The 1808 Regency Evening Gown

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The 1808 Regency Evening Gown was my second costume piece, and created and finished before my blog was around. It took about 20 – 25 hours of work (AKA 3 days of being snowed in), and also involved an underskirt with a drawstring waist. It was my first time making something with eyelets, my first period piece, and the first time I made something with sleeves that didn’t turn out looking completely wonky. I once again only have some phone pictures of its progress, but will be attempting to explain how it was made using them.

I have always adored regency dresses, so when I decided it was time to make my first historical piece, it was the first thing I thought of. It used almost 5 yards of 45″ wide fabric, which all had to ironed before it was cut, and looked like a runway trailing through my living room. The pattern was modified from one I found in the fabric store.

The 3 main parts of the garment are the skirt, the bodice, and the sleeves. I made the bodice first, which was relatively straightforward – necklines of this period were very square, and the bodice was made of only 5 pieces (1 in the front, and 4 in the back). It was finished and lined quite quickly and smoothly, and all the pinning and cutting was made a lot more fun by the fact that I watched the Olympics while I did it.

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I then started on the sleeves (which are pictured above after gathering), sewing strips of ribbon onto them to get the pretty lines. The huge, bell-esque shape was gathered down, and a cuff was attached at the bottom. They were then gathered down again and attached to the bodice. It ended up looking something like this:

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(You’ll notice in these pictures that almost all of them were taken late at night, which means the lighting was terrible and I can’t really crop them without them being blurry beyond saving, so sorry about that!)

It looked a little silly with no lace, no skirt, and, according to one of my family members, was currently reminiscent of a football players bulky shoulder pads. I couldn’t disagree.

Next came the skirt, which I hoped would remedy that. It was made of 5 or 6 pieces, which all had to attached to each other. This meant sewing a lot of long lines to each other. Once it was done, I added a few pleats in the back to help it sit nicely, and begun on hemming the whole thing.

The hemming was actually a very frustrating process, as the dress was too small for my dress form (which has a bust a few inches bigger than I), and because of the train, it was hard to get it even without a 3D thing to do it on, as it wasn’t an even shape. Eventually, I ended up hanging it off the dining room hanging light on a coat hanger, and was able to do it a little more easily this way. Then, I attached it to the bodice, and it ended up looking like this!

Plain Regency Dress

At this point I was pretty proud of myself, and managed to whip up the drawstring underskirt in a few hours.

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My smugness was then promptly destroyed when it was time to put the eyelets into the corset back, and I realized I had no idea how to do it. After reading the instructions, getting confused, reading them again, and then finally discarding them for experimentation on a piece of muslin, I finally was able to figure it out (with a little help from the person that had joined me in the sewing room after hearing a few yells of frustration).

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Once the eyelet gun was deciphered, it was actually fairly easy to use, and this back was finished in about 20 minutes. After that I got to start on the bit I had been eagerly anticipating – trims. I ran out of ribbon early on (the roll said 6 feet, but there was only about 3 on there), so couldn’t decorate the bottom. However, I was able to put lace and ribbon all over the bodice.

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I hand-sewed on all the trims, quickly made the headband out of some leftover lace and a piece of elastic (head width – 3 inches was the length of lace I used, and then 2 inches of elastic) and put my hair in to curl before I went to sleep. The next morning, I woke up early to get the morning light in my living room, and then promptly lost all that time trying to style my stubborn bangs into a regency look. I eventually managed it though, and ended up with (at least, what I think) is a very cute and pretty accurate style. Except for all the bobby pins, maybe. And the elastic on the head band. But besides that, I think it turned out pretty well.

Hair

I had the fake pearl necklace and bracelet stashed in a drawer, as they were a present from a friend back in Australia. They matched the dress perfectly, and had the whitish-pinkish hue!

I actually really loved how this dress turned out. It was elegant, fun to make, and overall not terribly frustrating. If I did it again, I would choose a fabric that didn’t crease so easy, but the one I chose what time-period accurate, so at least there’s that. I enjoyed making it and it was a fun first ever historical piece.

My next post will hopefully have proper pictures taken with my good camera and not my phone, and probably will be the first part of a few on the next dress. It’s a pretty complicated piece, at least for me, so it’s slower-going than the rest. That way, even if it fails miserably, at least the pictures will be high quality.

Inara

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