Sunday, 25 January 2015

Progress on the Regency Dress

I have no experience in pattern drafting: enter the 'making it up as you go along' dress.

I literally drew a bodice shape, then held it up to my body to check that the neckline was where I wanted it to be, re- drawing it until I had the right shape.  Next up, I made a quick draft version of the bodice.  This showed me the final version would need to be longer in length, and with additional length in the straps.

The fabric I am using for both this draft version and the main under-dress is simply some very old bed linen.  It is old, beautifully thick and crisp at the edges, but soft, thread-bare, and holey in the middle.  The  gathers didn't work too well in this thick fabric, so I've decided to make the under-dress smooth with darts and leave the gathering for the thinner more drapey lace over-layer. 

For the skirt, I cut the fabric in a vague A-line shape, the waist matching the bodice's dimensions at the front, as regency dresses were mainly flat fronted, with gathers or pleats at the back. I cut the back skirts just over a hand's width wider than the back bodice to allow for pleats.

You'll notice there are no zips or buttonholes at the back.  Instead, the dress will be closed traditionally with a drawstring at the neckline, and another at the waist. The rest of the dress remains open. The drawstring is done by creating a channel with self fabric; this also serves to cover all raw edges!

You can just about make out the pleats at the back.  Though white on white is hard to see!

Next, I am attempting to create pleats at the bust with the lace. I had no idea how to do this; so, with the fabric on my mannequin, I pinned it to how I wanted it to look, and then basted the fabric in place.

The lace is a simple dobby-spot design; this design of fabric is Regency accurate.  My fabric is a cheapo poly though, but I like it and think the teal colour is fun.

So that's as far as I've got to date. I now need to draft some little sleeves, and sew all of the overdress together. I have just under two weeks left to go!  I also have to find time to cobble an outfit together for darling husband. Fingers crossed that it all comes together!  

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Next steps, project ball gown!

So what have I learnt about regency fashion? Actually, rather a lot in a short period of time. First of all, they didn't have knickers!

These are regency "drawers", basically two tubes of fabric held together at the waist with a bit of string. Sod that! You can be too accurate: I shall be wearing knickers, and avoiding any risk of cold breezes up the bum!

Regency women were lucky not to have their body shape contorted by waist pinching corsets, such as the early Georgians and later the Victorians wore:

Victorian corsets change the shape of the body using whale bone, metal clasps and lacing to bind the body.
Regency short stays leave the rest of the body free, and elevate the breasts.

Having limited time and not being massively committed to period accuracy, I shall substitute... a push up bra!! Similar effect, much less effort!

Next up is the chemise; in layman's terms, a full length slip. Its job was threefold; first, to provide opacity, so that you couldn't see through the thin muslin dresses.

Second, to protect these exquisite dresses from sweat and body odour. The chemises can be laundered more frequently than the the delicate dresses, as they are made of sturdier fabric.

This picture is from the fabulous blog Before the Automobile.
The third function was to cover the nipples so that the bosoms, pushed up as they are by the stays, don't shoot out of the dress and flash everyone during dancing etc.

I'm going to make a full length chemise with a see through lace dress over the top.

This is a modern recreation for sale in an etsy shop here for  just over £200.

These two pictures are my inspiration dresses, both very low cut, and short sleeved. Long sleeves were for day wear apparently! Poor freezing Regency Ladies; many women unsurprisingly got pneumonia wearing such thin gowns.
Period dress from 1809 owned by Empress Josephine.

The dresses both feature a solid colour underneath with delicate white-work lace on top. So this is the aim; now I just have to draft an approximation of the designs! I think I might have my dress the other way around - a white under-layer and a coloured lace on top.

Really beginning to enjoy this now...

Sunday, 18 January 2015

New project!

My darling husband and I have been invited to a swish party.  Exciting! New dress needed! But there is a catch - isn't there always? The dress code is Georgian! So, any costume from Marie- Antoinette...

... through to the Regency:

Well, this was a cue for me to spend far too many hours of my life online researching period clothes. I have had a bee in my proverbial bonnet looking at so many gorgeous dresses. But a decision had to be made: we are going as a Regency couple; think Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, but aged another 20 years or so!!

Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth, mmm he is so yummy.

All I can say is: God bless the Internet, and sewing bloggers in particular. There is so much information out there, and American History reenactors document so well, and in so much detail, how to create a Regency costume.

This is from the blog Romantic History which is utterly awesome.  Sarah Jane creates the most stunning clothes.

So, my new project is a Regency ball gown! Tee hee! This is a little more advanced sewing-wise than I was planning on, or possibly am capable of; I'm crossing my fingers and hoping it will all work out in the end.

Oh and I haven't long to do it: the party is on the 7th February. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Happy New Sewing Year

Happy New Year! Hope you all had a fantastic Christmas. I have kicked the new year off with some sewing. Hurrah!

Tartan Trews for the boys!  I thought they would be fun, and they are.  A bit bright, but they can carry it off; they are not jeans and t-shirt kinda boys.

Apologies for the wriggly nature of the model: photographing an eight year old boy is an epic ask. My younger boy wouldn't play ball at all, so I guess I should be grateful for whatever I can get!

The pattern is an easy one from an old book called "Children's Wardrobe" which accompanied a BBC TV show in the 1970s; my copy came from my Nan's stash. I don't remember if she made me anything from it, but the boiler suit pattern was cut-out with pinpricks in it so it's possible.

The fabric is a heavy cotton and is from Ditto in Brighton's North Laine. The pattern is just one main piece with an elasticated waist. It would have sewn up very quickly if the fabric hadn't decided to fray like crazy!

I had to clean out my machine three times: little bits of the weave entangling itself in the bobbin race. I guess this happened because it was a loose weave. I finished the seams in a variety of ways to ensure these survive the wash; my boys are not kind to clothes, so these will likely spend a lot of time bobbing along in the machine.

The legs I machine felled - not sure I did it right as it felt too easy (I previously had thought it was meant to be tricky). The crutch I zigzagged with a small stitch, and the waist I bound.

While sewing these two pairs of trousers, I got to reflecting on how far I have come as a stitcher. I am pretty neat with my sewing now: very unlike my first makes where ne'er a straight line can be seen! This sewing lark has proved addictive. 

Well, I class these a success. They'll certainly get worn anyway.