bodice and the high waistline. It's wonderful :) :) You are so talented with needle and thread :) :) It's really amazing.

    On a random sidenote, I lost my followers list. Hopefully blogger will restore it soon.

    Have a great day. Love and hugs from Oregon, Heather :)

  7. *BIG GRIN* Sarah, Sarah, Sarah! You look heavenly! fits you perfectly, and the style you've chosen isn't seen very often. I like that.

  8. Gorgeous!
    I was working on something very similar lately, also using Arnold's 1806-09 pattern to make my own 06-09 gown, inspired by one in "Costume in Detail" (I don't know if you've seen that?) Anyway, the bodice looks much the same, but I am going stay-less and I hope it looks half as good as yours!
    Julia <3

  9. Beautiful! Very flattering on you as well!

  10. Sewing always makes me nervous because there's so much...commitment involved. You cut the fabric and then that's it. If you totally mess it up, you can't necessarily undo it easily. With knitting, most of the time, it's all one continuous strand, so it is very easy to undo anything.

    Interestingly, one of the most popular knitting designers out there started as a seamstress, but when she left for college, she kept accidentally cutting up her bedsheets when she'd try to lay fabric on her bed to cut it out and so she switched to knitting. Her work is very body conscious and has a lot of shaping in it that displays a seamstress's way of thinking. Here are her designs. I'm currently working on Vivian on this page.

  11. Aww, am I the only one who liked your first bonnet? I think it looks very young compared to the second, but still really lovely. The second one is great too though and maybe more versatile. I think you should sell the first if you really don't like it. It will suit someone beautifully.

    Your day dress is amazing! The fit is like a fashion plate.


Thank you for your lovely thoughts!