Monday, April 30, 2018

A Cotton Voile Drawstring Gown

This month has gone by so fast and last week found me realizing I had nothing to submit for the Historical Sew Monthly challenge for Aprils theme of "Buttons and Fastenings". I sewed quite a few things but everything I've made this month has been modern. Then! Due to baseball scheduling I found I would be unable to go to the 1860's Ulysses Grant birthday event I had planned on attending, but I would have the chance to go to a pre-1840's rendezvous. The problem was I had nothing to wear! Could I make something appropriate for a pre-1840's event that would also count for the HSM challenge? And do it all within a week? It was worth a try!

Last Monday I decided to try to make a regency gown since that would be the quickest, easiest thing to sew that would work for the pre-1840 era. I already had all my undergarments so just had to make the dress. I pulled down a six yard length of greyish-purply striped cotton voile that I've had for a few years. I originally bought about 12 yards of it, all for $1 (Yes! ALL for $1) and have used bits of it here and there for other projects, most recently for my corded sunbonnet I made last spring. Wait, no. I most recently used it for a hobbit shift for my new LoTR outfit I started over the winter and promptly lost interest in. But I had enough fabric left for a regency gown and I was saving it for that.

So I draped a pattern for the bodice lining last Monday and cut out the dress. I finished it on Wednesday, leaving me a few extra days before the event to make simple gowns for the girls and a frock for Benjamin. We wore them this past weekend and had a blast! This is definitely the most fun I've had with a historical dress lately. It was fun to make, fun to wear and I am thrilled to have finally made a dress out of this fabric. I still have a yard left though. . .this is truly the fabric that never ends. :)
Excuse my non-HA pins. They're all I had for this weekend!
When worn, I buried the point of the pins into the fabric covering
the busk so the ends wouldn't poke me (or any child I was carrying!)

Then the neckline is drawn up. . .

And finally the waist, before the strings are tied and tucked to the inside.
The style is really, really simple. It's made like the drawstring dress from 2012 but without the diamond shaped back. The back is fitted and the lining flaps pin across the chest and the front of the gown is one piece from neckline to hem with a tuck taken at waist level to make a drawstring for the waist. The sleeves were the most difficult part of making the gown, requiring at least five mock ups (I lost count) but came out all right in the end. I made sure to save a paper copy of the final sleeve shape to save me so much trouble in the future!

It is probably a stretch to make this dress fit the challenge theme since there aren't any buttons and the only fasteners are pins and drawstrings. Still, the drawstrings really define the look of the dress and without them the dress could not be worn.


What the Item Is: A late 18th/early 19th century style drawstring gown.
Material: 5 yards of sheer cotton voile
Pattern: Draped based on period examples
Year: 1795ish - 1810ish
Notions: Narrow cotton tape for drawstrings
How historically accurate is it? The pattern and fabric are pretty much ok. I did sew the long interior seams on the machine. So maybe 75%.
Hours to Complete: Maybe six.
First Worn: This past weekend.
Total Cost: So cheap. If I had to buy all new material I would have spent about $30 or so.

I asked Judah for some serious photos, but he took far more silly ones! This shows
the striping on the fabric. And the beaded cross I made literally a half hour before we left
for the event!
Now to find an excuse to wear this dress again soon!



  1. I just "fell across" your page while looking for costuming ideas for my daughter and myself.
    AHHHH ! I LOVE this regency dress. Perfect for this time of year! Annddd... when the fabric is a super score at a buck a yard... BOOM!
    I want to make one for myself. So lovely!

    1. Thank you! Yeah, the price was amazing (actually, ALL TWELVE YARDS for 1 dollar!) You cannot beat that! If you make one, post pics! This drawstring style is so versatile and I love seeing the variations that other historic costumers make!


Thank you for your lovely thoughts!